By Jonathan McConnell
The Helen Schleman papers contains papers, clippings, and photographs documenting Helen Shleman’s life, especially in reference to her professional activities as Purdue Dean of Women (1947–1968) and as an activist and advocate for women’s rights.
Scope and Contents of the Materials
The Helen Schleman papers (1920–2001; 5 cubic feet) documents the life of Helen B. Schleman from her time as a student at Northwestern University in the 1920s to her death in 1992. Much of the collection documents Schleman’s time at Purdue University as Head of Women’s Residence Halls, Dean of Women, and Dean Emeritus, as well as her military service in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARs) during World War II. In addition to Purdue history, the collection contains Shleman’s collection of newspaper clippings pertaining to the women’s liberation struggle of the 1970s. Types of materials include: personal and professional correspondence, school and employment records, speech notes, published material, newspaper clippings, photographs, pamphlets from professional organizations, and documents about Schleman’s charitable work.
Helen Blanche Schleman (1902-1992), noted "unapologetic feminist," came to Purdue in 1934 as director of the first women's residence hall, subsequent to the razing of Ladies Hall in 1927. After taking a four-year leave of absence to serve in the Women's Coast Guard Reserve during World War II, Schleman returned to Purdue in 1947 as Dean of Women. She is acknowledged for having fought for women's rights at Purdue, including terminating the curfew for women students and spearheading a freshman conference program for women. Also during her tenure at Purdue, she earned a master's degree in education and psychology. Schleman retired as Dean of Women in 1968 and went on to become founder and first director of the Span Plan, a program which encourages adult students to continue or start their college careers. She remained an active member of the community until her death in 1992. Schleman Hall, which now houses the Purdue's Student Services department, is named in her honor.
Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Second donation received from Sarah J. Watlington, March 7, 2008.
Alternate Extent Statement:
Collection is open for research.
Donation received from Barbara Cook and Sarah J. Watlington
Helen Schleman had close ties to three other Deans of Women: Dorothy Stratton, Beverley Stone, and Barbara Cook. More photos, correspondence, and other materials relating to Schleman can be found in those collections.
MSF 334, Helen B. Schleman collection, Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Finding Aid Revision History:
While processing the Dean of Women Office Records papers, the archivist discovered two cubic feet of speech notes, dated from 1944 to 1988, belonging to Helen Schleman. This material has been organized by date into five manuscript boxes and added to Series 3 of the Helen Schleman papers.
Box and Folder Listing Browse by Series:
[Series 1: Biographical Information, 1921 - 2001],
[Series 2: Correspondence, 1943 - 1990
[Series 3: Speeches and Written Material, 1923 - 1979
[Series 4: Personal files, 1950 - 1989
[Series 5: Pamphlets and Publications, 1922 - 1988
[Series 6: Other Purdue Material, 1955 - 1985
[Series 7: Research Files, 1965 - 1992
[Series 8: Photographs
[Series 9: Artifacts and Oversized Material