Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985

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Florence Hope Luscomb, social and political activist, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on February 6, 1887, the daughter of Otis and Hannah Skinner (Knox) Luscomb. With an S.B. in architecture (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1909), she worked as an architect until 1917, when she became executive secretary for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association. She held positions in the Massachusetts Civic League and other organizations and agencies until 1933, when she became a full-time social and political activist. In the early 1920s Luscomb began to serve on the boards of civil rights, civil liberties, and other organizations; over the next 50 years these included the NAACP (Boston), the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the American League for Peace and Democracy, and many others. She helped organize and was president of a Boston local of the United Office and Professional Workers of America. Luscomb ran unsuccessfully for the Boston City Council, U.S. House of Representatives, and governor of Massachusetts. Never a communist, she opposed anti-communist investigations as attempts to curtail dissent and in the 1950s worked to stop them. In 1955 she was investigated as a subversive by government committees in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Luscomb travelled to the Soviet Union in 1935 and illegally to China in 1962 and attended several international peace and women's conferences. In the 1960s she worked against the Vietnam War and in the 1970s frequently spoke to women's groups and conferences. From the 1950s to the mid 1970s, Luscomb lived in cooperative houses, usually with much younger people. She died in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1985 at 98.

From the guide to the Additional papers of Florence Luscomb, 1888-1988, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Florence Hope Luscomb (February 6, 1887 – October 13, 1985) was an American architect and women's suffrage activist in Massachusetts. She was one of the first ten women graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her degrees were in architecture. Luscomb became a partner in an early woman-owned architecture firm before work in the field became scarce during World War I. She then dedicated herself fully to activism in the women's suffrage movement, becoming a prominent leader of Massachusetts suffragists.

Luscomb was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Hannah Skinner (Knox) and Otis Luscomb. Her father was an unsuccessful artist. Her mother was a dedicated suffragist and women's rights activist. When Florence was one and a half years old, her parents separated and she moved with her mother to Boston, while her older brother, Otis Kerro Luscomb, lived with their father. As a child in Boston, she went with her mother to women's suffrage events, at one point seeing Susan B. Anthony speak. She became an ardent suffragist, initially by selling a pro-suffrage newspaper on the street.

Luscomb was among the first ten women to earn a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Women still experienced significant challenges during her tenure there. For example, Luscomb had to inquire at twelve firms before one of them would hire her for an internship after her second year.

Following her graduation, she was hired by Ida Annah Ryan, the sixth woman to earn an architecture degree from M.I.T. Later, she would become a partner in Ryan's firm. Ryan and Luscomb shared an interest in women's suffrage and Ryan gave Luscomb a degree of flexibility at work that allowed her to be active in the women's suffrage movement. During this time, Luscomb helped organize various events for the suffrage movement and, during a public debate on adding a suffrage amendment to the state constitution, gave more than 200 speeches in 14 weeks.

She later continued her education in architecture at the newly opened Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in 1916.

In addition to her work with Ryan, she began working with local architect Henry Atherton Frost and landscape architect Bremer Whidden Pond. Due to the entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917, new construction slumped and her architectural career was put on hiatus.

She accepted a position as executive secretary for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government. She went on to work for a number of organizations in the Boston area, including the Boston chapters of the League of Women Voters, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and organizations dedicated to prison reform and factory safety. She was a charter member of the League of Women Voters, formed once women gained the vote. Luscomb also helped found a local of the United Office and Professional Workers of America and served as a volunteer with the local NAACP and ACLU. From 1911, she considered herself a citizen of the world, traveling to nations across Europe and Asia for conferences, yet she retained pride in her Yankee heritage. Her political views were well-developed and unique.

Upon her mother's death in 1933, Luscomb inherited enough money that she could dedicate her time fully to activism. She ran for public office four times, more to make her causes visible than to win. She nearly won the first race she entered, for Boston Council in 1922. Her campaigns for races for Congress in 1936 and 1950 and for governor in 1952 were largely in protest. An ardent anti-McCarthyist, she was at one point called to testify before a committee in the Massachusetts legislature that was investigating communism. She wrote an early anti-Vietnam War leaflet and later, would advise some of the founders of the American feminist movement, encouraging them to include the poor and women of color.

