Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980

Variant names

Hide Profile

Helen Gahagan Douglas (November 25, 1900 – June 28, 1980) was an American actress and politician. Her career included success on Broadway, as a touring opera singer, and the starring role in the 1935 movie She, in which her portrayal of the villain inspired Disney's Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Born Helen Mary Gahagan in Boonton, New Jersey and raised in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, New York, she graduated from the prestigious Berkeley School for Girls and at the Capen School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts before gaining admittance to Barnard College of Columbia University, dropping out after two years to pursue a career as an actress. From 1922 to 1938, she pursued a career as an opera singer and an actress, starring in a variety of shows and plays. In a 1930 Broadway hit, Tonight or Never, Helen Gahagan met and costarred with her future husband, Melvyn Douglas. They married on April 5, 1931, and left New York City to relocate in Los Angeles as Melvyn pursued a film career. With international tensions on the rise, Helen Douglas set entertainment work aside and threw herself into public-service projects, becoming a member of the national advisory committee of the Works Progress Administration and a member of the California state committee of the National Youth Administration. In 1940 she became a California Democratic national committeewoman—a post she held until 1944—serving as the vice chair of the California Democratic central committee and as head of the women’s division. From 1942 to 1943, she was on the board of the California Housing and Planning Association.

In 1944, Douglas entered the race to succeed Los Angeles-based Congressman Thomas Ford, prevailing in the primary and general election, the latter by a three-point margin. As she established a reputation in the House, Douglas’s electoral support increased. In her subsequent bids for re-election in 1946 and 1948, she defeated her GOP challengers with 54 percent and 65 percent, respectively. A champion for liberal causes, critics charged her with having communist sympathies. Redbaiting tactics were used against Douglas in her 1950 bid for the US Senate, first from primary opponent Manchester Boddy, who she easily defeated, and then from her Republican opponent, Congressman Richard Nixon, who would easily defeat Douglas.

