National League of American Pen Women

Women's Museum of California Library & Archives

Guide to the California Branches of the National League of American Pen Women (NLPW), 1949-1998)

Collection Overview

Title: California Branches of the National League of American Pen Women

Accession Number: AC-003

Prepared by: Agata Skinner

Head Archivist: Charla Wilson

Date Acquired: Unknown

Date Processed: March 10, 2014

Location: Women's Museum of California, San Diego, CA

Language: Collection material is in English

Extent: One box, and artwork

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open to research

Use Restrictions: None

Historical Note                                                                                                                                                   

The National League of American Pen Women is an organization of professional women artists, composers, and writers, founded in Washington D.C. in 1897 by Marian Longfellow O’Donohue (niece of poet Henry Wardsworth Longfellow).[1] The organization was established to answer a need for a literacy club for women since existing literacy clubs excluded women writers from becoming members. With time, the NLAPW not only welcomed writers, but also professional artists, dramatists, lecturers, and composers. Today, professional credentials are required for all members because, according to one of the main League’s objectives, Pen Women should always be paid for their work.

Brief History of the National League of Pen Women

On June 26, 1892 Marian Longfellow O’Donohue, with the help of Margaret Sullivan Burke (correspondent for newspapers across the country), and Ann Sanburne Hamilton (newspaper woman), organized a meeting for women writers in Washington. The three founders had a desire to create “the progressive press union” for female writers. They invited seventeen women: writers, novelists, journalists, a teacher, a poet, and artists. This meeting initiated the National League of American Pen Women – organization where female writers would find “aid, advice and future development for each other and for their careers.”[2]        

By September 1898 the League had over 50 members. In 1921 the organization, previously called The League of American Pen Women, became The National League of Pen Women, with 35 local branches in various states, and headquarters in the historical Pen Arts Building in the Du Point Circle, Washington DC. Marian Longfellow O’Donohue created the League’s constitution and bylaws. Alice R. Morgan designed its insignia – the owl (symbol of wisdom) put in a triangle formed by a red pen, blue, pencil and white brush (colors of American Flag), and “one for all, all for one” became the League’s official motto. Over the years, the NLAPW opened over 200 local Branches, governed by the National Executive Board. Currently, the League has 108 branches in 39 states. 11 of the League’s branches are located in California (Diablo Alameda Branch, Golden Gate – Marin Branch, Modesto Branch, Napa Valley Branch, Sacramento Branch, Santa Clara Branch, Stockton-Lodi Branch, Inland Empire Branch, La Jolla Branch, Laguna Beach Branch, Palm Springs Branch).          

The League offers various types of memberships: active, associate, international, affiliates, and honorary members. The main objective of the NLAPW is to stimulate the “exchange of ideas and techniques provided by workshops, discussion groups, professional lectures.”[3] The organization encourages its members to produce creative works in the Art, Letters, and Music through various art shows, writing, poetry, art and music contests at the Branch, State, Regional and National levels, and through the League’s official magazine – The Pen Women. NLAPW also promotes professionalism in Art, Letters and Music among non-member women, by offering scholarships, which will encourage them to get further education and achieve their professional goals.[4] 

Summary of the Collection:                                                                                          

The Pen Women Collection consists of one box divided into seven series. The collection contains historical material documenting everyday life of the California region of NLAPW, such as Programs and Event Flyers (1949-1989); Newsletters (1960-1994); Correspondence; and Achievement Reports. The Collection mainly focuses on the San Diego Branch of the NLAPW, and contains its Minutes and Reports, (1959-1996); Programs and Event Flyers, (1979-1996); Correspondence; Obituaries; Administrative Papers (1978-1997); Achievement Reports; Yearbooks (1916-1996); San Diego Branch History Book (1993-1996); Photographs; and Newspaper Clippings. The Pen Women Collection also contains NLAPW publications, such as The Pen and Palette and The Pen Women, and original writings by NLAPW members. Moreover, the collection contains numerous material documenting life, art works and achievements of Helen Pugh – former President of the San Diego Branch, such as: autobiographical notes, original writings (poetry, short story), original art work (book illustrations, sketches, and drawings).

