Van Kleeck, Mary, 1883-....

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Mary Abby Van Kleeck was born on June 26, 1883, in Glenham, New York, to Eliza Mayer and Episcopalian minister Robert Boyd Van Kleeck. (Mary van Kleeck changed the capitalization of her last name in the 1920s.) Following her father''s death in 1892, her family moved to Flushing, New York, where she attended Flushing High School. She earned an A.B. from Smith College in 1904. In the fall of 1905 she began working as a fellow for the College Settlement Association on New York''s Lower East Side, where she worked with several women reformers and researched factory women and child labor. In 1910, the Russell Sage Foundation began supporting her research and hired her as the head of its Committee on Women''s Work, which in 1916 was expanded to create the Division of Industrial Studies, later renamed Department of Industrial Studies (DIS). She served as its director into the late 1950''s. Beginning in 1914, she taught at the New York School of Philanthropy and at Smith College''s School for Social Work. She joined the Army''s Ordinances Department in early 1918, creating standards for the employment of women in war industries. She served on the War Labor Policies Board, and with strong backing from the Women''s Trade Union League, she was named the director of the Department of Labor''s Woman-In-Industry Service, the predecessor of the Women''s Bureau. She held the position only briefly, before handing it over to the assistant director, Mary Anderson. In 1921 Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover appointed her to President Harding''s Conference on Unemployment and she later served as a member of the Standing Committee of the Conference and Sub-Committee on the Business Cycle. In 1929, she accepted an appointment to President Hoover''s Law Enforcement and Observance Commission. She also promoted social and economic planning, serving from 1928 to 1948 as associate director of the International Industrial Relations Institute. She resigned from the Labor Department''s Federal Advisory Committee of the United States Employment Service in August 1933 after one day, citing her objections to New Deal policies that she believed interfered with workers'' right to strike. In addition to working through government to promote social change, she served on the committees and boards of secular and religious humanitarian organizations such as the Church League for Industrial Democracy; the Episcopal League for Social Action; and Hospites, a refugee relocation organization that provided employment and financial assistance for social workers fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. She remained dedicated to the rights of workers in the mid-to-late 1930s. Concern for workers'' liberties led her to leadership roles in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she served on the Board of Directors and several committees from 1935 until 1940 when a conflict with the board over membership requirements prompted her to resign. In 1948, after her retirement, she supported Henry A. Wallace''s campaign for president and unsuccessfully ran for the New York State Senate as the American Labor Party candidate. Because of her interactions with various organizations that had been declared subversive by the Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., she was subpoenaed by Joseph McCarthy''s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations in 1953 and was denied a visa several times in the 1950s. She spent the last few decades of her life out of the public sphere with her close friend and colleague, Mary L. Fleddérus. She died on June 8, 1972, in Kingston, New York.

From the description of Van Kleeck, Mary A., 1883-1972 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679491

Social worker; social researcher; social reformer; lecturer; and leading expert on women's employment.

From the description of Mary van Kleeck Papers, 1849-1998. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 36820473

Mary Abby Van Kleeck was born on June 26, 1883 in Glenham, New York, to Eliza Mayer and Episcopalian minister Robert Boyd Van Kleeck. (Mary van Kleeck changed the capitalization of her last name in the 1920s.) Following her father's death in 1892, her family moved to Flushing, New York, where van Kleeck attended Flushing High School. She entered Smith College in the fall of 1900, became involved in the Smith College Association for Christian Work, and began a lifelong affiliation with the YWCA. Van Kleeck earned an A.B. from Smith College in 1904.

