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Mildred Persinger papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00814

Scope and Contents

The collection contains files from Mildred Persinger's work with the YWCA, including administrative and outreach files, committee files, policy documents, pamphlets, and publications. Also included are meeting minutes and agendas of the national board, financial records, membership records, records from local YWCA branches, and subject files.

Committee files include research and programs on the environment and environmental issues; relationships with and papers of other organizations, especially the United Nations on environmental and post-war issues; memoranda, reports, and other internal documents on a variety of subjects; activities of the National Board and various committees of the national board, including the Public Affairs Committee; research and programs on a variety of social issues; records of student and teen programs and work with the National Student YWCA.

Dates of Materials

  • 1940 - 2013


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

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

Mildred Emory Persinger (April 28, 1918 – November 11, 2018) was an American feminist and international activist for non-governmental organizations (NGO). She spent her career working for women’s rights and human rights, racial justice, sustainable development, and global disarmament.

Persinger was born in Roanoke, Virginia on April 28, 1918. She graduated from Hollins College in 1939, attended graduate school at Bryn Mawr, and moved to Auburn University in Alabama to teach philosophy. She moved to New York in 1942 with her husband, lawyer Richard Burwell Persinger. In addition to serving in her hometown League of Women Voters and on the Tarrytown, New York Junior League, Persinger also worked with the National Board of the YWCA of the USA based in New York City. In the early 1960s, she was a member of the U.S. President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the New York Governor’s Consumer Advisory Committee, New York State Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, and the Race Relations Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union.

She developed a broad and deep expertise in reference to the organization and work of the UN system as a member of the National Committee of the American Association for the United Nations. From 1969-1972, she chaired the Conference of UN Observers for a Council of 150 NGOs associated with the American Association for the United Nations. In 1970, she was appointed to the U.S. Presidential Commission on the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations. From that time, beginning in 1970 and through the 1980s, Persinger also served as the appointed World YWCA observer at the United Nations and represented the YWCA on various U.S. and UN NGO committees in New York

As a representative of the World YWCA, at work in 92 countries, and previously the U.S. YWCA, Mildred Persinger was closely associated with the NGO community at the United Nations. On behalf of the World YWCA she helped carry assignments as Secretary of the Conference of NGOs, board member of the NGO Committee on UNICEF and Vice-president of the NGO Committee on Disarmament.

She headed the organization and management of the 1975 NGO "Tribune" at the first of the UN-sponsored World Conferences on Women in Mexico. As follow-up, she initiated and served as president for six years of a new NGO, The International Women's Tribune Centre, a communication and training network serving women in 150 countries. She also took part in the planning for subsequent NGO forums in connection with UN World Conferences at Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing.

Elected to represent the YWCA of the USA at quadrennial World YWCA Council meetings in Ghana and Greece, Persinger also attended Vancouver and Singapore Councils as World YWCA UN Representative. Previously, she had chaired the Conference of US/UN Representatives associated with the UN Association of the USA. Beginning in 1944, she held leadership positions on the US YWCA National Board, national boards of the UN Association, International Social Service, DEF International, the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace and the US National Committee for UNIFEM. These activities required participation in White House and other national conferences, preparation of policy papers, articles for publication, speeches and testimony before the US Congress.

Two US presidents appointed her to national commissions on international affairs. As a member of the National Commission for International Women's Year, she chaired the international committee for the 1977 National Women's Conference of IWY which brought 20,000 American women and several hundred international guests to Houston, Texas. Other international NGO events in which she has been active include the 1974 World Population Conference and Tribune in Bucharest, where she represented the World Federation of UN Associations, and international NGO conferences on disarmament, development and environment.


17.354 linear feet (18 containers)

Language of Materials



Mildred Persinger was a national board member of the YWCA and an international activist for non-governmental organizations who worked for women’s rights, human rights, racial justice, sustainable development, and global disarmament. The collection contains files from her work with the YWCA, including administrative and outreach files, committee files, policy documents, publications, pamphlets, brochures, and books.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Mildred Persinger in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Finding aid to the Mildred Persinger papers.
Minimum Finding Aid (Completed)
Sylvia Hickman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063