Container List: Box and Folder material

Box 1:

Series 1 Subject Files Newsletters, Minutes, Reports, Rosters, Administrative documents

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 1: Newsletters, 1960-1994

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 2: San Diego Branch Minutes & Reports, 1959-1997

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 3: San Diego Branch Administrative Papers, 1978-1997

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 4: Correspondence, Achievement Reports

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 5: Roster, 1964-1968, 1974-1978

Series 1: Box 1: Folder 6: Obituaries


Series 2 Subject Files Programs, Event Flyers and Brochures

Series 2: Box 1: Folder 7: Programs and Event Flyers – California, 1949-1989

Series 2: Box 1: Folder 8: San Diego Branch Programs and Event Flyers, 1979-1996

Series 2: Box 1: Folder 9: National Brochures 


Series 3 Files Subject Writings and Artwork

Series 3: Box 1: Folder 10: NLAPW Writings

Series 3: Box 1: Folder 11: Helen Pugh's Biography, notes and poetry

Series 3: Box 1: Folder 12: Helen Pugh's Original Writings

Series 3: Box 1: Folder 13: Helen Pugh's Artwork


Series 4 Files Subject NLAPW Publications

Series 4: Box 1: Folder 14: The Pen & Palette,1971

Series 4: Box 1: Folder 15: The Pen Women 1/4, 1963-1985

Series 4: Box 1: Folder 16: The Pen Women 2/4, 1986-1995

Series 4: Box 1: Folder 17: The Pen Women 3/4, 1995-1996

Series 4: Box 1: Folder 18:  The Pen Women 4/4, 1997-1998


Series 5 Subject Files Yearbooks

Series 5: Box 1: Folder 19: San Diego and Long Beach Branch Yearbooks, 1919-1996

Series 5: Box 1: Folder 20: San Diego Branch Yearbooks, 1919-1996

Series 5: Box 1: Folder 21: San Diego Branch History Book, 1993-1994

Series 5: Box 1: Folder 22: San Diego Branch History Book, 1994-1996


Series 6 Subject Files Photographs

Series 6: Box 1: Folder 23: Photographs


Series 7 Subject Files Press Clippings

Series 7: Box 2: Folder 24: Press Clippings

Scope and Contents of the Materials                                                                                                                                                Series 1: Box 1

Series 1 contains Newsletters (from the years 1960-1996) from the Southern California region of the NLAPW, and San Diego Branch, such as Southern California Owl News, The Voice of The San Diego Branch NLAPW, The Owletter, California Newsletter, Think Pen Women, and The Owlmanac. The newsletters provide information about NLAPW upcoming events, such as: contests; workshops; seminars; scholarship opportunities; scholarship recipients; press notices; and annual achievement reports (which focus on the member’s publications, art exhibits, awards, and received degrees).                                                                                                                                 

Series 1 also includes hand written and printed San Diego Branch Minutes and Treasurer’s Reports from the years 1959-1997. The minutes document the San Diego Branch’s Monthly Meetings and contains detailed information about Branch activities: nominations for awards, announcements, discussions on various topics, achievement reports, information about scholarship recipients, and budget plans. This folder contains a report from the Membership meeting, held on the May 19, 1997, during which members discussed the closing of the San Diego Branch due to diminishing memberships.

In Series 1 we can find the San Diego Branch Administrative Papers from the years 1978-1997. The folder contains bylaws, procedural policies, an original NLAPW membership application, and membership acceptance letters. Series 1 also holds News Releases from the years 1980-1982 prepared by Helen Pugh, containing information about upcoming events organized by the San Diego Branch. This series also includes a hand-written report from the election of the new San Diego Branch officers for the years 1980-1992, and correspondence regarding San Diego Branch membership. Moreover, Series 1 includes a Guest Book containing lists of members present during the San Diego Branch monthly meetings, from the years 1990-1996 (with member’s signatures and addresses).

