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Archives & Manuscripts

Tracy D. Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCPC-DG-089

Scope and Contents

Considering their long history of peace work and their 70+ years of companionship, this collection seems quite small. Most of it consists of their writings, especially draft copies of their plays. Edith Wynner wrote to Frances Witherspoon on Nov. 7, 1973: "Georgia Lloyd told me something of your problem with accumulated papers and what to do with them" and urged that everything be donated to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Lucy P. Carner, who as a dear friend of Mygatt and Witherspoon was responsible for clearing out their personal material after their deaths in Nov. and Dec. 1973, wrote to Wynner: "...I have before me your letter of November 7th about sending peace material to Swarthmore, and I want to assure you that it is now ready to be carried there shortly after the first of the year. We have followed your advice and left the sorting to Swarthmore. One batch of material had already gone to Swarthmore before we realized the bulk of their hoardings. The rest will be carried when the roads permit, by an obliging cousin of mine who will take them to Swarthmore." Much of the correspondence preserved relates to the publication and performance of Mygatt's and Witherspoon's plays (see both correspondence files and writings files). However, it is possible to find more correspondence, and other information related to their many involvements, in other archival collections in the SCPC (see Related Collections listed above).

A scrapbook, which was assembled in 1912 on by Mygatt and Witherspoon, was photocopied and pages put in their correct biographical or writings folder. Photos (personal, group, Margaret and Priscilla Casanova, unidentified) were removed to the Photograph Collection. The book The Glorious Company may be found in the Book Collection. A folder related to Lucy P. Carner's correspondence re: Mygatt's and Witherspoon's deaths was removed to Carner's own archival collection (CDGA: Carner, Lucy P.). A copy of Mygatt's published play "Watchfires" is available in the Subject File: Literature re: Peace -- scripts for plays/dramatic readings/pageants, 1917. Original drawings (ca. 1876-1915) by Julia Newberry were removed to the Subject File: Art in War and Peace.

Dates

  • 1835-1973
  • Majority of material found within 1911-1974

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is stored off-site. Please contact the Curator at least two weeks in advance of a visit to the Peace Collection to discuss retrieval of off-site materials.

Copyright and Rights Information

None.

Biographical / Historical

Tracy D. Mygatt (1885-1973) and Frances Witherspoon (1886-1973) both graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1908, then lived and worked together for more than 60 years in the cause of world peace. Soon after graduation they became involved in the struggle for women's suffrage and served as the first organizers of the Women's Suffrage Party in eastern Pennsylvania. In 1913, they moved to New York City where they joined the Socialist Party. Both engaged in providing food and shelter in churches for the unemployed (called "church raids"). They were members of the Woman's Peace Party; Witherspoon was employed for a brief period as Assistant Secretary of the WPP office in New York, and both women served as editors of its newsletter, Four Lights.

Mygatt organized the Anti-Enlistment League in 1915, together with Jessie Wallace Hughan and John Haynes Holmes, in an effort to gain signatures of young men whose opposition to all war, offensive and defensive, was unconditional. Both Mygatt and Witherspoon served on the committee of the Emergency Peace Federation, and took part in demonstrations planned by the American Committee Against Militarism. In 1917, at the invitation of the Woman's Peace Party, they both lobbied in Washington (D.C.) against U.S. entry into World War I. That same year Witherspoon became a co-founder and Executive Secretary of the New York Bureau of Legal Advice, which provided the first organized help for conscientious objectors in the country.

Between the world wars, Mygatt and Witherspoon worked with the Women's Peace Union and supported the Frazier amendment to the constitution which would have made war legally impossible. Both also helped to found the War Resisters League in 1923. They were awarded the WRL Peace Award in 1961 and served as honorary chairs of the organization until their deaths. They were also early members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and charter members of the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship.

Both women were prolific writers. They wrote plays, articles, and books, independently and as collaborators. A number of Mygatt's plays (frequently on anti-war themes) were published and produced by small theater groups. They co-authored The Glorious Company, which was published in 1928 and received considerable acclaim. They also co-authored a book on first century Christendom, Armor of Light, which was under contract for nearly a year but was never produced. In 1934, Mygatt wrote Julia Newberry's Sketch Book, a Victorian biography about Julia Newberry (of Chicago) and Mygatt's mother, who were first cousins and childhood companions.

Tracy Mygatt worked for the Campaign for World Government for over 30 years, starting in 1941. She was the Campaign's delegate among non-governmental organizations to the United Nations until 1968. After moving in 1969 to Stapely Hall, a retirement home in Philadelphia (PA), she continued to serve as part-time East Coast Secretary of the Campaign.

In 1968, when she was past 80 years of age, Frances Witherspoon appealed to fellow Bryn Mawr College alumnae to oppose the war in Vietnam. Through her efforts, and with the aid of Mygatt and Lucy P. Carner, over 1,000 alumnae signed advertisements, published in the New York Times, calling for an end to the war.

Over the years Mygatt and Witherspoon both wrote numerous letters to members of Congress and other government officials, and many letters to the editor, about world government, civil rights, disarmament, and the other causes to which they devoted their lives.

Tracy Mygatt, increasingly helpless and nearly blind, died on Nov. 22, 1973, at the age of 88. Frances Witherspoon, gravely ill at the time, died shortly after on Dec. 16, 1973, at the age of 87.

Extent

3.1 Linear Feet (3.1 linear ft.)

Overview

Tracy Dickinson Mygatt (1885-1973) and Frances May Witherspoon (1886-1973) were prolific writers and absolute pacifists who worked together in movements for women's rights, world peace, civil liberties, and civil rights. Both women authored plays, articles, poems, sermons, and stories, individually and in collaboration. They were founders of the War Resisters League and later served as honorary chairs. Frances Witherspoon was a co-founder and Executive Secretary of the New York Bureau of Legal Advice. Tracy Mygatt was very active with the Campaign for World Government from 1941 to 1973.

Arrangement

These papers are arranged in the following order:

  1. Series A: Biographical Material (Mygatt, Witherspoon, joint material), which includes family papers
  2. Series B: Correspondence (Mygatt, Witherspoon, joint material)
  3. Series C: Involvements (Mygatt, Witherspoon, joint material)
  4. Series D: Writings (Mygatt, Witherspoon, joint material)
  5. Series E: Reference Material

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the estates of Tracy D. Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon, through Abraham Kaufman, and from Lucy P. Carner, 1973, 1974, 1977; includes several later articles about the women featured in this collection.

Related Materials

  1. Allen, Devere Papers (DG 053)
  2. Emergency Peace Campaign (U.S.) Records (DG 012)
  3. Episcopal Peace Fellowship Records (DG 118)
  4. McReynolds, David (DG 134)
  5. Muste, Abraham John Papers (DG 050)
  6. New York Bureau of Legal Advice Collected Records
  7. Peace Action Center Records (DG 093)
  8. Scott, Lawrence Papers (DG 090)
  9. War Resisters League Records (DG 040)
  10. Women's Committee to Oppose Conscription Records (DG 068)
  11. Women's Peace Union, U.S. Branch Records (DG 044)
  12. Minnie Clapp Mygatt Diaries (DG 089b)
  13. The Reminiscences of Frances Witherspoon and Tracy D. Mygatt (DG 089, Series C, Box 7)

Related Materials

For related materials, search the library's online catalog

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 43.

Bibliographic References

Guide to Sources on Women in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, p. 17.

Legal Status

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

Processed by unknown, under NEH Grant No. RC-27706-77-739; reprocessed by Anne Yoder in April, 2007; updated by Wendy E. Chmielewski.

Creator

Source

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Swarthmore College Peace Collection Library

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