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Rhoda Elizabeth McCulloch papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00098

Scope and Contents

The Rhoda McCulloch Papers consist of 1.75 linear ft. and are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1884 to 1978. Types of materials include correspondence, notes, speeches, photographs, press releases, reports, articles and other writings, and memorabilia.

The bulk of the papers date from 1915 to 1944 and focus on McCulloch's work for the National Conference on the Christian Way of Life/The Inquiry and the YWCA of the U.S.A. Major topics include the role of women and of religion in society, and the social justice activities of religious organizations and individuals in the 1910s through the 1940s.

McCulloch's output as a writer and editor comprises roughly half of the collection. Included are nearly complete files of publications and reports put out by the National Conference on the Christian Way of Life/The Inquiry. In addition to copies of pamphlets and books by McCulloch, her papers also include a nearly complete file of her articles and editorials for the YWCA of the U.S.A.'s monthly magazine, 1918-44.

Materials about Henrietta Roelofs consist primarily of her speeches and writings.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1884-1978
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1915-1944


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

Copyright ownership of Rhoda McCulloch's writings is unknown. Copyright to materials authored by persons other than Rhoda McCulloch may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. 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

Rhoda Elizabeth McCulloch was born October 17, 1884 in Fremont, Ohio, to Rollin Smiley and Fannie Sargent (Wise) McCulloch. McCulloch graduated from Fremont High School in 1902. While attending Oberlin College (1906-10), McCulloch first joined the YWCA, eventually becoming President of the campus Association. A Latin and Greek major, she earned her BA in 1910.

McCulloch studied at the YWCA National Training School in New York City for the 1910-11 academic year. She served as General Secretary (chief executive) of the Colorado Springs YWCA from 1911 to 1913, then moved to the national YWCA staff at its headquarters in New York City. McCulloch started as a Special Worker in the Department of Conventions and Conferences (1913-14), moving from there to the Publications Department, where she would remain until retirement. In Publications, McCulloch worked her way up from Special Worker (1914-15) to Editorial Secretary (1916-18) to Editor (1918-23) to Editor-in-Chief of publications in 1923. In this capacity McCulloch edited the YWCA's monthly magazine The Womans Press* and oversaw production of a large catalog of technical materials and pamphlets for the Association use as well as a catalog of general interest titles. Retirement tributes cite her "spacious and all-embracing" purpose, "social vision, dynamic faith," and "great powers as an interpreter."

From 1922 to 1927 McCulloch and E.C. Carter shared executive duties for the Conference on the Christian Way of Life, later known as The Inquiry. A national organization, The Inquiry sought to foster discussion on "industrial, racial, and international problems in the hope of discovering whether there is a modern Christian way of living…."

McCulloch's activities in the 1930s and 40s included work for the World Alliance for International Friendship Through Religion, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, the National Conference on the Cause and Cure of War, and the American Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations. McCulloch was on the editorial board of Reinhold Niebuhr's "bi-weekly journal of Christian opinion," Christianity in Crisis, from its founding in 1941 until 1948, and a contributing editor until 1951.

McCulloch retired from the post of Editor-in-Chief at the YWCA in 1944, but remained involved in the organization, chairing the planning for the 1946 and 1949 National Conventions, and planning the five-week International Study Conference on Women in World Reconstruction, a special project for the YWCA's Foreign Division that took place in the summer of 1948. She also served as Secretary of YWCA's Constitution and Membership Commissions.

McCulloch shared her home in New York City and a "spinster's shack" at 23 Talmadge Hill Rd. in New Canaan, Connecticut, with Henrietta Roelofs of the national YWCA staff. Roelofs was the daughter of George and Mary Dykema Roelofs of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She earned a BA from Lake Erie College in 1906 and then attended the YWCA precursor organization's Secretarial Training Institute. She joined the YWCA of the U.S.A. Home Department staff in 1908. From then until her retirement in 1939, Roelofs worked in various capacities for the National Association.

Roelofs and McCulloch shared many interests. Like McCulloch, Roelofs was a member of the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War and she was also active in the League of Nations Association. These two avid gardeners and cat lovers welcomed friends and family to New Canaan. After Roelofs' death in 1942, another YWCA staffer, Lazelle Alway, lived with McCulloch until McCulloch's death on March 15, 1978, in New Canaan.

* During McCulloch's tenure, the name of the YWCA's publishing house and magazine, Womans Press, was spelled without an apostrophe. After McCulloch's retirement, the apostrophe was added--Woman's Press.


1.542 linear feet (4 containers)


Editor; YWCA worker; Women's rights advocate; Pacifist. Papers include McCulloch's published writings and notes on education, religion, social progress, working women, marriage and the women's movement; speeches; biographical material; memorabilia; photographs; a scrapbook kept by McCulloch's mother; and writings by close friend and pacifist Henrietta Roelofs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Rhoda Elizabeth McCulloch began donating her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1948. After her death in 1978, additional materials came from her executor Lazelle Alway. Additional materials came to the Sophia Smith Collection with the Records of the YWCA of the U.S.A. in 2002.

Related Materials

Related materials are in the YWCA of the U.S.A. Records.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, 2008

Rhoda Elizabeth McCulloch papers
Finding Aid
2005, Revised 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:14-04:00: 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