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Betty Millard papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00673

Scope and Contents

The Betty Millard papers relate to both her personal and professional life. Especially well documented are: Millard's research and writings; her travels; her correspondence with notable politicians and communist activists; and her photography, including travel, artistic, and personal photos. The collection includes clippings, memoribilia, journals, articles, correspondence, personal and collected writings, and photography.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1911 - 2010


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are mostly in English. Some materials are in French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Olivia Millard has assigned the copyright in her aunt's works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. 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. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Betty Millard, 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 Note

Elizabeth (Betty) Boynton Millard was born on October 12, 1911. She was born to a wealthy, conservative family in Highland Park, Illinois and lived there until she attended college. Her mother, Elizabeth (Bessie) Bell Boynton (1882-1980) was a Smith College student from 1900-1902 and studied painting, sculpture, and music. She became an artist. Her father, Everett Lee Millard (1877-1933) was an attorney. Betty was the second of four children; younger to Everett Lee (Chevy) Millard, Jr. (1909-2000); older to Malcolm (Mac) S. Millard (1914-1999), and Graham Millard (1921-1921). Malcolm’s first wife, Margaret Wentworth Owings, whose work focused on endangered species conservation, was a life-long friend to Betty Millard. Betty Millard remained close to her brother Malcolm throughout her life, despite their significant political and lifestyle differences. Her closest familial relationship for the latter half of her life was with her niece Olivia Millard, with whom she shared a love of nature, travel and conservation.

Millard first attended the University of Chicago from 1930-1932, but transferred to Barnard College in 1932. She briefly studied at the University of London and in Vienna during her college years. Her interest in political activism and social justice flourished during this time period and directed her professional interests for the continuation of her life. Millard was drawn to the on-campus activism at Barnard College, and marched against the U.S. government's support of Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. She graduated from Barnard College in 1934 and enrolled at Columbia Law School, but left after one year in order to pursue her activism. In exploring her preferred ideals of equality and fairness, Betty joined the Young Communist League in 1936 and the Communist party in 1940. In 1935, she moved to Greenwich Village, where she was based for the rest of her life.

From 1943-1947, Betty Millard worked as an editor and writer at The New Masses, a publication focused on American Marxism. In 1947, during her time at The New Masses, Betty wrote the widely acclaimed, key feminist seminal, Woman Against Myth. It was published as a 24-page pamphlet in 1948 distributed with the magazine and was released by International later that year.Woman Against Myth examined the history of the women’s movement in the United States, in the socialist movement, and in the USSR.

From 1949-1951, Betty Millard worked in Paris, France and Berlin, Germany as the American Secretary in the directorate of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF). The WIDF was a post-war, radical feminist organization that aligned with the global Communist movement. Millard was also active in the Congress of American Women (CAW), an affiliate of WIDF. Her work for both organizations took her to France, Italy, the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, China, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany. When she returned to the United States in 1951, her passport was lifted due to suspected Communist affiliation.

From 1951-1956, Betty Millard worked as an editor and writer at the magazine Latin America Today, reporting on the political and social developments south of the United States border. In April 1959, Millard was subpoenaed to testify as a hostile witness before the House of Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy trials. The House was investigating the Congress of American Women, Millard’s work for them, as well as her personal political views. Millard left the Communist Party in the late 1950’s – possibly as a result of the Khrushchev revelations, or possibly out of dissatisfaction with the Party’s hostile viewpoints on feminism, women’s rights and gay rights.

In 1960, Millard developed a passion for photography and installed a darkroom on the top floor of her Greenwich Village brownstone. Millard studied photography with Paul Caponigro, Lisa Modell, and Ansel Adams. She was interested in photography of nature, political struggles, and portraiture. Millard created “picture stories” while travelling including on trips up the Essequibo and Pomeroon Rivers in then-British Guiana; visiting the artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, at work in his studio; and to Chile in 1970 to photograph Chilean mural art.

Betty Millard spent the remainder of her life travelling to various parts of the world, often in service of advocacy. Betty Millard supported many activist organizations, especially in Latin America. She worked on campaigns such as organizing a committee to free the Mexican muralist, David Siqueiros, from prison, movements that were against the Vietnam War, environmentalism, and later in her life, she joined the fight for lesbian and gay rights. Millard was also a philanthropist and supported various activist groups, including the North Star Fund, which worked to create a more equitable and democratic city for all New Yorkers. She attended the March on Washington in 1963.