Douglas returned to acting in 1952, and later campaigned for John F. Kennedy, who ran successfully against Nixon in the 1960 presidential race. Kennedy's successor Lyndon Johnson appointed her to be "Special Ambassador" to the inauguration of Liberian President William Tubman. However, Douglas's subsequent opposition to the Vietnam War angered Johnson, estranging him from her. She also campaigned for George McGovern in his unsuccessful bid to prevent Nixon's 1972 re-election, and she called for Nixon's removal from office during the Watergate scandal. She died of breast and lung cancer in 1980.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hansen, Mamie Frances King, 1894-1990. Mamie Frances King Hansen papers, 1938-1972. Texas Woman's University Library, Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey Library
referencedIn Goldschmidt, Arthur. Reminiscences of Arthur Goldschmidt : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Gahagan, Helen, 1900-1980. Autograph letters signed : Los Angeles, [n.p.], to Stark Young, [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Chavoor, Evelyn, 1917-. Reminiscences of Evelyn Chavoor : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Rogers, Frank. Reminiscences of Frank Rogers : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Keyserling, Mary Dublin. Reminiscences of Mary D. Keyserling : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Bertha S. Adkins Papers. 1928 - 1983. Personal Files, 1928 - 1983 Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Goodman, Leo. Reminiscences of Leo Goodman : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Robert Watts Hudgens Papers, 1925-1973 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Baxandall, Rosalyn Fraad, 1939-. Reformers and radicals. California State University, Long Beach
creatorOf Foy, Mary Emily, 1862-1958. Papers of Mary Emily Foy, 1879-1957. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Eleanor Roosevelt oral history project, 1977-1980. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn California Federation for Civic Unity Records, 1945-1956 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Totheroh, Dan. Portraits from the Dan Totheroh papers [graphic]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Paul Field Sifton and Claire Sifton Papers, 1912-1980, (bulk 1925-1971) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Robert Benney research materials, 1926-1978 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Newman, Pauline. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. Records, 1914-1999. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Autograph File, D, 1586-1975. Houghton Library
referencedIn Felix Mendelsohn scrapbook, 1927-1962, 1927-1935 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Lyndon Baines Johnson Archives Collection. 1931 - 1968. Congressional Correspondence Files Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
referencedIn Edward U. Condon Papers, Circa 1920-1974 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn American Vaudeville Museum collection, 1845-2007, (bulk 1910-1940) University of Arizona Libraries, Library Special Collections
referencedIn Harding, Kenneth. Reminiscences of Kenneth Harding : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson). Papers of Clara Mortenson Beyer, 1911-1974 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Mendelsohn, Felix, Jr. Felix Mendelsohn scrapbook, 1927-1962, bulk 1927-1935. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Fleur Fenton White House Files (Truman Administration). 1946 - 1946. Subject Files. 1946 - 1946. Broadcast--Douglas - Clapper - Luce
referencedIn Scobie, Ingrid Winther, 1943-. Ingrid Winther Scobie papers, 1900-1990. Texas Woman's University Library, Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey Library
referencedIn Welles mss., 1930-1950, (Bulk 1936-1947) Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Carter, Margaret B., 1909-1988. Papers, 1926-1976, bulk 1944-1974. University of Texas at Arlington, Central Library
referencedIn Cohen, Lucy Kramer. Reminiscences of Lucy Kramer Cohen : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Papers, 1927-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Biography: Helen Gahagan Douglas, 1973-1983 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1998 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Malone, William. William Malone interview : oral history transcript / tape recorded interview conducted 1978 by Malca Chall for the Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California : and related material, 1978-1981. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Ruth Lybeck Papers, 1944-1950 University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
referencedIn Lucy Kramer Cohen papers, 1902-2005 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
contributorOf Papers of John F. Kennedy: Presidential Papers: President's Office Files, 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963. Files Documenting Special Events through the Years, 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963 John F Kennedy Presidential Library
referencedIn Clifton, Florence McChesney. Florence McChesney Clifton collection on California Democratic Party, 1938-1966 (bulk 1938-1950). UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Margaret B. Carter Papers AR239., 1926-1976, 1944-1974 Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library
creatorOf Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980. Oral history interviews of the Biography: Helen Gahagan Douglas Oral History Project, 1973-1983. Indiana University
