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Helen Paull Kirkpatrick papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00103

Scope and Contents

The Kirkpatrick papers consist of correspondence, clippings, writings, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and biographical material dating from 1930 to 1998. It is a well-balanced collection that documents both her personal and professional lives. Of particular interest in these papers is Kirkpatrick's extensive correspondence to her family from overseas. She kept scrapbooks over the years and these, plus articles in SERIES II, provide extensive evidence of her writing.

Notable correspondents include Adlai Stevenson, Katharine Graham, Dean Acheson, Stewart Alsop, Styles Bridges, J. William Fulbright, General George C. Marshall, and Abe Ribicoff.

Dates of Materials

  • 1930 - 1998


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

To the extent that she owns copyright, Helen P. Kirkpatrick has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. 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. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Helen P. Kirkpatrick, 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

Helen Kirkpatrick was born October 18, 1909, in Rochester, NY, daughter of Lyman B. and Lyde Paull Kirkpatrick. She graduated from the Master's School, Dobbs Ferry, New York, in 1927 and from Smith College in 1931. In 1932, following postgraduate work at the University of Geneva, she became an assistant buyer at R. H. Macy and Co. in New York City. She married Victor H. Polacheck, Jr. in 1934. They were divorced in 1936. Between 1935 and 1937 Kirkpatrick worked in Geneva and England. During that time she was a writer, then editor, of Research Bulletin published by the Foreign Policy Association; research assistant for the Geneva Research Center (Foreign Policy Association) editing their "Geneva: A Monthly Review of International Affairs"; and correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, Manchester Guardian, and London Daily Telegraph. Together with Victor Gordon-Lennox of the Daily Telegraph and Graham Hutton of the Economist she started the weekly Whitehall News Letter, which analyzed current state of European affairs. She was diplomatic correspondent for London Sunday Times in 1938 during the Munich crisis. Kirkpatrick expanded her views into two books, This Terrible Peace (1938) and Under the British Umbrella (1939).

As the war approached in 1939 Kirkpatrick began her career as a foreign correspondent. During the war she came to know many important figures in the European theatre. She traveled extensively under dangerous conditions and was respected and trusted for her political acumen and integrity. She was hired by the Chicago Daily News in 1939 and from their London office she covered the London blitz and the campaigns in Algiers, Italy, and Corsica (1943-45). She was the first correspondent after D-Day assigned to the headquarters of French forces inside France. She entered Paris in August 1944 riding in a tank of General Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division. As foreign correspondent for the New York Post, she covered the Nuremberg Trials and Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow (1946-48). During the late 1940s she was with the Washington Bureau of the Post and was Chief of the Office of Information of the Economic Co-operation Administration's mission to France (1949-51). Between 1949 and 1953 she worked for the State Department with Voice of America, the Economic Cooperation Administration and as Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1951-53). In 1953 she become assistant to the president of Smith College. In 1954 she married Robbins Milbank.

Following her retirement in 1955, she was engaged in many civic activities including the Democratic Party, Citizens Advisory Committee to the Attorney General on Crime Prevention (1956-59), Public Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations (1964), the League Of Women Voters, and the Harvard University Board of Overseers. Kirkpatrick received the French Medallion de la Reconnaissance (1945), French Legion of Honor (1947), U.S. Medal of Freedom (1947), an honorary degree from Smith College (1948), and Rockefeller Public Service Award (1953). Following the death of her husband in 1985, she moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she died on December 29, 1997.


5.273 linear feet (15 containers)

Language of Materials



Helen Paull Kirkpatrick was a journalist. Her papers include extensive correspondence to her family while serving as a foreign correspondent in Europe. Included are her views of Europe just before the outbreak of World War II; the air raids in London; Allied Headquarters in North Africa; campaigns in Algiers, Italy, and Corsica; the armistice in Paris; post-war Germany and Europe; the Nuremberg Trials; and the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow. Notable correspondents include Adlai Stevenson, Katharine Graham, Dean Acheson, Stewart Alsop, Styles Bridges, J. William Fulbright, General George C. Marshall, and Abe Ribicoff. Materials include broadcast scripts, lectures, published writings, diaries, photographs, and scrapbooks.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. I. Biographical Material
  2. II. Professional Activities
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Photographs and Scrapbooks

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Other Finding Aids

OCLC Number: 46451323

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were a gift of Helen Paull Kirkpatrick between 1983 and 1993.

Related Material

Additional material, including an oral history, is located in the Smith College Archives. There is also an oral history (1990), available online at the National Press Club Foundation Web site..

Finding aid to the Helen Paull Kirkpatrick papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Susan Boone
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: mnsss36 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:17-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-04-01: Made paper FA pencil edit changes and updated finding aid.
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063