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Elizabeth Olmsted Smith papers

 Collection — Box: 1-30
Identifier: MS-0031

Scope and Contents

The papers of Elizabeth Olmsted Smith pertain primarily to her activities in the peace movement in Buffalo, New York, from 1933 to 1941 and from 1950 to 1975. Also included are personal papers (mostly letters, 1923 to 1940) and materials concerning social work (1949 to 1957).

The papers relating to the peace movement prior to World War II document a number of local and national peace organizations, as well as some labor and social reform groups, but are strongest in their coverage of anti-war movement in Buffalo, New York, particularly the activities of the Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

In 1933, Elizabeth Smith corresponded with her aunt, Mildred Scott Olmsted, the Executive Secretary of the United States Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom about establishing a branch in Buffalo. The Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was formed in 1935, with Smith as its Executive Secretary. She worked with the organization through the 1930s as a member and as the Legislative Chairman.

The papers concerning the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the closely related Emergency Peace Campaign as well as the People's Mandate to Governments to End Wars, include correspondence, reports, notes on meetings, membership lists, drafts of speeches, and printed literature. In addition to her work with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Elizabeth Smith was involved in other peace and social action groups. In the early 1930s, she was a member of the Socialist Party local and the League for Industrial Democracy; in 1933 she taught at "Emergency College" on the campus of the State Teachers College (now State University College at Buffalo); and in 1938 she worked as an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. she attended the Ninth Conference on the Cause and Cure of War and the Summer Institutes for Social Progress held in Wellesley, Massachusetts. These activities are documented by correspondence, notes, pamphlets, flyers and other materials. The collection also includes materials saved by Elizabeth Smith concerning a variety of local and national peace organizations; and it contains files she assembled about topics of interest to her such as consumerism, cooperatives, socialism, and the labor movement.

Also preserved are card files of names and addresses used by Smith in connection with her work on a lecture series sponsored by the League for Industrial Democracy and probably also used in her work with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Buffalo Peace Council.

Scrapbooks, compiled by Smith, concern the activities of the peace movement in Buffalo and the approach of World War II.

Although only the Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and, to a lesser extent, the Emergency Peace Campaign and the people's Mandate are documented in detail, the Smith papers also contain leaflets, newsletters and other printed materials from a large number of local anti-war organizations. Since most of these local groups were short lived, these printed materials may be the most significant surviving records of their existence.

The emphasis in these papers is on the pacifist side of the peace movement, though there are some printed materials from isolationist organizations, such as the America First Committee.

There are no papers surviving the war years.

The bulk of the Smith papers for 1950 to 1975 consists of printed materials issued by local and national organizations. Unlike the peace movement of the 1930s, which concentrated on anti-war activities, these papers reflect a changed peace movement which was linked to a broad push for social reform, including integration, open housing, civil liberties, support for the United Nations, as well as traditional pacifist aims such as disarmament.

Papers from the 1950s are fragmentary but provide evidence of a revived Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom during the Korean War.

While most of the material is printed, there is a small amount of correspondence and other written materials concerning Smith's involvement in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom as well as in the issues of open housing and school desegregation through the Citizen's Council on Human Relations (CCHR) and Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).

Elizabeth Smith was an active member of the Unitarian-Universalist Church, which supported a number of liberal causes, both nationally and locally. These church activities are documented in newsletters, sermons and church announcements (1954-1974).

Personal papers (1923-1940) consist largely of letters to Miss Elizabeth Olmsted from family and friends before her marriage in 1934. Also included is a journal kept by Miss Olmsted at Smith College and student papers. A portion of the correspondence (1931-1934, 1937 and 1939) reflects her attempts to find work after graduating from Smith College in the midst of the depression. Also included are course notes and papers from her studies at the School of Social Work at the University of Buffalo (1949-1954) and papers concerning her casework with the Erie County Board of Social Services and with the Methodist Home for Children.


  • 1923-1975


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The bulk of the Elizabeth Olmsted Smith Papers are open for research. Restricted folders are marked as such. Please see the University Archivist for specific restrictions.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Olmsted was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1910. She entered Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1927 and received her B.A. in 1931. In 1934, she married Preston R. Smith, Jr.

About 1933, she became actively involved with the peace movement in Buffalo. Most closely identified with the Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), she also actively worked for the People's Mandate to Governments to End War (circa 1935), the Emergency Peace Campaign (circa 1936-1937), the Buffalo Committee to Keep American Out of War and its affiliate, the Youth Committee Against War (circa 1938-1939), and other local organizations.

During the 1930s, she also worked as a teacher in Emergency College, a Depression Era program at the State Teachers College in Buffalo (1933), as Executive Secretary of the Buffalo Chapter of the League for Industrial Democracy, and as an organizer for the Ladies Industrial Garment Workers Union, (1938).

