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Benjamin Fletcher Wright papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00014

Scope and Contents

The Office of the President: Benjamin Wright Papers consist of 11.25 linear feet and are primarily related to his official duty as President of Smith College from 1949-1959. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, legal documents, press releases, minutes, memoranda, reports, and newspaper articles. The papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject.

Major subjects found in these papers include issues of Communism and Intellectual Freedom (Committee for Discrimination in Giving, Massachusetts Commission on Communism and U.S. House of Representatives, Un-American Activities Committee); The Four College Cooperation; The Seven College Conferences and Junior Year Abroad.

Dates of Materials

  • 1949-1969


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access:

Board of Trustees' records are closed permanently.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; 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 Smith College, 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

Benjamin Fletcher Wright, president of Smith College 1949-1959, was born February 8, 1900, in Austin, Texas, the son of Benjamin F. and Mary Blanford Wright. His lifelong interest in political science, especially government, became evident early in life with his fascination for Thomas Jefferson in grammar school. He followed that passion through the University of Texas, where he earned his BA and MA degrees in 1921 and to Harvard, where, in 1925, he earned his Ph.D.

He was a member of the University of Texas faculty from 1922 to 1926. In 1926, he married Alexa Rhea and they had two children: David and Janet. Wright taught at Harvard from 1926 until coming to Smith in 1949. While at Harvard, he served as chairman of the Government Department and served on the Harvard Committee on General Education. He was one of the authors of the renowned report published by that committee titled, "General Education in a Free Society" (1945).

During his decade as the fifth president of Smith College, Wright made notable contributions to the honors program and the interdepartmental majors program. He consistently fought for the value of intellectual and educational freedom in the face of McCarthyism and widespread anti-Communist propaganda. Under his administration, the college's endowment was substantially increased, faculty salaries raised and college plant and facilities enlarged. In 1961, Wright Hall was dedicated in his honor.

After leaving Smith, Wright spent a year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Science, at Stanford University in California. The following year he returned to the University of Texas as a professor of government where he taught until the year before his death on November 28, 1976.

Wright held honorary degrees from Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, American International College and Pittsburgh University. The following are a selection of his published titles: The Merit System in the American States (1923), Source Book of the American Political Theory (1928), American Interpretations of Natural Law (1942), General Education in a Free Society (with others 1945), Consensus and Continuity 1777-1787 (1958), editor: The Federalist (1961).


18.208 linear feet (36 containers)

Language of Materials



Benjamin Fletcher Wright was the fifth president of Smith College, and a professor of Government. The collection contains official records of the Office of the President, correspondence, speeches, legal documents, press releases, minutes, memoranda, reports, and newspaper articles.

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 or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers were transferred to the College Archives from the Office of the President after Wright left the College in 1959.

Related Material

Additional materials may be found in the Personal papers of Benjamin Wright, faculty and alumnae files and published material located in Smith Special Collections.

Processing Information

Processed by Mariah Leavitt.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding Aid for Benjamin Fletcher Wright papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Maraih Leavitt, Ellice Amanna
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: manosca14 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063