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Faith Rich Papers

Identifier: spe-c00123

Scope and Contents

The Faith Rich Papers date from 1821 to 1993, however, the bulk of the material dates from 1938 to 1989 when Rich was active with numerous civic groups and causes. The collection includes Rich’s correspondence; the meeting minutes and materials from various civic groups; and publications, reports and other documentation related to her research and activism. Rich was active with multiple groups simultaneously, however, the organizations with the most documentation in the collection includes the Chicago Westside Branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Schools Committee, Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI), Literary Council of Chicago, 15th Place Block Club and the Loglan Institute. The topics covered in Rich’s papers include civil rights, desegregation, education, environmentalism, housing, linguistics, literacy, labor rights, racial justice, urban renewal, voting districts and family matters.

The papers and photographs that date from before 1938 mostly document Theodore Rich’s family and ancestors.

Although the collection is arranged into distinct series there is significant cross over between subjects and/or organizations. Researchers are strongly encouraged to consult the collection broadly.


  • 1821 - 1993
  • Majority of material found in 1938-1980s


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Faith Rich (1909-1990), née Baldwin, was a white community activist, educator and civil rights advocate. She was born in Vermont in 1909 to a family of farmers. She received a bachelor’s degree from University of Vermont and a doctoral degree in Classics from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania in 1934 but was unable to publish her PhD thesis until 1943. She married fellow Vermont resident, Theodore Freeling Rich, or Ted, in the mid-1930s and joined him in Chicago where he had been completing his graduate work at the University of Chicago.

Upon arriving in Chicago in the 1930s, Rich was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create a farm journal, but soon found herself organizing laundry workers for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). During this time, she became acquainted with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rich’s active membership with the NAACP began around 1945 and lasted until her death in 1990. She served in a variety of roles for the local organization, most notably on the Education Committee that she chaired in 1956-1957 at the time that her landmark study, De Facto Segregation in Chicago Public Schools, was released. Additional initiatives included the Textbook Committee’s research and proposed revisions in school textbooks in 1946-1947 to remove bias and better reflect contributions made by African Americans, Catholics, Jews and other groups.

Rich’s mission to achieve racial justice and equality led to her participation with a wide range of other community organizations and projects over the course of her life, especially with regard to issues of education and urban renewal. She served as a member of the George W. Collins High School’s Local School Council, on the board of the Literacy Council of Chicago and worked on education and districting issues with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI). Her papers reflect her research and efforts to improve student reading capabilities through the use of phonics and other teaching innovations. As a white activist in her North Lawndale community on Chicago’s West Side, Rich spent decades advocating for housing and other neighborhood stabilization efforts with the 15th Place Block Club (part of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission, GLCC). Rich was also interested in how urban renewal affected urban life and socioeconomic opportunity at the city and the community levels. Related to urban development was her lifelong passion for environmental issues and her efforts to transform vacant neighborhood lots into urban gardens.

Throughout her adult life Rich was employed as a temporary office worker, which allowed her flexibility to set her own schedule. She gained a teaching certificate in education, but preferred to work as a substitute teacher or tutor for the same reason. She retired in 1972.

Rich’s husband, Ted, served in Europe during World War II from 1943-1945 where his facility with languages earned him transfer from the Infantry to the Ordnance where he taught German. After the war he worked for the American Medical Association as an editor and writer and also for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Faith Rich died on March 12, 1990. Ted died in 2009. Faith and Ted Rich had no children.


21 Linear Feet (in 41 boxes including 206 photographs)

Language of Materials



Faith Rich (1909-1990) was a white community activist, educator and volunteer with numerous organizations including the Chicago Westside Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI), the 15th Place Block Club, the Literacy Council of Chicago and local PTAs. She focused her organizing efforts on issues of civil rights, desegregation of schools and neighborhoods, equality in education, racism and the effect of urban renewal on local communities and especially, her own North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago. Her collection contains her voluminous correspondence with family, friends and fellow activists along with meeting materials from social justice organizations and a sizeable library of publications that document Chicago’s urban renewal initiatives from the 1950s-1970s.


The papers are organized into four series.

Series 1: Biographical, 1928-1993

Series 2: Community Activism and Volunteer Work, 1912-1993

Series 3: Subject Files, 1935-1990

Series 4: Theodore Rich Family, 1821-1970

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Theodore "Ted" Rich in 1993.

Related Materials

Bethel New Life Records

Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Collection

CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), Chicago Chapter Archives

Lawndale-Crawford Community Collection

Lawndale-Crawford Historical Association Records

North Lawndale Community Collection

O’Quinn Family Papers

West Side Council of Parents and Teachers Records

West Side Newspaper Collection

Faith Rich Papers, 1957-1966, Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives, Madison, WI.

Guide to the Faith Rich Papers
Michelle McCoy
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2020: Processed by Meghan Courtney, Dominique Fuqua and T.J. Szafranski with the CLIR funded Black Metropolis Research Consortium “Color Curtain Processing Project,” March 20, 2013. Reprocessed by Michelle McCoy, 2020.

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