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Douglas V. and Dorothy M. Steere papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1174

Scope and Contents

The Douglas V. and Dorothy M. Steere papers are the records of their contributions to the Quaker Movement. The collection is divided into two series, one for Douglas V. Steere and oen for Dorothy M. Steere. The collection is largely comprised of correspondence, papers, notes, notebooks, journals, travel documents, and writings. In addition, there are photographs and other graphics, as well as audio cassettes. Researchers interested in Quaker philosophy should look to the “Writings by Douglas Steere” and “Notebooks, Diaries, and Journals” subseries as they contain material that eventually became publications by Steere. There is also a strong assortment of material related to Quaker missions in the wake of World War II, which can be found in the “Relief Work” subseries.

The “Douglas V. Steere” series is divided into twelve subseries: “Biographical Material;” “Writings by Douglas Steere;” “Collected Writings by Others;” “Correspondence;” “Notes;” “Notebooks, Diaries, and Journals;” “Relief Work;” “Organizational Materials;” “Conferences and Retreats;” “Travel;” “Photographs and other graphics;” and “Media.”

The first subseries, “Biographical Material,” includes “Personal Documents,” “Education” and “Professional Materials” such as his 1924 Rhodes Scholarship Application. “Family Materials” include the Steere family tree and genealogy. Included in “Memorabilia” are materials from 1901 through 1955, such as Douglas and Dorothy’s wedding invitation, and his World War II ration books. “Awards and honorary degrees” include his Lawrence College (1950), Earlham College (1965), and Oberlin College (1954) Honorary degrees, as well as his 1981 Upper Room Citation and Finnish Decoration which was awarded in 1987. Before beginning in-depth research of this collection, a researcher may wish to review the “Bibliography” subseries which contains a list of his book, articles, publications, addresses, lectures, and professional history.

Following “Biographical Material” are “Writings by Douglas Steere.” Within this subseries are his writings including: “Autobiography;” “Books;” “Addresses;” “Lectures, Lectures and/or Addresses;” “Articles,” “Papers” (as student and as professor), “Assorted Writings,” “Books Reviews;” and “Index of Writings.” The sub-subseries “Lectures and/or Addresses” is comprised of either lectures or addresses which processors could not define absolutely as one or the other. “Autobiography” is composed of 671 typed draft pages for his autobiography (unpublished), as well as his handwritten notes from before 1950 through 1988. Within the “Books” subseries are his manuscripts and notes for God’s Irregular: Arthur Shearly Cripps, circa 1972, Dimensions of Prayer, Together in Solitude, and others. The subseries “Books” also includes his 1931 Harvard dissertation typescript, “Critical Realism in the Religious Philosophy of Baron Friedrich Von Hugel.” Cripps was an English missionary, activist, and writer who lived in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Hugel was a Catholic theologian and philosopher. Also of note is Søren Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart translated by Steere and Quaker Spirituality, edited by Douglas Steere and published in 1984. The three sub-subseries of “Addresses,” “Lectures,” and “Lectures and/or Addresses” by Steere are arranged either alphabetically by title or chronologically. “Articles” consists of published work from 1928 through 1990, and includes titles such as “Quaker Formation” and “The Outer and Inner Need of Our Time.” In “Papers” and “Assorted Writings,” are his writings as student and as philosopher.

In “Collected Writings by Others,” are works Douglas Steere collected throughout his life. These materials are separated into three categories: “About Douglas Steere;” “Annotated by Douglas Steere (not about Douglas Steere);” and “Not Annotated by Douglas Steere (not about Douglas Steere).” “Writings about Douglas Steere” include “An Intellectual Profile” by Paul Kuntz and “Douglas V. Steere: Irradiator of the Beams of Love” by E. Glenn Hinson, as well as many others. In addition, are reviews of his “On Beginning from Within” from 1944 and 1945 and “On Listening to Another & On Beginning from Within” when published together, during the 1950s and 1960s.

Steere's “Correspondence” subseries includes letters to friends, family, and colleagues between 1925 and 1984. Also included are family letters, collected by Steere, written to his father Edward, mother Ruby, and Aunt Inez dating from 1896. Letters exchanged between Douglas and Dorothy Steere from 1926 to 1927, many of which are romantic in nature, document not only their thoughts on Quakerism and their work, but their relationship which lasted for sixty-five years. Additionally, there are several dozen letters written and received by him while at Oxford, England and elsewhere in Europe from the 1920s to 1930s. The largest portions of the “Correspondence” subseries, and indeed the collection, are letters received by Douglas Steere, predominately organized alphabetically by last name. These are followed by letters organized alphabetically by first name (the last names were not provided or could not be identified), and finally those letters which did not include identifiable names.

Included under the subseries of “Notes” and “Notebooks, Diaries, and Journals” are Douglas Steere’s notes as a student, professor, philosopher, and speaker. There is a selection of the syllabi he saved from classes he attended and taught, his notes on many influential western philosophers, and his prepared materials for talks given.

Steere’s relief and reconstruction efforts are represented in the subseries “Relief and Reconstruction,” which document his work during trips to Finland, South Africa, Germany and the Second Vatican Counsel in Italy. Within the “Organizations” subseries are materials pertaining to the many organizations to which he belonged and contributed, organized alphabetically by title.

The “Conference and Retreats” subseries documents his role in facilitating Quaker retreats (in particular, Kirkridge and Pendle Hill), as well as material he collected from these efforts. His “Travel” materials contain his travel letters, as well as notes and reports he wrote while abroad. Following this series, there are photographs of him and his family, as well as some artwork (labeled “Other graphics”) he collected throughout his life. There are also some cassette tapes of Douglas Steere, Dr. Wesley Hager, Dr. Glenn Hinson, and Thomas Merton speaking.

The Dorothy M. Steere series contains nine subseries: “Biographical;” “Writings by Dorothy Steere;” “Collected writings by others;” “Correspondence;” “Civil Rights materials;” “Retreat materials;” “Notebooks and journals;” “Photographs of Dorothy Steere and family;” and “Media.” Dorothy Steere was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, and researchers interested in the Quaker involvement in this issue would be well served looking through the “Civil Rights” subseries.

Her “Biographical” material includes her childhood writings, high school and college memorabilia, and notes on her 90th and 95th birthdays.

Her “Writings” include notes on talks given, and copies of several essays she published in Inward Light, Friendly Woman, and The Friend. Under “Collected writings” are publications she collected which were written by her daughters, Helen and Anne, as well as publications (newspaper clippings and articles) related to women’s issues and various Quaker movements. Her correspondence includes letters received from her childhood until 2003, and include sympathy cards received after Douglas Steere’s death, as well as sympathy cards the Steere family received following Dorothy Steere’s death. Also within this subseries are her letters to Douglas Steere from 1927-1942.

Her involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s through 1970s is documented in the “Civil Rights” subseries, which contains clippings (including the front page of an Asheville, North Carolina newspaper the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot), programs, pamphlets, and other illustrated depictions related to the movement. Also in this subseries is her correspondence with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 1956-1958.

Dorothy Steere’s collection also includes collected materials from Quaker retreats attended, her notebooks detailing her professional and personal experiences beginning in the 1910s, photographs of the Steere family, and a cassette tape of a memorial meeting held by the Radnor Meeting following the death of Dorothy Steere.

*A newspaper from April 15, 1865, the day after Lincoln was shot was removed from the collection and placed with historical newspapers in Special Collections.


  • Creation: 1896-2003


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical / Historical

Douglas and Dorothy Steere served the Society of Friends for much of their adult lives and their influence remains strong to this day. Douglas V. Steere was born on August 31, 1901, in Harbor Beach, Michigan, and was educated at Eastern High School in Detroit; Michigan Agricultural College, earning a B.S. in Agriculture in 1923; and Harvard University, earning his M.A. in Philosophy in 1929 and his Ph.D in 1931. As a Rhodes Scholar, Steere attended Oxford University from 1925 to 1928, earning both a B.A. and an M.A. Dorothy Lou MacEachron was born on December 22, 1907, in Grand Haven, Michigan, and graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan in 1928. After their marriage in 1929, they worked together for Quakerism and for the American Friends Service Committee until his death in 1995.

From 1928 to 1964, Douglas Steere was professor of philosophy at Haverford College. He was the Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1936, the William Belden Noble Lecturer at Harvard University in Boston in 1943, and Rauschenbush Lecturer in Rochester, New York in 1953. From 1961 to 1962, Douglas Steere served as visiting professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary. The Steeres's involvement with the Society of Friends included memberships, travels, and hands-on work throughout their professional lives. They were instrumental in planning Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center located in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, in 1930. Based in his Quaker beliefs, Douglas Steere objected to military service during World War II. Soon after the war ended, Douglas Steere “helped organize Quaker relief efforts in Finland, Norway and Poland … [and] urged recovery efforts by American Friends Service Committee in Europe.” From the mid 1940s to 1960s, the Steeres traveled under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee in order to work with Quaker relief projects in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa. While continuing their work in these regions, Douglas Steere served as Chairman of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, arranging meetings with international theologians from 1964 to 1970, especially in Japan and India, in order to explore ecumenism and encourage communication. In 1964, he represented the Society of Friends at the Second Vatican Council.

Dorothy Steere was a member of American Friends Service Committee from 1945 to 1980. Her first contribution to this organization was as a work camp leader in 1945, and in 1949, she served on the American Friends Service Personnel Committee. Steere noted that her special interest in the committee was in “communication with people of all kinds, growth and awareness of ourselves as persons, of others, and their needs.” This commitment to all peoples can be seen in her involvement with Civil Rights during the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1956 and 1958, Dorothy Steere corresponded with Martin Luther King Jr. on issues such as the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and race relations in the South.

