Dewson, Mary (Molly) Williams, 1874-1962

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From the guide to the Papers, 1893-1962, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Mary ("Molly") Williams Dewson (February 18, 1874 - October 21, 1962) was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, to Edward Henry Dewson and Elizabeth Weld (Williams) Dewson. After earning her A.B. degree from Wellesley College (1897), Dewson was hired as 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") G. Porter (1884-1972). Porter, a student at the Boston School for Social Workers, began an internship under Dewson's supervision in 1909. When her internship ended, she withdrew from school, choosing to remain at the Industrial School as a volunteer. By 1910, Dewson and Porter had come to think of their relationship as a "partnership"; it was to last for 52 years.

After a brief stint running a small dairy farm with Porer, Dewson returned to reform work, a field that occupied her for the next two decades. She was particularly active in the woman's suffrage movement, and in the National Consumers' League's campaign to secure passage of minimum wage laws for women and children. During World War I Dewson and Porter spent 15 months with the American Red Cross's Bureau of Refugees in France. Between 1917 and 1938 the two women lived in New York City, spending summers at the Porter family's house in Castine, Maine. While she was working in various reform movements, the independently wealthy Porter bred and raised Sheltie dogs at a kennel Dewson owned in Connecticut.

By the late 1920s, Dewson became convinced that needed reforms could best be accomplished from within organized political parties; she therefore 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 for Franklin D. Roosevelt's New York State gubernatorial race (1930), and his subsequent bids for the presidency. In 1933, thanks to the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt, her political ally and personal friend, she was appointed to head the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee. She is credited with securing leadership positions for many women within the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt Administration. In 1937 she was appointed to the Social Security Board, but she resigned from the position the following year.

Dewson and Porter spent the early years of their retirement in Castine, Georgetown (Connecticut), and New York, but eventually established permanent residence in Castine (1952), where Dewson 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 (1961-68), and Partner And I: The Life of Molly Dewson, New Deal Politician, by Susan Ware (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). See also the Dewson papers (A-60) at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. Her papers at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, New York, document mainly her involvement with the Democratic Party.

From the guide to the Albums, ca., 1861-1962, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Albums, ca., 1861-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937. Papers, 1859-1944 (bulk: 1882-1944) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Miller, Emma Guffey, 1874-1970. Papers: Series I-II, 1833-1975 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Mulliner, Maurine. Papers, 1940-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sherwin, Belle, 1868-1955. Papers, 1880-1955 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Curtis family. Papers, 1797-1991 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
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 Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945. Materials on the equal rights amendment 1940-1954 from the President's official file 120A, equal rights for women [microform] : the papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Samuel I. Rosenman, Mary Dewson, Harley Kilgore, and the Democratic National Committee Women's Division. University of Wyoming, William R. Coe Library
referencedIn White, Sue Shelton, 1887-1943. Papers, 1898-1963 (inclusive), 1909-1963 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Grace A. Johnson in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1840-1952: Subseries A-E, 1840-1952 (inclusive) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Somerville, Nellie Nugent, 1863-1952. Somerville and Howorth family Additional papers, 1850-1983 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Stantial, Edna Lamprey. Papers, 1836-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Winslow, Mary N. (Mary Nelson). Papers, 1923-1951 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers, 1893-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers, 1898-1961, 1921-1961 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Winslow, Mary N. (Mary Nelson), 1887-1952. Papers, 1923-1951 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Mann, Rowena Morse, 1870-1958. Papers, 1878-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Kerr, Harriet Allen. Letters, 1937-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hocking, William Ernest, 1873-1966. William Ernest Hocking Papers, 1860-1979 Houghton Library
referencedIn Papers, 1901-1961 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Matthews, Annabel, 1883-1960. Papers, 1880-1960 (inclusive), 1901-1960 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Consumers' League Records, 1882-1986, (bulk 1920-1950) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Johnson, Grace A. (Grace Allen), 1871-1952. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1840-1952 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Roosevelt family. Papers donated by the children of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, [ca. 1686]-1959. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Edwards, India. Letters, 1947-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1898, 1909-1963 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1880, 1901-1960 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985. Papers, 1856-1987 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891. Papers, 1870-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Elliott, Harriet Wiseman, 1884-1947. Harriet W. Elliott papers, 1900-1947. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University Libraries, UNCG University Libraries
referencedIn Democratic National Committee (U.S.). Women's Division. Papers, 1932-1944. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers of Molly Dewson, 1893-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Wolfe, Carolyn, b. 1890. Letters, 1934-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915-1960 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn West, Helen Hunt, 1892-1963. Papers, 1917-1964 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Woman's rights collection, 1853-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1898-1975 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Consumers' League. National Consumers' League records, 1882-1986 (bulk 1920-1950). Library of Congress
referencedIn Amy Lowell correspondence, 1883-1927 (inclusive), 1910-1925 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Dear Democratic leader : just one vote. What difference can it possibly make? ... / Mary W. Dewson. Connecticut State Library, CSL
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
referencedIn Roosevelt, James, 1907-1991. Papers, 1933-1967. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Papers, 1917-1964 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Stebbins, Lucy Ward. Papers, 1928-1953 (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 Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962. Papers, 1933-1959 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Vieillot, Marie-Therese, 1888-1985. Papers, 1914-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1914-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Albums, 1861-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937. Papers, 1859-1944 (inclusive), 1882-1944 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Somerville, Nellie Nugent, 1863-1952. Somerville and Howorth family papers, 1850-1983 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985. Papers, 1856-2001 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1878-1958 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Hickok, Lorena A. Papers, 1913-1962. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Miller, Emma Guffey, 1874-1970. Papers, 1833-1975 (bulk: 1884-1972) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965. Papers, 1937-1961 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1850-1974 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
Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.) corporateBody
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Quincy MA US
Connecticut CT US
Castine ME US
Boston MA US
Subject
Equal rights amendments
Women--Political activity
Elections
Consumer protection
Women--Suffrage
Christmas cards
Legislation
Refugees--Photographs
World War, 1914-1918--Women
World War, 1914-1918--War work--Red Cross
minimum wage
Social security
Pay equity
Women--Education (Higher)
Political parties
Women--Diaries
Women travelers
Women--Legal status, laws, etc
Lesbians
Age discrimination--United States
Age discrimination
Economic security
Women
Companionate marriage
Women--Employment
Politics, Practical
Politics, Practical--United States
Voyages and travels
Women's rights
Dogs--Photographs
New Deal, 1933-1939
Single women
Juvenile delinquency
Women political activists
Friendship
Presidents--1936
Campaign literature, 1936--Democratic
Occupation
Women social reformers
Lecturers
Activity

Person

Birth 1874-02-18

Death 1962-10-22

Female

Americans

English

Information

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