The collection contains chiefly personal and professional papers of Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon (1890-1979), including correspondence, diaries, papers relating to her activities as student and teacher, publications and research reports, reminiscences, financial records, and notes relating to her activities as suffragette and involvement with National League of Women Voters, educator and political activist in Virginia (1920-1928), and work (1928-1956) as research economist for U.S. Women's Bureau; together with correspondence, diaries, legal and financial papers, genealogies, albums, essays, poetry, pictures, and other papers of the Pidgeon, Williams, and allied families.
During the Civil War, the Unionist sympathies of the Quakers aroused suspicion among their Virginia neighbors, leading to William Williams's arrest in 1863. The collection also includes letters and related documents of Samule Lukens Pidgeon (1817-1902), Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon's grandfather, from the Civil War years. Quaker education was an enduring concern of these families, evident from numerous letters written from Quaker schools, especially George School and Swarthmore College, and including Alexandria Boarding School (Alexandria, Va.), and Taylor Academy, (Wilmington, Del.) The family correspondence is the most significant, especially the many letters received by Susan Talbott Williams Pidgeon (1860-1942, daughter of William Williams) from her daughters Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon and Dorothy Everett Pidgeon Berry, and Hanna Conrow Williams Tomlinson, who was raised by her after being orphaned at a young age. The collection also include genealogies, memorials, journals, essays, poetry, legal and financial papers, albums, and pictures. The family papers describe through letters, journals, and religious writings a family network of devoted Quaker women.
Researchers should note that additional Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon papers which originally were part of the same collection were given to Radcliffe College in 1982 by the same donor who gave the Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon Family Papers to Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. This smaller collection which also contains personal and professional papers of Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon was transferred to Friends Historical Library in 1984 on indefinite loan, designated as the Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon Schlesinger Library Papers, RG 5/124. The collections are administered as two separate collections, but are cross indexed.