Dorothy Detzer Papers, 1913-1981
Collection: DG 086
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399
Telephone: (610) 328-8557 (Curator)
Fax: (610) 328-8544
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Curator)
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Detzer, Dorothy (1893-1981)
Dorothy Detzer Papers
Language of Materials
Materials in English
3 linear feet [papers only]
Dorothy Detzer was a peace activist, writer, and lobbyist. She served as the National Executive Secretary of the U.S. Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (1924-1946). Detzer influenced a Congressional investigation of the munitions industry (1934-1936) and later wrote the book Appointment on the Hill (1948) describing her two decades in Washington, D.C.
Restrictions to Access
Alternate Form of Material
Gift of Dorothy Detzer, Ruth Detzer, Rosemary Rainbolt, 1974-1981 [acc. 74A-32; 80A-54,-66; 81A-22,-24]
Processed by Martha P. Shane, November 1985. This version of the finding aid was created by Eleanor A. Fulvio, July 2009.
These records were processed under a grant from the Ford Foundation.
[Identification of item], in the Dorothy Detzer Papers (DG 086), Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law
Online Catalog Headings
These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online library/archival catalogs.
See tripod record
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section Records (DG 043)
Dorothy Detzer (1893-1981), writer and lobbyist, was for twenty-two years the National Executive Secretary of the U.S. of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (1924-1946). From headquarters in Washington, D.C., she campaigned for disarmament and economic justice, displaying the keen tactics and influence which led the New York Times to describe her as "the most famous woman lobbyist."
As a high school graduate from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Detzer decided to forgo the traditional college course, opting instead to travel in the Far East and live for a time in the Philippines. Returning to the United States, she went to live at Hull House, attending the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy while working as an officer of the Juvenile Protective Association.
At the end of World War I, she spent a year in Austria doing relief work for the American Friends Service Committee. She later spent two years in Russia as an AFSC famine relief administrator in the Volga Valley. Seeing the ravages of war and enduring the loss of her twin brother Don, who was gassed during World War I and died from a lingering illness, convinced Detzer that social work was not enough and that she wanted to work actively for pacifist causes. Upon her return to the U.S. in 1924, Detzer assumed the national secretaryship of WILPF, U.S. Section.
Dorothy Detzer's abilities as a lobbyist facilitated numerous legislative investigations, notably one launched by Senator Gerald P. Nye on the munitions industry (1933-1936). She was also instrumental in focusing attention on the exploitation of African countries, particularly Ethiopia and Liberia, by U.S. business concessions. She was awarded the Order of African Redemption by the Liberian government in 1933 for these efforts. She worked for recognition of Russia as a member of the family of nations, freedom for Cuba from U.S. intervention, and argued for neutrality as the U.S. approached World War II.
The events of two decades in Washington are chronicled in her book Appointment on the Hill (1948) which was written the year after she resigned her post with WILPF. She married Ludwell Denny, a journalist, in 1954 and spent the next several years freelancing as a foreign correspondent. Shortly before her husband's death in 1970, the Dennys left Washington, D.C. for the west coast where Dorothy Detzer Denny remained in Monterey, California, until her death in January, 1981.
This small collection of Dorothy Detzer's papers contains significant personal material from the last decade of her life as well as earlier WILPF-related material. Her tenure as National Secretary of WILPF from 1924 to 1947 is better documented in DG 43, especially in the series containing Annual Reports of the National Secretary, branch letters, correspondence, speeches and articles.
The bulk of the Detzer papers in DG 86 is correspondence (1924-[1970-1980]), a considerable quantity of which is with Rosemary Rainbolt (1973-1977) when Rainbolt was doing research for her master's thesis and preparing a paper for the American Historical Association, both about Detzer, and with Dr. Barbara Sicherman who asked Detzer's help in writing a paper on Alice Hamilton, a lifelong friend of Detzer. Personal letters between Detzer and A. Fenner Brockway and other good friends provide a look at her restrospective views of life and aging.
There is a significant amount of WILPF correspondence and source material documenting the efforts of Detzer and Anna Melissa Graves in 1933 to prevent the United States and Britain from exploiting Liberia.
Material about Detzer includes the Rainbolt thesis, "Dorothy Detzer: National Secretary, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom," and her AHA paper, "Women and War in the U.S.: The Case of Dorothy Detzer, National Secretary W.I.L.P.F." A collection of newsclippings (1913-1945) starts with reprints of letters from abroad published in her hometown Ft. Wayne, Indiana, newspaper and continues on to document her years as National Secretary of WILPF. Particular events covered by the newsclippings include her being granted a pacifist's passport in 1929 amidst D.A.R. protest and her work to force an investigation of the munitions industry (1933-1936).
There are typescripts for articles and speeches by Detzer including a statement "What I Believe" and her speech in 1965 at the WILPF 50th Anniversary Celebration. Her book Appointment on the Hill (1948) is available in DG 86 and in the SCPC book collection.
There are many photographs and also a cassette made in 1974 during an interview with Rosemary Rainbolt. Memorabilia include her Bible and prayerbook, collections of poetry and sayings, a travel journal, and several passports. There is a small amount of family correspondence and genealogical information about her family.
Correspondents include Jane Addams, Roger Baldwin, A. Fenner Brockway, Justus Doenecke, Morris L. Ernst, Mitchell Gordon, Anna Melissa Graves, Mildred Scott Olmsted, Rosemary Rainbolt, Huldah W. Randall, Mercedes M. Randall, Meta Riseman, Izetta Robb, Dr. Barbara Sicherman and Jessica Smith.
cassette tape interview
Arrangement of Collection
DG 43 (WILPF) contains most of Dorothy Detzer's papers for the period during which she was active in the WILPF. However, there is a series of WILPF-related folders in DG 86 that was processed in SCPC before the greater body of Detzer material arrived. The source of these WILPF-related folders is unknown.
Detzer gave SCPC some of her correspondence in which letters to and from one person were together with a brief description by her of that person. These letters have been kept together. The rest of the correspondence is in chronological order.
Photographs may be found with the SCPC Photograph Collection. The cassette may be found in the SCPC Audio Visual Collection.
Box 1 Checklist Removal sheets
Box 1 (cont.)
Rosemary Rainbolt Thesis: "Dorothy Detzer: National Secretary, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom" (1976)
Rosemary Rainbolt American Historical Association Paper: "Women and War in the U.S.: The Case of Dorothy Detzer, National Secretary, W.I.L.P.F."
Articles etc. about Dorothy Detzer
Appearances/Honors Newsclippings (1913-1945 and 1976)
SERIES II: CORRESPONDENCE (1924-[1970-1980])