Luscomb designed her own holiday cabin in Tamworth, New Hampshire. After WWII and until the 1970s, she spent her summers there, contributing to the Appalachian Mountain Club.

She had lived in various cooperative houses after her mother's death, including a Cambridge cooperative house at 64 Wendell Street. Luscomb lived there until 1980, when she moved into an elder-care facility in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she died October 13, 1985, at age 98.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985. Papers, 1856-1987 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, 1915-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Stantial, Edna Lamprey. Papers of Edna Lamprey Stantial, 1861-1999. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, 1967-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn League of Women Voters (Cambridge, Mass.). Records, 1916-ca.1976 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn International Women's Day (1970 : Cambridge, Mass.). Notes and program, 1970. 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 Biography Collection MS 393., 1771-1995, 1920-1970 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Albums, ca., 1861-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Berkeley, Edmund Callis. Edmund C. Berkeley papers, 1923-1980. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn O'Farrell, Brigid. O'Farrell and Kornbluh papers, 1889-1996. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Interview transcripts, 1978. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Massachusetts Branch. Records, 1915-1977 (inclusive). 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 Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970. Papers, 1968-1970. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Sophia Smith Collection. Biography collection, 1771-1995 (bulk 1920s-70s). Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Kinderman, Katharine Bancroft Schlesinger, 1942-. Papers, 1969-1970 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Virginia Foster Durr, 1919-2007 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985,. Florence Hope Luscomb oral history 1972-1973. University of Rhode Island Library, Kingston, University Library
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1959 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 Nichols family. Papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1780-1953 (inclusive), 1850-1940 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of, Sojourner, (inclusive), (bulk), 1920-2004, 1975-2002 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Colby, Dorothy. Papers, 1937-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Eleanor Flexner, 1895?-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-. Additional papers of Florence Luscomb, 1888-1988 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Florence Hope Luscomb Oral History, 1972-1973 University of Rhode Island Library Special Collections and Archives Unit
referencedIn Howe, Mark De Wolfe. Mark De Wolfe Howe papers. 1933-1967. Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1885-1950 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers: Series I, 1919-1988 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (University of Michigan--Wayne State University). Program on Women and Work. Transcripts of oral history project, 1970-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Trainor, Augusta M. Papers, 1929-1991 (inclusive), 1969-1991 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Helen Boyden Lamb, 1937-1975 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 Consumers' League of Massachusetts. Records, 1891-1955 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1969-1970 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Edmund C. Berkeley papers, 1923-1988 University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute.
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 Papers, 1895?-1995 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
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-. Oral history interview with Florence Luscomb, 1976. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Records, 1891-1955 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Helen Tufts Bailie Papers MS 9., 1886-1959 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962. Albums, 1861-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Additional papers of Florence Luscomb, 1888-1988 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (University of Michigan-Wayne State University). Program on Woman and Work. Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, Women and Work Program (University of Michigan) transcripts of oral history project, 1978-1979. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985. Papers, 1856-2001 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Luscomb, Florence, 1887-. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1959 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lamb, Helen Boyden. Papers, 1937-1975 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Trade union women oral history project, 1978-1979 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Boston N.O.W. Records, 1967-1990 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Nichols-Shurtleff family. Papers, 1780-1953, (bulk: 1850-1940) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Lawrence Graham Brooks papers, 1897-1981 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women corporateBody
associatedWith 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Alice Stone Blackwell, 1857-1950 person
