OF PERSONAL, PROFESSIONAL LIFE
For Immediate Release
March 20, 2001
A donation by the
son of the pioneering journalist
gives Mount Holyoke College the largest collection of
Edward R. Murrow's private papers
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- A collection of papers recently donated to Mount Holyoke College promises to yield details of the private life of pioneering broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and new insights on his relationship with his wife, the late Janet Brewster Murrow, who graduated from the college in 1933.
The seven boxes of correspondence, diaries and other materials donated by the Murrows' son, Casey, gives Mount Holyoke the largest collection of Murrow's private papers. The college received the first installment of the papers in 1984. The papers span Brewster Murrow's life, including the years just after her graduation from MHC; their first years of marriage in the mid-1930s, Brewster Murrow's career in journalism and her war relief efforts during World War II; the couple's war years in London and their relationship with an elite social circle there; and, during the McCarthy era, CBS's blacklisting of accused "communists."
Included in the new material are correspondence with family and friends; broadcasts, speeches, articles and notes; diaries recording the couples' daily activities; documents relating to Murrow's early work in radio and television and with the United States Information Agency; passports, memorabilia and other documents - including Brewster Murrow's English driver's license. The donation makes Massachusetts home to the two largest collections of Murrow's papers; Tufts University in Boston has the most extensive archives related to Murrow's professional work.
A preliminary review of the papers, which will not be fully organized for two to three years, shows that Murrow and Brewster Murrow "were a team," said Peter Carini, director of archives and special collections at MHC. "It shows what a woman could do at that time -- what she was able to accomplish, and what she wasn't." Because of Mount Holyoke's special place in women's education as the nation's oldest women's college, "it's important to us to be able to show this particular woman's strengths and accomplishments and how she supported her husband's accomplishments," Carini said. Unlike her husband, Brewster Murrow has not yet been the subject of a biography.
Brewster Murrow was honored for her wartime work in evacuating children from Britain to the United States, and was chairperson of the Bundles for Britain program, which provided supplies, medicine, and hospital equipment. She also served as a war correspondent, accompanying the first Army field hospitals set up after the D-Day invasion of Europe, and flew with the Air Ambulance Service as a reporter. She shared in her husband's work as well, helping write dispatches from the British countryside in the early days of the war as part of an effort to build American support for the war effort. Notes that husband and wife wrote to each other during this work are included in the recently donated papers.
Murrow (1908-1965) met Janet Huntington Brewster during a visit to Mount Holyoke in 1931, when he was president of the National Student Federation of America. They married in 1934, and he began his CBS career a year later, during the earliest years of news and public affairs programming on radio. With his signature sign-on, "This is London," Murrow broadcast radio reports from the rooftops of that city during the pivotal Battle of Britain. After the war, he created the See It Now news and public affairs program, which included such breakthrough programming as "on location" reports from South Korea during the war, and his interview with Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954. From 1953 through 1958, he interviewed some of the world's leading figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe for his Person to Person show. His subsequent program, Small World, featured Murrow as the moderator of remote-telecast discussions among world leaders.
Murrow was known for his extraordinary courage, integrity, sense of social responsibility, and journalistic excellence, and was an outspoken foe of McCarthyism and advocate of democratic ideals. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to head the United States Information Agency, a post he held until 1964. That same year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died in 1965.
After the war, Brewster Murrow became active in addressing issues of poverty in New York City, and twice hosted her husband's Person to Person show. She also became a member of Mount Holyoke's Board of Trustees, serving from 1949 to 1959, and 1960 to 1970. She also served on the board of National Public Radio, and helped establish WGBY, a public television station in Springfield, Massachusetts. After her husband's death, Brewster Murrow moved to South Hadley, and worked for the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum until her retirement in 1978. She died in 1998.