Series 1 also holds correspondence on various topics between NLAPW Branches. This Series also contains annual Achievement Reports prepared by San Diego Branch Members, listing their professional achievements; Helen Pugh submitted most of the Reports. In Series 1 we can also find Press Release informing about Literary Hall of Fame Award for NLAPW (the first award given to any organization).Moreover, this series contains three Certificates of Approval for San Diego Branch from the NLAPW Headquarters.

Series 1 also contains NLAPW Rosters and Bylaws from the years 1964-1968, 1974-1978. This series contains letters dated March 18, 1976, from Maurine H. Abernathy, 3rd Vice President and Legal Adviser, suggesting a revision to the bylaws, regulating rules of selling the League's property. According to Abernathy’s, existing bylaws leave important decisions (such as selling or buying NLAPW building) in hands of too small number of members.

Moreover, Series 1 contains Obituaries devoted to San Diego Branch Members, including Zella Dickinson (a nationally known artist), who passed away in 1982; Louise Welk White, a local poet and former president of the San Diego Poets Association, who passed away in 1983; Hilda Inch, a painter and poet, member of NLAPW and President of San Diego Branch in 1970's; Scott Boyles, a retired journalist and novelist. This folder also contains, hand-made in memoriam notes commemorating Clara Welk; and a letter to Miss Chadwick, informing about the death of Mary Butchal, sent by her daughter.                                                                                

Series 2: Box 1

Series 2 of the Box 1 holds Programs and Flyers from events that happened in the Southern California region between the years 1949-1989, such as: Pacific South Regional Conference, Southwestern Regional Conference, Annual State Conventions, Annual World Festival, exhibitions, concerts.                                                                                                                                                                     

Series 2 also contains various Event Flyers and Programs from San Diego Branch of NLAMP, from the years 1979-1996. Many of them are hand made by the Branch members. We can find there Christmas cards, event brochures, Scholarship Day Program, Annual Fall and Spring Luncheons programs from the years 1981, 1984-1987, 1992-1994.                                                                                                                                                                                            

Series 2 also holds National Brochures providing valuable historical information about the NLAPW beginnings, its structure, laws and objectives. We can find a brochure published in 1997, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the NLAPW. This series also contains the Handbook for Regional, State and Branch Officers, and a Brochure presenting Grace Powers Hudson - a candidate for National President from the years 1986-1988. Series 2 also includes an article from Pen Women Magazine, written by Shirley Holden Helberg (National Scholarship Chairman), regarding the ten-year history of founding the NLAPW Mature Women Scholarship trust. We can also find there a report prepared by Shirley Holden Helberg, regarding preparation for the 1994 Mature Women Scholarship. 

Series 3: Box 1:

Series 3 contains Writings by NLAPW Members. We can find loose papers with poems (In Memoriam Pearl G. Mautufi by Zelma S. Dennis, Christmas poem by Edna R. Sharing), and letters from members. This Series also holds A collection of sharing words by members of NLAMP from March 1989, containing autobiographical notes in which members wrote about the beginnings of their professional art careers, their biggest achievements and proudest moments. Series 3 also contains Etchings on the Sand, book by Violet L. Gregory, and Palomar Showcase - a collection of Award winning short stories and poems submitted as entries in a contest sponsored by Palomar Branch of NLPW, 1990.

Series 3 also holds autobiographical notes and poetry written by Helen Pugh - a former President of the San Diego Branch of NLAPW. Among those documents we can find a portrait from 1987 and an autobiographical note, from which we can learn about Helen Pugh's education and her relocation to San Diego. We can also find various writings by Helen Pugh, such as hand written letter from January 14th 1994, in which she shares the story about her health condition; numerous printed and hand written poems ("My Little Space Man" from 1992 with a print of Pugh's artwork, "Wishing for a pet" with a hand drawing); telegrams; letters; postcards from fellow Pen Women; and many hand written notes on various topics. This series also contains a short story written and illustrated by a child, Robin H. Pugh (possibly Pugh's granddaughter). This series also contains numerous newspaper clippings. One of the clippings described a rescue of two whales trapped in water by blocking ice (materials collected by Pugh for her next story).

