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Mary Ritter Beard

Image of Marry Ritter Beard

Image from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., LC-USZ62-68955

Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958), a Historian and suffragette helped found the World Center for Women’s Archives in 1936.

Mary Ritter Beard and a committee of prominent New Jersey women embarked on the project because they believed that women’s activities were often overlooked by historians. The group took measures to ensure that papers and archives related to New Jersey women were preserved for generations. The Center received a great deal of attention which generated an increasing interest in women’s history. It was even endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Beard served as director for five years.

The archives were never fully established because of funding and internal issues. Some of the records, however, are currently held as part of the collections of the New Jersey Historical Society. Other records went to the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. This effort spearheaded by Beard can be considered a precursor to the work of the Women’s Project of New Jersey, Inc. in reclaiming the history of the state’s women. Beard was also involved throughout her lifetime in the suffrage movement. She was active in labor organizations such as the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL).


Beard, Mary Ritter, and Nancy F. Cott. Woman Making History: Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters. Yale U.P., 1992. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/221121737.

Cott, Nancy E. A Woman Making History: Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters. New 

Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1991.

Crocco, Margaret S. “Shaping Inclusive Education: Mary Ritter Beard and Marion Thompson Wright.” In Bending the Future to Their Will: Civic Women, Social Education, and Democracy, edited by Margaret S. Crocco and O.L. Davis Jr., 93-124. Boulder, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999.

Cott, Nancy F. “Two Beards: Coauthorship and the Concept of Civilization.” American Quarterly 42, no. 2 (1990): 274-300.

Crocco, Margaret S. “Forceful Yet Forgotten: Mary Ritter Beard and the Writing of History.” The History Teacher 31, no. 1 (1997): 9-31.

Lebsock, Suzanne. “In Retrospect: Reading Mary Beard.” Reviews in American History 17, no. 2 (1989): 324-339.

Smith, Bonnie G. “Seeing Mary Beard.” Feminist Studies 10, no. 3 (1984): 399-416.

Trigg, Mary Kathleen. 1989. Four American feminists, 1910-1940: Inez Haynes Irwin, Mary Ritter Beard, Doris Stevens, and Lorine Pruette. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/25137809

Trigg, Mary. “’To Work Together for Ends Larger than Self’: The Feminist Struggles of Mary Beard and Doris Stevens in the 1930s.” Journal of Women’s History 7, no. 2 (1995): 52-85.

Turoff, Barbara K. Mary Beard as Force in History. Dayton, Ohio: Wright State University, 1979.

Voss-Hubbard, Anke. “’No Documents – No History’: Mary Ritter Beard and the Early History of Women’s Archives.” The American Archivist 58, no.1 (1995): 16-30.

Questions to Explore

How did Mary Ritter Beard and the committee of New Jersey women collect and store papers and archives of prominent women in New Jersey’s history?

How did Beard’s work encourage the collection of women’s history?

What are some ways the Women’s Trade Union League help in gathering and archiving information on prominent women in New Jersey?

Additional Resources

Bair, Sarah D. “Citizenship for the Common Good: The Contributions of Mary Ritter Beard.” The International Journal of Social Education, 2007.

Cott, Nancy F. A Woman Making History: Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Wayne Tiffany K and Lois W Banner. 2015. Women’s Rights in the United States : A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Issues Events and People. Santa Barbara California: ABC-CLIO LLC. http://site.ebrary.com/id/11000744