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Guide to the Charlotte Todes Stern Papers TAM.070

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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(212) 998-2630
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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Nancy Greenberg, 1985.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 30, 2018
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Todes, Charlotte
Source - dnr: Todes, Charlotte
Title: Charlotte Todes Stern Papers
Dates: 1925-1956
Abstract: Charlotte Stern was born Massachusettes in 1897 the daughter of Russian emigrees. She graduated from Radcliffe College and worked as a social worker in East Boston, 1918-23. She worked for the Workers Health Bureau where she traveled the country speaking at local union meetings and state AFL meetings to advocate the implementation of health and safety measures for workers. She became Secretary of the local International Labor Defense in Washington State whose primary agenda was to gain the release of the Centralia prisoners under the banner of the Centralia Liberation Committee. She was also an organizer for the Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Local 560B, the Education Director for the United Office and Professional Workers of America and for Local 6, Hotel and Club Employees Union and was on the Executive Board of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Accused of being a communist front, Stern and most of Refugee Committee's national officers served jail terms. The papers include: organizational records of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, Workers' Health Bureau, Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Union, Local 560, AFL and Hotel and Club Employees Union 6, AFL; clippings; trial briefs; and photographs.
Quantity: 1.75 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Call Phrase: TAM.070

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Historical/Biographical Note

Charlotte Stern was born in Haverhill Massachusetts in 1897. Her parents, both emigrees from Russia, were shoe factory workers who moved to East Boston after her birth. Her mother was determined that she receive the best possible education, to equip her to be independent as an adult; she attended Girls Latin School in Boston, and Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass., class of 1917. Subsequent to college graduation she worked as a social worker in East Boston, 1918-23, during which period she met and married Bernhard J. Stern.

She spent the summer of 1923 in New York at the Workers Health Bureau, recruited by Harriet Silverman, WHB Education Secretary, to whom she had been introduced in Boston; then, with her husband, went to Europe. They lived for some months in Berlin and then in London, returning to New York the following year. At that time Charlotte Stern went to work at the Workers Health Bureau as Organization Secretary, in which role she traveled the country speaking at local union meetings and state AFL meetings advocating implementation of health and safety measures for workers. When Bernhard Stern was appointed Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, in 1927, the couple relocated, and she spent one further year affiliated with WHB, concentrating on the west coast. Due to loss of support from underwriting unions the Bureau closed in 1928 and she spent the next two years as secretary of the local International Labor Defense. Its priority then was the release of 10 prisoners from the Washington State Prison at Wala Walla who had been convicted of murder in 1919 after an American Legion-International Workers of the World confrontation at IWW headquarters in Centralia, Wash. in which 4 legionnaires died. She traveled throughout the state under ILD auspices working to rally public support on behalf of the Centralia prisoners under the banner of the Centralia Liberation Committee, at times in cooperation with, other times in competition with the Centralia Publicity Committee organized by Washington state AFL locals.

In June 1929 six of the Centralia prisoners disavowed the CLC for "capitalizing on our misfortune for selfish political purposes"; this was the culmination of an on-and-off conflict between CLC and CPC over strategy for the release of the prisoners. At about the same time the University of Washington declined to renew Bernhard Stern's contract. Charlotte Stern returned to New York with her husband. She worked at various efforts in the early-mid thirties. In this period she had a child, a daughter, Mira, born in 1931; published, in 1932, Lumber and Labor, and The Injunction Menace, wrote and was briefly an editor for The Worker, and taught at the Workers School and the Jefferson School.

In 1936-37 she became an organizer for the Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Local 560B; in 1938-39, education director for the United Office and Professional Workers of America; in 1941, education director for Local 6, Hotel and Club Employees Union. In l944 she became Local 6's "member" on the Executive Board of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee which had been organized in 1942 (successor to several previous groups) to aid Loyalist refugees of the Spanish Civil War. The JAFRC was subsequently accused by members of the U.S. House of Representatives of being a communist front and most of its national officers, including Charlotte Stern, were convicted in 1947 of contempt of Congress and later served jail terms. Charlotte Stern served three months (June-August, 1950). In October 1950 she lost her job with Local 6 when its leadership changed political direction.

