Mar
27

Finding Inspiration in the Archives: Honoring Women at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

by Lindsay Closterman and Nicola Mantzaris, Metadata Catalogers, White House Photographs

As National Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to pay tribute to the women represented in the collections of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library who were instrumental in shaping the landscape of American politics and human rights.

In the research we do as metadata catalogers for the White House Photographs collection, we are constantly discovering inspiring women throughout the Library’s collections. In their professional capacities, these contemporaries of John F. Kennedy met and worked with the President throughout his years in the White House. They held key roles in the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, served in high-ranking positions in the administration, were respected members of Congress, and held key roles as ambassadors, journalists, interpreters, doctors, scientists, military officials, and everyday leaders in the struggle for women’s rights.

The materials listed below highlight some of the women and organizations that contribute to making our collections so valuable and our jobs so rewarding. These documents, photographs, and oral histories reflect the diligent efforts on the part of women from all spheres of government and civilian life to enact legislation to improve the lives of American women in real and lasting ways.

 

FEDERAL LEGISLATION AND RECOGNITION

JFKWHP-AR7035-A. Meeting with President’s Commission on the Status of Women, 12 February 1962 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-12-A.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR7035-A. Meeting with President’s Commission on the Status of Women, 12 February 1962
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-12-A.aspx]

 

 

From its establishment on December 14, 1961, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women examined discrimination against women in the United States and proposed ways to eliminate it. Chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, this bipartisan commission worked with the Civil Service Commission as well as the Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, and Health, Education, and Welfare, to gather its findings and submit a final report to President Kennedy.

 

 

 

View more materials here:

Records of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/USPCSW.aspx?f=1

Audio interview with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Status of Women: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHA-085-005.aspx

Papers relating to the Commission from the President’s Office Files: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPOF-093-004.aspx

 

 

JFKWHP-ST-C139-1-63. Visit of recipients of 3rd annual Federal Woman's Awards, 2 May 1963 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1963-05-02-D.aspx]

JFKWHP-ST-C139-1-63. Recipients of 3rd annual Federal Woman’s Awards, 2 May 1963
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1963-05-02-D.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR7069-A. Visit of recipients of 2nd annual Federal Woman's Awards, 27 February 1962 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-27-A.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR7069-A. Recipients of 2nd annual Federal Woman’s Awards,
27 February 1962
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org
/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-27-A.aspx
]

The Federal Woman’s Awards recognized government employees for outstanding contributions to their fields. The recipients from 1962 and 1963 represented agencies such as the Department of Justice, National Cancer Institute, Department of Labor, Civil Service Commission, Department of the Army, Federal Aviation Agency, and NASA.

 

 

 

JFKWHP-AR7965-B. Signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 10 June 1963 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1963-06-10-B.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR7965-B. Signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963,
10 June 1963
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1963-06-10-B.aspx]

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 promoted economic equality for women in the workplace. The leaders of women’s, civil rights, labor, business, and religious organizations who were present at the signing acted as the organizing forces behind the Equal Pay Act. Women in attendance included: Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor Standards, Esther Peterson; President of the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height; Senator Maurine Neuberger (D-OR); Representative Edith Green (D-OR); Director of the United Automobile Workers Women’s Department, Caroline Davis; President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Dr. Minnie Miles; Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women, Margaret Mealey; and President of the National Council of Jewish Women, Pearl Larner Willen.

 

THE WOMEN

JFKWHP-ST-M6-1-61. Esther Peterson with President John F. Kennedy, 14 December 1961 [View photograph record here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-ST-M6-1-61.aspx]

JFKWHP-ST-M6-1-61. Esther Peterson with President John F. Kennedy, 14 December 1961
[View photograph record here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-ST-M6-1-61.aspx]

 

Esther Peterson was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor Standards from 1961 to 1969, as well as Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission on the Status of Women.

View her Oral History and Personal Papers here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-EEP-04.aspx

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/EEPPP.aspx

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth (Rudel Smith) Gatov was Treasurer of the United States from 1961 to 1962; she also served as a representative from California to the Democratic National Committee. View her Oral History and Personal Papers here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-ERG-01.aspx http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/ERGPP.aspx

JFKWHP-AR6303-A. Swearing-in of Elizabeth Rudel Smith as Treasurer of the United States,
30 January 1961
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-01-30-B.aspx]

 

Elizabeth (Rudel Smith) Gatov was Treasurer of the United States from 1961 to 1962; she also served as a representative from California to the Democratic National Committee.

