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American Council of Railroad Women records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00345

Scope and Contents

The records of the ACRW consist of ten linear feet of correspondence, minutes, reports, publications, photographs, scrapbooks, and other material documenting its history and activities from its founding until 1977. The records provide some insight into the attitudes and motivations of a group of professional women organized for their mutual benefit at a time when most women had "jobs" rather than "careers."

The bulk of the material consists of meeting minutes (including speeches and miscellaneous material distributed at meetings); and membership applications and correspondence. The codebooks, assembled by the Governing Committee as an easily-accessed information source, partially duplicate the minutes, as they are compilations of similar types of material. The officers' correspondence, which largely concerns meeting arrangements and membership eligibility and recruitment, is most complete for the 1950s and 1970s, fragmentary in the 1960s, and non-existent for the earliest years. The membership files reflect the involvement in membership matters of both the Governing Committee and Membership Committee. They include individuals considered for membership, as well as those who actually joined the ACRW.

The committee files are far from complete; apparently only scattered documentation of the Legislative, Publicity, and Public Relations committees has been retained. Other committees, including Archives, Service, Housing and Transportation, and Nominating, are represented only by their reports in the minutes.

Dates of Materials

  • 1944 - 2010


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 records of the American Council of Railroad Women. 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

In 1944, a small group of women holding supervisory positions in railroad personnel and service held informal meetings in Chicago to discuss their changing roles in the railroad industry during wartime. Over the course of several meetings, they decided that they needed a permanent organization, and in September 1944 twenty-eight women voted to form the National Association of Railroad Women. (The name was changed to American Association of Railroad Women in 1952.) Unprepared by the railroads for promotions to management positions previously held by men, the women organized themselves "to provide a medium of exchange of ideas and experiences relative to our work; to discuss improvements in service and to plan for the better utilization of womanpower in railroading."

Membership eligibility was originally limited to women holding personnel or passenger service positions. Later, it was extended to include women employed in the United States and Canada as corporate officers, assistants and secretaries to presidents, lawyers, magazine editors, engineers, traffic representatives, personnel supervisors, public relations staffs, special representatives, and special investigators.

The council's annual spring and fall meetings include the transaction of business, educational sessions, and entertainment. Throughout its history, the council consistently sought the approval of, and received support from, railroad management, which has contributed senior executives to the sessions as speakers and seminar leaders. Early reports and discussions covered such topics as "education of the travelling public" and "new and improved methods and equipment for cleaning both the exteriors and interiors of trains." Later meetings reflected the evolving membership interests, emphasizing legislative lobbying (including support for the Equal Rights Amendment), and such professional development topics as corporate decision making.


16.229 linear feet (26 containers)

Language of Materials



An organization of women holding supervisory positions in railroad personnel and service. The records provide insight into the attitudes and motivations of a group of professional women organized for their mutual benefit at a time when most women had "jobs" rather than "careers." Material includes correspondence, minutes, reports, publications, photographs, scrapbooks, and other material which document its history and activities from its founding until 1977.


This collection is organized into ten series:

  1. I. Constitution and Bylaws
  2. II. Codebooks
  3. III. Minutes
  4. IV. Meeting Files
  5. V. Officers' Correspondence
  6. VI. Membership Applications and Correspondence
  7. VII. Committees
  8. VIII. Publications
  9. IX. Photographs
  10. X. History


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time. Note that in most cases, container numbers start over at 1 with each new accession.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Betty Royon, ACRW member, arranged for the organization's donation of its records in 1972. Additional shipments arrived in 1973 and 1980. Prior to their donation, the records were in the custody of various ACRW historians and other officers.

Additions to the Collection

Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Hague, 1990.

Processing Information

Starting in September 2022, Smith College Special Collections will be renumbering many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

American Council of Railroad Women records
Finding Aid
Amy Hague
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: mnsss149 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.
  • 2019-04-22: Added accession 91S-27
  • 2021-07-12: Content description added from accession inventory

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063