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Vivion Lenon Brewer Papers, 1947-1991
10 boxes (3.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 20

Co-founder, Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools; volunteer; banker; and lawyer. A native of Arkansas, Vivion Brewer was an advocate of civil rights and integration and also participated in several women's organizations. This collection sheds some light on her personal and professional life, as well as offering insight into larger questions about the motives and experiences of white Southerners who opposed racism and segregation. Materials include writings, diaries, correspondence, photographs, and various records. Also included are her typescript memoir entitled "The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock;" and organizational material from the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools such as minutes.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open for research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Vivion Lenon Brewer's niece, Patricia M. Rostker owns copyright to her papers. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Vivion Lenon Brewer was born on October 6, 1900 in Little Rock, Arkansas to Clara Mercer and Warren E. Lenon, a prominent local Democrat who served as Little Rock's mayor from 1903-1908. After graduating from Little Rock High School, Brewer left the South to attend Smith College, where she majored in sociology. She returned to Little Rock after her graduation from Smith in 1921 and, until 1923, worked as her father's secretary. During the period 1924-26 Brewer worked briefly as a bookkeeper and a gift shop owner before she left to spend a year traveling through Europe. In 1926 Brewer returned to Little Rock once again, resumed working in her father's bank by day, and began working toward her law degree at night. She graduated from Arkansas Law School in 1928, the same year she was elected Vice President of the bank. Despite passing the Arkansas bar exam in 1929, Brewer chose to continue at the bank rather than working as an attorney.

Joe and Vivion Brewer, August 1959

Joe and Vivion Brewer, August 1959

In 1930 Vivion Lenon married Joseph Brewer, the nephew of Senator Joseph T. Robinson who had run for Vice President alongside Democratic Presidential candidate Al Smith in 1928. The couple lived in Washington, D.C. for sixteen years as Joe Brewer held a succession of Federal government positions including secretary to his uncle, then the Senate Majority leader, and executive positions in the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior. During her time in Washington, D.C., Vivion Brewer endured both a serious four-year-long illness and the birth and death of her only child in 1933. She also became close to an African-American woman she employed and, through that friendship, gained new insights about the destructive impact of racism and segregation in the U.S. In 1946, following Joe's return from military service during World War II, the Brewers decided to return to Arkansas. Joe accepted a job as the personnel officer at the North Little Rock Veterans Administration Hospital and the couple settled on a piece of old Brewer family property in Scott, Arkansas.

Over the next decade Vivion spent her time renovating the Brewer property and participating in organizations such as the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters. It was not until 1958, when the crisis erupted over the issue of integrating Little Rock's high schools, that Brewer finally acted on the anti-racist impulses she had discovered in herself twenty years earlier. When Governor Orval Faubus chose to close Little Rock public schools rather than integrate them, Brewer, along with several other prominent local women, organized the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and became some of the most visible white advocates of integration. After the Little Rock schools re-opened and the Women's Emergency Committee disbanded Brewer continued her activism by organizing educational programs for African-American children. Smith College recognized her work by awarding her an honorary doctorate in 1961. After Joe Brewer died in 1988 Vivion went to Pasadena, California to live with her niece. She died there in June, 1991, at age 90.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Vivion Lenon Brewer Papers include material from 1947 to 1991, with most items dating from 1956 to 1965. The collection contains biographical material, including her 1973 typescript account of the fight for integration, "The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock" (published in 1998), and other writings, clippings, and photographs; correspondence; organizational material from the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools; subject files; and printed material related to segregation.

Major subjects reflected in the collection include the school desegregation crisis in Arkansas and other Southern states, the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., the activities of white racists in the U.S., and the history of Little Rock, Arkansas. Organizations represented include the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, and the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, as well as numerous local political and charitable organizations through which Vivion Brewer worked to aid the African-American population of Little Rock. The papers shed some light on Vivion Brewer's life; they also offer insight into larger questions about the motives and experiences of white Southerners who defied their culture by opposing racism and segregation.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open for research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Vivion Lenon Brewer's niece, Patricia M. Rostker owns copyright to her papers. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Vivion Lenon Brewer Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

History of the Collection

Vivion Lenon Brewer donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1968.

Processing Information

Processed by Kate Weigand.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
.4 linear ft.

This series contains a variety of material by and about Vivion Lenon Brewer that documents her life, especially her participation in the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and other organized volunteer efforts to promote racial integration in Little Rock, AR. It includes the following subseries: Desk diaries from 1959 and 1960; correspondence, newspaper clippings, and photographs that document her receipt of an honorary degree from Smith College in 1961; and Writings about VLB including articles, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and notes by VLB and others that provide basic information about her life and achievements. This series also contains information about Brewer's Family, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes and testimony documenting the Arkansas Veterans Administration's harassment of Joseph Brewer between 1958-61; and letters of support and rebuke that Brewer and her husband received from members of her extended family. The bulk of this series consists of Brewer's 1973 typescript of her Memoir: The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock [See also published book on shelf], which documents both the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and her other contributions to the fight against segregation. Photographs contains images dating from 1959-63 of Brewer alone, with her husband, and with Lew Irwin of ABC-TV news; Brewer's home; and Brewer with her fellow Women's Emergency Committee organizers Adolphine Terry, Pat House, Velma Powell, and Jo Jackson.