View her Oral History and Personal Papers here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-ERG-01.aspx

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/ERGPP.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-KN-17561. Representative Edith Green attends a Congressional Coffee Hour, 14 April 1961 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-04-14-F.aspx]

JFKWHP-KN-17561. Representative Edith Green attends a Congressional Coffee Hour, 14 April 1961
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-04-14-F.aspx]

 

Representative Edith Green of Oregon served on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. An advocate of women’s rights and higher education, Green was instrumental in the passage of Title IX, the 1972 legislation that prohibited discrimination against women in federally-funded educational programs. She served 10 terms in the House of Representatives from 1955 to 1974.

View her Oral History here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-ESG-01.aspx

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-AR7039-B. May Craig with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman, 13 February 1962 View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-13-A.aspx

JFKWHP-AR7039-B. May Craig with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman, 13 February 1962
View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-02-13-A.aspx

 

Veteran reporter May Craig, whose career spanned nearly four decades, served as the Washington correspondent for the Guy Gannett Publishing Company of Maine. Craig also had the distinction of being one of the few American female war correspondents during World War II.

View her Oral History here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-EMC-01.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-AR6661-E. Dr. Janet G. Travell briefs the press, 22 June 1961 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-06-22-A.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR6661-E. Dr. Janet G. Travell briefs the press,
22 June 1961
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-06-22-A.aspx]

 

Dr. Janet G. Travell was Physician to the President from 1961 to 1965. A specialist in the relief of musculoskeletal pain, Dr. Travell began treating then-Senator John F. Kennedy for back pain in 1955.

View her Staff Files here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFJGT.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-KN-C17522. Nora Lejins with President John F. Kennedy and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, 12 April 1961 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-04-12-A.aspx]

JFKWHP-KN-C17522. Nora Lejins with President John F. Kennedy and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, 12 April 1961
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-04-12-A.aspx]

 

Interpreter Nora Lejins was Assistant Chief of Language Services at the Department of State during the Kennedy Administration. She later became Chief of Language Services and retired in 1984 after 36 years of service in the State Department.

View more photographs here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-01-08-B.aspx

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-05-03-C.aspx

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-09-14-C.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-AR7272-A. Eugenie M. Anderson with President John F. Kennedy, 28 May 1962 [View photograph record here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-AR7272-A.aspx]

JFKWHP-AR7272-A. Eugenie M. Anderson with President John F. Kennedy, 28 May 1962
[View photograph record here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-AR7272-A.aspx]

 

 

Eugenie M. Anderson became the first female United States ambassador in 1949 and served during the Kennedy Administration as U.S. Minister to Bulgaria. A former delegate to the Democratic National Convention, Anderson later acted as United States Representative on the United Nations Trusteeship Council and the United Nations Committee for Decolonization.

View her Oral History here:

http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKOH-EMA-01.aspx

 

 

 

NOTABLE ORGANIZATIONS

JFKWHP-ST-336-2-62. Visit of members of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 2 August 1962 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-08-02-C.aspx]

JFKWHP-ST-336-2-62. Members of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 2 August 1962
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-08-02-C.aspx]

 

 

Founded in 1896, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs merged multiple organizations, large and small, into one association whose common goals were to support racial and gender equality. The NACWC grew primarily out of the union of the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C. and the National Federation of Afro-American Women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-KN-C21765. Visit of representatives of the Women's Army Corps regarding 20th Anniversary,  15 May 1962 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-05-15-C.aspx]

JFKWHP-KN-C21765. Representatives of the Women’s Army Corps regarding 20th Anniversary,
15 May 1962
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-05-15-C.aspx]

 

 

 

The Women’s Army Corps was the all-women branch of the United States Army, created first as an auxiliary unit in 1942 and then established as a formal branch of the U.S. Army in 1945. It was disbanded in 1978 when women were integrated into the other branches of the Army, serving alongside men in all but combat roles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JFKWHP-KN-C17738. Visit of members of the Association of Women Helicopter Pilots, 4 May 1961 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-05-04-B.aspx]

