Dr. Elizabeth B. Drewry: A Leading Lady

The National Archives History Office continues to celebrate Women’s History Month with stories of former employees. Today’s post comes from Kaitlin Errickson.

Elizabeth B. Drewry was a key member of the National Archives staff during her many years of service and became a leading woman in the field of archives.

Elizabeth B. Drewry’s National Archives Identification Card, February 3, 1941. (National Archives Identifier 12091139)

Drewry attended George Washington University, where she earned both her B.A. and M.A. degree. She later earned her doctorate from Cornell University in 1933.

After a few years of teaching at Penn Hall Junior College in Chambersburg, PA, she joined the National Archives as a reference supervisor in 1936.

Drewry specialized in American and World War I history and worked on compiling the records of World War I. In 1942, the Government Printing Office published her book Historical Units of the First World War.

Drewry wanted to help make the National Archives better and more efficient, so she led the effort to get all federal records under a uniform retention and disposal system throughout the 1950s.

Elizabeth B. Drewry, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, 1964. (National Archives Identifier 12171066)

She left the main National Archives in Washington, DC, to work at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, where she stayed from 1961 until her retirement in 1969.

While working at the library, Drewry made even more progress for women in the archival profession. Her friend and colleague Lynn Bassanese said that Drewry—the first woman to head a Presidential library—was instrumental in raising money for the Eleanor Roosevelt wings, which were completed in 1972.

Hyman Bookbinder, Director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial Foundation; Elizabeth Drewry, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; and Raymond Corry look at a model of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library with the proposed Eleanor Roosevelt wing additions, October 1963. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Roosevelt had hoped that one day his library would include his wife’s papers. By 1962, Eleanor’s papers had built up to over an astounding 3 million pages! The wing additions wouldn’t have been completed as quickly without the efforts of Drewry—a woman’s effort to display a woman’s life work.

Her extraordinary work in records management while at the National Archives also earned her the Federal Women’s Award, which was presented to her by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

Elizabeth Drewry was a leader for women during her career at the National Archives. Through her hard work, she left her mark and a blazed a trail for women throughout the National Archives.

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