.3 linear ft.

This series is arranged in three subseries: General, Fan mail, and Individual. General correspondence is arranged chronologically and consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence between Vivion Brewer and various people, some private individuals and others representing organizations. Some of this correspondence includes hate mail from segregationists. Fan mail dates from 1958-60 and includes letters to Brewer from individuals who lauded her work for integration. Individual correspondence is arranged alphabetically and consists of letters to Vivion Brewer from prominent individuals including Arkansas Senator J.W. Fulbright, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Senator and former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

l linear ft.

This series, the largest in the collection, documents Brewer's personal and volunteer activities from 1957-69. It is arranged alphabetically by the name of the event or organization. Except for the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters all of the events and organizations represented in this series relate to Brewer's Civil Rights work. There is a large amount of material from the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and from other organizations that Brewer helped to organize, such as Project Happy Time and Project Worthwhile. There is a smaller amount of material from groups such as the Arkansas Committee for Public Schools, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, and the Louisiana Save Our Schools movement. Types of material include organizing statements, correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, publicity, reports, agendas, minutes, speeches, and photographs.

1.7 linear ft.

This series is arranged alphabetically by subject and includes topics in which Brewer had a particular interest including Arkansas elections, school integration, Little Rock's history and demographics, and segregationism. Though the series contains a few newspaper clippings and magazine articles from the late 1940s and the early 1970s, the vast majority of the material dates from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The series contains numerous types of material including advertisements, articles, campaign buttons and literature, leaflets, maps, newspaper clippings, polls, posters, reports, typescripts, and miscellaneous printed material.

Contents List

Desk diaries,

Box 1: folder 1
Smith College: correspondence, honorary degree, newspaper clippings, and photograph,

Box 1: folder 2
Writings about VLB: article, correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, obituary, and profile,
1961-91, n.d.

Box 1: folder 3

Harassment of JB by Veterans Administration: correspondence [including Senator J.W. Fulbright], exhibits, newspaper clippings, notes, and testimony,

Box 1: folder 4
Letters of rebuke and support from VLB's family ,

Box 1: folder 5
Memoir: The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock,

Chapters 1-5

Box 1: folder 6
Chapters 6-8

Box 1: folder 7
Chapters 9-13

Box 1: folder 8
Appendices: biographies of founders, correspondence, crank leaflets, lists, newsletters, notes, publicity, speeches, and surveys,
1958-60, 1973

Box 1: folder 9

Vivion and Joe Brewer,
Aug 1959

Box 1: folder 10
Lew Irwin of ABC-TV News and Vivion Brewer, Pasadena, CA,
21 Aug 1959

Box 1
Brewer home, Scott, Arkansas,

Box 1
Vivion Brewer, Adolphine Terry, and Pat House,

Box 1
Vivion Brewer, Velma Powell, Jo Jackson, and Adolphine Terry,

Box 1



Box 2: folder 1

Box 2: folder 2

Box 2: folder 3

Box 2: folder 4

Box 2: folder 5

Box 2: folder 6
Fan mail,
1958-60, n.d.

Box 2: folder 7
Individual (alphabetical)

Fulbright, J.W.,

Box 2: folder 8
Roosevelt, Eleanor,

Box 2: folder 9
Stevenson, Adlai,

Box 2: folder 10

American Association of University Women: agendas, newspaper clippings, policies, and statements,
1959-60, n.d.

Box 3: folder 1
Arkansas Committee for Public Schools: correspondence, lists, memoranda, minutes, publicity, and statements,

Box 3: folder 2
Arkansas Council on Human Relations: correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, publicity, statement of purpose, and segregationist response,

Box 3: folder 3
Arkansas Gazette Pulitzer Prize Recognition Dinner: correspondence, invitation, lists, programs, seating plans, and telephone messages,

Box 3: folder 4
Community Unity conferences: correspondence, publicity, and reports,

Box 3: folder 5
League of Women Voters: campaign literature, questionnaires, and proposed national program,
1960-62, n.d.

Box 3: folder 6
"Loretta Young Show": correspondence, newspaper clippings, profiles of W.E.C. leaders, publicity, speech, and typescripts,

Box 3: folder 7
Louisiana Save Our Schools movement: publicity and reports,

Box 3: folder 8
Project Happy Time: lists, publicity, typescript, and photographs,

Box 3: folder 9
Project Worthwhile: correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, photographs, publicity, reports, and student work,

Box 3: folder 10-11
Women's Emergency Committee To Open Our Schools


Organizing statements: drafts, notes, and typescript,

Box 4: folder 1
Newspaper clippings,

Box 4: folder 2
Organizational histories: lists, notes, speech, and typescripts,
1959-69, n.d.

Box 4: folder 3
Interview with Vivion Brewer: cassette and reel-to-reel tape,
11 Oct 1959

Box 4: folder 4

1958-59, n.d.

Box 4: folder 5
Committees: lists,
circa 1958, n.d.