JFKWHP-KN-C17738. Members of the Association of Women Helicopter Pilots, 4 May 1961
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1961-05-04-B.aspx]

 

 

 

The Association of Women Helicopter Pilots (also known as “Whirly-Girls“) was founded in 1955 by aviator Jean Ross Howard, with members from the United States, France, and Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postcard with commemorative Amelia Earhart stamp [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPOF-104-002.aspx]

Postcard with commemorative Amelia Earhart stamp, c. 1963
[View entire folder here:
http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPOF-104-002.aspx]

 

 

The Ninety-Nines, Inc. (International Organization of Women Pilots) was established in 1929 by 99 female pilots. Amelia Earhart served as the organization’s first president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://archiveblog.jfklibrary.org/2014/03/honoring-national-womens-history-month/

Mar
26

Restoring the Past in the White House: A Look at the Jacqueline Kennedy White House Restoration Project

by Suzanna Calev and Sara Hawran, Graduate Student Interns (Simmons College)

Greetings from Reference interns Suzanna Calev and Sara Hawran! We have recently completed an exhibit board in the main research room of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House Restoration Project.” Through our research we have come across many interesting documents on this topic, too many in fact to fit in our exhibit board. While there is much scholarship written about the restoration, the documents have given us a new understanding of the work that went into restoring the White House and of the dedication of many individuals who made the project possible. We would like to highlight some of those documents in this blog post.

According to a September 1, 1961 interview with Life magazine’s Hugh Sidey, Jacqueline Kennedy visited the White House with her mother and sister in 1941. She noticed the lack of historical furnishings on display and of information on the history of the house. When she became First Lady in 1961, Mrs. Kennedy sought to restore the White House to reflect the styles of past presidents. Our search first led us to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Personal Papers, in which we came across a memorandum released on April 24, 1961 explaining the mission of the White House Restoration Project. Here is an excerpt from that memo:

The White House as a Symbol [Excerpt; see digitized folder of material, here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JBKOPP-SF01-004.aspx]:

 

symbol144

 

In preparation for the restoration project, Jacqueline Kennedy created a Fine Arts Committee that would help her find antiques from different presidencies. We came across a brief history of changes made to the White House during each presidential era, the narrative of which was written by Clinton P. Anderson, Senator of New Mexico from 1949 to 1973 (reproduced below). This document was unique because it pulled together the history of White House renovations made during each administration.

[See digitized folder of material, here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JBKOPP-SF01-004.aspx]:

 

White House001 (1)White House002White House003 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For her restoration project, Mrs. Kennedy sought the help of three individuals: interior decorator Dorothy Mae “Sister” Parish; American antiques collector Henry Du Pont; and Parisian designer Stéphane Boudin. With the assistance of Parish, Du Pont, and Boudin, she planned the alterations for each room. It was decided that the Blue Room would be restored to the period of President Monroe. Mrs. Kennedy fashioned the room after the French Empire style, as President Monroe had himself had acquired French Empire furniture for the room after the 1814 White House fire. Two images from the White House Photographs collection show the room’s transformation between November 1961 and January 1963.

 

KN-C19304

 

 

 

[Before photo: White House Blue Room, 2 November 1961, JFKWHP-KN-C19304.]

 

 

blue-room-kennedy

 

 

 

[After photo: White House Blue Room, 24 January 1963, JFKWHP-KN-C26240B.]

 

 

 

Although the curtains and upholstery remained the traditional blue, the room’s walls were changed to the cream color of President Madison’s administration. In the course of researching the Blue Room we found the following memo to Pierre Salinger, which discussed the possibility of changing the room to white. Included in the memo is Mrs. Kennedy’s statement that “the Blue Room will always be the Blue Room.”

[Blue Room excerpt from the Salinger memo; see digitized folder of material, here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHCSF-0166-007.aspx]:

 

WHCSF002

 

Mrs. Kennedy’s restoration met with overwhelming approval. She received thousands of letters from the public praising her restoration efforts, especially after her televised tour on CBS. Although some people were not pleased with her efforts, most of the messages sent to Mrs. Kennedy were very positive. The White House Social Files contain many of these letters, and the letters shown here exhibit two very different reactions to Mrs. Kennedy’s work on the White House.