Douglas and Dorothy Steere were members of Radnor United Meeting of the Society of Friends from 1936 to 1995. Douglas was also a member of the American Friends Service Committee, serving as a member of the Board and chairman of the Work Camp Committee. He was the developer of the Finnish Settlement Movement in 1945; a member of the Pendle Hill Board from 1930 to 1991; and chairman of the Board. He served as Secretary of the Theological and Philosophical Societies from 1930 to 1995, and was also involved in the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality which grew out of Vatican Council II. In 1975, he gave the Haverford College commencement speech. He earned many honorary degrees and was knighted as Knight First Class of the White Rose of Finland in 1984 in recognition of his relief and reconstruction work in Finland following World War II under the American Friends Service Committee’s Finnish Settlement Movement.

Douglas Steere authored many books including Prayer and Worship, 1938; Time to Spare, 1938; a translation of Kierkegaard’s Purity of the Heart, 1938; On Beginning from Within, 1943; Doors into Life, 1948; On Listening to Another, 1955; Work and Contemplation, 1957; Dimensions of Prayer, 1963; Spiritual Councils and Letters of Baron Friedric von Hugel, serving as editor and providing an introductory essay on von Hugel; and God’s Irregular: Arthur Cripps, 1973. In addition, he authored many pamphlets as well as introductions to and chapters in books. The Steeres coauthored Friends Work in Africa which was published in 1955. In 1984, he edited the book Quaker Spirituality, which included selected writings from Quaker writers such as John Woolman, Rufus Jones, Thomas Kelly, and Isaac Pennington.

Dorothy Steere gave many talks and addresses at retreats, conferences, and religious meetings. Several of her essays were featured in Quaker journals and publications such as Inward Light, Friendly Woman, and The Friend. Steere also wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Whole World in His Hands" in 1965.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article entitled “Quaker Couple Best Friends—and the Best of Friends,” the Steeres met in 1925 just before he traveled to England as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. Their courtship resulted in a great number of letters and they married in 1929 and had two children, Helen and Anne. Their sixty-five year marriage, “for many Friends … was a model Quaker union,” (Hamm, p. 208).

On February 16, 1993, Douglas V. Steere died, aged 93, from Alzheimer’s Disease. Dorothy M. Steere died on February 10, 2003 at the age of 95 years.

Biographical sources:

Hamm, Thomas D. The Quakers in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. New York Times Obituary. “Douglas Steere, 93, Author, Professor And Quaker Leader.” New York Times. (accessed October 9, 2009).

Raftery, Kay. “Quaker Couple Best Friends—and the Best of Friends.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 6, 1994.

American Friends Service Committee Minute of Appreciation for Dorothy M. Steere, September 10, 1980.


128.75 linear ft. (257 boxes, 2 packages, 1 tube with 2 rolled items)

Language of Materials



Douglas and Dorothy Steere were prominent figures of the Quaker movement in the twentieth century, and deeply committed to the causes of peace and spiritual enrichment. This commitment is evident in their involvement with Quaker-led relief work after World War II, Quaker spiritual retreats, international diplomacy, and Dorothy’s work with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Douglas taught philosophy at several institutions including Haverford College, and published extensively on topics in Quaker philosophy and history. This collection contains considerable material related to Douglas’s work as a writer, professor, and diplomat. Given his role as a distinguished figure within 20th century Quakerism, this material is also relevant to researchers interested in recent Quaker history as a whole. There is also some fascinating material produced and collected by Dorothy related to the Civil Rights movement, including a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


The collection is divided into two series: "Douglas V. Steere" and "Dorothy M. Steere." The "Douglas V. Steere" series has been arranged into 12 subseries. This arrangement has been based on research value, as he is best known for his writings regarding the Quaker movement. He was also heavily involved and influenced by contemporary Quaker scholars. He was very active in corresponding with colleagues and family, and contributed to the development of many relief efforts and organizations. The "Dorothy M. Steere" series contains nine subseries, which similarly reflect her contribution to Quaker publications, active correspondence, and, additionally, her involvement with the Civil Rights movement. This collection contains one folder of "Miscellaneous" material in box 257, which could not be identified or integrated into any of the designated series. Found within this folder include items such as newsletters, prayer cards, and programs. It should be noted that removed from the collection was a clipping dated April 15, 1865, the day after Lincoln was shot. This item has been placed with the historical documents of the Haverford Library's Special Collections and Manuscripts.

Related Materials

Related materials may be found in "Select Papers from the Haverford College Relief & Reconstruction Unit, 1943-1990, HC.MC.910A (the program was headed by Douglas Steere)

General Physical Description

257 containers and loose materials

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.

Processed by Leslie O'Neill and Forrest Wright, with enhancements by Elizabeth Peters; completed October, 2009.

Douglas V. and Dorothy M. Steere papers, 1896-2003
Leslie O'Neill and Forrest Wright, with enhancements by Elizabeth Peters
October, 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

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 or requesting repoductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

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