Sources:

  • Charlotte Todes Stern interview with Roz Baxandall, Oral History of the American Left, 1979.

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Scope and Content Note

The Charlotte Todes Stern Papers, spanning the years 1925-1955 have been arranged into eight series, generally chronologically, following the order of Stern's involvement: I. Workers Health Bureau; II. Centralia, Washington Campgain; III. Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee; IV. Writings; V. Trade Union and Labor Education; VI. Womens Committees Membership; VII. Miscellaneous; VIII. Oral History Interview Transcripts. The bulk of the material reflects the Centralia campaign, 1927-30, and the conspiracy charges against the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee by the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1943-50. Additional small amounts of materials pertain to her publications, workers health, education and labor organizing efforts.

Overall the papers reflect Charlotte Stern's life as a progressive activist rather than strategist. The Centralia-ILD correspondence demonstrates the strategist role played by New York-based ILD leaders; there is correspondence from J.P. Cannon, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Martin Abern, Max Shachtman and others, along with day-to-day Charlotte Stern initiated corespondence which manifests her role as seemingly tireless implementer. These materials reflect as well the relationship between the ILD-directed Centralia Liberation Committee and the Centralia Publicity Committee, agreements and disagreements between them on strategy, and different styles of appealing to the public, etc. Materials from the period also include correspondence to Charlotte Stern from individual prisoners, mimeo appeal letters, minutes and meeting notes, resolutions and petitions.

The JAFRC materials provide substantial amounts of documentation of the JAFRC/HUAC case, e.g., trial and appeal briefs, opening defense (O. John Rogge) argument draft, press releases and newspaper clipppings from both progressive and general circulation newspapers, as well as an almost complete set of JAFRC Executive Board meeting minutes for the 1943-48 period along with calls to meetings issued by the Committee's Executive Secretary Helen Bryan. These materials differ considerably from the Centralia ones in that they offer little sense of Charlotte Stern's particular involvement. Identifiable as hers though is a set of political remarks incorporated in several draft versions of a speech she planned to deliver before surrendering to the U.S. Marshalls in June 1950. This is the only section of the collection with references to her family life; these appear in some, mostly handwritten, notes of others to her in the immediate pre- and post-jail period.

Further indications of Charlotte Stern's political interests can be seen in the group of materials organized as "writings." This contains correspondence and reviews related to Lumber and Labor, published in 1932, which focused on working conditions in the lumbering industry, The Injunction Menace, also published in 1932, which dealt with the legal weapons arrayed against labor organizing efforts, and William H. Sylvis and the National Labor Union, correspondence and reviews dating from 1928-45; Sylvis was a 19th century labor progressive. Additional materials here are articles Charlotte Stern published in progressive newspapers and magazines; publication lists and books in print lists including her works; and a series of translations from the German of letters of Rosa Luxemburg, 1916-18, from an edition published in 1946.

Throughout her career Charlotte Stern functioned primarily as a trade unionist and labor educator. In series #l and #5 can be found materials relating to her work with the Workers Health Bureau, the Hairdressers and Cosmetologists, the United Office and Professional Workers of America and Local 6, Hotel and Club Employees, along with Workers School, A Peoples Institute, etc., catalogs containing Charlotte Stern-taught course listings; and a set of course materials relating to various worker education topics, e.g., understanding a contract, etc.

Finally, materials evidencing Charlotte Stern's membership in various Womens' Committees of progressive organizations, i.e., the National Council of Soviet-American Friendship, The American Labor Party, the Congress of American Women, and New York Trade Unions have been grouped together as have small amounts of material classified as biographical, miscellaneous correspondence, brochures and leaflets, ranging from 1935 to 1956; included here is a brochure advertising a social security seminar visiting Western Europe and the Soviet Union in the summer of 1937 which Charlotte Stern led, along with some photographs, some reflectiong Local 6 activities, other unidentified. Duplicates and publications have been transferred to the vertical file and serial collections.

The collection does not provide any indication of the sources of Charlotte Stern's political orientation; researchers should consult oral histories by Ros Baxandall and Dorothy Swanson, part of the Oral History of the American Left Collection, Tamiment Library.

