Molly (Molly) Williams Dewson, 1874-1962

Hide Profile

Mary ("Molly") Williams Dewson (1874-1962) was born in Quincy, Mass., earned an A.B. from Wellesley College (1897), and was then secretary of the Domestic Reform Committee of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union in Boston. She left this position in 1900 to become the superintendent of parole at the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls, Lancaster, where she remained until 1912. There she met Mary ("Polly") Porter (1884-1972), an intern and then a volunteer at the school. By 1910, MWD and MGP had formed a "partnership" that lasted until MWD's death.

After running a small dairy farm with MGP(1913-1917), MWD returned to reform work, especially the woman's suffrage movement and the National Consumers' League campaign for minimum wage laws for women and children. During World War I MWD and MGP spent 15 months with the American Red Cross's Bureau of Refugees in France.

In the late 1920s, convinced that needed reforms could best be achieved through the political parties, MWD initiated efforts to increase the number of women active in the Democratic Party. She organized women to work in Alfred E. Smith's presidential campaign (1928), and in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New York gubernatorial race (1930) and his subsequent bids for the presidency. In 1933 MWD became head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee; she is credited with securing important positions for many women in the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. She also served on the Social Security Board (1937-1938). In 1952, MWD and MGP settled in the Porter family house in Castine, Maine, where MWD died in 1962.

For additional biographical information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), Who Was Who in America (1961-1968), and Partner And I: The Life of Molly Dewson, New Deal Politician, by Susan Ware (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). See also the MWD papers (A-60), part of this same microfilm project, and the microfilm of the MWD scrapbooks (M-120) at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. Her papers at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, document mainly her involvement with the Democratic Party.

From the guide to the Woman's Rights Collection (WRC), (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Ames, Blanche person
associatedWith Democratic National Committee (U.S.). Women's Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937 person
associatedWith Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith National Consumers' League corporateBody
associatedWith Stantial, Edna Lamprey person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Politics, Practical--United States


Birth 1874

Death 1962

Related Descriptions


Ark ID: w6jz2n1h

SNAC ID: 34549801