WILKINS, JOSEPHINE MATHEWSON, 1893-1977.
Josephine Mathewson Wilkins papers,1920-1977

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322

404-727-6887

rose.library@emory.edu

Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/901p5


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Wilkins, Josephine Mathewson, 1893-1977.
Title: Josephine Mathewson Wilkins papers,1920-1977
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 580
Extent: 48.25 linear feet (66 boxes), 3 oversized bound volumes (OBV), 2 oversized papers boxes and 1 oversized papers folder (OP), and AV Masters: .25 linear feet (5 phonographs (CLP))
Abstract:Papers of Georgia civil and social reform worker and philanthropist Josephine Mathewson Wilkins including correspondence, subject files, minutes, reports, financial records, press releases, clippings, and photographs.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Source

Gift, 1978 with subsequent additions.

Processing

Processed through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1982


Collection Description

Biographical Note

Josephine Mathewson Wilkins (September 30, 1893-May 30, 1977), leader in civil and social reform work and philanthropist, was born in Athens, Georgia. Her parents, John Julian Wilkins, Sr. and Jessie Stanley Horton Wilkins, were prominent citizens of Athens with interests in both banking and manufacturing.

Wilkins was educated at the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens and at the University of Georgia, and later studied art in New York City. Through most of her adult life, she maintained residences at her family home on Milledge Avenue in Athens and at the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta. Wilkins died in Port Charlotte, Florida, and was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens.

Her activities in the League of Women Voters of Georgia represented Wilkins' earliest involvement in civic work and served as an avenue for her entrance into other social reform movements. She was an officer and executive board member of the League from 1924 to 1950, serving as president from 1934 to 1940 and leading the League to become a potent, non-partisan political force in Georgia.

In 1925, under the auspices of the State Council of Social Agencies, Wilkins began working with the Georgia Children's Code Commission which had been created by the General Assembly in 1922. Georgia was the twenty-fifth state to organize such a group to study existing state laws affecting children and to recommend amendments and new laws in areas including juvenile courts and child labor. Wilkins represented the LWV on the ten-member Commission from 1929 to 1934.

Josephine Wilkins was an early leader in the organization of the Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia (CFFM), formed in August 1937 by seventeen statewide civic, service, and education groups to counteract unfavorable publicity about Georgia's poverty and lack of progress in social and political reform. By collecting and distributing facts about Georgia's assets as well as its problems, the CFFM attempted to inform citizens and to inspire reform. Wilkins served as administrator of the CFFM, overseeing its publishing work and its information, referral and consultant services from the program's beginning until it ceased operations in 1949.

Long a supporter of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Wilkins was actively involved in the work of its successor organization, the Southern Regional Council (SRC) until her death in 1977. She served the SRC as an executive board member and a vice-president.

Frequent periods of ill health and a long convalescence following an accident forced Wilkins to limit many of her activities in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. She acted as a volunteer observer and as a correspondent for New South and The Nation at the United Nations in the 1950s. She was also a member of or an advisor to such social reform and civil rights organizations as the Migrant Children's Fund, the Southern Conference Education Fund, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. From 1954 until the time of her death, she was president of Wilkins, Inc., a business which handled her family's interests in real estate, manufacturing, and farming. She considered this one of her most important responsibilities, and used the corporation's assets and earnings to support much philanthropic work.

Josephine Mathewson Wilkins (September 30, 1893-May 30, 1977), leader in civil and social reform work and philanthropist, was born in Athens, Georgia. Her parents, John Julian Wilkins, Sr. and Jessie Stanley Horton Wilkins, were prominent citizens of Athens with interests in both banking and manufacturing.

Wilkins was educated at the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens and at the University of Georgia, and later studied art in New York City. Through most of her adult life, she maintained residences at her family home on Milledge Avenue in Athens and at the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta. Wilkins died in Port Charlotte, Florida, and was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens.

Her activities in the League of Women Voters of Georgia represented Wilkins' earliest involvement in civic work and served as an avenue for her entrance into other social reform movements. She was an officer and executive board member of the League from 1924 to 1950, serving as president from 1934 to 1940 and leading the League to become a potent, non-partisan political force in Georgia.

In 1925, under the auspices of the State Council of Social Agencies, Wilkins began working with the Georgia Children's Code Commission which had been created by the General Assembly in 1922. Georgia was the twenty-fifth state to organize such a group to study existing state laws affecting children and to recommend amendments and new laws in areas including juvenile courts and child labor. Wilkins represented the LWV on the ten-member Commission from 1929 to 1934.