Millard met, interviewed, and befriended a variety of political figures throughout her life including artists David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ho Chi Minh, Zhou Enlai, Fidel Castro, Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Paul and Eslanda Robeson, Elizabeth Moos, and Bella Abzug. Millard and Janet Jagan met while they both attended the University of Chicago. Millard would continue to be close friends with the Jagans for the remainder of their lives.

Millard traveled through British Guiana with politician Cheddi Jagan as he campaigned for Chief Minister, and later, Premier. She spoke alongside Jagan at an event in New York City shortly after he was elected President of independent Guyana on December 5, 1992. In this, her last public speaking appearance, she eloquently compared Jagan’s early campaign-trail appeal to that of the recently-elected U.S. President, Bill Clinton.

Despite privately writing about her struggles with her sexual orientation in journals, Millard did not come out as gay until her late 80s except to close family and friends. Millard often referenced her crushes on schoolmates in her journals and described her younger self as bisexual. Due to the social implications of being gay and the explicit homophobia of the Communist Party, Millard took measures to reject this part of her life by seeking conversion therapy from 1942-1948; she was hospitalized in 1956 for a breakdown related to her struggles with her sexuality. Despite this, Millard had several important long-term relationships with women prior to, and after, coming out.

Millard enjoyed writing short stories and poetry, most of which were autobiographical. Some of Millard’s writing was anthologized, and others can be found in The Guardian. In 1960, Millard purchased a small farm in Dutchess County, upstate New York and regularly spent time there.

Millard passed away on March 6, 2010 at her home in New York City, New York.


36.771 linear feet (69 containers)

0.00532 Gigabytes


Betty Millard was a writer, political and labor activist, and photographer. She was involved in Communism and Marxism and was interested in global social justice. Millard was the author of Woman Against Myth, a key feminist seminal that examined the history of the women’s movement in the United States, in the socialist movement, and in the USSR. The papers document Millard's personal and professional life. It includes writings and photos by, about, and collected by Millard, paper records of Millard's travels, and personal journals from the entirety of her life, some which document her personal exploration of, and struggle with, her sexuality.


The materials are organized into five series:

  • Biographical
  • Correspondence
  • Professional
  • Writings
  • Photographs

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital reproductions of the audiovisual materials in this collection. Access to audiovisual materials requires the creation of digital access copies. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request digitization of and access to materials.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Betty Millard papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by her estate executors - her niece, Olivia Millard, and her close friend, Lisa Springer, in two accessions in 2011 and 2013.

Related Materials

Related materials may be found in the following collections at Smith College Special Collections:

Additional WIDF materials can be found in the Sophia Smith Collection in the papers of

Betty Millard's mother, Elizabeth (Bessie) Bell Boynton (1882-1980) was a Smith College student from 1900-1902 and studied painting, sculpture, and music. Materials can be found within the Smith College Archives.

The Margaret Owings Collection resides at the Bancroft Library.

Separated Materials

Prior to her death, Millard sent Eric A. Gordon her file of correspondence with him. He subsequently donated it to the ONE Archives of Los Angeles.

Processing Information

The Betty Millard papers were accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter in 2011 and 2013, and processed by Kate Sumner in 2016 and Amanda Ferrara in 2017. Some parts of the collection had inherent structure and some did not. For the parts that had structure, the structure was left intact. For the parts that did not have structure, structure was created by the processing archivists. Appraisal was conducted in accordance with the Sophia Smith Collections’ guidelines and policies. Very few duplicate items were returned to the donor.

The papers were re-examined by Isabel Montesanto and Sky Karp (under the direction of Madison White) in 2019. Portions of the collection were reboxed to eliminate excess space, and the materials in the "Collected by" subseries in series IV, which had simply been alphabetized, were grouped by topic. Series V was re-examined and renamed, given a more detailed scope and contents note and folders were labeled by roll number and subject matter to increase accessibility for the researcher. The new arrangement of series IV and information about and organization of series V was added to the finding aid.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created. Some floppy disks were unable to be copied. See the log files linked in the container list for more details.

Finding aid for the Betty Millard papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Kate Sumner, Amanda Ferrara, Madison White, Isabel Montesanto, and Sky Karp
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-03-30: This record was edited by Amanda Ferrara.
  • 2019-04-22: Updated to include processed series
  • 2020-07-02: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063