 

[Left: view digitized folder here, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSF-0942-009.aspx]

[Right: view digitized folder here, http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSF-0247-009.aspx]

 

Praise003Criticism002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the Kennedy restoration effort, an executive order was passed on March 7, 1964 requiring the Committee for the Preservation of the White House to approve any modifications to the State Rooms.  The Committee, which included the White House Curator and Chief Usher, would work with each First Family to maintain the historical integrity of the White House. As a result of Jacqueline Kennedy’s work on the restoration project, all administrations are now held accountable for the preservation of the White House.

These are just some of the documents that we came across in preparation for our exhibit board; the Kennedy Library holds many more materials on Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House Restoration Project. If you’re interested in researching this topic, we welcome researchers to visit the library.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://archiveblog.jfklibrary.org/2014/03/restoring-past-white-house-look-jacqueline-kennedy-white-house-restoration-project/

Feb
12

Now Fully Digitized: The White House Staff Files of Lee C. White

by Tricia Patterson, Graduate Student Intern (Simmons College GSLIS)

We are happy to report that the White House Staff Files of Lee C. White is now fully digitized and available on our website.

Lee Calvin White was born in Omaha, Nebraska on September 1, 1923. He remained in Nebraska to earn both his bachelor’s and law degrees before becoming an attorney. White began his career as an assistant to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. at the Hoover Commission and as a legislative assistant to then-Senator John F. Kennedy in 1954. By 1961, he became the Assistant Special Counsel to the President, working under the Special Counsel to the President – his former law school classmate, Theodore C. Sorensen.

In 1962, Harris Wofford, Special Assistant to the President for Civil Rights, was appointed the Special Representative for the Peace Corps in Africa. In his wake, White assumed many of Wofford’s previous civil rights responsibilities, working toward equitable opportunities in employment, education, and voting rights.

White was involved in several key civil rights issues and events during this time. He advised on specific federal civil rights issues: programs such as Plans for Progress; meetings with civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr.; the use of federal troops in civil disturbances; the 1961 Freedom Rides; the 1963 March on Washington; and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He kept the federal government accountable for its adherence to equal opportunity employment, soliciting labor statistics from specific departments and agencies in the effort. White also corresponded with civil rights constituents on behalf of President Kennedy, relayed current events directly to the President, or collected information that would inform the President’s strategies.

 

JFKWHSFLCW-019-001-p0001

Memorandum to President Kennedy from Lee C. White regarding the formation of a bi-racial Human Relations Council in Anniston, Alabama, the former site of a Freedom Riders’ riot two years prior.

[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFLCW-019-001.aspx]

 

 

 

JFKWHSFLCW-019-001-p0005JFKWHSFLCW-019-001-p0004

A memorandum from White House legal adviser Norbert A. Schlei to Lee C. White in response to White’s request for legal counsel concerning President Kennedy’s upcoming visit to Alabama.

[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFLCW-019-001.aspx]

 

 

JFKWHSFLCW-019-010-p0063JFKWHSFLCW-019-010-p0064

A letter to Lee C. White from National Science Foundation (NSF) Director, Alan T. Waterman, regarding the NSF’s adherence to President Kennedy’s directive not to fund discriminatory teacher training programs.

[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFLCW-019-010.aspx]

 

 

Lee White stayed on within President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration as Associate Special Counsel and then Special Counsel to the President before becoming chairman of the Federal Power Commission in 1966. In 1969, White returned to practicing law as a partner in a private firm. After a career spent contributing to the progress of society through the law and legislation, White passed away on October 31, 2013 at the age of 90.

The White House Staff Files of Lee C. White consists of 24 boxes organized into two series: the General File (1954-1964) and the Civil Rights File (1961-1963). The collection reflects the range of presidential programs that White advised on in his capacity as Assistant Special Counsel and focuses primarily on legislation related to small businesses, natural resources, economics, and of course, civil rights.

