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Mary Barnett Gilson Private Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-008

Scope and Contents

Mary Barnett Gilson was an American Economist. The first three letters in this collection were written by Ronald C. Davidson, a British economist. Both Gilson and Davidson wrote books and articles for technical publications about unemployment relief. These letters reveal the economic theories under consideration at the time of severe unemployment problems in both countries. There is also an envelope with a threppance ha'pney [three and a half pennies] stamp which was hand-stamped in Suffolk, England. Davidson’s letters were sent from England, one in 1929 and two in 1933. The first missive was, in part, an autograph letter accompanying a gift copy to Miss Gilson of Davidson’s book, The Unemployed.

Additional correspondence in the collection include two letters. The first is from Elton Mayo of Harvard University sending Miss Gilson a facetious reply to her apparent complaint about women barred from Widener Library after 6:00 p.m., while men were allowed to remain until 10:00 p.m. The second is from Robert Redfield writing a brief note expressing his agreement that scholars should assume a social responsibility and participate in political activities with objectivity and freedom from emotional conviction.


  • Creation: 1929-1937


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use. 

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Dr. Gilson was born in Uniontown, PA, of Samuel S. and Agnes (Pollock) Gilson. She received her A.B. at Wellesley College in 1899, M.A. at Columbia in 1926, studied at London School of Economics from 1935 to 1936, and received her LL.D from Russell Sage College, Troy, NY in 1945." [1]

Mary Gilson studied labor conditions on sugar plantations in Hawaii in 1925-1926. Also in 1926 she traveled to England and Scotland to visit employment exchanges and interview officials concerned with administration of unemployment insurance. The winter of 1929-1930 saw her back in England interviewing government officials, employers, trade union leaders and workers – both insured and uninsured.[2]

From this intense study came her book, Unemployment Insurance In Great Britain, in 1931, was a Guggenheim fellow from 1939-1940, published What’s Past Is Prologue in 1940, and retired in 1942, emeritus. She continued her activities as mediator, consultant, and special lecturer, as well as chairing several federal industry committees.

In the preface of her book, Unemployment Insurance In Great Britain, Miss Gilson acknowledged her indebtedness to Ronald C. Davison of the London School of Economics and frequently quoted his The Unemployed[3] and What’s Wrong With Unemployment Insurance.[4]

(George) Elton Mayo was born in Adelaide, Austrailia on December 26, 1880, of George Gibbls and Hetty May (Donaldson) Mayo. He received his B.A. in 1910 and his M.A. in 1919, both degrees from Adelaide University. Years later, he was awarded an honorary M.A. from Harvard University in 1942. He began his career at Harvard in 1926 as associate professor of industrial research and remained at Harvard until his retirement in 1947 as professor emeritus.[5] In 1933 he published The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization[6]and in 1945 the related Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization.[7] He also wrote numerous articles for technical journals. Elton Mayo died in 1949.

A native Chicagoan, Robert Redfield was born on December 7, 1897, of Robert and Bertha (Dreier) Redfield. In 1920 he received his Ph.B., in 1921 his J.D., and in 1928 his Ph.D., all from the University of Chicago. Redfield began his long and productive career with the University of Chicago in 1927 as an instructor of anthropology. By 1934 he was Professor Redfield and served as Dean of the Division of Social Sciences from 1934-1936. From 1947-1949 he was the Chairman of the University’s Department of Anthropology.

As a research associate of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in charge of ethnological and sociological fieldwork from 1930-1946, he did a great deal of research in Mexico that resulted in several books and articles. Redfield and his wife, Margaret Park Redfield, collaborated frequently on their writings as well as publishing individual works.

Redfield directed the American Council of Race Relations from 1947 to 1950 and received the Huxley Memorial medal in 1955. [8].

[1] Who’s Who In America. Chicago, IL: A.N. Marquis Co., 1948. Vol. 25, p.919.

[2] Gilson, Mary Barnett. Unemployment Insurance in Great Britain, The National System and Additional Benefit Plans. London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. Published in U.S. by Industrial Relations Counselors, Inc., NY, 1931. pps.vii-viii.

[3] Davison, Ronald C. The Unemployed. NY: Longmans, Green & co., 1929.

[4] Davison, Ronald C. What’s Wrong With Unemployment Insurance. NY: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930.

[5] Who’s Who In America. Chicago, IL: A.N. Marquis Co., 1948. vol. 25, p.1618.

[6] Mayo, Elton. The Human Problems of and Industrial Civilization. NY: Viking Press, 1960. (1933 copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.)

[7] Mayo, Elton. The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Boston, MA: Harvard University, 1945.

[8] Who’s Who In America. Chicago, IL: A.N. Marquis Co., 1958. vol. 30, p.2277.

Note written by Judith H. Davis and Deborah A. Edwards


7 Folders (Contains 7 folders of material.)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Ms Gertrude Weil in 1971.

Related Materials

1. Gilson, M. B. (1931). Unemployment insurance in Great Britain: The National System and Additional Benefit Plans. New York: Industrial Relations Counselors. Record:

2. Davison, R. C. (1929). The unemployed, old policies and new. London, New York: Longmans, Green and. Record: Signed by Davison.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Judith H. Davis in 1976. In 2014, this manuscript collection was re-foldered and re-housed with current archival standard materials by Christine Hockaday.

Mary Barnett Gilson Private Papers
Judith H. Davis and Deborah A. Edwards
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository