Skip to main content

Irmgard Lenel papers

Identifier: 0212

  • Staff Only
  • Select an item to initiate a request

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.


  • Creation: 1912 - 1999


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.

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 The copyright to unpublished materials belongs to the heirs of the writers.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.

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.


12.8 Linear Feet (18 boxes)


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.

Finding Aid of the Irmgard Lenel papers
Rebecca Hirsch
June 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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.

Revision Statements

  • 2022 February: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include material added to the collection from accrual no. 2022-004 (housed in box no. 18).

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States