SERIES OUTLINE

Series I: Workers Health Bureau, 1925-28. 3 folders. Includes correspondence, minutes and meeting notes, releases and reports, lists of locals contributing to WHB support, and descriptions of some health and safety measures advocated.

Series II: Centralia, Washington Campaign, 1927-30. l0 folders. Includes correspondence, minutes and meeting notes, resolutions, petitions and other records of the Centralia Liberation Committee, the Centralia Publicity Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, prisoners, and cooperating clergy and unions; correspondence to and from ILD New York leadership to Stern and others including significant correspondents Cannon, Abern, Shachtman (including their resignation from ILD in 1928); also resolutions from Centralia Liberation Conference, news releases, monthly bulletins, photographs, and unique items including postcards from prison, prisoner's memento book.

Series III: Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, 1943-55. 8 folders. Includes meeting minutes, Executive Board, 1943-48, and other materials documenting relief activities of JAFRC, HUAC transcripts and other legal documents, news releases, newspaper clippings, bulletins, mimeo letters and correspondence re HUAC hearings, including IRS recission of JAFRC federal income tax exemption and Stern's notes for Manhattan Center rally speech prior to surrender to federal marshalls.

Series IV: Charlotte Stern's Writings, 1928-45. 5 folders. Includes correspondence and reviews Lumber and Labor,  The Injunction Menace, William H. Sylvis and the National Labor Union; articles and reviews authored by Stern; publication lists and books in print lists; Stern translation of Luxemburg letters.

Series V: Charlotte Stern's Trade Union and Labor Education Activities, undated. 5 folders Includes course outlines, catalogs, and worker education materials and correspondence relating to Stern's work for Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Local 560B , UOPWA, and Local 6, Hotel and Club Employees Union.

Series VI: Charlotte Stern's Womens' Committees Membership. undated. 1 folder. Includes invitations, fund-raising materials issued by National Council of Soviet-American Friendship, American Labor Party, Congress of American Women, New York Trade Unions.

Series VII: Charlotte Stern Miscellaneous, undated. 3 folders. Includes Charlotte Stern biographical material, correspondence, brochures, leaflets, Local 6 and unidentified photographs.

Series VIII: Consists of copies of the transcripts of six interviews conducted in 1976-1977 by Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall, which are in the Library's Oral History of the American Left Collection (NS2).

Arrangement

I. Workers Health Bureau; II. Centralia, Washington Campgain; III. Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee; IV. Writings; V. Trade Union and Labor Education; VI. Womens Committees Membership; VII. Miscellaneous; VIII: Oral History Transcripts

Folders are arranged by topic.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957
  • Todes, Charlotte

Document Type

  • Photographic prints.
  • Briefs (legal documents)
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Case files.

Subject Organizations

  • National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (U.S.)
  • Hairdressers and Cosmotologists Union. Local 506B
  • Workers' Health Bureau
  • Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee
  • New York Trade Union Women's Committee for Peace
  • Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union. Local 6 (Hotel, Restaurant and Club Employees Union) (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Women communists -- United States.
  • Labor unions -- United States.
  • Law -- Cases.
  • Anti-fascist movements -- United States.
  • Communism -- United States.
  • Anti-communist movements -- United States.

Subject Places

  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1953.

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection, created by Charlotte Todes Stern was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Separated Material

Duplicate and publications have been transferred to the vertical file and serial collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Charlotte Todes Stern in 1977, 1982, and 1983. The accession number associated with these gifts is 1977.001.

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Container List

Series I: Workers Health Bureau

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Workers Health Bureau Correspondence.
1925-1928
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Workers Health Bureau Minutes and Notes.
1927-1928
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Workers Health Bureau Releases, Reports, etc.
1926-1928

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Series II: Centralia, Washington Campaign

