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League of Women Shoppers records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00328

Scope and Contents

The League of Women Shoppers Records consist of .25 linear feet dating from 1937-2001. These materials are far from a complete archive of the organization, but rather a selection of materials collected by one member. The bulk of the records date from 1937 through 1945 and focus on the national office of the League and its Chicago branch, though there are also a few records from Columbus, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Newark, New Jersey. The documents reveal the history of the League of Women Shoppers, its goals, and the activities it conducted to promote them. Types of materials include agendas, correspondence, minutes, notes, printed material, and testimony.

Consumer education, union organizing, workplace conditions, and popular front activism are some of the major subjects addressed in the collection. The records offer insight into the goals and activities of a typical popular front-era progressive group that organized women on the basis of their roles as wives, mothers, and consumers and aimed to improve conditions for women and for the working-class as a whole. In addition to documenting the League of Women Shoppers itself, the papers document major twentieth century historical trends such as the achievements of the industrial union movement in the 1930s, and the increasing attention devoted to race and gender issues in U.S. politics during and after World War II.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1937 - 1945


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

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

Twenty socially conscious women who wished to use their power as consumers to obtain justice for workers founded the League of Women Shoppers (LWS) in New York City in June 1935. By 1937, the New York group claimed thousands of members and established branches in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Newark, New Jersey, and Columbus, Ohio. Although the LWS was officially non-partisan and, according to its constitution, "non-political," many members, including Jessie Lloyd O'Connor, Lillian Hellman, and Freda Kirchwey, had ties to other progressive and labor organizations. The official purposes of the League were threefold: to investigate the working conditions in the stores they patronized and the factories that produced the goods they consumed; to educate and organize consumers to support union organizing and to press for better wages and working conditions for workers who produced goods and provided services; and to protect and improve American living standards through both grassroots actions, such as boycotts and buyers' cooperatives, and legal regulation, such as rent and price controls and the protection of wages. In keeping with its unofficial progressive bent and political agenda, the LWS also supported other social justice causes, including civil rights for African-Americans and equal pay for women workers.

The Dies Committee branded the League of Women Shoppers a subversive organization in 1939. Nevertheless, League members continued to participate in a variety of consumer and union organizing campaigns through the early years of the 1940s. When the U.S. became formally involved in World War II, the League expanded its program to include efforts to support rationing and discourage black market sales of goods in short supply. In 1944, League members-whose numbers had decreased significantly from the late 1930s-worked for Franklin Roosevelt's reelection to a fourth term, but by 1945 the LWS engaged in fewer and fewer activities and soon faded out of existence.


0.229 linear feet (1 container)


Consumer advocacy organization and labor reform advocacy organization. The purposes of the League of Women Shoppers were threefold: to investigate the working conditions in stores and factories; to organize consumers to support union organizing; and to protect and improve American living standards through grassroots. A few members represented include Alice Lesser Shepard, Lucille Montgomery, and Jessie Lloyd O'Connor. Materials include constitution and by-laws, correspondence, congressional committee hearing reports, news bulletins, and assorted publications.


This collection is organized into two series:

  1. I. Administration
  2. II. Activities and Members

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The League of Women Shoppers Records were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1945 by Jessie Lloyd O'Connor, who had been active in the Chicago branch of the League.

Related Material

Additional League of Women Shoppers material and other related papers can be found in the Jessie Lloyd O'Connor Papers in the Sophia Smith Collection, and in the vertical files of the Tamiment Library at New York University.

Processing Information

Processed by Kate Weigand, 2001.



League of Women Shoppers records
Finding Aid
Kate Weigand
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: mnsss134 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:11-04:00: 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