Series 3 also includes Helen Pugh's original writings, such as Hidden Treasures (1994), a book with poems for kids written and illustrated by Helen Pugh. This series also contains projects of Hidden Treasures pages, and a copy of Buster Whale's unplanned adventure, a story co-written with Velma Lisberg, Eckoe Ahern, Wilma Early.

Series 3 also holds Helen Pugh's artwork, such as drawings and sketches, hand-made cards, program covers, stencils and photographs of some of Pugh's artwork.  

Series 4: Box 1:   

Series 4 of the Collection consists of NLAPW Publications. In this series we can find The Pen and Palette (September 1971 and June 1971) – Southern California State Publication. The magazine contains a series of articles, titled "Portraits of Pen Women", presenting life and achievements of NLAMP members; messages from the State President and information about latest activities of each Southern California Branch and its members.

Series 4 also contains a collection of The Pen Women – official Magazine of NLAMP. Series 4 holds issues from the years 1963-1998. The Pen Women contains member’s achievements in Letters, Arts and Music, poems, book reviews, humor, letters to the Editor, questions and answers section (questions about art, literature and history), information about the cover and the artist who designed it. Among the magazine issues we can find a special issue of The Pen Women dedicated to the “Diamond Jubilee 1897-1972”, this issue contains articles about the League’s history and achievements, and notes about all former National Presidents.

Series 5: Box 1:

Series 5 contains Yearbooks from the San Diego Branch from the years: 1919-1920, 1931-1932, 1940-1942, 1944-1947, 1954-1956, 1960-1962, 1964-1966, 1978-1980, 1984-1992, 1994-1995, and from the Long Beach Branch from the years 1972-1973, 1976-1977, 1977-1978, 1978-1979. The yearbooks provide information about the League’s motto, branch colors (the rainbow), national symbol (The Owl), and the branch symbol (The Torrey Pine Cone). Moreover,

the yearbooks contain greetings from the branch president, information about upcoming workshops, event calendar, roster, and in memoriam section.

In addition, Series 5 holds San Diego Branch History Books from the years 1993-1994, and 1994-1996.  History Books, in the form of hand-made albums, prepared by Helen Pugh – San Diego Branch historian, contains pictures from Branch meetings and various special events (President’s Day, “High-Tea”, Writer’s Seminar, Christmas Meeting, International Women’s Day, Helen Pugh Exhibit). History Books also contains an invitation to the NLAPW meetings, paper clippings documenting important events from the San Diego Branch life, member’s achievement notes, the League’s principals, prints of poems written by San Diego Branch members, Diplomas and Certificates for the Branch and its members honoring their achievements.

Series 6: Box 1:

Series 6 contains photographs and negatives documenting life of the San Diego Branch of NLAPW. The series holds loose photographs from various events, such as Festival at Anaheim, May 17th 1994; Pen Women meeting at the Wesley Palms Luncheon, October 24th 1995; Hollywood Conference, 1987; “At Wilma’s Christmas Party", 1990; Anaheim Convention, 1994, Pen Women Luncheon, October 18th 1995; and loose pictures from unspecified meetings and events.

Series 7: Box 1:

Series 7 of the Collection consists of the Press Clips from the local newspapers, documenting the San Diego Branch activities. The folder contains clippings from San Diego Independent, Thursday, November 8, 1956 and Sunday, May 1, 1960; The California Senior Citizen News,March 1970; The Life News, Wednesday, March 12, 1975; San Marcos Outlook, Thursday, May 1977; Daily Aztec, November 5, 1981; Senior Life Newspaper, September 15, 1982; San Diego Uptown Examiner, May 10, 1984; La Jolla Night, Tuesday, October 15, 1992; and various clippings from The San Diego Union. Articles contain information about upcoming annual events and meetings, member's achievements, contests organized by the branch and scholarships awarded by the branch. 

[1] “History—Pen Women Then and Now,”

[2] The League’s Minutes, 26 June 1897.

[3] NLAPW Brochure.

[4] “Competitions,”

National League of American Pen Women