Dewson, Mary W. Collection

Dewson, Mary W. Collection
Credit: Mary W. Dewson Collection, Northeast Historic Film. Eleanor Roosevelt at a White House Garden Party, circa 1936
      film (565 ft.) : si., b&w and col. ;16 mm
      1935 – 1950
      Maine, USA
      Washington D.C., USA
      Vatican City
      The Mary W. Dewson Collection consists of 8 reels of 16 mm film shot primarily by Mary W. Dewson from 1935-1937, and two reels from a wedding in 1950. These consist of home movies shot in Maine and Washington D.C. including footage of family activities, dog shows, and a garden party at the White House featuring Eleanor Roosevelt. Also included is a copy of a newsreel, which consists of a speech given by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and footage of Benito Mussolini attending a wedding at Saint Peter's Basilica.
      Mary Williams “Molly” Dewson was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, to Edward Henry Dewson and Elizabeth Weld Williams on February 18, 1874. She attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1897 with a degree in social work. She worked in social work and politics, alongside lifelong partner Mary G. “Polly” Porter. Following graduation, Dewson worked as a research assistant for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union. During her time with the Union, she published “The Twentieth Century Expense Book”, to help women organize household finances. In 1900 Dewson started working for the Massachusetts State Industrial School for Girls, a reform school, and by 1904 was the superintendent of parole. There she met Porter, who interned at the Massachusetts State Industrial School while attending the Boston School for Social Workers in 1909. For a brief period Dewson and Porter withdrew from politics and city life to a farm in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1913, before being drawn back, first into the women’s suffrage movement in 1915, and then to Europe during World War I. Both women served with the American Red Cross in France. Back in the United States, Dewson began working with the National Consumers League, first as assistant to Florence Kelley, then as president of the New York Consumers League from 1925 to 1931. Her work eventually brought her into contact with Eleanor Roosevelt, for whose husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dewson would eventually campaign. Following FDR’s election as President of the United States, Dewson was made the head of the Women’s Division of the Democratic National Committee. By 1936 Dewson’s ill health prompted her to slow down, though she did serve for a brief time on the Social Security Board in 1937. In 1952 she and Porter retired to Porter’s family home in Castine, Maine. Active even in retirement, in 1954 Dewson served as the vice president of the Maine Democratic Advisory Committee. She and Porter were also closely involved with their family and community in Castine. Mary Dewson died in Castine, Maine on October 21, 1962.

      Mary Dewson's papers are deposited with the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Harvard University. Correspondence between Dewson and Eleanor Roosevelt can be found at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The scrapbooks of Dewson and Porter’s life together are held by the Castine Historical Society.
      Northeast Historic Film
      Access is restricted; consult repository for detail.
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      7 Items in this collection