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Guide to the Lini M. De Vries Papers ALBA.272

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Kelli Piotrowski

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 18, 2017

Historical/Biographical Note

Lini M. De Vries (1905-1982) was born Lena Moerkerk on July 25, 1905, in Prospect Park, New Jersey, the eldest of two daughters of Elisabeth Moerkerk, a Dutch immigrant. Her biological father was Bernard Pollack, but she was raised by Leonard Moerkerk, her mother's husband. After completing grammar school, De Vries worked in the silk and cotton mills of Paterson, New Jersey.

De Vries, sometimes known as "Lee," graduated in 1928 from the New Rochelle Hospital Training School for Nurses. That same year she married Wilbur Fuhr, with whom she had a daughter, Mary Lee, in 1930. Fuhr died in January 1931. De Vries earned a high school diploma in 1932 while employed as a nurse and administrator with the Port Chester Visiting Nurse Association. in 1933, she enrolled at Teachers College, Columbia University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in public health and graduating in 1943. In the early 1930s she worked as a social worker and nurse at the Hospital for Joint Diseases and the Margaret Sanger birth control clinic. In 1935, De Vries joined the Communist Party.

De Vries served as a volunteer nurse with the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy, arriving in Spain in January 1937 with the first American Medical Unit, under the direction of Edward K. Barsky and Fredericka I. Martin. Upon her return to the United States several months later, she went on a national speaking tour to raise funds for the anti-fascist cause. Thereafter, she worked as a nurse and public health educator, holding positions with the San Miguel County Public Health Demonstration Unit in New Mexico, the Department of Public Health in Puerto Rico, and the Agricultural Workers Health and Medical Association of Southern California. In 1944, De Vries married Louis Clyde Stoumen with whom she had a daughter, Toby. They divorced in 1948.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, De Vries was monitored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) due to her Communist affiliations. Unable to obtain employment due to blacklisting, she relocated to Mexico in 1949 where she lived for the remainder of her life working as a public health advocate and educator. De Vries was the director of health education for the Comisión del Papaloapan serving the indigenous communities in the Papaloapan River Valley in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. She taught public health at the Universidad Veracruzana in Jalepa, Veracruz, and established summer schools for foreign students there and at the Universidad de Morelos in Cuernavaca. In 1962, De Vries became a Mexican citizen by presidential decree (her American citizenship was withdrawn in 1963.)

De Vries wrote several autobiographical works including El Sótano (1959);  España 1937: Memoria (1965);  The People of the Mountains: Health Education among the Indian Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico (1969);  Please, God, Take Care of the Mule (1972); and  Up from the Cellar (1979).

Lini De Vries died on March 27, 1982, in Ridgewood, New Jersey.