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Alper, Ethel Machanic, 1908-1989 : Papers, 1968-1988


6 file boxes, 1 half file box


The papers of Ethel Machanic Alper were given to the University of Massachusetts Boston Archives via Eva Moseley of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, in June 1990 by EMA's husband, Benedict Alper. Additional papers were given via Ronald Patkus of the Boston College Archives in July 1994 by Benedict Alper's estate.


Ethel Machanic Alper, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born September 23, 1908, in Burlington, Vermont. An accomplished portrait artist, EMA attended the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on a scholarship. She married Benedict Solomon Alper in 1931 and they had a daughter, Fredrika Clara. After World War II they lived in New York City and moved to Brookline in the early 1950s.

EMA's involvement in progressive political causes began in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War when she supported the provision of medical relief to the Republic of Spain. Her political activities included working for Henry Wallace's 1948 Progressive Party presidential campaign, for Voice of Women and SANE in Brookline, and against the Vietnam War. As secretary of Brookline Political Action for Peace (PAX) from 1962 to 1987, and as a member of other peace and social justice organizations, EMA was involved in a myriad of local, state, and national social causes until a few years before her death on July 18, 1989.

For letters from Benedict to Ethel Alper, see Love and Politics in Wartime: Letters to My Wife, 1943-45 by BSA, selected and edited by Joan Wallach Scott (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992). An audiotape of EMA's memorial service is available at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The Brookline Committee of the Massachusetts Hughes for Senate Committee formed in 1962 under Ruth Sidel's leadership. Ethel Machanic Alper was among the Brookline volunteers campaigning for Harvard professor Stuart Hughes whose platform included banning nuclear testing. In December 1962, the state-wide committee became Massachusetts Political Action for Peace and the Brookline committee became Brookline PAX. In 1972 Mass. PAX merged with Citizens for Participatory Politics (created to support Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign), forming Citizens for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX). Brookline PAX affiliated with CPPAX, but retained its original name.

In addition to promoting world peace in the 1970s and 1980s, Brookline PAX supported and worked for freedom of opinion and expression, adequate education, housing, health facilities and job opportunities for all citizens in the United States. Such goals led it to work with a variety of both local and national peace and social justice organizations on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to regulating condominium conversions in Brookline. Brookline PAX devoted much of its energy to electoral politics. Based on each candidate's stance on both peace and domestic issues, it evaluated, endorsed and supported campaigns for local, state, and national offices. It also lobbied local government and Brookline's state and national congressional representatives, publicized officials' voting records, sponsored lectures and other educational events, and helped organize marches and rallies. In 1978, Brookline PAX claimed a membership of 2,400.

Scope and Content

These papers of Ethel Machanic Alper are divided into two series. The first series contains EMA's personal papers. The second series represents the bulk of the collection and consists of Brookline PAX's records and some papers EMA may have created as a result of her own personal work, but which mirror the organization's efforts. Throughout the remainder of the finding aid, "PAX" refers to Brookline PAX. Although this collection spans 1964-1989, the bulk is between 1974 and 1983. There is little material before 1968 and after 1986.

The collection's original order was largely maintained. Guided by EMA's notations, some refiling was done. EMA or another member of PAX created the folder headings which appear in quotation marks. The archivist added to those headings for clarity. A few new headings were created. Approximately eight inches of loose, unorganized, unmarked material, mostly publications from organizations already represented in the collection, was discarded.

SERIES I: Ethel Machanic Alper, personal, #1-4, consists of correspondence, obituaries, clippings, programs, sketches (including a self-portrait), and photographs that provide some information about EMA's life and work.

SERIES II: PAX and EMA files, is divided into 2 subseries: PAX and EMA files, and Administrative files. This series contains papers created by both PAX, and by EMA and occasionally Benedict Alper as a result of their pursuit of goals they shared with PAX.

  • Subseries IIA: Administrative files, #5-37, consists of records which PAX and EMA created or collected, and maintained for PAX's own office use and to document PAX's history. These internal files are incomplete; they do not, for example, include accounting records, and it is doubtful that they contain all internal and external correspondence. The files include minutes, attendence lists, correspondence, clippings, newsletters, bulletins, flyers, reports, candidate endorsements, mailing lists, pamphlets, and announcements which document PAX's, and ocassionally EMA and BA's, activities.
  • Rather than add material to folders #5-15 and 25-28, folders #16-19, 24-25, 29, and 31-32 were created by the processor, following the logic of "PAX history" and "elections."

  • Subseries IIB: Resource files, #38-90, consists of newsletters, bulletins, clippings, flyers, announcements, pamphlets, and some correspondence which document PAX's interests and affiliations with other organizations. Researchers interested in literature produced by any of the organizations represented in this series should examine the contents of all related folders.