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Centralia Campaign Correspondence. Centralia Liberation Committee (CTS): to and from International Labor Defense, to Centralia Publicity Committee; to prisoners, clergy, etc. Jan 1928- Mar 1930
1928-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Centralia Campaign Minutes and Meeting Notes; Centralia Liberation Committee. Apr 1928-Jun 1929
1928-1929
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Centralia Campaign Resolutions and Petitions. Centralia Liberation Conference (12/2/28) and others. 1928-Jun 1929
1928-1929
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Centralia Campaign Correspondence. Centralia Publicity Committee to CTS and others; from prisoners, from clergy, etc. 1928-Feb 1930
1928-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Centralia Campaign Resolutions and Petitions. Centralia Publicity Committee. Apr 1928-Dec 1928
1928-1928
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Centralia Campaign Correspondence. Cooperating Unions to International Labor Defense (Centralia Liberation Committee).
1928-1929
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Centralia Campaign News Releases, Monthly Bulletins. International Labor Defense and others (Centralia Liberation Committee, American Civil Liberties Union). May-Dec 1928
1928
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Centralia Campaign Leaflets and Newspaper Clippings
1928-1929
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Centralia Campaign Financial Records. Centralia Liberation Committee, Centralia Publicity Committee.
1928-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Centralia Campaign Photographs, Unique Items (Postcards from Prison, Prisoner's Memento Book).
1929

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Series III: Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, 1943-55

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Executive Board Meeting Minutes.
1943-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Hearings and Trial Briefs.
1946-1948
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Correspondence re: HUAC Hearings, Indictment, and Jailing of Executive Board.
1945-1950
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. News Releases, Bulletins, Mimeo Letters, and Photographs re: HUAC Hearings, Indictment, and Jailing of Executive Board
Jul 1947-Jul 1950
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Newspaper Clippings
1946-1955
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Leaflets, Flyers, Fundraising
1946-1951
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. Correspondence, News Releases, Bulletins, Mimeo Letters
Jun 1950-Nov 1952
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee. General Correspondence re: Fundraising.
1943 , 1947-1948

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Series IV: Charlotte Stern's Writings, 1928-45

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 CT Stern Writings. Lumber and Labor.
1928-1931
Box: 3 Folder : 1b Correspondence and Reviews.
1945
Box: 3 Folder : 2 CT Stern Writings. The Injunction Menace. Correspondence and Reviews.
1932
Box: 3 Folder : 3 CT Stern Writings. William H. Sylvis and the National Labor Union.
1928-1945
Box: 3 Folder : 4 CT Stern Writings. Articles and Reviews, Publishers Lists and Books in Print Lists.
1926-1945
Box: 3 Folder : 5 CT Stern Writings. Translations of Luxemburg Letters 1916-18.
undated

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Series V: Charlotte Stern's Trade Union and Labor Education Activities

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 6 CT Stern Trade Union and Labor Education Activities. Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Local 560B.
1936-1937
Box: 3 Folder : 7 CT Stern Trade Union and Labor Education Activities. United Office and Professional Workers of America.
1938-1939
Box: 3 Folder : 8 CT Stern Trade Union and Labor Education Activities. Hotel and Club Employees, Local 6.
1941-1952
Box: 3 Folder : 9 CT Stern Trade Union and Labor Education Activities. Catalogs (Workers School, A Peoples Institute, National Student League School).
1933-1934 , 1946
Box: 3 Folder : 10 CT Stern Trade Union and Labor Education Activities. Course Outlines.
undated

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Series VI: Charlotte Stern's Womens' Committees Membership

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 11 CT Stern Womens Committees. National Council of Soviet-American
undated

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Series VII: Charlotte Stern Miscellaneous

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 12 CT Stern Miscellaneous. Biographical Material.
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 13 CT Stern Miscellaneous. Correspondence, Leaflets, Brochures.
1935-1956
Box: 3 Folder : 14 CT Stern Miscellaneous. Photographs, Hotel and Club Employees, Local 6, and unidentified.
undated

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Series VIII: Oral History Transcripts

Scope and Contents note

1976 interviews conducted by Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Interview I Transcript (82 pp.)
16 Jan 1976
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Interview II Transcript (52 pp.)
9 Apr 1976
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Interview III Transcript (pp. 79-140)
undated
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Interview IV Transcript (110 pp.)
22 May 1976
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Interview V Transcript (49 pp.)
6 Jun 1976
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Interview VI Transcript (32 pp.)
1 Jan 1977

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