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Bell, Rachel. Reminiscences of Rachel Bell : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Helen Gahagan Douglas Oral History Project research files. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive), 1903-1956 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Pick, Walter, 1914-. Reminiscences of Walter Pick : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Souvenir programs for theatrical productions, 1906-2005. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection, circa 1908-circa 1955 Bancroft Library
referencedIn McCann, Charles W. A., 1900-1980. Photograph collection, 1914-ca. 1969. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn De Sola, Alis. Reminiscences of Alis De Sola : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Portraits from the Dan Totheroh Papers [graphic], ca. 1925-ca. 1975 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Noel-Baker, Philip Noel-Baker, Baron. Reminiscences of Philipo J. Noel-Baker : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980. Reminiscences of Helen Gahagan Douglas : oral history, 1973-1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn She's Nobody's Baby collection, 1980-1987 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Watts, Fay Bennet. Reminiscences of Fay Bennet Watts : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Edwards, India. Reminiscences of India Edwards : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Hogan, Charles A., 1906-1981. Reminiscences of Charles A. Hogan : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Roy Day
referencedIn Meyers, Alvin P. Reminiscences of Alvin P. Meyers : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Sifton, Paul Field, 1897-1972. Paul F. Sifton and Claire G. Sifton papers, 1912-1980. Library of Congress
referencedIn Holifield, Chet, 1903-. Reminiscences of Chester E. Holifield : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Dudley, Tilford, 1907-1990. Reminiscences of Tilford Dudley : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Cahn, Albert. Reminiscences of Albert Cahn : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Douglas, Helen Gahagan. Letter to Albert Craig Baird. Washington, DC. 1948 May 6. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Lybeck, Ruth. Papers, 1944-1950. University of California, Los Angeles
referencedIn Cahn, Margery. Reminiscences of Margery Cahn : oral history, 1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Goldschmidt, Elizabeth Wickenden. Reminiscences of Elizabeth Wickenden Goldschmidt : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Vanderhoof, Frank E., b. 1888. Frank E. Vanderhoof papers, 1933-1956. Library of Congress
referencedIn California Federation for Civic Unity. California Federation for Civic Unity records, 1945-1956. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Davall, Irene. Papers of Irene Davall, 1971-1987. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Guide to the Harry Laidler Photographs, 1893-1968 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961, Papers, 1822, 1831, 1845, 1903-2007 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
creatorOf Loeb, Joseph Philip, 1883-1974. Papers of Joseph Philip Loeb, 1899-1971. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Lustig, Helen. Reminiscences of Helen Lustig : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Porter, Julia Gorman, 1897-. Julia Gorman Porter papers, 1906-1987 (bulk 1928-1987). UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Theatre Arts Monthly, collection of portraits, ca., ca., 1924-1939 (bulk), 1916-1964 (inclusive). Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn DeShetler, Irwin L., 1906-. Irwin L. DeShelter papers, 1933-1971. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
creatorOf Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980. Papers, 1922-1980, bulk 1940-1951. University of Oklahoma, Bizzell Memorial Library
referencedIn Barbee, Juanita Terry. Reminiscences of Juanita Terry Barbee : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Guide to the Harry Laidler Photographs, 1893-1968 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Palms, Cornelia. Reminiscences of Cornelia Palms : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1988 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Biography: Melvyn Douglas, 1972-1980 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Papers, 1922-1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Newman, Pauline, ca. 1890-1986. Papers, 1900-1980 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lindsley, Byron, 1915-. Reminiscnces of Byron Lindsley : oral history, 1976. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Douglas project : oral history, 1973-1978. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Philleo Nash White House Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1953. President's Committee on Civil Rights Files, 1945 - 1948 Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Cumming, Adelaide Fish Hawley, 1905-. Papers, 1922-1967 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Florence McChesney Clifton Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Official Files (Truman Administration). 1945 - 1953. Official Files . 1945 - 1953. Political Matters, OF 300. 1945 - 1953. Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901?-1979. Papers, 1927-1979 (inclusive) 1934-1979 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adelaide Fish Hawley Cumming person
associatedWith American Museum of Vaudeville corporateBody
associatedWith Baird, Albert Craig, 1883-1979, person
associatedWith Barbee, Juanita Terry. person
almaMaterOf Barnard College corporateBody
associatedWith Bell, Rachel. person
associatedWith Benney, Robert, 1904-2001 person
associatedWith Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson) person
associatedWith Blum, Charles, person
associatedWith Cahn, Albert. person
associatedWith Cahn, Margery. person
associatedWith California Democratic Party corporateBody
