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Portia Willis Fitzgerald Papers, 1868-1966 (Bulk: 1910-1935)
1 box (.25 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 380

Abstract:
Woman's club leader, suffragist and lecturer. Much of the collection appears to have been part of a scrapbook. Writings and speeches primarily relate to her father (Colonel and U.S. Representative Benjamin A. Willis), the League of Nations, suffrage, the Institute of Human Relations, and women's clubs. Correspondents include Gertrude Atherton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Florence G. Tuttle.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of Portia Willis Fitzgerald. 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 must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Restrictions on use:

All rights are owned by the Sophia Smith Collection and permission is required for publication beyond "fair use".

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note
Portia Willis Fitzgerald, 1915

Portia Willis Fitzgerald, 1915

"The Prettiest Suffragette in New York State," Portia Willis was born to a well-connected and politically active New York City family, circa 1887. The distinguished Civil War service of her father, Colonel Benjamin A. Willis, led to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Her mother, Lillie Evelynn Macauley Willis was prominent in the New York City social scene.

Portia Willis attended the Anne Brown School and took courses at Columbia University and Harvard. She became active in the women's suffrage movement in the early 1910s as a speaker and writer campaigning for New York State suffrage. She was an organizer of the New York State Suffrage Association. Her visible participation in suffrage publicity events, including piloting an airplane that bombarded Long Island with suffrage leaflets, sparked as many references to her beauty as to her cause in the press. Between 1911 and 1917 she took a very active part in the campaign, conducting a lecture tour through New York State, making speeches for the woman suffrage amendment in Massachusetts in 1914, and in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. the following year. She was grand marshal for three suffrage parades. In 1931 New York State placed her name on the suffrage "Honor Rolls" at the State Capitol in Albany.

In 1925 Willis married Captain L. Rodney Berg, an emigre from Lancashire, England, who worked in real estate. After her marriage she changed her name to Portia Willis-Berg. L. Rodney Berg died in 1941. Her second husband was the Prince of Thurn and Taxis who also pre-deceased her. In 1958 she married her third husband, Gerald Purcell FitzGerald.

Portia Willis FitzGerald was involved in many organizations throughout her life. She was an active pacifist, acting as Grand Marshal for the Women's Peace Parade in 1914, and later working in support of the League of Nations in the Women's Pro-League Council. She was a founder and board member of the Greater New York Branch of the League of Nations Association and a member of the New York Board of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was chairman of the Round Table on the United Nations from 1950-53.

FitzGerald was a founding member of the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association and was made an honorary member of the Aerial League of America for services to airmen in World War I. She also devoted much attention to Red Cross work during World War I. In 1925 she was elected to the National Institute of Social Sciences (for social work). She was also a member of the Women's City Club and a vice-president of the Woman's Suffrage Study Club. She served as president of the Little Gardens Club of New York City from 1953 on and was also at one time vice-president of the Women's Farm and Garden Association.

FitzGerald had been a popular lecturer on public affairs since her involvement in the suffrage movement and was briefly an Assistant in the Oral English Department at Harvard in 1924. She was also a lecturer on current events at the Barmore School from 1948-50. In her later years she continued to lecture and was frequently asked to reminisce about her suffrage experiences. The exact date of her death is unknown.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Portia Willis FitzGerald Papers consist of .25 linear feet and are primarily related to her suffrage activism, although quite a few items relate to her family. Much of the collection appears to have been part of a scrapbook and reflects the selective nature of such a compilation. This is far from a complete set of papers. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, writings, photographs, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia.


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

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of Portia Willis Fitzgerald. 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 must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Restrictions on use:

All rights are owned by the Sophia Smith Collection and permission is required for publication beyond "fair use".

Preferred Citation

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

Portia Willis Fitzgerald Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA

History of the Collection

The papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by FitzGerald's great niece, Kate Earle Funk (Smith '63) in 1998.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Hague, 1998.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

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

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
(1868-1958, n.d.)


This series consists mostly of newspaper clippings about Portia Willis and members of her family, especially her father, Benjamin A. Willis. The series also includes a program for Fanny Garrison Villard's memorial service. A small collection of photographs relate primarily to FitzGerald's suffrage career, but there are also later portraits and one photograph of the Astor Family.

(1876-1966,n.d.)


Letters from suffrage and other professional associates to Portia Willis FitzGerald make up the bulk of this series. They are arranged by individual correspondent, among them Gertrude Atherton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Florence G. Tuttle, followed by a folder of general, more routine incoming correspondence. There is also a handful of letters to her parents from others.

(1878-1935, n.d.)


Articles and speeches by FitzGerald form the bulk of this series. They relate to her father, the League of Nations, the Institute of Human Relations, women's clubs, and other topics. There are also two speeches made by her father in 1878 and 1879.

(1862-1960, n.d.)


This series contains miscellaneous programs, certificates, invitations, and suffrage memorabilia and publications.

Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL



L. Rodney Berg (first husband): obituary,
[1941?]

Box 1: folder 1
Van Rensselaer, Mrs. Cortlandt (aunt): obituary,
n.d.

Box 1: folder 2
Fanny Garrison Villard: memorial service program,
1928

Box 1: folder 3
Benjamin A. Willis (father): articles and memorabilia,
1868-78, n.d.

Box 1: folder 4
Benjamin A. Willis (brother): obituary,
n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
Portia Willis FitzGerald



Articles



1913-58, n.d.

Box 1: folder 6
Miscellaneous fragments,
1915-54, n.d.

Box 1: folder 7
Photographs



Portraits and suffrage related,
1914-31, n.d.

Box 1: folder 8
The Astor family, Cliveden,
1922

Box 1: folder 9
SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE



Benjamin A. Willis and Lillie Macauley Willis,
1876-86, n.d.

Box 1: folder 10
Portia Willis FitzGerald



Friends and associates



Atherton, Gertrude,
1927

Box 1: folder 11
Catt, Carrie Chapman,
1927

Box 1: folder 12
Chase, Anya Seton,
1957

Box 1: folder 13
Cosgrave, [Louie?],
1925

Box 1: folder 14
Laidlaw, [Harriet?],
1915

Box 1: folder 15
Simonson, May,
1931

Box 1: folder 16
Tuttle, Florence G.,
1924

Box 1: folder 17
General,
1924-66, n.d.

Box 1: folder 18
SERIES III. WRITINGS AND SPEECHES



Benjamin A. Willis,
1878-79

Box 1: folder 19
Portia Willis FitzGerald,
1925-35, n.d.

Box 1: folder 20
SERIES IV. MEMORABILIA AND PRINTED MATERIAL



The Woman Voter,
Feb 1912 and Jun 1913

Box 1: folder 21
Programs,
1913-35

Box 1: folder 22
Memorabilia,
1873-1960, n.d.

Box 1: folder 23
Benjamin A. Willis, New York State Volunteers certificate,
1862

Flat File:
Suffrage poster, "Speaker, Miss Portia H. Willis" (fragment),
n.d.

Flat File:

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
  • Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn, 1857-1948
  • Catt, Carrie Chapman, 1859-1947
  • New York State Woman Suffrage Party--History--Sources
  • Seton, Anya
  • Tuttle, Florence Guertin
  • Willis, Benjamin A.
  • Women and peace--History--20th century--Sources
  • Women--Societies and clubs--United States--History--Sources
  • Women--Suffrage--New York (State)--History--Sources


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