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Vivion Lenon Brewer papers, 1947-2004
3.5 linear feet (10 containers)
Collection number: SSC.MS.00020

Abstract:
Vivion Lenon Brewer was a co-founder of Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, a 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:

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

To the extent that she owns copyright, Vivion Lenon Brewer's niece, Patricia M. Rostker, owns copyright to the papers she donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Vivion Lenon Brewer, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Sophia Smith Collection

Biographical / Historical

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.

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

The Vivion Lenon Brewer papers include material from 1947 to 2004, 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.

This collection is organized into four series:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Organizations and Activities
  4. IV. Subject Files
  5. Oversize Materials
  6. Books on Shelf

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

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Restrictions on use:

To the extent that she owns copyright, Vivion Lenon Brewer's niece, Patricia M. Rostker, owns copyright to the papers she donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Vivion Lenon Brewer, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Preferred Citation

Vivion Lenon Brewer papers, Sophia Smith Collection, SSC-MS-00020, Smith College Special Collections, Northampton, Massachusetts.

History of the Collection

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


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

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

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
1958-91 1958-91


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.

Desk diaries
1959-60

Box 1: folder 1
Smith College: correspondence, honorary degree, newspaper clippings, and photograph
1960-61

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

Box 1: folder 3
Family



Harassment of JB by Veterans Administration: correspondence [including Senator J.W. Fulbright], exhibits, newspaper clippings, notes, and testimony
1958-61

Box 1: folder 4
Letters of rebuke and support from VLB's family
1958-59

Box 1: folder 5
Memoir: The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock
1973


General

[See also Books on Shelf, The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock, 1958-63: The Struggle to Save Public Education at Central High, 1999]

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
Photographs



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
undated

Box 1
Vivion Brewer, Adolphine Terry, and Pat House
1963

Box 1
Vivion Brewer, Velma Powell, Jo Jackson, and Adolphine Terry
1963

Box 1
SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE
1956-72 1956-72


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.

General



1958

Box 2: folder 1
1959

Box 2: folder 2
1960

Box 2: folder 3
1961

Box 2: folder 4
1962-72

Box 2: folder 5
undated

Box 2: folder 6
Fan mail
1958-60 undated

Box 2: folder 7
Individual (alphabetical)



Fulbright, J.W.
1956

Box 2: folder 8
Roosevelt, Eleanor
1959

Box 2: folder 9
Stevenson, Adlai
1959

Box 2: folder 10
SERIES III. ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVITIES
1957-69 1957-69


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.

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

Box 3: folder 1
Arkansas Committee for Public Schools: correspondence, lists, memoranda, minutes, publicity, and statements
1959-61

Box 3: folder 2
Arkansas Council on Human Relations: correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, publicity, statement of purpose, and segregationist response
1958-64

Box 3: folder 3
Arkansas Gazette Pulitzer Prize Recognition Dinner: correspondence, invitation, lists, programs, seating plans, and telephone messages
1958

Box 3: folder 4
Community Unity conferences: correspondence, publicity, and reports
1960

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

Box 3: folder 6
"Loretta Young Show": correspondence, newspaper clippings, profiles of W.E.C. leaders, publicity, speech, and typescripts
1959-61

Box 3: folder 7
Louisiana Save Our Schools movement: publicity and reports
1961

Box 3: folder 8
Project Happy Time: lists, publicity, typescript, and photographs
1968

Box 3: folder 9
Project Worthwhile: correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, photographs, publicity, reports, and student work
1967-68

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



History



Organizing statements: drafts, notes, and typescript
1959-61

Box 4: folder 1
Newspaper clippings
1958-70

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

Box 4: folder 3
General

[See also SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS-Memoir The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock]

Interview with Vivion Brewer: cassette and reel-to-reel tape
11 Oct 1959

Box 4: folder 4
Administration



Agendas
1958-59 undated

Box 4: folder 5
Committees: lists
ca.1958 undated

Box 4: folder 5a
Minutes
1958-60

Box 4: folder 6
Notes
1958-60 undated

Box 4: folder 7
Activities



Campaign for support among ministers: lists, notes, and statements
1958-59

Box 4: folder 8
General

[See also SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE]

Workshop on Public Education: memoranda, notes, program, and publicity
1963

Box 4: folder 9
Correspondence
1958-61 undated

Box 4: folder 10
General

[See also SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE]

Financial documents: blank check, budgets, correspondence, invoices, lists, and notes
1958 undated

Box 4: folder 11
Publicity



Leaflets
ca.1958

Box 4: folder 12
Mass mailings
1959-62

Box 4: folder 13
Newspaper advertisements
1958-59 undated

Box 4: folder 14
Newsletters
1959-63

Box 4: folder 15
Speeches: manuscripts, notes, transcripts, and typescripts
1959-60 undated

Box 4: folder 16
Surveys: drafts, newspaper clippings, reports, and summaries
1960 undated

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
SERIES IV. SUBJECT FILES
1947-72 1947-72


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.

