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Lucy Kramer Cohen papers

 Collection
Call Number: WA MSS S-2635

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the life and career of Lucy Kramer Cohen, particularly her work for several federal agencies, contributions to The Handbook of Federal Indian Law, and her political and advocacy work. Professional papers primarily consist of correspondence, memoranda, reports, research notes, printed materials, and other papers relating to Kramer Cohen’s work for the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, National War Labor Board, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Department of Labor, National Science Foundation, and Public Health Service. Other professional papers include speeches and notes from Kramer Cohen’s time as a staffer and speechwriter for Helen Gahagan Douglas and memoranda and reports on Korea, Germany, and Iran from her time as an editor of the Human Relations Area Files. Other professional papers relate to Kramer Cohen’s work as a high school math teacher, research jobs, job searches, and the federal government’s loyalty investigation concerning Kramer Cohen in the 1950s.

The collection also contains writings by Kramer Cohen and her husband Felix S. Cohen, including notes and correspondence concerning the publication of The Legal Conscience, Felix S. Cohen’s correspondence concerning Puerto Rico, and correspondence concerning Lucy Kramer Cohen’s editing of her husband’s writings and management of his literary estate. Also present are correspondence, reports, clippings, and printed material concerning the Cohens’ involvement with political and social causes, including board meeting minutes and cassette tapes relating to the Association on American Indian Affairs. Material relating to Kramer Cohen’s art projects includes correspondence and notes documenting her work with Italian artist Pietro Lazzari and copies of the newsletter of the Washington Water Color Association, which she edited. Finally, personal and family papers include personal correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia concerning the Cohens, their daughters, and their extended family. Includes audiovisual recordings of Felix S. Cohen’s memorial service and legal and financial records concerning the estate of Lucy Kramer Cohen’s father Aaron Kramer.

Dates

  • circa 1900-2006

Creator

Language of Materials

Chiefly in English, some materials in German and Yiddish.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 49, 85-92 (record album storage), Box 102 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Lucy Kramer Cohen Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Karen Holmes and Gene Tweraser, 2009, 2014, 2017.

Arrangement

Organized into six series: I. Professional Papers, 1927-1989. II. Writings, 1931-2005. III. Political and Advocacy Activities, 1920-1995. IV. Art Projects, 1926-2006. V. Personal and Family Papers, 1900-2005. VI. Printed Materials, 1902-1995.

Associated Materials

Felix S. Cohen Papers (WA MSS S-1325). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Extent

52.78 Linear Feet ((122 boxes) + 7 record album storage)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.cohenlk

Overview

The collection documents the life and career of Lucy Kramer Cohen, particularly her work for several federal agencies, contributions to The Handbook of Federal Indian Law, and her political and advocacy work. Professional papers document Kramer Cohen’s work for the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, National War Labor Board, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Department of Labor, National Science Foundation, Public Health Service, Helen Gahagan Douglas, and Human Relations Area Files. The collection also contains writings by Kramer Cohen and her husband Felix S. Cohen and correspondence concerning Lucy Kramer Cohen’s editing of her husband’s writings and management of his literary estate. Also present are correspondence, reports, clippings, and printed material concerning the Cohens’ involvement with various political and social causes. Material relating to Kramer Cohen’s art projects includes correspondence and notes documenting her work with Italian artist Pietro Lazzari. Finally, personal and family papers include personal correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia concerning the Cohens, their daughters, and their extended family.

Lucy Kramer Cohen (1907-2007)

Lucy Kramer Cohen was born to Aaron Kramer and Annie Frankel Kramer in Brooklyn, New York in 1907. She graduated from Barnard College in 1928 and earned her master's degree in mathematics and anthropology from Columbia University in 1929, where she studied under Franz Boas. She married Felix S. Cohen, a lawyer, in 1931, and they had two daughters, Karen and Gene. Kramer Cohen worked as an unpaid assistant with her husband in the United States Department of the Interior, helping to draft the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and The Handbook of Federal Indian Law in 1942. Kramer Cohen also worked for several other federal agencies from the 1930s until her retirement in 1989, including the Department of Agriculture, War Labor Board, Department of Labor, National Science Foundation, and the Public Health Service. Although she officially retired in 1977, she continued to work on annual contracts until 1989.

In addition to her government work, Kramer Cohen served on the staff of Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas (D-Calif.) during Douglas's three terms in the House from 1944 to 1950 and worked on Douglas’s campaign for senator in 1950. Between her government jobs, she did research work for anthropologists in Washington, including research and writing for Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Kramer Cohen also worked for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and as an editor of the Human Relations Area Files.

After Felix S. Cohen's death in 1953, Kramer Cohen collected, edited, and published his work as The Legal Conscience (New Haven, Yale University Press: 1960). She also edited her husband’s writings about Puerto Rico into a book that was never published, and managed the copyright and reprint rights of his writings after his death.

Kramer Cohen and her husband were involved in many political and social causes and organizations, including Native American rights, the Socialist Party, anti-fascist organizations, and the League for Industrial Democracy. She served on the board of directors of the Association on American Indian Affairs from 1956 until 1994. In her later years, she took up painting and worked to promote the work of Italian artist and sculptor Pietro Lazzari. She died of a stroke in 2007.

General

Present throughout the collection are manuscript notes, often on envelopes and sticky notes, in the hands of Lucy Kramer Cohen, her daughters, and previous processing archivists. Notes often summarize the contents of folders, provide additional context about the people and projects mentioned, and sometimes indicate where in the Cohen house the material was found.

Processing Information

The collection contains several boxes of Felix S. Cohen's papers, particularly in Series II. Writings and Series V. Personal and Family Papers. These papers were kept with Lucy Kramer Cohen's papers to indicate that she retained them after her husband's death and after the donation of the rest of his papers to Yale in 1989 and 1991. She likely used these files for professional or personal projects, most notably in editing her husband's writings.

Processing Information

1 box of Lucy Kramer Cohen's papers was removed from the Felix S. Cohen papers (WA MSS S-1325) and added to the Lucy Kramer Cohen papers during reprocessing in 2019-2020.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Processing Information

The collection was put in its current arrangement during comprehensive reprocessing that occurred in 2019-2020. Originally the collection was organized into two groupings corresponding with the first two acquisitions in 2009 and 2014. There were often detailed folder titles but no series arrangement, which was imposed during reprocessing.

Processing Information

Most folder titles have been transcribed directly from Lucy Kramer Cohen's original folders. Devised folder titles and additions to existing folder titles have been enclosed in brackets.

Processing Information

Series VI. Printed Material is not representative of all printed material present in the collection. Some printed materials were left in their original folders to preserve the context of Kramer Cohen's professional and personal activities. In particular, printed material related to her professional work, often authored by Kramer Cohen in the course of her work for various United States government agencies, was usually kept in the originating folders in the professional papers series.
Title
Guide to the Lucy Kramer Cohen Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Jennifer Meehan, Jonathan Harmon, and Stephanie Bredbenner
Date
2010, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • October 2014: Added June 2014 Acquisition.
  • October 2020: Finding aid revised to reflect comprehensive rearrangement and reprocessing.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.