Josephine Wilkins was an early leader in the organization of the Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia (CFFM), formed in August 1937 by seventeen statewide civic, service, and education groups to counteract unfavorable publicity about Georgia's poverty and lack of progress in social and political reform. By collecting and distributing facts about Georgia's assets as well as its problems, the CFFM attempted to inform citizens and to inspire reform. Wilkins served as administrator of the CFFM, overseeing its publishing work and its information, referral and consultant services from the program's beginning until it ceased operations in 1949.

Long a supporter of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, Wilkins was actively involved in the work of its successor organization, the Southern Regional Council (SRC) until her death in 1977. She served the SRC as an executive board member and a vice-president.

Frequent periods of ill health and a long convalescence following an accident forced Wilkins to limit many of her activities in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. She acted as a volunteer observer and as a correspondent for New South and The Nation at the United Nations in the 1950s. She was also a member of or an advisor to such social reform and civil rights organizations as the Migrant Children's Fund, the Southern Conference Education Fund, and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. From 1954 until the time of her death, she was president of Wilkins, Inc., a business which handled her family's interests in real estate, manufacturing, and farming. She considered this one of her most important responsibilities, and used the corporation's assets and earnings to support much philanthropic work.

Scope and Content Note

The Josephine Mathewson Wilkins papers contain correspondence, subject files, minutes, reports, financial records, press releases, clippings, photographs, and miscellany. The earliest records date from 1920s and document the work of the Georgia Children's Code Commission prior to and during Josephine Wilkins' association with the GCCC. The heaviest concentration of material in the collection dates from the late 1930s and early 1940s and reflects the extensive activity of the Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia (CFFM) during those years.

These papers reveal more about Josephine Wilkins' roles in various organizations than they do about her personal or family life. Purely personal papers and small amounts of material about many organizations with which she was associated are filed in a single series. These papers provide some insight into periods of her personal life and indicate the variety of causes and organizations in which she was interested in the 1950s and 1960s. Larger bodies of records of three organizations with which she was most closely associated have been arranged into three separate series: Georgia Children's Code Commission records, Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia records, and Southern Regional Council records.

The Georgia Children's Code Commission (GCCC) records document some of the Commission's work from its origin through the early 1930s. Correspondence, legislative activity files, and reports indicate the ways in which the GCCC worked to improve Georgia's laws relating to children. Legislative subject files record the specific topics in which the GCCC was interested.

The Citizens' Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia (CFFM) records cover almost every aspect of the work of the Movement. From the original organizing plans through the concluding report, these papers chronicle the complete history of the CFFM from 1937 to 1949. While financial and administrative records, minutes, and reports detail the routine work, the general correspondence and the publications files reveal in great depth how the organization set out to achieve its goals and what impact the Movement had in Georgia and elsewhere. Occasional letters in the CFFM general correspondence provide insight into Josephine Wilkins' thoughts and personality

The Southern Regional Council records provide minimal evidence of Wilkins' activities with the organization. Routine printed materials and copies of letters to members and officers are only occasionally supplemented by items indicating personal contact between her and other SRC leaders.

There are other gaps in the Wilkins papers. There is little personal correspondence or other personal papers prior to the late 1950s or after the mid-1960s. Family papers, including family business records, are not a part of this collection. Despite the importance of the League of Women Voters of Georgia (LWV) in Wilkins' career, only routine correspondence concentrated in the early years of her presidency provides indication of her long association with the LWV. There is little evidence of her activities at the United Nations. Nowhere in the papers are there records about an early lawsuit filed against the county unit system in Georgia by Wilkins and others in the 1940s.

Correspondents represented in the collection include Jessie Daniel Ames, James McBride Dabbs, James A. Dombrowsky, Julia Collier Harris, Julian LaRose Harris, Charles Holmes Herty, Ralph Emerson McGill, James Armstrong Mackay, Richard Milhous Nixon, Eurith Dickinson Rivers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Richard Brevard Russell, Dorothy Rogers Tilly, and Emily Barnelia Woodward.

Arrangement Note

Organized into five series: (1) Personal papers, (2) Georgia Children's Code Commission records, (3) Citizen's Fact-Finding Movement of Georgia records, (4) Southern Regional Council records, and (5) Unprocessed additions.

Finding Aid Note

A name index to personal correspondence, personal subject files, GCCC general correspondence, CFFM general and Town Hall correspondence, and SRC general correspondence is available for Boxes 1-34.


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Description of Series

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