 

JFKWHSFLCW-008-005-p0017

Memorandum from Lee C. White to President Kennedy advising the President on an upcoming bill for saline water conversion.

 [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFLCW-008-005.aspx]

 

 

 

 

JFKWHSFLCW-002-004-p0032JFKWHSFLCW-002-004-p0031General letter from selected members of the House of Representatives soliciting support for an upcoming project to use waste steam from a plutonium production reactor to generate energy.

[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFLCW-002-004.aspx]

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://archiveblog.jfklibrary.org/2014/02/new-digital-collection-white-house-staff-files-of-lee-c-white/

Feb
10

New Digital Collection: White House Staff Files of Sanford L. Fox

by Kelly Francis, Assistant Digital Archivist for Textual Collections

The White House Staff Files of Sanford L. Fox is one of the more interesting collections at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and it’s also the most recent addition to our digital collections.

Sanford Fox came to work in the White House in 1952, ultimately rising to the position of Chief of the Social Entertainments Office in January of 1961, a post he held until 1975. As Chief, Mr. Fox was responsible for the planning, organization, and execution of events at the White House including state dinners, luncheons, teas, receptions, concerts, and informal dinners. He oversaw general protocol, as well as the engraving, printing, and calligraphy for menus, invitations, and seating arrangements.

The collection consists of two series: Guest Index, 1961-1964, containing an index card for each person who attended an event at the White House; and Social Events, 1961-1964, containing a folder for each event comprised of press releases, guest lists, printed menus, invitations, RSVPs, and entertainment programs. Also included in the Social Events series are folders related to President Kennedy’s funeral and three boxes of oversize, hand-printed seating plans.

Guest Index card showing individual, occupation, spouse, and events attended with dates. [View rest of folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-002-004.aspx]

Guest index card showing individual, occupation, spouse, & events attended, with dates.
[View rest of folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-002-004.aspx]

Letter of regret from Ludwig Bemelmans to Letitia Baldrige regarding a dinner in honor of Nobel Prize recipients. [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-013-006.aspx]

Letter of regret from Ludwig Bemelmans to Letitia Baldridge, Nobel Prize winners dinner.
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-013-006.aspx]

Page one of a guest list for a dinner-dance for friends at the White House on March 8, 1963. [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-020-009.aspx]

Page one of guest list for White House dinner-dance for friends, March 1963.
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-020-009.aspx]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Menu for a luncheon for Prime Minister Gerhardsen of Norway and Mrs. Gerhardsen. [View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-013-012.aspx]

Luncheon menu for Norwegian Prime Minister Gerhardsen and his wife, Mrs. Gerhardsen.
[View entire folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-013-012.aspx]

Seating plan for a luncheon at the White House for the Prince and Princess of Monaco on May 24, 1961. [View folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-029-021.aspx]

Seating plan for White House luncheon, Prince and Princess of Monaco, May 1961.
[View folder here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-029-021.aspx]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most exciting aspects of the Sanford L. Fox White House Staff Files is that its records are connected to so many other collections at the Library. A folder for any given event may have accompanying photographs from the White House Photographs collection, audio of a toast from the White House Audio Collection, drafts of the toast from the President’s Office Files, or even a film covering a state visit from the United States Government Agencies Collection. For example, the folder maintained by Fox regarding the state dinner at the White House for the King and Queen of Afghanistan in September 1963 is also linked to two folders from the President’s Office Files related to the King and Queen’s visit and toasts given by President Kennedy and King Zahir, an audio recording of President Kennedy’s toast, photographs taken during the event, and a silent motion picture of Air Force Bagpipers and the Marine Band on the South Lawn of the White House [http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHSFSLF-024-012.aspx].

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://archiveblog.jfklibrary.org/2014/02/1223/

Jan
11

It Gets Better Project: Honoring Frank Kameny and the Fight for LGBT Rights

by Stacey Chandler, Reference Archives Technician

With the launch of the National Archives video for the It Gets Better Project, we’re spotlighting documents on the history of the LGBT rights movement from the collections of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which barred people with a history of “criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct,” including “sexual perversion,” from serving as employees of the United States government. That year, a young World War II veteran named Frank Kameny was working on his Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard. In July 1957, he was hired as an astronomer for the U.S. Army Map Service – the work, he later wrote, he had hoped to do since he was seven years old.