In the fall of 1905 van Kleeck began working as a fellow for the College Settlement Association on Rivington Street on New York's Lower East Side. She worked with several women reformers, attended sociology classes at Columbia, and researched factory women and child labor. Her work with the College Settlement Association, and later as the industrial secretary of the Alliance Employment Bureau, caught the attention of the Russell Sage Foundation. The Foundation began supporting her research, and in 1910, hired her as the head of its Committee on Women's Work. Van Kleeck's pioneering research into the fields of artificial flower-making, millinery, and bookbinding, helped pass legislation limiting night work for female workers and led to an extension of van Kleeck's role at the Russell Sage Foundation. Beginning in 1914, she taught at the New York School of Philanthropy and in the 1920s, at Smith College's School for Social Work. In 1916, the Foundation's Committee of Women's Work expanded to create the Division of Industrial Studies, later renamed Department of Industrial Studies (DIS). Mary van Kleeck was asked to serve as director of the new division, a title she would hold for over forty years, except for a brief period of time during World War I.

Mary van Kleeck on a city street, circa 1937

As one of the most influential figures in women's employment, van Kleeck joined the Army's Ordinances Department in early 1918, creating standards for the employment of women in war industries. She served on the War Labor Policies Board, and with strong backing from the Women's Trade Union League, she was named the director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Women in Industry Service, the precursor of the U.S. Women's Bureau. Van Kleeck held the position only briefly, before handing it over to the assistant director, Mary Anderson, and returning to the Russell Sage Foundation in New York to care for her dying mother. Although van Kleeck was slated to be the first director of the Women's Bureau, Mary Anderson took over van Kleeck's position before the official creation date of the Women's Bureau, and therefore Anderson became its first director.

After her mother's death, van Kleeck returned to her studies of labor, employment, and industry at the national, state, and local levels. In 1921 Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover appointed van Kleeck to President Harding's Conference on Unemployment. Following the conference, van Kleeck continued to investigate the causes of unemployment and the means to prevent it as a member of the Standing Committee of the Conference and Sub-Committee on the Business Cycle. In 1922 van Kleeck introduced a uniform method for calculating periodic statistics for employment at the Labor Law Administration Conference held in Milford, Pennsylvania. At the Department of Industrial Studies at the Russell Sage Foundation, Mary van Kleeck expanded her studies of workers' rights and the role of employee representation in the workplace. After a careful examination of John D. Rockefeller's method of employee representation in the Colorado coal mines, reported in Employees' Representation in Coal Mines, a Study of the Industrial Representation Plan of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in 1924, van Kleeck concluded that this method of employee-employer relations only partially protected workers. While working and living conditions had improved in the Rockefeller plan, employees still lacked the power to influence many workplace decisions. Van Kleeck believed that when workers participated more actively in the management of the organization, efficiency increased and labor was more productive. In addition to her own research at the Russell Sage Foundation, van Kleeck supervised several significant studies, including those of the Dutchess Bleachery, the Filene Store, the Rock Island Arsenal, and the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company.

Mary van Kleeck continued to fight for the rights of women workers during the 1920s, speaking on the role of women wage earners at both the 1923 and 1926 American Women's Conference on Industrial Problems, sponsored by the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau. The 1926 Conference erupted in controversy when representatives from the National Women's Party protested their exclusion from the conference program. As an advocate of workers' rights, van Kleeck disagreed with champions of women's rights who supported the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, fearing that it would interfere with the special protections she had helped enact for female workers. Van Kleeck and New York Women's Trade Union League member Mabel Leslie sparred with the equal rights legislation supporters in a special session held at the 1926 Conference.

Van Kleeck spent much of her time traveling across the country and even the world, researching, lecturing, and addressing a wide variety of audiences. She served on the Board of Trustees at her alma mater from 1922 to 1930, and worked for Al Smith's campaign for president in 1928. In 1929 van Kleeck accepted an appointment to Hoover's Law Enforcement and Observance Commission to investigate the relationship between unemployment and inadequate housing and crime in urban areas. She also promoted social and economic planning, serving from 1928 to 1948 as associate director of the International Industrial Relations Institute (known as IRI), an organization dedicated to the investigation of industrial relations as well as a place for industry to exchange ideas and improve working conditions for workers. In addition to examining economic policies in the United States, van Kleeck also traveled to Europe and the Soviet Union, spending six weeks exploring labor conditions in the U.S.S.R. in 1932. She supported the Soviets' economic policies of collective ownership and industrial planning and spent much of the next two decades praising Soviet society. In spite of conflicts between the two nations following World War II, van Kleeck remained an advocate of Soviet socialism and encouraged Russian-American co-existence.

