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Ann Morrissett Davidon and William C. Davidon Papers

Identifier: SCPC-DG-144

Scope and Contents

The Ann Davidon and William Davidon Papers consist of correspondence, administrative files, minutes of meetings, biographical material, newspaper clippings, brochures, flyers, leaflets, periodicals, reference material, and 8 photographs. The Papers reflect their involvement in international, national and Philadelphia-area peace, pacifist, and war resistance movements. Almost all of the Davidon correspondence was written by Ann Davidon.

Documents from the early 1960s through the mid to late 1970s reflect the very extensive involvement of both Davidons in anti-Vietnam War movements and war-tax resistance. After the mid 1970s, most of the material illustrates Ann Davidon's involvement in issues relating to peace, social justice, disarmament, and women's concerns.

There is no information about William Davidon's scientific work, other than a few journal reviews.

Correspondents include: Joan Baez, Philip Berrigan, Claude Bourdet, Lucy Carner, Barbara Deming, Albert Einstein (one letter), Erich Fromm, Lorraine Hansberry, Milton Mayer, Elizabeth McAlister, David McReynolds, Constance Muste, Tracy Mygatt, Thich Nhat Hanh, Anäis Nin, Olof Palme, Devi Prasad, William Shirer, Gore Vidal, and Frances Witherspoon.


  • Creation: 1949-


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

The collection is open for research use.

Physical Access Note

All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.

Biographical Note

Ann Morrissett Davidon was born in 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. She attended Denison University (Granville, Ohio), from 1942 to 1944, then moved to Chicago to study with the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago from 1945 to 1947. While in Chicago she took part in projects organized by the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), including bi-racial sit-ins. Her education continued with graduate work at the New School for Social Research (New York, New York), in 1954, and with study leading to the Master of Arts degree in education from the Putney (Vt.) Graduate School (afterward Antioch-Putney) in 1956. Before her marriage she wrote and traveled abroad: from 1949 to 1951 in Paris, from 1960 to 1961 in Sweden, and from 1961 to 1962 in Israel. In Paris she worked with the American Friends Service Committee; later she free-lanced for news organizations such as the Swedish-American News Exchange and the Jerusalem Post.

Ann Davidon's volunteer service included work on task forces and committees of the American Friends Service Committee, the War Resisters League, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and other groups and coalitions. She served on the Executive Council of War Resisters' International from 1972 to 1978, on the advisory committee of the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace in the 1970s, and on the Board of Directors of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute. She also took part in early Haverford-Bryn Mawr women's groups, which led to the founding of the Women's Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Honors received by Ann Davidon include the Philadelphia SANE Peace Award (with William Davidon, 1973) and a writing fellowship at the MacDowell Colony (1978).

During the 1980s she taught English at various Philadelphia-area universities. In 1985 she moved to New Haven, Connecticut where she continued writing, editing, and teaching. In 1988-1989 she edited the newsletter of the Institute for Community Economics in Greenfield, Massachusetts. After returning to Philadelphia she joined the Peace Corps in 1990, and was assigned to teach at Charles University in Prague. While in Czechoslovakia she was involved with the Helsinki Citizens Assembly and other peace and environmental groups. In 1992 she returned to the United States to live in Philadelphia, where she served on the Board of Philadelphia SANE/Freeze (later Peace Action.)

Ann Davidon has written for many publications, including Fellowship, the Friends Journal, the Nation, the Progressive, WIN, and leading national and international newspapers. She is the author of several plays.

William Cooper Davidon was born in Florida in 1927. He attended Purdue University from 1943 to 1944, and received his B.S., M.S., and Ph. D. (1957) from the University of Chicago. He was research director of the Nuclear Instrument and Chemical Corporation (Chicago, Ill.) from 1948 to 1954, then became a research associate at the Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago from 1954 to 1956. The Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce named him one of Ten Outstanding Young Men of Chicago in 1960. He was an associate physicist at Argonne National Laboratory from 1956 to 1961. Haverford College (Haverford, Pennsylvania) invited him to become associate professor of physics in 1961 and, in 1969, professor of physics. He later switched to the mathematics department at Haverford, becoming Professor of Mathematics in 1981.

Bill Davidon participated in meetings held by the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs; he was a member of the national steering committee of the organization Resist; a member of the national board of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy; and an officer of both the Society for Social Responsibility in Science and the Federation of American Scientists. Throughout, he has been active with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ann Morrissett and William Davidon were married in 1963; they have two daughters: Ruth, born in 1964 and Sarah, born in 1967.

