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Helen Leland Witmer papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00199

Scope and Contents

The papers are arranged in three series: Biographical Material, Writings, and Professional Activities. The Biographical Material series contains curriculum vitae, photographs and memorabilia. The bulk of the Writings series is comprised of notes and a book-length typescript for Juvenile Delinquents in Court: A Study in Four Countries, an examination of the management of juvenile delinquency in selected cities in Israel, Poland, Puerto Rico and Yugoslavia. Although the book was ready to go to press, it appears that Witmer never found a publisher. This series also contains typescripts of essays, lecture and conference papers, and journal articles.

The Professional Activities series contains correspondence, typescripts, and notes from Witmer's tenure at the Smith College School for Social Work. There are also extensive notes pertaining to her work at the United States Children's Bureau.

Dates of Materials

  • 1928-1979
  • Majority of material found within 1935-1965


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Helen Leland Witmer was born in Lansford, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.A. from Dickinson College in 1919, and her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1923. She did post doctoral work at the London School of Economics and went on to receive a certificate of social work from Bryn Mawr College in 1924.

After working as a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, a statistician in the Massachusetts Division of Corrections, and as Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, she became Director of Research at the Smith College School for Social Work where she remained from 1929 to 1949. Her responsibilities at Smith included formulating final exam questions, helping to set standards for social work theses, editing Smith College Studies in Social Work, and conducting research and writing for various state and national social service and mental health agencies. From 1949 to 1951, she was Director of Fact-finding for the White House Conference on Children and Youth. In 1951 Witmer became Director of Research for the United States Children's Bureau (a Health, Education and Welfare agency), a position she held from 1951 until 1967. During her tenure there, she worked on setting research standards for evaluating federally funded children's programs. She also wrote and published extensively on such topics as juvenile delinquency, pediatric psychiatry, family welfare, daycare, parent education, adoption, and child guidance. In 1967 she became editor of the Children's Bureau Research Reports, a publication of Children's Bureau research findings.


4 boxes (1.5 linear feet)


Sociologist, teacher, and social worker. The bulk of the Witmer papers pertain to her writings, including notes, typescripts and manuscripts for her unpublished book, Juvenile Delinquents in Court: A Study in Four Countries (Israel, Poland, Puerto Rico and Yugoslavia). There are also photographs, correspondence, lectures, and conference papers. Also documented are her tenure as director of research at Smith College School for Social Work and at the U.S. Children's Bureau.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Writings
  3. III. Professional Activities

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The family of Helen Leland Witmer donated her papers to the Smith College School for Social Work in 1980. They were transferred to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1982, via Vida S. Grayson. A subsequent donation was made by Charles Gershenson in 1987.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 1998.

Helen Leland Witmer papers
Finding Aid
Burd Schlessinger
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: mnsss75 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.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063