correspondedWith California Federation for Civic Unity. corporateBody
associatedWith Carter, Margaret B., 1909-1988 person
associatedWith Carter, Margaret B., 1909-1988. person
associatedWith Chavoor, Evelyn, 1917- person
associatedWith Clifton, Florence McChesney. person
associatedWith Cohen, Lucy Kramer. person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Condon, Edward Uhler, 1902-1974 person
associatedWith Cullen, Frank, 1936- person
associatedWith Cumming, Adelaide Fish Hawley, 1905- person
associatedWith Davall, Irene. person
associatedWith Democratic National Convention (1948) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith DeShetler, Irwin L., 1906- person
associatedWith De Sola, Alis. person
spouseOf Douglas, Melvyn person
associatedWith Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980. person
associatedWith Dudley, Tilford, 1907-1990. person
associatedWith Dunne, Philip, 1908-1992 person
associatedWith Edwards, India. person
associatedWith ESTHER (EGGERTSEN) PETERSON, 1906-1997 person
associatedWith Foy, Mary Emily, 1862-1958. person
associatedWith Fry, Amelia R., person
childOf Gahagan, Walter Hamer II person
associatedWith Goldschmidt, Arthur. person
associatedWith Goldschmidt, Elizabeth Wickenden. person
associatedWith Goodman, Leo. person
associatedWith Greenaway, Roy, 1929- person
associatedWith Hagemeyer, Johan person
associatedWith Hansen, Mamie Frances King, 1894-1990. person
associatedWith Harding, Kenneth. person
associatedWith Hartmann, Sharon Lybeck, 1939- person
associatedWith Hickok, Lorena A. person
associatedWith Hogan, Charles A., 1906-1981. person
associatedWith Holifield, Chet, 1903- person
associatedWith Hudgens, Robert Watts, 1896-1973 person
associatedWith Ickes, Harold L. (Harold LeClair), 1874-1952. person
associatedWith Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory. corporateBody
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973. person
associatedWith Keyserling, Mary Dublin. person
associatedWith Laidler, Harry W. (Harry Wellington), 1884-1970. person
associatedWith Lindsley, Byron, 1915- person
associatedWith Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. person
associatedWith Loeb, Joseph Philip, 1883-1974. person
associatedWith Lustig, Helen. person
associatedWith Lybeck, Ruth person
associatedWith Lybeck, Ruth. person
associatedWith Malone, William. person
associatedWith Marshall Plan. corporateBody
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith McCann, Charles W. A., 1900-1980. person
associatedWith McNeilly, Donald, 1945- person
associatedWith Mendelsohn, Felix, Jr person
associatedWith Meyers, Alvin P. person
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Newman, Pauline. person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. person
associatedWith Noel-Baker, Philip Noel-Baker, Baron. person
associatedWith Palms, Cornelia. person
associatedWith PAULINE NEWMAN, 1888-1986 person
associatedWith Pepper, Claude, 1900-1989 person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965. person
associatedWith Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997 person
associatedWith Pick, Walter, 1914- person
associatedWith Pierpont Morgan Library. Young Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Porter, Julia Gorman, 1897- person
associatedWith Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961 person
associatedWith Riukin, Alan person
associatedWith Rogers, Frank. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945. person
associatedWith Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901? -1979 person
associatedWith Sampson, Edith S. (Edith Spurlock), 1901?-1979. person
associatedWith Saraceno, Salvatore, person
associatedWith Scobie, Ingrid Winther, 1943- person
associatedWith Seymour, Anne, 1909-1988 person
correspondedWith Sifton, Claire, 1897-1980 person
correspondedWith Sifton, Paul Field, 1897-1972. person
associatedWith Snyder, Elizabeth, 1914- person
associatedWith Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965. person
associatedWith Totheroh, Dan person
associatedWith Totheroh, Dan. person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. person
associatedWith Tufty, Esther Van Wagoner, 1896-1986 person
associatedWith United Nations. corporateBody
memberOf United States. Congress. House person
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Office of Price Administration. corporateBody
correspondedWith Vanderhoof, Frank E., b. 1888. person
associatedWith Voorhis, Jerry, 1901-1984. person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Watts, Fay Bennet. person
associatedWith Welles, Orson, 1915-1985 person
associatedWith Young, Stark, 1881-1963, person
associatedWith Zeitlin, Jake, 1902-1987 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Los Angeles CA US
New York City NY US
Northampton MA US
Boonton NJ US
Subject
Elections
Price regulation
Singers--Interviews
Acting
Singing
Veterans
Internal security
Women politicians--Interviews
Labor policy
Federal aid to education
Women legislators--Interviews
Theater
Environmental policy
African American soldiers
Women--Political activity
Lynching
Social security
Cancer--Law and legislation
Nuclear energy
Political Campaigns
Legislative bodies--Reform
Civil rights
Lend-lease operations (1941-1945)
Legislators--Interviews
Taxation
Migrant agricultural laborers
Disarmament
Rent control
Housing
Actresses--Interviews
Health planning--Law and legislation
Political campaigns--History--20th century--Sources
Equal rights amendments
Housing--Law and legislation
Campaign management
Cost and standard of living
Occupation
Actresses
Lecturers
Representatives, U.S. Congress--California
Opera singers
Authors
Activity

Person

Birth 1900-11-25

Death 1980-06-28

Female

Americans

English

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6z71ddn

Ark ID: w6z71ddn

SNAC ID: 85441068