In the late 1940s, she returned to school to study social work, receiving her "Graduate Certificate in Social Work" from the University of Buffalo in 1954. She was employed as a caseworker by the Erie County Board of Social Services and by the Methodist Home for Children in Williamsville, New York.

The Buffalo Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom disbanded in the 1940s. An attempt was made to reconstitute the branch in 1951 with Elizabeth Olmsted Smith as Secretary-Treasurer. A decade later, in 1961, the Branch was again reorganized. Smith served as membership chairman (1963-1965) and legislative chairman (1966-1968).

During the 1950s and 1960s, Smith was also active in the local Unitarian-Universalist Church and in civil rights groups such as the Citizens' Council for Human Relations (CCHR).

In 1977, Smith and her husband left Buffalo. Smith passed away in 1990.


13.5 Linear Feet (26 manuscript boxes, 4 card file boxes)


Papers represent Elizabeth Olmsted Smith's activities in the peace movement in Buffalo, New York, from 1933 to 1941, and from 1950 to 1975. Also included are personal papers (1923 to 1940) and materials concerning her work as a social worker (1949 to 1957).


This collection is divided into two series, I. Peace Movement and II. Personal Papers, which are further subdivided into a number of topical subseries.

Please note that Series I contains Subseries A-K and Series II contains Subseries L and M.

Acquisition Information

The papers were given to Virginia Grabiner by Elizabeth Smith and donated to the University Archives by Virginia Grabiner on July 29, 1977.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

The following related manuscript collections are available in the University Archives of the State University of New York at Buffalo:

MS 7, Citizens' Council on Human Relations records, 1955-1992

MS 10, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom : papers, 1960-1973

MS 82, Military and Draft Counseling Center of Buffalo records, circa 1953-1978

Separated Materials

Included with the Smith papers were a number of single issues and short runs of national newspapers and magazines relating to peace, socialism, unionism and other concerns. These have been removed from the main body of the collection and titles available within the University Libraries have been discarded. The remaining titles are being retained for the present but are not considered an integral part of the collection. Many of these are badly deteriorated and very fragile.


  1. American Guardian (socialist), Oklahoma City, February-December, 1941
  2. C.I.O. News (Committee for Industrial Organization), Washington, D.C., 1937
  3. Consumer Union Reports, January-October, 1939
  4. Fellowship (Fellowship of Reconciliation), New York, 1936, 1939, 1941
  5. Fur Worker, 1937
  6. Guild Worker, 1937
  7. In Fact (George Seldes), Long Island, New York
  8. Justice (ILGWU), New York, 1938
  9. Labor Action (Workers Party), New York
  10. Socialist Call (Socialist Party), 1941
  11. United Automobile Worker (U.A.W.), 1937
  12. Workers Age, 1938


  1. American Report (Clergy and Laity Concerned), Huntington, Indiana, 1971
  2. Blind Justice (N.Y.C. Chapter, National Lawyers Guild), New York, 1974
  3. Buffalo Challenger (Black weekly), Buffalo
  4. Buffalo Rainy Day Sun, Buffalo, 1974
  5. Buffalo (Workers League), New York
  6. Catholic Worker, New York, 1969-1975
  7. Challenge (Progressive Labor Party), New York, 1969
  8. Crusader (Crusade Against Hunger, National Council of Churches), New York, 1971
  9. Elmwood Echo, Buffalo, 1974
  10. Fight Back! (Revolutionary Student Brigade), Chicago, 1975
  11. Free Angela (National United Committee to Free Angela Davis), San Francisco, 1971
  12. Guardian, New York, 1973
  13. Human Rights New s and View (New York State Division of Human Rights), New York, 1970
  14. The Journal, Rochester, 1971-1972
  15. Majority Report (women), New York, 1975
  16. Midnight Special (N.Y. Chapter, National Lawyers Guild), New York, 1974
  17. New Mobilizer (New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam), Washington, 1969
  18. New Solidarity (National Caucus of Labor Committees), New York, 1974
  19. North Country (Ontario Waffle Labour Committee), Toronto
  20. Senior Action (N.Y. State Wide Senior Action Council, Inc. ), Tonawanda, N.Y., 1974
  21. Winter Solider (Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Solider Organization), Chicago, 1974
  22. Worker: For Western - Central New York, Buffalo, 1975
  23. World Citizen Federalist Letter (World Federalists), Washington, 1975
  24. War/Peace Report (Center for War/Peace Studies), New York, 1964, 1968
  25. Weekly People (Socialist Labor Party), Brooklyn, N.Y., 1967

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff, 1980s.


Finding Aid for the Elizabeth Olmsted Smith papers
Finding aid prepared by Archives staff; revised in 1997 by Rodney Obien and further revised in 2005 by Karen Morse and Sheryl Saxby.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)