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Bryn Mawr College Histories

Getting Started

The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which ran from 1921 to 1938, was a residential summer school program that brought approximately 100 young working women—mostly factory workers with minimal education—to the Bryn Mawr College campus for eight weeks of liberal arts study. Conceived as part of the workers' education movement in the 1920s and 30s, the program was the first of its kind aimed at women in the United States. The School is also notable because in 1926, at the suggestion of students and against former College President and SSWWI founder M. Carey Thomas's wishes, Hilda Worthington Smith admitted five African-American students to the summer school at a time when Bryn Mawr College had no Black graduates.

The Bryn Mawr College Archives holds many records related to the summer school. The library stacks also include a number of published works related to the SSWWI.

Suggested searches:

Digital Collections

The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women's Education​

The Greenfield Digital Center is an online portal that contextualizes primary source material related to the history of women's higher education through blog posts, exhibits, instructional lesson plans, and digital collections.

Bryn Mawr College Archives Photo Collection

Physical Collections

Although finding aids and research guides to the following collections may be available online, material listed here has not been digitized, but is available to researchers in the Bryn Mawr College Special Collections reading room upon request. Researchers unable to make it to Special Collections in person who are interested in using this material are encouraged to contact the archivist with their questions.

Alternatively, find more information about visiting Special Collections in person on our website:

Rita Rubenstein Heller collection on the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry

Rita Rubenstein Heller produced an award-winning documentary on the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, entitled Women of Summer: A History of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1935. This collection includes interviews with both students and faculty, as well as materials from the school itself.

Hilda Worthington Smith papers

Hilda Worthington Smith was the head of Bryn Mawr College's Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. Her personal papers reflect her interest in workers' rights and contain interviews with members of the SSWWI at Bryn Mawr.

Hilda Worthington Smith faculty papers

Separate from Smith's personal papers, this box contains materials related to Smith's role as a faculty member at Bryn Mawr College. This includes correspondence with President M. Carey Thomas and two books on the SSWWI.

M. Carey Thomas papers

M. Carey Thomas was the founder of the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry. Her official papers include correspondence about the school. They are available to researchers in microfilm form. Outgoing correspondence related to the SSWWI can be found on reels 142-145. Researchers should refer to the online finding aid for more information or contact the archivist.

Marion Edwards Park papers

Marion Edwards Park was President of Bryn Mawr College from 1922-1942. Her official papers contain several files related to the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which ran from 1921-1938.