Skip to main content

Edith M. Lerrigo papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00608

Scope and Contents

The Edith M. Lerrigo Papers consist of 2 linear ft. and are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1922 to 1989. Types of materials include correspondence; sermons, prayers, meditations and worship services; speech texts and outlines; photographs; reports; subject files; and writings.

The bulk of the papers date from the 1930s to 1981 and consist primarily of notes, outlines, and texts for Lerrigo's many speeches and presentations.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1922-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1981


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

Edith Mary Lerrigo (pronounced "Larry Go") was born September 20, 1910 in Lithia, Massachusetts to P.H.J. (Peter Hugh James) and Edith D. Lerrigo. At the time, her parents were on furlough from their work as medical missionaries in the Philippines. The family went back to the Philippines for three years, but the ill health of Edith's mother prompted a return to the U.S. Lerrigo's father went to work for the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, a job which required the family to move around quite a bit. Dissatisfied with the various public schools Edith attended, Lerrigo's parents sent her to Vermont Academy in Saxton's River, Vermont, 1924-28. It was there that she first joined the YWCA. She went on to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, earning a B.A. in sociology and religion in 1932. Lerrigo was a member of the Bates YWCA during all four years there, serving as its Secretary, Vice President, and then President.

After college Lerrigo returned home to New Jersey and spent the following year studying religious education at Teachers College at Columbia University. She earned an M.A. in 1933. Later on, she pursued additional graduate study in Christian Ethics and religious education at Union Theological Seminary.

For the next several years she took charge of running the family home and worked part-time as Director of Young Peoples Activities in the family church, First Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey.

Lerrigo joined the national YWCA staff in 1937 in the department specializing in work with college students. There she coordinated work in the northeast region, particularly in New England colleges.

Lerrigo went to the University of California at Berkeley to study Chinese in 1942-43, then went to China under the auspices of the YWCA of the U.S.A.'s Foreign Division. As an advisory staff member to the YWCA of China, Lerrigo primarily worked with college students in Kunming, Chungking, Shanghai, Hangchow, and Nanking.

Upon returning to the U.S. in 1947, Lerrigo returned to the Student Division, this time coordinating work in the Pacific southwest. From there she became Executive in charge of the College and University Division (1954-59), then moved to become National Executive Director of the YWCA of the U.S.A.

Lerrigo's years (1959-74) at the helm were particularly challenging ones for the organization as it struggled with the social upheaval of the era, including strong pressures to merge with the YMCA, to downplay the Association's Christian purpose, and adoption of the "One Imperative" to eliminate racism. Lerrigo was unequivocal in her support of the YWCA's role as an important agent for social change. Tributes at her death describe her as "strong and insightful leader" with "a firm grasp of the problem at hand and [a] creative spirit in approaching it."

In addition to her work in the YWCA, Lerrigo served on the United Church of Christ's Council of Social Christian Action, the Committee to Study Ministry on the Campus of the Danforth Foundation, and on the Board and several committees of the National Council of Churches. She was Co-Chair of the Consultation on Ecumenical Policies and Practices for the Conference of World YMCA and YWCA in Switzerland in 1962, and active in the National Assembly of Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations, the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, and on the editorial board of the liberal Protestant Christian journal Christianity and Crisis .

She received honorary degrees from Bates College (1961) and Keuka College (1963).

A member of Riverside Church in New York City for more than 25 years, Lerrigo served on many of its committees and on the Board of Deacons, and played a leading role in the development of the Riverside Fund for Social Justice.

Edith Lerrigo retired to Pilgrim Place, a religious and cultural center for retired Christian workers in Claremont, California, in 1980. She died there on June 24, 1989.


1.75 linear feet (4 containers)


YWCA executive, YWCA worker, Social welfare worker. The Edith M. Lerrigo Papers are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1922 to 1989. Types of materials include correspondence, sermons, prayers, meditations and worship services, photographs, reports, subject files, and writings. The bulk of the papers date from 1930s to 1981 and consist primarily of notes, outlines, and texts for Lerrigo's many speeches and presentations, the bulk of which were given at YWCA events and meetings, or about the YWCA. They provide some especially valuable insight into Lerrigo's work with youth and college and university students, as well as her leadership on issues related to race, the women's movement, and the place of religion in the YWCA. Materials about Lerrigo's professional activities include press releases; notebooks of ideas, discussion notes, and on talks and events attended from her days in youth work in New Jersey in the 1930s, through her work in the College and University Division of the YWCA in the early 1940s; materials about Lerrigo's time in China and her continued relations with YWCA women there; a file on a 1982 trip to China; and a transcript of an oral history primarily about Lerrigo's time in China and about the YWCA's role in the world as an ecumenical lay movement. Subject files inlcude files on Christianity in China, files of raw materials for worship services, and notes on miscellaneous reading and lectures attended by Lerrigo. Writings consist of manuscript poems, prayers, and school essays; copies of articles by Lerrigo; and a compilation of articles Lerrigo wrote for The YWCA Magazine published by the YWCA as a retirement tribute.


This collection is organized into six series:


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Edith M. Lerrigo Papers came to the Sophia Smith Collection with the Records of the YWCA of the U.S.A. in 2002. The YWCA received them from Lerrigo's sister, Florence Lerrigo, in 1990. Additional materials were received from Patricia Corbett in 2014.

Related Materials

Related materials are in the YWCA USA Records, Sophia Smith Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, 2009

Edith M. Lerrigo papers
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Maida Goodwin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of the Edith M. Lerrigo Papers was made possible by the generous support of the National Historical Records and Publications Commission

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:18-04:00: 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