After their marriage, the Davidons became more deeply involved in local, national, and international peace and social justice movements, especially during the Vietnam War (1961-1975.) In 1966, the Committee for Nonviolent Action sponsored a visit by Bill Davidon, A.J. Muste, and four others to South Vietnam. As private citizens, they held extensive discussions with various groups about ways to end the war. A press conference was held to explain their mission, but it was violently broken up, probably by operatives of the South Vietnamese government. Mass media in the United States focused on that one expression of hostility, and ignored the many positive aspects of their trip and their fruitful contacts with the underground Buddhist peace movement.

Awarded a Fulbright scholarship for the years 1966 to 1967, Bill Davidon took a year's study leave in Denmark with his family. The trip was nearly canceled because of his refusal to pay $125 in what he considered to be "war taxes." The government seized the money from his paycheck.

In 1971, Bill Davidon was named an "unindicted co-conspirator" along with Philip Berrigan and others, in a plot to bomb heating ducts in federal buildings in Washington D.C. and to kidnap Presidential Advisor Henry Kissinger. This group of "conspirators" was known earlier as the Harrisburg Eight and the Harrisburg 13, and finally as the Harrisburg Seven. It was widely believed that all those charged had been targeted because of their antiwar activities, including destruction of draft-board files. In 1972, a jury failed to convict the defendants on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and bombing.

Ann and Bill Davidon were united in their belief that conflict must be solved nonviolently. They worked closely with Quaker and Catholic activist organizations, although neither holds any religious affiliation. Convinced of the necessity of withholding taxes from a government using public funds for what they considered to be illegal and immoral purposes, they advocated and practiced war-tax resistance. In an effort to involve their "Main Line" (suburban Philadelphia) neighbors and local college students in their anti-war and social justice activities, they helped found the Main Line Peace Center in 1970.

William Davidon was highly visible in local and national peace movements from the 1950s through the end of the Vietnamese Conflict in 1975. During this time he maintained a full program of research and teaching. After 1975, he discontinued much of his activist role, and concentrated on professional activities. The Davidons divorced in 1978. Ann Davidon continues her work as a writer, editor, educator, and peace activist. William Davidon retired from Haverford College in 1991; he has continued his involvement with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ann Morrissett Davidon died in 2004. William C. Davidon died in November 2013.


9 Linear Feet (9 linear ft.)




Ann Morrissett Davidon (1925-2004), was a writer, editor, educator, pacifist and peace activist through her entire life. William Cooper Davidon(1927- 2013), was a professor of physics at Haverford College and (retired 1994), pacifist, peace activist. The two were married in 1963 and both continued to be very active in peace, pacifist, anti-Vietnam War, and social justice organizations. They advocated and practiced war-tax resistance. In 1971, William Davidon was named an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a plot to kidnap Henry Kissenger. Ann Davidon remained active in peace issues for her entire life.


The Papers of Ann Davidon and William Davidon arrived in generally good order; however, they were received in 13 different accessions. Consequently, similar materials were often divided among two or more accessions. Ann Davidon's arrangement was retained wherever possible. Where a large amount of undifferentiated material was received, such as files pertaining to the Vietnamese Conflict, the War Resisters League and the War Resisters' International, the archivist divided it into more easily accessible sub-groups.

This document group is organized so that correspondence and related papers are kept together under the name of a person or corporate body (Series B) or subject (Series C). Miscellaneous correspondence is located at the end of Series B. Two major activities of the Davidons, resistance to the Vietnamese Conflict and war tax resistance, each received separate series (Series D and E, respectively).

Ann Davidon was (and is) a very prolific writer. As originally deposited, her writings are scattered throughout the papers in Series C, D, or E, depending on the organization or subject about which she was writing. Her miscellaneous writings are located in Series F.

A note about correspondence: Ann Davidon corresponded with many well-known people. She retained most of the original letters, and has deposited photocopies in their place. Following the standard practice of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, any remaining original correspondence from prominent people has been photocopied and the originals placed in a restricted area.

Refile Box miscellaneous material acquired after the collection was processed.

Other Finding Aids

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ann Morrissett Davidon, 1985-1987, 1994-1995, 2001-2003.

Separated Materials


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 Barbara Addison, October 1994; additions by Sarah Kelly, July 2003; revised by Eleanor A. Fulvio, July 2009; updated by Wendy Chmielewsk, December 2013.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018: The file list was standardized in Summer 2017 by Mary Olesnavich in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace. Tessa Chambers added the notes in Fall 2017.

Find It at the Library

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