Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888-1984

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Hilda Worthington Smith (June 19, 1888 – March 3, 1984) was an American labor educator, social worker, and poet. She is best known for her roles as first Director of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry and as a co-founder of the Affiliated Schools for Workers (later known as the American Labor Education Service), though she also had a long career in government service supporting education for underserved groups including women, labor workers, African-Americans and the elderly.

Worthington Smith was born in 1888 in New York City. Her father's invention of a steamheating system, which heated many of the early office buildings of New York, provided the family with a handsome fortune. She attended Bryn Mawr College between 1906 and 1910 for her undergraduate degree, during which she was elected to lead the student body as president of the Self Government Association. Worthington Smith remained at Bryn Mawr the following year and left in 1911 with a master's degree in ethics and psychology, after which she received a second graduate degree from the New York School of Philanthropy (which exists currently as the Columbia University School of Social Work). When she was twenty-five years old she returned to Bryn Mawr at the invitation of President of the College, M. Carey Thomas, to oversee a residence hall as a Warden, and began to teach an informal class on social work at the request of a group of undergraduates in which she introduced the concepts of child welfare, family rehabilitation, delinquency, immigration, and housing. She returned to her studies at the School of Philanthropy in 1914 and soon established a community center for youth in New York City that served many boys of Irish, Italian, and African American descent, which she ran until M. Carey Thomas offered her the position of Acting Dean in 1919. In the two years that she served as Dean, her interest in workers' education was already becoming an area of active pursuit: in addition to her duties mentoring undergraduate students and administering college programs, Smith took the initiative to arrange night classes for the black college gardeners and service employees.

A pivotal moment in Worthington Smith's career came in 1921, when President Thomas asked her to head the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, a brand new initiative that Thomas envisioned and set into motion after visiting Workers' Educational Association programs in England. Though Thomas was the original visionary of the school, Worthington Smith is credited with developing it into the immensely successful program that it became and setting the example for a host of other similar programs that were founded in its image, including the Wisconsin Summer School, Barnard Summer School, Vineyard Shore School, Southern Summer School, and the coeducational Hudson Shore Labor School. The Summer School was a residential program on the campus of Bryn Mawr College that operated for 8 weeks in the summer every year (except for 1935) between 1921 and 1938, hosting and educating female factory workers from all over the country who numbered approximately 1700 over the duration of the initiative. Money was raised for scholarships to support the students, who were between the ages of 18 and 35 and came from diverse backgrounds including different nationalities, races, religions, industries, non-unionized and union affiliations. About 100 women attended each year that the school operated, gathering to live, eat, and sleep together while they studied a variety of liberal arts subjects with distinguished faculty drawn from local institutions.

The object of the school, as stated in prospectus and distributed to a variety of news outlets, was "to offer young women of character and ability a fuller education and an opportunity to study liberal subjects in order that they might widen their influence in the industrial world, help in the coming social reconstruction and increase the happiness and usefulness of their own lives." The focus was therefore on giving women the knowledge and tools to exercise agency in their lives, and to become leaders in their communities in a new era of social change.

In 1933 Harry Hopkins, as adviser to FDR and head of the FERA, borrowed Ms. Smith to set up an educational program for the Administration, which in 1937 became the W.P.A.'s Workers Education Service. As FDR's Educational Specialist, She created and ran multiple programs; one such program employed out-of-work teachers, whose graduates include Hubert H. Humphrey, a future vice president under LBJ. Another set up the She-She-She Camps for unemployed women, ER's bid to place women in the program of Civilian Conservation Corps camps for men, and to provide education and housing for unemployed youth.

The workers' education movement gained momentum, with Worthington Smith playing an active and significant role. In addition to the schools that she was directly involved in founding (such as the Hudson Shore Labor School, which was established on the site of her family home on the Hudson River), she served on the advisory committees of many such initiatives. She also established and served as first Director of the Affiliated Schools for Workers (1927–1939), later known as the American Labor Education Service (1939–1962).

Worthington Smith retired at the age of 83 to focus on various writing projects related to her life experiences and career, including a narrative of her seven years with the Office of Economic Opportunity and a revised and expanded version of her autobiography, Opening Vistas in Workers' Education, which was self-published in 1978. In addition to these publications, Worthington Smith's poetry was published in songbooks, periodicals, and in three printed volumes: Castle of Dream (1910) and Poems (1964), both privately printed, and Selected Poems (1977). She died on March 3, 1984.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Smith, Hilda. People come first : a report of workers' education in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration and the Work Projects Administration, 1933-1943 / prepared by Hilda W. Smith. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
creatorOf Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888-. Papers, 1837-1975 (inclusive), 1900-1975 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf United States. Work Projects Administration (Minn.). Workers Education. Records of the state supervisor of workers education, [193-]-1940. Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
referencedIn Jones Studio (Boulder, Colo.) Photographer. Hilda Smith portrait. Boulder Public Library
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
creatorOf Smith, Hilda Worthington. Affiliated Schools for Workers collection, 1921-1951 (bulk 1921-1940). Rutgers University
referencedIn Papers, 1894-1971 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 Interviews with Eleanor Lansing Dulles Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America,. Essay collection, 1952-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1837 (1900-1975) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Coit, Eleanor G. Papers, 1894-1971 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963. Papers, 1797-1963 (inclusive), 1897-1963 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Amber Arthun Warburton Papers, 1917-1976 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Papers, 1940-1978 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lockwood, Helen Drusilla, 1891-1971. Papers, 1883-1971, 1908-1971 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Smith, Hilda Worthington. Hilda Worthington Smith workers' education collection, 1937-1972. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Collins, Margaret H. (Margaret Hill), 1908-2006. Margaret H. Collins Papers, 1932-2006. Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
referencedIn Smith, Margaret Earhart, 1902-1960. Papers, 1940-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Oral history interviews, 1947-1974. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Smith, Hilda Worthington. Miscellany, 1972, 1980. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Papers, 1917-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997. Papers: Series I-IV, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1998 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Smith, Hilda Worthington, 1888-. Papers, 1884-1972, 1932-1945 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Papers, 1884-1998 (inclusive), 1929-1988 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Essay collection of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, 1952-1976 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1965. Papers, 1797-1968 (bulk 1897-1968) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lockwood, Helen Drusilla, ca. 1891-1971. Helen Drusilla Lockwood papers, 1883-1971. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Fernbach, Frank, 1911-1984. Frank Fernbach papers, circa 1930-circa 1981. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Barrows family papers, 1861-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn Hudson Shore Labor School. Hudson Shore Labor School. Files, 1948-1954. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. Papers, 1840-1961 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Miller, Helen Hill, 1899-. Papers, 1917-1977 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Affiliated Schools for Workers corporateBody
associatedWith American Labor Education Service corporateBody
associatedWith Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, corporateBody
associatedWith Barnard Summer School for Women Workers in Industry corporateBody
associatedWith Barnard Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. corporateBody
correspondedWith Barrows family. family
associatedWith Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson) person
associatedWith Bookbinder, Hyman H person
associatedWith Bookbinder, Hyman Harry, 1916- person
associatedWith Bryn Mawr College corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr College. Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr Community Center corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry corporateBody
associatedWith Camps for Unemployed Women. corporateBody
associatedWith Christgau, Victor, 1894- person
associatedWith Coit, Eleanor Gwinnell, 1894-1976 person
associatedWith Collins, Margaret H. (Margaret Hill), 1908-2006. person
associatedWith Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963 person
associatedWith Dulles, Eleanor Lansing, 1895-1996. person
associatedWith Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979. person
associatedWith Fernbach, Frank, 1911-1984. person
associatedWith Ford Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Ford Foundation. Adult Education Fund. corporateBody
associatedWith Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Friedmann, Ernestine L, 1885-1973 person
associatedWith Gamble, Mary Nan person
associatedWith Glassgold, A. C. person
associatedWith Hall, Charles Mason, 1821- person
memberOf Hall (Family : Charles Mason Hall) family
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Hewes, Amy, 1877-1970 person
associatedWith Highlander Folk School corporateBody
associatedWith Hinton, Carmelita Chase, 1890-1983. person
associatedWith Hopkins, Harry Lloyd, 1890-1946 person
associatedWith Hudson Shore Labor School (West Park, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Jones Studio (Boulder, Colo.) Photographer. corporateBody
associatedWith Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963 person
associatedWith Kellogg, Paul Underwood, 1879-1958 person
associatedWith Kenyon, Dorothy, 1888-1972 person
associatedWith LaFollette, Charles Marion, 1898- person
associatedWith Lenroot, Katharine F. (Katharine Frederica), 1891-1982 person
associatedWith Leslie, Mabel, active 1949-1966 person
associatedWith Lockwood, Helen Drusilla, 1891-1971 person
associatedWith Loucheim, Kathleen (Scofield), 1903- person
associatedWith McBride, Katherine Elizabeth, 1904- person
associatedWith Miller, Helen Hill, 1899-1996 person
associatedWith National Committee for the Extension of Labor Education (U.S) corporateBody
associatedWith New York School of Philanthropy corporateBody
associatedWith Ogden, Jean Carter, 1897-1974 person
associatedWith Park, Marion Edwards, 1875-1960. person
associatedWith Pell, Orlie Anna Haggerty, 1900-1975 person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965 person
associatedWith Peterson, Esther Eggertsen, 1906-1997 person
associatedWith Rauh, Joseph L., 1911- person
associatedWith Reuther, Victor G. (Victor George), 1912-2004 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. person
associatedWith Rutgers University. Workshops in Workers' Education and Techniques corporateBody
associatedWith Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972 person
memberOf Smith (Family : Hilda Worthington Smith, 1888-1984) family
associatedWith Smith, Helen Hall, 1892-1971 person
associatedWith Smith, John Jewell, 1834-1901 person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Earhart, 1902-1960 person
associatedWith Starr, Mark, 1894- person
associatedWith Summer School for Office Workers corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, M. Carey (Martha Carey), 1857-1935. person
associatedWith United States. Federal Civil Works Administration corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Emergency Relief Administration corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Federal Public Housing Authority corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Office of Economic Opportunity corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Work Projects Administration corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Work Projects Administration (Minn.). Workers Education. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Works Progress Administration. Workers' Service Program corporateBody
associatedWith Vineyard Shore Workers' School (West Park, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Warburton, Amber Arthun, 1898-1976 person
associatedWith William Roy Smith Memorial Fund. Workshops in Living History. corporateBody
associatedWith Williams, Aubrey Willis, 1890-1965 person
associatedWith Winant, John Gilbert, 1889-1947 person
associatedWith Witte, Edwin Emil, 1887-1960 person
associatedWith Woodward, Ellen Sullivan, 1887-1971 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Esopus NY US
New York (State)--West Park
New York City NY US
Chatham Four Corners (N.Y.)
Subject
Drama in education
Emigration and immigration
Endowments
Family records
Household employees
Jewish refugees
Labor and laboring classes
Labor and laboring classes
New Deal, 1933-1939
Older people
Public housing
Schools
Social workers
Student activities
Unemployed
Women
Women
Working class
Working class
Working class women
World War, 1939-1945
Education
Teachers
Camps
Children
Occupation
Educators
Labor Activist
Public officers
Women social reformers
Activity

Person

Birth 1888-06-19

Death 1984-03-03

Female

Americans

English

Information

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