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Jean Picker papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00121

Scope and Contents

The Jean Picker papers consist of 18.5 linear feet and are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1968-86. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, photographs, articles, reports, minutes, publicity, transcripts of interviews, invitations, and notes. The papers are arranged in four series:


The bulk of the papers date from 1968 to 1986 and focus of Picker's career with the United Nations and related supporting organizations. Major topics found throughout these papers include human rights, social development, youth, criminality, refugees and migrant workers, the rights of people with disabilities, multilateral issues, multinational corporations, economic problems, and arms control with the Soviet Union. With the exception of a small amount of correspondence, the papers reveal little about Picker's private life. Notable correspondents include Barbara and George H.W. Bush.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1915-1988


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 to materials authored by Jean Picker is owned by her heirs or assigns. Copyright to materials authored by others is owned by those individuals and organizations. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Jean Muriel Sovatkin was born on March 7, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York to Edward J. and Frances Sklar Sovatkin. Edward J. Sovatkin (originally naturalized under the name Sovatsky), an immigrant from Russia, joined his future father-in-law's surgical instruments manufacturing company as an office boy in 1902 and eventually worked his way up to president. He held several patents for surgical devices. Jean prepared for college at Packer Collegiate Institute. After her graduation from Smith College in 1942, she worked for Life magazine in London, New York, and Hollywood. She married Edwin de Haven Grosholz in 1943. The relationship did not survive the long separations caused by his navy service during World War II. They divorced in 1946. In 1947 she married Harvey Picker, a businessman who worked in medical manufacturing. Following the birth of their daughters, Frances and Gale, in 1949 and 1950, respectively, Jean began work as Director of Information for the Civil Defense Administration of Westchester, New York, County Government.

In 1953, in order to pursue her interest in international affairs, Picker began volunteering as a lecturer at the United Nations, interpreting U.N. goings-on to visitors. She held this position until 1961. In 1955, she collaborated with Eleanor Roosevelt to produce a booklet, "The United Nations and What You Should Know about It." In 1962, she co-founded the Interchange Foundation with Anna Lord Strauss. The Interchange Foundation produced informational and educational materials about the U.N. In 1973, Jean Picker compiled and published, through Interchange, a book titled Eleanor Roosevelt: Her Day.

In 1967, she was appointed to the United States National Commission for UNESCO. In the fall of 1968, she served as an Alternate United States Representative to the Third Committee of the Twenty-third General Assembly of the United Nations. The Third Committee is responsible for Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural issues. In February 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Jean Picker United States Representative on the United Nations Commission for Social Development. She was Special Advisor to the United States delegation to numerous sessions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as well as the General Assembly. She ceased work in her official U.N. position in 1977, but remained active in civic organizations promoting the U.N.

She was a member of the Committee of Correspondence, a communications network that aimed to bring women's clubs around the world into closer contact. She served on numerous boards, including the Foreign Policy Association, the United Nations Association of the United States and several bank boards. She also served in leadership capacities for several colleges and universities, including Fisk University, Smith College, Friends World College, Columbia University, Colgate University, and Hampshire College. Among other awards, she was given the Smith College Medal in 1977. She was the first recipient of the first United Nations Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Award in 1988 in honor of her commitment to international cooperation.

She resided on Edgewater Point in Mamaroneck, New York for many years. She died at the age of 69 in Camden, Maine in May 1990. Jean Picker endowed Smith College's Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program in 1971. The highly competitive program "provides students with an opportunity to study processes by which public policy is made and implemented at the national level." In 1999 Harvey Picker made a gift to Smith College in honor of his late wife to establish the Picker Engineering Program to attract women to the field. It was the first engineering program at a women's college.


17.605 linear feet (39 containers)


The Jean Picker papers consist of 18.5 linear feet and are primarily related to her professional and public life, dating from 1968-86. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, photographs, articles, reports, minutes, publicity, transcripts of interviews, invitations, and notes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Jean Picker donated her Papers to the Sophia Smith Collection between 1984 and her death in 1990. Additional materials were received between 1991 and 2013 from Harvey Picker and his estate and in 2016 by Christine von Wedemeyer Beshar.

Related Materials

Related materials can be found in the Committee of Correspondence records in the Sophia Smith Collection and in the files of the Smith College Medal Committee and the Smith Centennial Study Oral History Project in the Smith College Archives. Information on Smith College programs funded by Jean and Harvey Picker, such as the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington and the Picker Engineering Program, can also be found in the Smith College Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by Kate Sumner, 2016.

Jean Picker papers
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Kate Sumner.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processing of the Jean Picker Papers was made possible with the generous support of the Branta Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:23-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2022-03-04: 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