Scope and arrangement
The three largest series in this collection of Cohn's papers are Correspondence, Writings, and ILGWU. The Correspondence series contains letters written and received by Cohn. The Writings series contains typescripts of many of Cohn's speeches, articles, plays, and other writings. The ILGWU series documents the activities of the some ILGWU officers, and has a good amount of material on the ILGWU Education Department. Only small amounts of material document the activities of the Workers' Education Bureau, Brookwood Labor College, the Manumit School for Workers' Children, and Pioneer Youth of America, in all of which Cohn was active.
These papers contain a relatively small and random sample of the much larger number of letters and documents which must have crossed Cohn's desk during her long and active professional career.
The Fannia M. Cohn papers are arranged in nine series:
- 1914-1962; n.d.
The correspondence series is the largest in the collection, filling five boxes. Of these, three contain letters (including typescript copies) received by Cohn, 1914-1962, and two contain original letters, and copies and drafts of letters she wrote, 1919-1961. Letters are in chronological order. The correspondence chiefly concerns ILGWU Educational Department matters. Some correspondence with A.J. Muste concerning Brookwood Labor College, and with friends, including Evelyn Preston and Theresa Wolfson, is included. Cohn's correspondents include ILGWU officials; representatives of other labor unions; workers' education, labor, and education organizations in the United States and Europe; journals; scholars; and some prominent individuals including Charles Beard (typescripts only), A. Philip Randolph, and Norman Thomas.
- ca. 1920s-1950s
Included are typescripts of Cohn's speeches (including her ILGWU convention addresses for 1934, 1947, 1950, and 1956); articles; essays for ILGWU pamphlets and other publications; texts of discussions; and plays, some written with Irwin Swerdlow, on labor topics for use by union members. Her topics are chiefly workers' education, labor, the activities and history of the ILGWU and its Educational Department (including her 21 chapter essay The International Ladies Garment Workers Union: Its History and Development,n.d.), and the role of women in labor. Writings are alphabetical by title. Untitled writings are alphabetical by their first lines. Some fragmentary writings are included.
A variety of documents, ca. 1920s-1950s, relating to the Educational Department and to the ILGWU as a whole are gathered here as general files. Included are statements, lists, notes, accounts, plans, statistics, conference documents, and letters sent and received by various ILGWU officials, including presidents Morris Sigman and David Dubinsky, and including a few by Cohn. Also included are scattered minutes of various ILGWU bodies, including the Education Committee and the Education Council, 1920s-1940s; reports, both typescript and printed, 1920s-1950s; announcements and lists of courses, lectures, panel discussions, trips, and social events offered by the Educational Department, 1920s-1960s; descriptions of courses, 1920s-1930s, offered by the Educational Department to its members on labor and liberal arts topics (lecturers included William Kennedy, Joel Seidman, and Carl Van Doren); typescript lectures, research papers, and student writings; panel discussion presentations, 1940s-1950s; lists of program attendees, union members, and other individuals; letters and mimeographed material relating to the ILGWU Student Fellowships, 1940s-1950s; and clippings (some in Yiddish) and printed material.
General files contain a mixture of memoranda, letters, lists, minutes, press releases, conference documents, accounts, and reports. A few issues of Workers' Education Bureau periodicals, and some printed material, are also included.
Correspondence, 1924-1937, consists chiefly of letters to and from Chair of Faculty A.J. Muste. By-laws, reports (of note is a report, probably by Muste, on Brookwood delivered at the Second International Conference on Workers' Education, Oxford, England, 1924), minutes, and printed material are included. Also included is a file of letters, accounts, and legal and other documents, ca. 1926-1938, concerning Brookwood's financial problems. See the Writings series for addresses by Cohn on Brookwood.
Included is a file of letters, 1928, written in response to Herman Bernstein's invitations to serve on the Edwin Markham Testimonial Committee. The committee, on which Cohn served, was created to organize a tribute to Markham on the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of his poem “The Man With the Hoe.” Charles Beard, Clarence Darrow, Lillian Wald, and other prominent figures are among the respondents. Letters dating to 1930 concerning other tributes to Markham are included.
Personal ephemera consists of certificates awarded to Cohn by the ILGWU and the American Federation of Labor; a dedication, in Russian, torn out of a Russian book; and printed material. Miscellaneous, fragmentary, and unidentifiable items relating to Cohn's professional activities are also included.
Included are candid and posed, group and individual portraits of Fannia Cohn. Many show her participating in ILGWU Educational Department activities, including classes, lectures, museum trips, plays, and events at Unity House. Also included are photographs of Cohn at the Second International Conference on Workers' Education, Oxford, 1924; on the boardwalk during the 1934 ILGWU convention at Atlantic City, New Jersey; and at her 1962 retirement luncheon.
Oversized items from all parts of the collection are stored with the photographs.
Reprints of articles, brochures, flyers, and other printed material issued primarily by workers' education and labor groups.