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Mrs. Harlan Ward Cooley Papers

Identifier: spe-mhwc

Scope and Contents

This collection presents to researchers the work of Mrs. Cooley and the Chicago Women’s Club in organizing a program for and about women during the celebration of a century of American progress. The collection further reflects the role of women in American society through the speeches and lectures given by many of the country’s most notable women leaders.


  • Creation: 1932 - 1934


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

A Century of Progress was the name given to the 1933 World's Fair, held along Chicago’s lakefront, in what is now Burnham Park, from June 1 to November 1, 1933, and May 26 to October 31, 1934. This was the second international exposition held in Chicago during a 40 year period; the first was the World's Columbian Exposition, which in 1893 played host to over 27 million people in Jackson Park on the city's South Side. A Century of Progress—held to celebrate 100 years since the 1833 incorporation of Chicago as a town, and to boost spirits and the economy during the Great Depression—was equally as popular, with 40 million visitors over its two seasons.

When the Century of Progress Exposition was announced, the Chicago Women’s Club formed a Century of Progress Committee to sponsor a series of lectures entitled, “Women in Civilization.” Mrs. Harlan Ward Cooley (Helen "Nellie" Wooster Cooley) was appointed to head this committee and began by drawing up a list of prospective women speakers covering a wide range of academic, political and social endeavors. From this list she began to send out correspondence requesting participants for the lecture series. Many notable women throughout the United States were queried. The list included such persons as Hull House founder Jane Addams, author and historian Mary B. Beard, Amelia Earhart and Lena M. Phillips, president of the National Council of women.


0.5 Linear Feet (in 1 box)

Language of Materials



Mrs. Harlan Ward Cooley (Helen "Nellie" Wooster Cooley) served as head of the Chicago Women's Club's Century of Progress Committee, which sponsored a series of lectures during the Century of Progress Exposition entitled, "Women in Civilization." This collection includes correspondence between Mrs. Cooley and speakers, as well as copies of speeches delivered at the Exposition.


The collection is arranged alphabetically, first by topic (Correspondence, Lecture Series, Speeches), and then alphabetically within topics.

Custodial History

Donated to Chicago Public Library by Julia Cooley Altrocchi, daughter of Helen (Nellie) Wooster Cooley, April 1954.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from Chicago Public Library’s Social Science and History Department in 1976.

Related Materials

  • Century of Progress Records
  • Century of Progress Scrapbooks

Guide to the Mrs. Harlan Ward Cooley Papers
Original author unknown. Summer, 1983. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875