Mary van Kleeck fought hard for social insurance legislation during the 1930s. In 1931 she and fellow members of the Taylor Society's Industrial Code Committee advocated a minimum living wage, a shorter work day and week, and unemployment insurance for industry in the United States. Van Kleeck blamed the economic depression on the lack of coordination between supply and demand as well as inadequate care for laborers. She supported the Wagner Employment Bill, which created the United States Employment Service, and worked on a New York state unemployment survey that helped connect the unemployed with businesses needing employees. While van Kleeck worked hard with government officials to bring about legislative remedies to economic problems, she did not hesitate to criticize government policies when she disagreed with them. She resigned from the Labor Department's Federal Advisory Committee of the United States Employment Service in August 1933 after one day, citing her objections to New Deal policies that she believed interfered with workers' right to strike.

In addition to working through government to promote social change, Mary van Kleeck served on the committees and boards of secular and religious humanitarian organizations such as the Church League for Industrial Democracy; the Episcopal League for Social Action; and Hospites, a refugee relocation organization that provided employment and financial assistance for social workers fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. A lifelong Episcopalian, van Kleeck hoped that introducing Christian values into the workplace would solve much of industry's problems. Mary van Kleeck believed that she had a Christian duty to promote social change and that churches and church-based organizations should play a role in remediating struggles of the worker.

Mary van Kleeck remained dedicated to the rights of workers in the mid-to-late 1930s. Concern for workers' liberties led Mary van Kleeck to leadership roles in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she served on the Board of Directors and several committees from 1935 until 1940 when a conflict with the board over membership requirements prompted her to resign. A big supporter of trade unions, strikes and labor parties, she participated in a variety of ACLU activities, including opposing oaths of allegiance by schoolteachers in the mid 1930s. In 1934 van Kleeck continued her pursue her interest in the status of mine workers, publishing Miners and Management: A Study of the Collective Agreement between the United Mine Workers of America and the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company. Van Kleeck registered with the American Labor Party in 1936, impressed by its commitment to the protection of civil liberties and advocacy of social and economic planning. That same year, van Kleeck published Creative America: Its Resources for Social Security, a treatise emphasizing the need for socio-economic planning in the U.S. In 1939 she fought the deportation of Frank Borisch, secretary of the National Miners' Union who was convicted of belonging to an organization that advocated the overthrow of the government.

Mary van Kleeck opposed the United States' entry into World War II, believing that the conflict was an imperialist endeavor. Once it became clear that the United States would participate, however, van Kleeck urged women's participation at all levels of government administration. She also advocated an expansion of the social security program. She believed that post-war peace plans must include a worldwide defense of human rights. Mary van Kleeck spent the rest of the decade encouraging community organization, nuclear disarmament, and the peacetime use of atomic energy. In 1944 she co-authored with Mary F. Fleddérus, Technology and Livelihood, a report of the effect of technological innovations on employment and standards of living from World War I to the early 1940s. In this report, van Kleeck maintained that innovation did not always improve one's livelihood; in fact, increased efficiency often increased unemployment or underemployment. Therefore, she supported unions and welfare funds as a necessity to gain and maintain decent standards of living for workers.

In 1948, after her retirement, she supported Henry A. Wallace's campaign for president and unsuccessfully ran for the New York State Senate as the American Labor Party candidate. Because of her interactions with various organizations that had been declared subversive by the Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., she was subpoenaed by Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations in 1953 and was denied a visa several times in the 1950s. Mary van Kleeck spent the last few decades of her life out of the public sphere with her close friend and colleague, Mary L. Fleddérus. Mary van Kleeck died on June 8, 1972, in Kingston, New York, of heart failure while undergoing surgery for a broken hip.