But by 1958, the U.S. Civil Service Commission had fired and banned Dr. Kameny from federal service after investigating him for homosexual activity in violation of E.O. 10450. He appealed his firing through federal courts, losing twice; his appeal eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961. The Court refused to review his claim, but Kameny made history by bringing the case – the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation – to the Supreme Court.

Kameny continued to advocate for gay rights, forming the activist group The Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961. His work with the group is documented in the Kennedy Library archives, which holds letters that Kameny and other Mattachine members sent to the President in an effort “to stand up for their rights and freedoms.” Kameny explained in one letter:

In World War II, I willingly fought the Germans, with bullets, in order to preserve and secure my rights, freedoms, and liberties, and those of my fellow citizens. In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words, in order to achieve some of the very same rights, freedoms, and liberties for which I placed my life in jeopardy in 1945. This letter is part of that fight. (May 15, 1961)

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Kameny wrote an astounding number of letters throughout his lifetime of advocacy, most of which are now in the Library of Congress. The huge volume of his correspondence makes the personal nature of his letters to President Kennedy especially surprising for archivists here. In these letters, he tenaciously argued for the right of gay Americans to work as civil servants, poignantly evoking the President’s famous call to public service:

You have said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ We know what we can do for our country; we wish to do it; we ask only that our country allow us to do it. (Excerpt, August 28, 1962)

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Kameny quoted other Kennedy speeches to point out the differences between political rhetoric and the reality of life for minority groups in the United States:

Yours is an administration which has openly disavowed blind conformity. …You yourself said, in your recent address at George Washington University, ‘…that (people) desire to develop their own personalities and their own potentials, that democracy permits them to do so…’ But your government, by its policies certainly does not permit the homosexual to develop his personality and his potential. (Excerpt, May 15, 1961)

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Kameny also sent Mattachine Society pamphlets and press releases to the White House, documenting some of Kameny’s goals beyond changing the rules for federal employment. These documents highlight Kameny’s now famous fight to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):

Homosexuality is neither a sickness, disease, neurosis, psychosis, disorder, defect, nor other disturbance, but merely a matter of the predisposition of a significantly large minority of our citizens. (Excerpt, February 28, 1963)

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Letters from Kameny and the Society continued to arrive at the White House throughout 1962 and into 1963, many expressing frustration at the lack of response from the administration. In fact, the only response we’ve found in our archives is a brief note from John W. Macy, Chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, to Bruce Schuyler, Secretary of the Mattachine Society, who had requested a meeting. Macy wrote:

It is the established policy of the Civil Service Commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.

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Concerned by the disinterest of government officials at many levels, Kameny wrote to Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy’s Special Counsel, in March 1963:

We wish to cooperate in any way possible, if the chance for friendly, constructive cooperation is offered to us by you, but if it continues to be refused us, then we will have to seek out and to use any lawful means whatever, which seem to us appropriate, in order to achieve our lawful ends, just as the Negro has done in the South when he was refused cooperation. (March 6, 1963)

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Though Kameny passed away in 2011 without ever working as a professional astronomer again, he remained an outspoken leader in the LGBT rights movement for the rest of his life. In 2012, an asteroid was named after him as a posthumous honor both to the scientific career he might have had, as well as to his noteworthy contributions to civil rights in the United States.

This folder of documents in the Kennedy Library archives supports the idea noted by Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero:

Things have gotten better and we have many records here to prove just that.

 

Here at the Kennedy Library, we can look to a 1961 Kameny letter, which observes,

The winds of change are blowing. A wise and foresighted government will start NOW to take constructive action on this question.

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Almost fifty years later, when Kameny donated his records to the Library of Congress, he stated,

Things have changed. How they have changed. I am honored and proud that it is so.

 

Note: Check out all of Frank Kameny’s letters from the White House Central Name File in our digital archives. We also invite you to watch the National Archives’ contribution to the It Gets Better Project.

With thanks to Charles Francis, founder of The Kameny Papers project.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://archiveblog.jfklibrary.org/2014/01/frank-kameny-and-the-fight-for-lgbtq-rights/

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