Grace Contrino Abrams and Fran Contrino Schmidt Collected Papers, 1942-1980
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399 U.S.A.
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The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers/records.
Grace Contrino Abrams (1927-1979) and Fran Contrino Schmidt (1928- )
Grace Contrino Abrams and Fran Contrino Schmidt Collected Papers
Language of Materials
Materials in English
7.5 linear inches [papers only]
The papers of sisters who taught in Florida public schools and were pioneers in peace education curriculum
Restrictions to Access
Alternate Form of Material
Gift of Fran Schmidt, July 2013 [2013-044]
Processed by Archivist Anne M. Yoder, August 2013
[Identification of item], in the Grace Contrino Abrams and Fran Contrino Schmidt Collected Papers (CDG-A), Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright may have been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection or may have been retained by the creators/authors (or their descendants), in this collection, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Please contact the SCPC Curator for further information.
Online Catalog Headings
These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online library/archival catalogs.
See tripod record
Esther Frankel Collected Papers (CDG-A)
Grace was born on May 6, 1927 and Fran in 1928. Grace developed rheumatic fever at the age of ten, which caused severe joint pain and damage to her heart. She spent much time in the hospital throughout her life because of this condition. In 1942 she was placed in a convalescent home, Irvington House, in New York, where she was with other girls who also had serious heart conditions from rheumatic fever; she left there at age 16. She was able to graduate from Yonkers Community High School in 1944.
As early as twelve years of age, Grace's thoughts went to others, writing many letters to the President and to the newspapers describing how the poor and elderly were treated in hospitals. In 1943, she and Fran joined American Youth for Democracy, also known as the Jefferson Club. They were active in the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association), with Fran starting the Yonkers High School YWCA. Grace started the Y-teen HEP Club in 1952, after sister Rosalie complained of a lack of social activities in their area, and a World Correspondence Library in 1953. Both Grace and Fran had a life-long desire to right injustice, and they were actively involved in speaking out against racism, poverty, segregation, discrimination against women, and war for the rest of their lives. They were affiliated at times with the War Resisters League, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (having been introduced to it by their friend, lawyer Esther Frankel), and the Oakland Civic League (which Grace and Fran started).
In July 1945, the Contrino family moved to Oakland, New Jersey, in the hope that the country air would benefit Grace's health. She got a job as a secretary while Fran finished high school; in 1947 Grace started taking a few evening classes at a teacher's college. For some years after she would have to quit her job and other activities to spend weeks or even months in the hospital with bouts of rheumatic fever. By 1960 both Grace and Fran had finished college, and Grace was hired as a grade school teacher in Oakland, New Jersey. In 1962 Grace moved to Miami Beach, Florida, and was hired to teach fifth grade at Central Beach Elementary School. She moved on to teach government and civics at the Ida Fisher Jr. High School after a year, and sister Fran took over the fifth grade teaching position. In the 1970s, Grace changed over to the high school to teach social studies. She observed how her students were not being taught skills in resolving problems nonviolently, and she suggested to Fran that they co-write a curriculum for this.
The Jane Addams Peace Association published the "Learning Peace" curriculum in 1972, and it was very well received around the country. This led to Fran and Grace leading workshops and giving talks on peace education, and to writing even further curriculum. "Peace Is In Our Hands" was published in 1974. Invitations to speak continued unabated. Grace and Fran were working on a book entitled "Must There Be War?" but it was never completed.
Grace married Ray Abrams on November 25, 1965. Fran had married some years earlier; she and her husband and children moved to Florida in 1963 or 1964. Grace had heart surgery in 1976, but it was not enough to return her to full health; she died from a heart attack on December 27, 1979.
This small collection of papers details especially the life of Grace Contrino Abrams and her strong interests in teaching and in working against injustice in whatever form. The clippings from newspapers of media coverage, as well as the many Letters to the Editor, show some of her public life, while letters, and reminiscences of sister Fran Contrino Schmidt, fill out her private life. It should be noted that though there were five siblings, Grace and Fran spent much of their time together in private and public life, and this is reflected in the collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection
Grace and Fran: biographical information
Grace and Fran: unpublished reminiscences "Grace and Fran Contrino: Two Sisters on the Road to Peace" by Fran Schmidt
Grace: high school yearbook, 1945
Grace: diplomas and certificates received
Grace and Fran: media coverage
Grace and Fran: correspondence, 1942
Grace and Fran: correspondence, 1950s-1980
Grace: writings -- papers written for classes
Grace: writings -- miscellaneous; Letters to the Editor written
Grace and Fran: writings -- articles written (unpublished)
Grace and Fran: writings -- newspaper column written ("Today's Women Say")
Grace and Fran: writings on peace education and curriculum
Grace and Fran: leading workshops and speaking engagements
Grace: teaching in Miami Beach, Florida [includes article written on desegregating her school]
Grace and Fran: involvement with American Youth for Democracy
Grace and Fran: involvement with HEP Y-Teens Club, 1951-1954
This file last updated on August 21, 2015