From the guide to the Mary van Kleeck Papers MS 165., 1883-1972, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn American Association for Labor Legislation. Series 1, Subseries 1, part b. Correspondence (I-W), 1905-1910. [microform] Cornell University Library
referencedIn Pinchot, Cornelia Bryce, 1881-1960. Papers, 1923-1926 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.). Records, 1908-1932 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Simkhovitch, Mary K. (Mary Kingsbury), 1867-1951. Papers, 1852-1960 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Ames, Blanche. Papers, 1860-1961 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Mary van Kleeck Papers MS 165., 1883-1972 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn American Association for Labor Legislation. Series 1, Subseries 2, part c. Correspondence (N-W), 1910-1915. [microform] Cornell University Library
referencedIn Tamiment Library. Tamiment Library manuscript files collection relating to individuals and organizations associated with radicalism, the labor movement, and progressive social action in the United States, 1950-2001 (bulk 1910-1965). Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963. Papers, 1797-1963 (inclusive), 1897-1963 (bulk). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Papers, 1903-2005 Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard University
referencedIn Mary van Kleeck Papers MS 165., 1883-1972 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Papers, 1900-1980 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Papers, 1797(1897-1963) Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers, 1893-1962 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Papers, 1894-1960 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Papers, 1916-1972 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. Robert Mearns Yerkes papers, 1822-1985 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Newman, Pauline. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Papers, 1893-1962 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Sophia Smith Collection. Biography collection, 1771-1995 (bulk 1920s-70s). Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Tamiment Library Manuscript Files, Bulk, 1910-1965, 1749-1988 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn Papers, 1860-1961 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Records of the Women's Bureau. 1892 - 1995. Correspondence of Mary Van Kleeck with Members of the War Labor Policies Board
creatorOf Eddy, Harriet G. (Harriet Gertrude), 1876?-1966. Harriet G. Eddy papers, 1918-1967. California State Library
referencedIn Brookwood Labor College (Katonah, N.Y.). Brookwood Labor College records, 1921-1937. Wayne State University, Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs
referencedIn Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952. Correspondence, 1928-1929. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
creatorOf Records of the Women's Bureau. 1892 - 1995. Correspondence of the Director
referencedIn Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. Robert Mearns Yerkes papers, 1822-1985 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (U.S.). Records, 1919-1990. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn National Council of American-Soviet Friendship Records, Bulk, 1943-1988, 1919-1990 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn National Council of American-Soviet Friendship Records, 1919-1990 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964. Papers, 1918-1960 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Walter Gropius papers, 1925-1969 (inclusive), 1937-1969 (bulk). Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard
referencedIn Robert Mearns Yerkes papers, 1822-1985 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Papers, 1852-1960 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Van Kleeck, Mary, 1883-. Mary van Kleeck Papers, 1849-1998. Smith College, Neilson Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith American Association for Labor Legislation. corporateBody
associatedWith American Association of Social Workers corporateBody
associatedWith American Association of University Women corporateBody
associatedWith American Civil Liberties Union corporateBody
associatedWith Ames, Blanche. person
associatedWith Anderson, Mary person
associatedWith Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964. person
correspondedWith Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958 person
associatedWith Blanche Ames Ames, 1878-1969 person
correspondedWith Brookwood Labor College (Katonah, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr College. Summer School for Women Workers in Industry corporateBody
associatedWith Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. corporateBody
associatedWith Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Coit, Eleanor G. person
associatedWith Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. person
