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Finding Aid of the Irmgard Lenel papers

Finding aid prepared by Rebecca Hirsch, June 2010

The processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid was funded by the generous support of the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Summary Information

USC Libraries Special Collections
Lenel, Irmgard, 1901-2001
Irmgard Lenel papers
Collection no.
Date [inclusive]
12.17 Linear feet, 16 boxes
Languague of Materials
While most of the collection is in English, a significant portion of it is in German, including almost all of Lenel's correspondence, papers and photographs from before she moved to the United States in 1937. After emigrating, she began writing her correspondence and notes in English. However, some of her later correspondence, usually with her family, is also in German.
This collection contains the papers of Irmgard Lenel, who was born in Germany in 1901 and who immigrated to the United States in 1937. She was a politically active socialist involved with groups like Women for Legislative Action and the Friends Committee on Legislation. Her papers include correspondence, photographs, legal papers, and some periodical publications.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder# or item name], Irmgard Lenel papers, Collection no. 0212, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

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Biographical Note

Irmgard Lenel was born in Manheim, Germany, on July 1, 1901, to the manufacturer Richard Lenel and his wife, Emilie (nee Maas). Lenel was raised in Manheim, where she attended the Manheim School for Social Work, and after completing her training there she worked as a private secretary for Professor S.P. Altmann. After that, she spent a year attending The London School of Economics to improve her command of the English language. Upon her return to Germany in the mid-1920s, she spent three years as a magazine editor and then six working as a secretary for the publishing firm Ullstein Verlag.

Lenel emigrated to the United States in 1937 and lived in New York City until 1941, when she moved to Santa Monica, California. While living in California, she held a number of secretarial and stenographer positions. She was naturalized in 1941, and worked at the Veterans Administration for six years. In 1947 she was let go on suspicion of disloyalty to the United States. She appealed her dismissal and was found to have been unjustly terminated. After her hearing, she became active in the defense of others charged with performing un-American activities. Lenel never married, and had no children. She passed away in Santa Monica in November 2001.

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Scope and Content

This collection includes the personal and business correspondence, photographs, and personal papers of Irmgard Lenel from both her life in Germany and from after her immigration to the United States in 1938. In addition, the collection documents her prolific political activity (predominantly in the form of writing letters to politicians and other officials and Letters to the Editor) and her interest in a number of political movements, including the curtailment of civil liberties during the McCarthy era, and the civil rights, disarmament, and anti-war movements. Political groups Lenel was actively involved in include the Friends Committee on Legislation (FCL), Women for Legislative Action (WLA), and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). One of Lenel's good friends and correspondents was Dorothy Healey, the long-time head of the Communist Party in Los Angeles, and much of the collection reflects Lenel's socialist leanings.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

USC Libraries Special Collections
June 2010
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, California, 90089-0189

Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection contains published materials; researchers are reminded of the copyright restrictions imposed by publishers on reusing their articles and parts of books. It is the responsibility of researchers to acquire permission from publishers when reusing such materials. The copyright to unpublished materials belongs to the heirs of the writers. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Friends Committee on National Legislation (U.S.). -- Archives
  • Women for Legislative Action. -- Archives


  • Correspondence
  • Legal instruments
  • Photographs
  • Publications

Geographic Name(s)

  • Germany--Emigration and immigration--History--1933-1945--Archival resources
  • Germany--Social life and customs--20th century--Archival resources
  • United States--Politics and government--20th century--Archival resources

Personal Name(s)

  • Healey, Dorothy, 1914-2006 -- Archives
  • Lenel, Irmgard, 1901-2001 -- Archives


  • Anti-communist movements--United States--History--20th century--Archival resources
  • Exiles--Germany--History--20th century--Archival resources
  • Political participation--United States--Archival resources
  • Secretaries--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources
  • Socialists--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources
  • Socialists--United States--Archival resources
  • Women political activists--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources

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Collection Inventory

Series 1:  Personal Papers 

Scope and Content

Series contains the personal papers, legal documents, correspondence, and photographs of Irmgard Lenel. Her personal correspondents included Dorothy Healey, Helmut Cron, and the various parties involved with getting various members of her family visas to immigrate to the United States in the late 1930s and 1940s. Lenel's personal papers consists of notebooks with recipes, poems and other writings, legal documents (including passports and a copy of her birth certificate) from Nazi Germany, receipts and other financial records, and her school papers and references. Photographs present in this series are primarily of Lenel with family members in various German locations in the 1920s and 1930s, although photographs of Santa Monica and Lenel's siblings and their families in England and Larchmont, New York, are also present.

 Legal Documents 




 Financial Records 






 Autograph Book 1913-1919 


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Series 2:  Employment Correspondence & Records 

Scope and Content

Series contains correspondence pertaining to Lenel's employment (usually as a secretary or stenographer), both in Germany in the 1930s and after she moved to the United States in 1937. Also included in this series are her personnel records from various employers and the correspondence between Lenel, her lawyer and the Veterans Adminstration pertaining to her firing due to suspected disloyalty to the United States in 1951.


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Series 3:  Correspondence with Governments 

Scope and Content

Series contains Lenel's correspondence with agencies, departments, and representatives of federal, state, and local governments on a variety of policy and political issues. She wrote letters to the President, Senators and Representatives (both of California and other states), the Department of State, and various state and local government officials. Copies of her outgoing correspondence are often found with the response she received (usually from a staffer of whatever office she wrote to, not the actual official). Also included in this series is campaign literature she received in the mail.



 State and Local 


 Political Campaigns 


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Series 4:  Correspondence with Radio & TV Stations 

Scope and Content

Series contains Lenel's correspondence (both incoming and outgoing) with a variety of radio and TV commentators and subscription solicitations from public radio and TV stations. Lenel was an active supporter of a number of radio and television stations, including KPFK, KUSC and KCET and this series includes a reel recording of her 1964 "Subscriber's Report" broadcast with Robert Adler for KPFK. Also included in this series is correspondence documenting her support of the World Peace Broadcasting Foundation.


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Series 5:  Correspondence with Political Groups 

Scope and Content

Series contains correspondence documenting Lenel's involvement with politically active organizations, including the Friends Committee on Legislation (FCL), Women for Legislative Action (WLA), and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).


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Series 6:  Subject Files, Publications & Newspaper Clippings 

Scope and Content

Series contains subject files and publications on various topics Lenel followed, including civil liberties curtailment (especially McCarthyism), the civil rights movement, the disarmament, and anti-war movements. Clippings contained in this series are from both English and German newspapers. While the English clippings are generally about Lenel's interests (outlined above), the German ones are mostly from socialist and/or women's publications from before World War II.

 Subject Files 


 Miscellaneous Publications 

13, 15, 16

 Newspaper Clippings 


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