Florence Stewart and Robert Kerr Papers 1917-1963 1937-1948

Identity elements

Reference code

US US-IaGG MS/MS 01.24

Name and location of repository

Level of description



Florence Stewart and Robert Kerr Papers 1917-1963 1937-1948




Name of creator


Biographical history

Born in Tennessee in 1890, Florence Stewart Kerr and family moved to Iowa when she was an infant.  She grew up in Marshalltown and attended Grinnell College from 1908-1912 where she formed a lifelong friendship with Harry Hopkins.  Florence married Robert Y. Kerr in 1915; she taught English at the College from 1921-26 and 1931-32.

In 1930 she was named a member of the Iowa Unemployment Relief Council; in 1935 Hopkins recommended her as one of five regional directors of the Division of Women's and Professional Projects within the Works Progress Administration (alternately called the Work Projects Administration).  She was promoted to Assistant Administrator of the WPA and Director of the Women's and Professional Projects in 1938 and worked in Washington, D.C. until the WPA ended in 1943.

She became director of the war public services of the Federal Works Agency and later served as an executive with Northwest Airlines.  She retired in the mid 1950s and lived in D.C. until her death in 1975.

Robert Y. Kerr, a native of Newton, Iowa, served on the editorial staff of The American Lumberman and as Executive Secretary of Grinnell College.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The collection contains an oral interview with Florence Kerr; photographs, personal correspondence (notably with President and Mrs. Roosevelt), and other items unrelated to her business life; correspondence and other materials relating to her defense activities in 1941; and materials from two productions of the Federal Theater Project.

The bulk of the collection contains correspondence, memos, and reports from her tenure with the Work Projects Administration and includes numerous WPA publications.  There are two photograph albums and ten scrapbooks of newspaper clippings regarding her WPA activities.

Also included is correspondence of her husband, Robert Y. Kerr.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

For permission to quote for publication from writings of the Kerrs in this collection, contact Thomas Hunter, 57 Avon Street South #28, St. Paul, MN 55105

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Kerr papers were donated to the Archives by Mrs. Kerr's nieces, Janet Stewart Hunter, Myra Stewart Boots, and Lois Stewart Cox in November 1985.

Immediate source of acquisition


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Kerr, Robert.  Retail Lumber Sheds Sales Equipment. 1917.  (shelved 82.4 .K46r)

Oversized Material Shelved Near the Kerr Collection:

7 photographs (Presidents Roosevelt and Johnson; Harry Hopkins and Diana; Robert Kerr), ca. 11 x 14

10 scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, Jan. 1939-April 1946, covering Florence Kerr's WPA activities and career

Oversized Materials Housed in Oversize #1, Manuscript Drawers:

2 photograph albums: Florence S. Kerr, Assistant Commissioner W.P.A. Her visit to Oklahoma, Feb. 1941, and Florence Kerr's W.P.A. activities, ca. 1941.

Home Defense Commission. Home Defense for America. 33 typed leaves (carbon copy), no date

4 posters

Related descriptions

Notes element

Specialized notes

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Accession area