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Mary Ritter Beard

Image from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., LC-USZ62-68955

Historian and suffragette Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958) helped found the World Center for Women’s Archives in 1936. Beard and a committee of prominent New Jersey women embarked on the project because they believed that women’s activities were often overlooked by historians. The group took measures to ensure that papers and archives related to New Jersey women were preserved for generations and could perhaps aid in writing women’s history. The Center received a great deal of attention which generated an increasing interest in women’s history. It was even endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Beard served as director for five years.

Despite the founding committee’s best intentions, the archives were never fully established because of funding and internal issues. Some of the records, however, are currently held as part of the collections of the New Jersey Historical Society. Other records went to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, Harvard University and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. This effort spearheaded by Beard can be considered a precursor to the work of the Women’s Project of New Jersey, Inc. in reclaiming the history of the state’s women. Beard was also involved throughout her lifetime in the suffrage movement. She was active in labor organizations such as the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL).

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