Box 4

Box 4: folder 6
1958-60, n.d.

Box 4: folder 7

Campaign for support among ministers: lists, notes, and statements,

Box 4: folder 8
Workshop on Public Education: memoranda, notes, program, and publicity,

Box 4: folder 9
1958-61, n.d.

Box 4: folder 10
Financial documents: blank check, budgets, correspondence, invoices, lists, and notes,
1958, n.d.

Box 4: folder 11

circa 1958

Box 4: folder 12
Mass mailings,

Box 4: folder 13
Newspaper advertisements,
1958-59, n.d.

Box 4: folder 14

Box 4: folder 15
Speeches: manuscripts, notes, transcripts, and typescripts,
1959-60, n.d.

Box 4: folder 16
Surveys: drafts, newspaper clippings, reports, and summaries,
1960, n.d.

Box 4: folder 17
Report: "Little Rock Report: The City, Its People, Its Business, 1957-59," compiled by the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools,
Aug 1959

Box 5: folder 1

Arkansas elections

Special school election: campaign literature, instructions, lists, polls, poster, publicity, transcripts, and typescript

Box 6: folder 1
Little Rock School Board elections: advertisements, lists, newspaper clippings, and notes,

Box 6: folder 2
Little Rock recall election: advertisements, button, leaflets, maps, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, and typescripts,

Box 6: folder 3
Arkansas Democratic primary: advertisements, campaign literature, lists, notes, sample ballots, and newspaper clippings,

Box 6: folder 4
Constitutional Amendment 52 Election

Newspaper clippings,

Box 6: folder 5
Publicity: campaign literature, lists, notes, printed material, reports, and typescripts,

Box 6: folder 6
Speeches: notes and transcripts,

Box 6: folder 7
"Workfolio" for County Committee Against Amendment 52: lists and printed material,

Box 8
Bond issue: correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, printed material,. publicity, and statements of opposition,
1961, n.d.

Box 8: folder 9
Miscellaneous: lists, newspaper clippings, and printed material,
1960, n.d.

Box 8: folder 10

School integration controversies

Alabama: newspaper clippings,

Box 7: folder 1

Newspaper clippings


Box 7: folder 2-5

Box 7: folder 6
States' Rights Digest,

Box 7: folder 7
Study material,
1957-72, n.d.

Box 7: folder 8
Florida: newspaper clippings, n.d

Box 7: folder 9
Georgia: newspaper clippings, reports, and typescripts,

Box 7: folder 10
Tennessee: newspaper clippings,

Box 7: folder 11
Virginia: newspaper clippings, notes, and press releases,
1958-61, n.d.

Box 7: folder 12
Washington, D.C.: newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and reports,

Box 7: folder 13
Civil Rights movement and integration: newspaper clippings,

Box 8: folder 1
1947-62, n.d.

Box 8: folder 2-4
Little Rock, AR

History: newspaper clippings, notes, reports, and typescripts,

Box 8: folder 5
Businesses and segregation: report, resolution, and statement,
1959, n.d.

Box 8: folder 6
Court decisions and legislation affecting Little Rock: briefs, lists, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, transcripts, and typescripts,

Box 8: folder 7
Desegregation proposals: lists and typescripts,
1959-61, n.d.

Box 8: folder 8
Carl T. Rowan: biographies, correspondence, and clippings,
1962, n.d.

Box 8: folder 9
Conference on Community Unity: report,

Box 8: folder 10
Newspaper clippings


Box 9: folder 1
Jan-Mar, 1960

Box 9: folder 2
Apr-Jun, 1960

Box 9: folder 3
Jul-Sep, 1960

Box 9: folder 4
Oct-Dec, 1960

Box 9: folder 5

Box 9: folder 6
Case studies: correspondence, printed material, and typescripts,

Box 9: folder 7
Miscellaneous: lists, notes, and printed material,
1958-68, n.d.

Box 9: folder 8

Crank mail,
1958-60, n.d.

Box 10: folder 1
1958-60, n.d.

Box 10: folder 2
1958-59, n.d.

Box 10: folder 3

Arkansas elections

Little Rock recall election: advertisement,

Flat File
Arkansas Democratic primary: list,

Flat File
School desegregation controversies


Newspaper clippings

National: Editorial cartoon by Clifford H. "Baldy" Baldowski, from Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA,
November 21, 1958.

Flat File

Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir. David McKay Company, Inc., New York.

Blossom, Virgil T. It HAS Happened Here. Harper & Brothers, New York,.

Brewer, Vivion Lenon. The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock, 1958-1963: The Struggle to Save Public Education at Central High, . [Browsing Collection]


The Giants Wore White Gloves: The Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (written, produced, and directed by Saundra Hubbard, 2004)

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • African Americans--Civil rights--Arkansas--Little Rock--History--20th century--Sources
  • Brewer, Vivion Lenon
  • Businesswomen--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Civil rights movements--Arkansas--Little Rock--History--20th century--Sources
  • Little Rock (Ark.)--History--20th century--Sources
  • School integration--Arkansas--History--Sources
  • Segregation in education--United States--History--Sources
  • Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (Little Rock, Ark.)--History--Sources

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