Arkansas elections



Special school election: campaign literature, instructions, lists, polls, poster, publicity, transcripts, and typescript
1958

Box 6: folder 1
Little Rock School Board elections: advertisements, lists, newspaper clippings, and notes
1958

Box 6: folder 2
Little Rock recall election: advertisements, button, leaflets, maps, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, and typescripts
1959

Box 6: folder 3
General

[See also Flat File]

Arkansas Democratic primary: advertisements, campaign literature, lists, notes, sample ballots, and newspaper clippings
1960

Box 6: folder 4
General

[See also Flat File]

Constitutional Amendment 52 Election



Newspaper clippings
1959-61

Box 6: folder 5
Publicity: campaign literature, lists, notes, printed material, reports, and typescripts
1960

Box 6: folder 6
Speeches: notes and transcripts
1960

Box 6: folder 7
"Workfolio" for County Committee Against Amendment 52: lists and printed material
1960

Box 6: folder 8
Bond issue: correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, printed material,. publicity, and statements of opposition
1961 undated

Box 6: folder 9
Arkansas Council on Human Relations
1962-1964

Box 6: folder 9a
Miscellaneous: lists, newspaper clippings, and printed material
1960 undated

Box 6: folder 10
Integration



School integration controversies



Alabama: newspaper clippings
1959-61

Box 7: folder 1
Arkansas



Newspaper clippings



Local
1956-63

Box 7: folder 2-5
National
1948-66

Box 7: folder 6
General

[See also Flat File]

States' Rights Digest
1959-60

Box 7: folder 7
Study material
1957-72 undated

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


Box 7: folder 9
Georgia: newspaper clippings, reports, and typescripts
1959-61

Box 7: folder 10
Tennessee: newspaper clippings
1962

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

Box 7: folder 12
Washington, D.C.: newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and reports
1957-59

Box 7: folder 13
Civil Rights movement and integration: newspaper clippings
1958-63

Box 8: folder 1
Pamphlets
1947-62 undated

Box 8: folder 2-4
Little Rock, AR



History: newspaper clippings, notes, reports, and typescripts
1957-67

Box 8: folder 5
Businesses and segregation: report, resolution, and statement
1959 undated

Box 8: folder 6
Court decisions and legislation affecting Little Rock: briefs, lists, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, transcripts, and typescripts
1957-65

Box 8: folder 7
Desegregation proposals: lists and typescripts
1959-61 undated

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

Box 8: folder 9
Conference on Community Unity: report
1960

Box 8: folder 10
Newspaper clippings



1958-59

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
1961-68

Box 9: folder 6
Case studies: correspondence, printed material, and typescripts
1957-61

Box 9: folder 7
Miscellaneous: lists, notes, and printed material
1958-68 undated

Box 9: folder 8
Segregationism



Crank mail
1958-60 undated

Box 10: folder 1
Articles
1958-60 undated

Box 10: folder 2
Advertisements
1958-59 undated

Box 10: folder 3
OVERSIZE MATERIALS



Arkansas elections



Little Rock recall election: advertisement
1959

Map case Flat File
Arkansas Democratic primary: list
1960

Map case Flat File
School desegregation controversies



Arkansas



Newspaper clippings



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

Map case Flat File
BOOKS ON SHELF



Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir. David McKay Company, Inc., New York 1962.
1962


Blossom, Virgil T. It HAS Happened Here. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1959.
1959


Brewer, Vivion Lenon. The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock, 1958-1963: The Struggle to Save Public Education at Central High, 1999. [Browsing Collection]
1999


DVDs ON SHELF



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

Subjects
  • 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
  • Rostker, Patricia M.
  • 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

Genre terms
  • Agendas
  • Interviews
  • Legislative documents
  • Minutes
  • Notes
  • Organization files
  • Pamphlets
  • Publicity
  • Sound recordings
  • Speeches
  • Writings
  • clippings
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • photographs


Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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