correspondedWith Douglas, Dorothy W. (Dorothy Wolff), 1890-1968 person
associatedWith Dreier, Katherine Sophie, 1877-1952. person
associatedWith Dreier, Mary E. (Mary Elisabeth), 1875-1963. person
associatedWith Eddy, Harriet G. (Harriet Gertrude), 1876?-1966. person
correspondedWith Fledderus, Mary L. (Mary Lambertine), 1886- person
associatedWith Glueck, Sheldon, 1896- person
correspondedWith Goldmark, Pauline Dorothea person
correspondedWith Goldmark, Pauline Dorothea person
correspondedWith Grierson, Margaret person
correspondedWith Grierson, Margaret person
correspondedWith Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969 person
correspondedWith Hamilton, Alice, 1869-1970 person
associatedWith Hudson, Manley Ottmer, 1886- person
associatedWith International Industrial Relations Institute corporateBody
correspondedWith Leslie, Mabel person
correspondedWith Leslie, Mabel person
correspondedWith Lewis, John Llewellyn, 1880-1969 person
associatedWith MARY ELISABETH DREIER, 1875-1963 person
associatedWith Mary Melinda (Kingsbury) Simkhovitch, 1867-1951 person
associatedWith MARY (MOLLY) WILLIAMS DEWSON, 1874-1962 person
associatedWith National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Research Council (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Woman's Party corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Trade Union League of America corporateBody
correspondedWith Neilson, William Allan, 1869-1946 person
associatedWith Newman, Pauline. person
associatedWith PAULINE NEWMAN, 1888-1986 person
associatedWith Pinchot, Cornelia Bryce, 1881-1960. person
associatedWith Rocky Mountain Fuel Company corporateBody
associatedWith Rocky Mountain Fuel Company corporateBody
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Russell Sage Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Sachs, Paul J., 1878-1965 person
correspondedWith Schneiderman, Rose, 1882- person
correspondedWith Schneiderman, Rose, 1882-1972 person
associatedWith Simkhovitch, Mary K. (Mary Kingsbury), 1867-1951. person
associatedWith Simms, Florence, 1873-1923 person
associatedWith Smith College corporateBody
associatedWith Smith College. School for Social Work corporateBody
associatedWith Tamiment Library. corporateBody
correspondedWith Thomas, M. Carey (Martha Carey), 1857-1935 person
associatedWith United Mine Workers of America corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Women's Bureau. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Kleeck, Mary, 1883- person
correspondedWith Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940 person
correspondedWith Yergan, Max person
associatedWith Yerkes, Robert Mearns, 1876-1956. person
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
Soviet Union
United States. Women's Bureau
United States
Soviet Union
Subject
Socialism, Christian--United States--History--Sources
Social settlements--History--sources
Women--Congresses--History
Women--Employment--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Coal miners--History--Sources
Industrial hygiene--History--20th century--Sources
Female friendship--History--20th century--Sources
Coal industry and trade--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Equal rights amendments--History--20th century--Sources
Insurance, Unemployment--Law and legislation--United States--History--Sources
Coal miners--United States--History--Sources
Women--Economic conditions--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Industrial relations--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Jewish refugees--History--20th century--Sources
Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--History--20th century--Sources
Social reformers--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Cost and standard of living--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Labor--Research--United States
Labor--Research
Civil rights--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Refugees, Jewish--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Social work administration--United States--History--Sources
Industrial hygiene--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Labor laws and legislation--United States--History--Sources
Labor laws and legislation--History--Sources
Equal rights amendments--United States--History--Sources
Social settlements--New York (N.Y.)--History--Sources
Social work administration--History--Sources
Labor--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Industrial relations--History--20th century--Sources
Women--Employment--History--20th century--Sources
New Deal, 1933-1939
World War, 1939-1945--Women--United States
World War, 1914-1918--Women--United States
Female friendship--United States--History--20th century--Sources
Management--Employee participation--United States--History--Sources
Unemployment--History--Sources
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1883

Death 1972

Americans

English

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6t72shp

Ark ID: w6t72shp

SNAC ID: 10058527