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Grace Contrino Abrams and Fran Contrino Schmidt Collected Papers

Identifier: SCPC-CDG-A-Schmidt, Fran Contrino and Grace Contrino Abrams


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. Grace and Fran taught in Florida public schools and were pioneers in peace education curriculum.


  • Creation: 1942-1980


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use



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.


0.63 linear ft. (2 boxes; 7.5 linear inches)

Other Finding Aids

For the catalog record for this collection, and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Fran Schmidt, July 2013.

Legal Status

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 Swarthmore College Peace Collection Curator for further information.

Processing Information

Processed by Archivist Anne M. Yoder, August 2013.

Anne M. Yoder
August 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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 Swarthmore College Peace Collection Library

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