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Louisiana Research Collection. Tulane University. Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Special Collections.
Bessie Margolin papers

Malcom Trifon of Berkeley, California, donated the papers of his aunt, Bessie Margolin, to the Louisiana Research Collection. Margolin was a government attorney, Supreme Court advocate, and champion of labor rights, including equal pay for women. She served as Associate Solicitor of the United States Department of Labor until her retirement in January 1972, after which she taught law and served as a labor arbitrator for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Margolin was born on February 24, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York. Following the death of her mother, Margolin and her siblings were admitted to the Jewish Orphan’s Home in New Orleans, which entitled her to an education at the nearby Isidore Newman Manual Training School. After two years at Newcomb College, Margolin transferred to Tulane University, receiving both her B.A. degree in history and her law degree in 1930. She graduated from Tulane Law School with the second highest academic average and the only woman in her class, was Civil Law Editor of Tulane’s Law Review and was awarded Tulane’s Order of the Coif.

She spent the next three years at Yale Law School, the first two as a research assistant to law professor Ernest Lorenzen and the last as a Sterling Fellow which culminated in her award of J.S.D. (doctor of juridical science). Following a summer job with noted suffragist Doris Stevens, Margolin joined the legal department of the newly created Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1939, she transferred to the United States Labor Department, working to enforce the newly enacted Fair Labor Standards Act. She steadily rose in the ranks at the Labor Department, earning promotions to Assistant Solicitor in 1942, and to Associate Solicitor in 1963, a position she held until her retirement in 1972. Following World War II, she spent six months in Nuremberg, Germany, on loan to the Army, where she drafted the rules that established the American Military Tribunals for Nazi war crimes.

Margolin presented 24 arguments before the Supreme Court and prevailed in 21 of them. She became an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. For her service and contributions to the welfare of America’s working men and women, Margolin received every award the Labor Department offered. Margolin died in Arlington, Virginia in 1996.

The acquisition of the Margolin papers was assisted by attorney, author, and biographer Marlene Trestman. Trestman also arranged and described the Margolin papers and is the author of the finding aid. Trestman is the author of Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin (LSU Press, Southern Biography Series, March 1, 2016).

Preserving the contributions of New Orleans women is a special mission of the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC). A partial guide to LaRC’s extensive women’s holdings is available online here.

Woman's Exchange records

LaRC is the official archives of the Woman’s Exchange (formerly the Christian Woman’s Exchange) and preserves the founding documents of the organization. The Woman’s Exchange recently added eighty linear feet of records to its archives, extending LaRC’s holdings from the founding of the organization to the present.

The Woman’s Exchange (TWE) was established in 1881 and is one of the oldest women-owned and operated nonprofit organizations in the South. Originally established as a human services organization to help women in-need after the Civil War, TWE has evolved into one of the leading historic preservation and interpretation organizations in the country. It currently owns and operates the Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses.

The guide to the the Woman’s Exchange records is available online here.

Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel

LaRC receives LGBT+ grant

The LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana has awarded Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) a grant to preserve the papers of activist Stewart Butler.

Mr. Butler began his civil rights work in New Orleans helping with voter registration drives in the 1970s. In 1980 he was a founding member of LAGPAC, an early advocacy group seeking equal rights for the gay community. Mr. Butler was the only individual to be a part of all three attempts to pass a New Orleans Gay Rights Ordinance in 1984, 1986, and 1991. He has served on the boards of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, LAGPAC, Celebration New Orleans, PFLAG, the LGBT+ Archives Project, and many other organizations dedicated to equal rights for all.

Learn more about Stewart Butler here.

New Orleans Academy of Sciences

Did you know that LaRC has a special mission to preserve the science, engineering, and technology heritage of Louisiana? In support of that mission, LaRC recently released the records of the New Orleans Academy of Sciences.

The New Orleans Academy of Sciences was one of the older scientific organizations in the United States. While initially founded by physicians, its broad mandate was stated clearly in its constitution of April 25th, 1853: “This Association shall be styled the New Orleans Academy of Sciences and its object shall be the advancement of science in all its various departments.” Its topics of interest were therefore wide-ranging and included botany, chemistry, geology, physics, zoology, and engineering.

It was one of the more active scientific societies with members from across the country, including Louis Agassiz, J. B. Debow, Joseph Henry, Alexander von Humboldt, E. K. Kane, C. Edmund Kells, and J. L. Riddell. In 1919, it became the first scientific academy to become formally affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The records comprise roughly twenty linear feet of documents and include correspondence, financial records, scholarly papers, programs, reports, notes and bibliographies, speeches, minutes of meetings (including the first preliminary meeting in 1853), membership information, form letters, photographic portraits, pamphlets, newspaper clippings and other printed items. The guide to the collection is available online here.

Image: plans by the academy for a proposed arboretum at City Park. Click on the image to see the full design.


Gifts to the Louisiana Research Collection are a wonderful way to preserve someone's memory.

Gifts in honor of someone can be of several types: bequests made through a will; deferred gifts that provide you or others with a life income and then benefit the Louisiana Research Collection; or outright gifts, such as cash or marketable securities. For example, Charles L. “Pie” Dufour left a bequest that created the Charles L. “Pie” Dufour Fund. The Dufour Fund made it possible for LaRC to put its carnival design collection online.

Endowed funds are perhaps the most common way to permanently memorialize someone. An endowed fund keeps the principal intact and uses only the income. We can establish an endowed fund in your name or the name of someone you wish to memorialize. For example, the image is of Thelma Toole, mother of author John Kennedy Toole. An anonymous donor created an endowed fund in her memory in 2001, and the Thelma Toole Fund is allowing us to put John Kennedy Toole’s papers online.

LaRC's "Giving Page" has more information. To discuss these and other options for supporting the Louisiana Research Collection, please contact Leon Miller, 504-314-7833.

For more information about Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC), please visit our website.
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Louisiana Research Collection Room 202, Jones Hall, Tulane University,
New Orleans LA 70118
Phone: 504-865-5685 | Fax: 504-865-5761  |