Accession Number: RG 9.Allen, Julia
Julia Allen Collection, 1945-1974
.4 linear ft.
Series I - Biographical Documents
Series II - Social and Political Activities
Series III - Historical Setting of Allen's pre-Civil
Series IV - Speeches
Access and Use
Provenance: Materials in this collection were
donated by Professor Dorothy Tredennick or preserved as part of
the faculty records of Berea College.
Preferred Citation: Julia Allen Collection, Berea College Special
Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.
- RG 7 YWCA Records
- HC 23 Fellowship of Reconciliation
The collection outlines Julia Allen's contributions to Berea College,
her wide circle of friends and colleagues, and her engagement with
social causes. Clippings, correspondence, notes, and scholarly papers
Julia Allen (1896-1974) was recruited to Berea College in 1932 as Assistant
Dean of Women in order to succeed Katherine Bowersox, who had been Dean of
Women since 1907. Julia was a Kentucky native who not only had studied at Mt.
Holyoke and the University of Chicago, but also had worked in a factory, tutored
Italian children in Chicago, and directed YWCA summer camps. For five years
she had taught Chinese girls at a mission school in Nanking. Her genuine interest
in students, her humor, her intellect, and her strong commitment to social
justice made her influential at Berea for 40 years.
Julia Allen initially was housemother to the students in Hunting Hall as well
as Dean of Women. She loved the outdoors, and frequently took groups of students,
both men and women, on nature walks, hikes, and camping expeditions. During
her tenure she encouraged women students to govern themselves within the dormitory
system. She continued to work with the YWCA on campus and beyond, and was active
in the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She taught in the history department almost
every year. After she retired from as Dean in 1959, she continued to teach
part time, introducing the first non-western history courses taught at the
college. After her second retirement, she taught for another semester at Tougaloo
Southern Christian College in Mississippi, and accepted a post on the National
Board of the YWCA.
A Christian social activist, Allen endeavored to fight prejudice, war, and
poverty throughout her career. At one point she actually ran for office on
the Socialist ticket. One of her most daring exploits occurred in 1938, when
she led an integrated team of six students from different colleges (including
Berea) to Arkansas to survey the living conditions of tenant farmers there.
The team stayed in the homes of union members and joined in union rallies and
church services. Allen integrated a professional society of Deans of Women
in Kentucky when she was President in 1940-41, and made sure that when the
regional YWCA met on the Berea College campus it was an integrated gathering.
After her retirement she recruited alumni to protest Berea's failure to host
civil rights volunteers in 1964.
In 1970 Centre College honored her as a distinguished alumna. Her health deteriorated
over the next few years; she died on January 23, 1974. At news of her death,
many whose lives she had touched wrote letters of condolence to Dorothy Tredennick
(Berea 1946), the Berea art professor with whom Julia resided.
1 Manuscript Box
Clippings and correspondence in this series describe the personal qualities
and public achievements for which Allen was honored in her lifetime and at
her death. Her career and some of her activities are documented through Berea
College records, and her wide personal acquaintance is evident in the correspondence.
||Social and Political Activities
||Box 1, cont.
Documents in this series record Allen's support of integration, voting rights,
unions, and pacifism. Early in her career she led an integrated team of students
to survey conditions in Arkansas as guests of the Southern Farmers Tenant Union.
The students were able to document a paucity of health care and decent housing,
the context of racial prejudice, and the resilience and solidarity of the union
members. Years later, when President Francis Hutchins refused Berea's campus
as a training base for students preparing to register voters in Missippippi,
Julia Allen notified a long list of Berea alumni, with a request that they
protest President Hutchins' decision. Some of those letters are in this series.
||Historical Setting of Allen's Pre-Civil Rights Liberalism
||Box 1, cont.
Historian Carolyn Bashaw, in the two papers in this series, placed Allen's
actions opposing segregation as a Southern woman in the context of white liberal
activism prior to the Civil Rights Movement.
Julia Allen said she could talk about issues better than she could write about
them. Yet several speeches in this series were written out and typed, so they
may have been more than ordinarily important to her. Her talks for the YWCA,
however, were organized in detail on note cards, and several sets are included
in this series.
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