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Gladys V. Swackhamer papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00268

Scope and Contents

The collection is comprised of biographical material, genealogical records, photographs, correspondence, writings, material pertaining to professional activities, and subject files. Obituaries and condolences for Swackhamer's father, a prominent New Jersey judge, are also included. Personal correspondence is extensive, most notably letters between Swackhamer and her maternal uncle, C.W.G. Anderson, spanning a period of forty years. There is a significant amount of genealogical material as well. Also of potential interest is correspondence with Richard Clemmer, which documents his effort to obtain conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War.

There is also material pertaining to social and political activism in the 1980s, including Swackhamer's letters to editors of newspapers and to her elected representatives on such topics as nuclear disarmament, the environment, homelessness, the plight of migrant farm workers, and governmental waste and mismanagement.

Towards the end of her life Swackhamer began attending writing classes taught by a local author, Robert Downey, resulting in short, descriptive narratives that were autobiographical in nature. She also began recording and interpreting her dreams.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1881-1988
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1988


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the papers of Gladys Virginia Swackhamer. Copyright to materials created by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

Gladys Virginia Swackhamer was born September 17, 1893 in Hagerstown, Maryland, the daughter of Judge Austin H. Swackhamer and Florence Anderson Swackhamer. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Smith College in 1917 and went on to earn her Master of Social Work in 1923 as a member of the first class of the Smith College School for Social Work. She then obtained a Certificate of Proficiency in the German language from the Institut fuer Auslaender at the University of Berlin.

Early in her professional career, Swackhamer practiced social case work in hospitals and clinics in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. After obtaining a position as Secretary and Research Assistant to the editor of the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1927, her professional interests evolved in the direction of research and writing. From 1933 through 1945, she conducted "psychiatric, medical and industrial research for private and government agencies". Cigar Makers After the Lay-Off, 1937, a WPA project, evaluated the problem of workers' welfare following termination of employment due to industrial mechanization, and Choice and Change of Doctors, 1939, examined how low-income families and individuals exercised freedom of choice in selecting medical care. In 1945 Swackhamer resumed practicing social work, continuing until her retirement in 1957 (having moved to Santa Barbara, California in 1949). In addition to writing articles and abstracts for professional journals, she also translated into English the work of several German scholars.

Upon retirement, Swackhamer continued her life-long involvement in the Unitarian Church and also pursued a variety of community interests, including the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and the Child Guidance Clinic of Santa Barbara. She was a committed pacifist and took great interest in the political issues of her day, frequently writing articulate, well-informed letters to her elected representatives and to the editors of local newspapers. In 1986, under the aegis of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Swackhamer initiated the Austin H. and Florence A. Swackhamer Memorial Prizes, to be awarded annually to three college-bound high school seniors for the best essays on how to promote world peace in the nuclear age. The contest was open to international and United States students, and the essays were to focus on specific themes, determined each year by Swackhamer and the staff of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Swackhamer was listed in Who's Who of American Women (5th edition, 1969), and in 1970 was made a life fellow of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. She died in Santa Barbara, California on September 6, 1988.


1.751 linear feet (5 containers)


Pacifist; psychiatric social worker; and political activist. The collection documents topics such as conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; nuclear disarmament; the environment; homelessness; the plight of migrant farm workers; and governmental waste and mismanagement; as well as her work with the WPA and other agencies. Materials include photographs; correspondence; and unpublished autobiographical writings, including recordings and interpretations of her dreams.


This collection is organized into six series:

  1. I. Biographical
  2. II. Photographs
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Professional Activities
  5. V. Writings
  6. VI. Subjects

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Roberta Weissglass donated the Gladys Virginia Swackhamer Papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1990.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 1997.

Gladys V. Swackhamer papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss67 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:23-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2022-03-04: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063