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associatedWith Americans for Democratic Action. corporateBody
associatedWith Appalachian Mountain Club corporateBody
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associatedWith Berkeley, Edmund Callis. person
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associatedWith Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government corporateBody
associatedWith Boston N.O.W. corporateBody
associatedWith Boston Scottsboro Defense Committee corporateBody
associatedWith Brooks, Lawrence Graham, 1881-1981 person
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associatedWith Colby, Dorothy person
associatedWith Colby, Dorothy. person
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associatedWith Consumers' League of Massachusetts corporateBody
correspondedWith Day, Emily person
associatedWith DeGregory, Hugo person
associatedWith DeGregory, Hugo. person
associatedWith Dewson, Mary (Molly) Williams, 1874-1962 person
associatedWith Donald Lothrop person
associatedWith Du Bois, W. E. B., 1868-1963. (William Edward Burghardt) person
associatedWith Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963 person
associatedWith Du Pont, Zara, 1869-1946. person
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associatedWith Eleanor Flexner, 1908- person
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associatedWith Emergency Defense Committee of Massachusetts corporateBody
associatedWith Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937. person
associatedWith Flexner, Eleanor, 1908-1995. person
associatedWith F. O. (Francis Otto) Matthiessen person
associatedWith Foley, Margaret, 1875-1957. person
associatedWith Fritchman, Stephen H. (Stephen Hole), 1902- person
associatedWith Goodell, Edwin B. person
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associatedWith Halpern, Steven, person
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correspondedWith Howe, Mark De Wolfe, 1906-1967 person
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associatedWith Kinderman, Katharine Bancroft Schlesinger, 1942- person
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associatedWith Lamb, Helen Boyden. person
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associatedWith League of Women Voters of Cambridge corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters of Massachusetts corporateBody
associatedWith Linaria Neutrality Protest Committee corporateBody
associatedWith Logan, Rayford Whittingham, 1897-1982. person
associatedWith Luscomb, Hannah Skinner. person
associatedWith Mary Duggan person
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts. Special Commission to Study and Investigate Communism and Subversive Activities and Related Matters in the Commonwealth. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association corporateBody
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith Nathan, Otto, 1893-1987. person
associatedWith National American Woman Suffrage Association corporateBody
associatedWith National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Boston Branch corporateBody
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associatedWith New York State Woman Suffrage Party corporateBody
associatedWith Nichols family. family
associatedWith NICHOLS-SHURTLEFF FAMILY family
associatedWith O'Brien, Walter A. person
associatedWith O'Farrell, Brigid, person
associatedWith Ohio Woman Suffrage Association corporateBody
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associatedWith Taylor, Glen H. (Glen Hearst), 1904-1984. person
correspondedWith Todd, Lawrence person
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associatedWith William T. Parry person
associatedWith Women's International League for Peace and Freedom corporateBody
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associatedWith World Conference for General Disarmament and Peace (1962 : Moscow, Soviet Union). corporateBody
associatedWith World Conference for General Disarmament and Peace, Moscow corporateBody
associatedWith World Congress for International Women's Year (1975 : Berlin, Germany : East). corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York NY US
Watertown MA US
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 00 GB
Lowell MA US
Virginia VA US
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Detroit MI US
Kingdom of Spain 00 ES
People’s Republic of China 00 CN
Michigan MI US
Ohio OH US
Boston MA US
Republic of Cuba 00 CU
Maine ME US
Tamworth NH US
Subject
Feminists--Biography
White collar workers--Labor unions
Women and peace
Labor movement
Peace movements
Professional employees--Labor unions
Women--Political activity
Women's rights
Women--Employment
Archival resources
Anti-fascist movements
Women--History--20th century
Civil rights movement
Oral History
Disarmament
Women--Social conditions
Anti-communist movements
Women--Suffrage
Women in the labor movement
Korean War, 1950-1953--Protest movements
Skilled labor
Anti-nuclear movement
Interviews
Women political activists--Biography
Anti-communist movements--Massachusetts
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Women social reformers--Biography
Working class
Peace--Societies, etc
Labor unions--Organizing
Labor
Women labor union members
Mothers and daughters
Women--Suffrage--Songs and music
Scripts
Labor unions
Occupation
Suffragists
Architect
Women's rights activists
Social reformers
Activity

Person

Birth 1887-02-06

Death 1985-10-13

Female

Americans

English

Information

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