Helen Gahagan Douglas Collection

1922-1980 (bulk: 1940-1951)

110 cubic feet

portrait of Helen Douglas

Box and Folder Inventory

Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980) began her professional career on the Broadway stage and was deemed a "star" at age twenty-two. By the 1930s, she left the Northeast and moved to California with her husband, Hollywood actor Melvyn Douglas. Although she made only one movie herself--the science fiction film, She--she soon found herself immersed in politics. She worked with the Farm Security Administration and later was elected Democratic National Committeewoman from California. In 1944, she was elected as the representative of California's Fourteenth District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was successfully reelected to this position in 1946 and 1948. A tireless New Deal Democrat, Douglas was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and served as an alternate delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations. In 1950, she opposed Richard M. Nixon in the general election for the U.S. Senate. The campaign was especially brutal with the Republicans quite "liberal" in their charges that Douglas was a communist. Nixon easily won the election. Though Douglas never entered the political fray again, she remained a tireless public speaker and activist.

TheDouglas Collection covers the former congresswoman's life from her early stage career until her death in 1980. Because the bulk of the materials documents her years in Congress, the collection is especially rich in covering events and issues central to the immediate post-World War II era. Due to her service on the Foreign Affairs Committee, there is a large amount of papers on the earliest years of the Cold War and the establishment of the new world order. Interesting topics include the Dumbarton Oaks conference, the development of the Marshall Plan, the outbreak of the Korean War, and the creation of the state of Israel. There is also a significant amount of documentation covering the nation's readjustment after the war. Issues dealing with the Office of Price Administration, the Taft-Hartley Act, housing, migrant labor and veterans' concerns are but a few of the myriad topics found in the collection. In addition, there is a record of the changing roles of women and African Americans in the late 1940s. Finally, the collection contains much information on the personality of Douglas. Scattered throughout the papers are poetry, correspondence with Broadway and movie idols as well as with political notables, and genealogical records.

Series titles include:

Theatrical Materials

1920s-1930s; over 2 cubic feet; the Douglas Theatrical files contain scrapbooks, scripts, clippings, programs, and reviews from the congresswoman's acting and singing career

Legislative Files

General Files

1945-1950; over 33 cubic feet; these two series contain documents generated or received by Douglas during her years as a member of Congress

Legislative Reference Files

General Reference Files

1945-1950; over 20 cubic feet; these two series contain pamphlets and other printed material Douglas collected in the course of research on legislative topics of interest to her

Political Papers

1932-1963; over 10 cubic feet; includes materials from Douglas's position as Democratic National Committeewoman, from her political campaigns, and from the 1950 Senate race (Nixon campaign documents can be found here)

Subject and Personality Files

1945-1979; over 7 cubic feet; includes drafts, galleys, and correspondence from Douglas's memoirs, "A Full Life", and her biography "The Eleanor Roosevelt We Remember"
A folder-level inventory enhances access to this rich collection.

In addition, researchers are encouraged to examine the excellent photos in the Helen Gahagan Douglas Photograph Collection. For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.

See also the biography of Helen Gahagan Douglas.


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