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Portia Willis Fitzgerald papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00380

Scope and Contents

The Portia Willis FitzGerald Papers consist of .25 linear feet and are primarily related to her suffrage activism, although quite a few items relate to her family. Much of the collection appears to have been part of a scrapbook and reflects the selective nature of such a compilation. This is far from a complete set of papers. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, writings, photographs, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia.

Dates of Materials

  • 1868-1966
  • Majority of material found within 1910-1935


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

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of Portia Willis Fitzgerald. 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

"The Prettiest Suffragette in New York State," Portia Willis was born to a well-connected and politically active New York City family, circa 1887. The distinguished Civil War service of her father, Colonel Benjamin A. Willis, led to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Her mother, Lillie Evelynn Macauley Willis was prominent in the New York City social scene.

Portia Willis attended the Anne Brown School and took courses at Columbia University and Harvard. She became active in the women's suffrage movement in the early 1910s as a speaker and writer campaigning for New York State suffrage. She was an organizer of the New York State Suffrage Association. Her visible participation in suffrage publicity events, including piloting an airplane that bombarded Long Island with suffrage leaflets, sparked as many references to her beauty as to her cause in the press. Between 1911 and 1917 she took a very active part in the campaign, conducting a lecture tour through New York State, making speeches for the woman suffrage amendment in Massachusetts in 1914, and in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. the following year. She was grand marshal for three suffrage parades. In 1931 New York State placed her name on the suffrage "Honor Rolls" at the State Capitol in Albany.

In 1925 Willis married Captain L. Rodney Berg, an emigre from Lancashire, England, who worked in real estate. After her marriage she changed her name to Portia Willis-Berg. L. Rodney Berg died in 1941. Her second husband was the Prince of Thurn and Taxis who also pre-deceased her. In 1958 she married her third husband, Gerald Purcell FitzGerald.

Portia Willis FitzGerald was involved in many organizations throughout her life. She was an active pacifist, acting as Grand Marshal for the Women's Peace Parade in 1914, and later working in support of the League of Nations in the Women's Pro-League Council. She was a founder and board member of the Greater New York Branch of the League of Nations Association and a member of the New York Board of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was chairman of the Round Table on the United Nations from 1950-53.

FitzGerald was a founding member of the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association and was made an honorary member of the Aerial League of America for services to airmen in World War I. She also devoted much attention to Red Cross work during World War I. In 1925 she was elected to the National Institute of Social Sciences (for social work). She was also a member of the Women's City Club and a vice-president of the Woman's Suffrage Study Club. She served as president of the Little Gardens Club of New York City from 1953 on and was also at one time vice-president of the Women's Farm and Garden Association.

FitzGerald had been a popular lecturer on public affairs since her involvement in the suffrage movement and was briefly an Assistant in the Oral English Department at Harvard in 1924. She was also a lecturer on current events at the Barmore School from 1948-50. In her later years she continued to lecture and was frequently asked to reminisce about her suffrage experiences. The exact date of her death is unknown.


0.23 linear feet (2 containers)


Woman's club leader, suffragist and lecturer. Much of the collection appears to have been part of a scrapbook. Writings and speeches primarily relate to her father (Colonel and U.S. Representative Benjamin A. Willis), the League of Nations, suffrage, the Institute of Human Relations, and women's clubs. Correspondents include Gertrude Atherton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Florence G. Tuttle.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Writings and Speeches
  4. IV. Memorabilia and Printed Material

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by FitzGerald's great niece, Kate Earle Funk (Smith '63) in 1998.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Hague, 1998.

Portia Willis Fitzgerald papers
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: mnsss22 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:13-04:00: 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