“We cannot change the world but we can change the people in it.” The Eleanor Bumstead Stevenson Papers

Document 1: Diary Entry on Love and Marriage     |     Introduction to Documents 2 & 3
Document 2: 21 November 1924, Eleanor to Bill Stevenson     |     Document 3: 17 November 1925, Bumpy to Bill Stevenson
Document 4: Girl Trouble and Divorce     |     Document 5: “The Soldier Takes a Wife”
Document 6: Recreational Program     |     Document 7: Fair Employment Practices Council and Democracy
Document 8: Women’s Group Tea     |      Document 9: The Weaker Sex      |      Document 10: PAUW the Challenge to Education Today
Document 11: Making Use of Their Education     |      Document 12: Letter of Condolence      |     Bibliography

Document 6: Recreational Program

“The President-Elect’s Attractive Family” (Eleanor, Helen and Priscilla)
“The President-Elect’s Attractive Family” (Eleanor, Helen and Priscilla)
Source: “The President-Elect’s Attractive Family,” circa 1946. Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Steveson Papers, Series 4. Honors and Miscellaneous Personal Papers, Box 2. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.

Author: Eleanor Stevenson

Title: Community Recreation Program at Oberlin

Date: unknown, probably around 1949

Location: Community Recreation Program Letter. Subgroup II. Eleanor B. Stevenson papers, Series 4. Honors and Miscellaneous Personal Papers, Box 1. William and Eleanor Stevenson Papers, RG 30/219. O.C.A.

Document Type: Typed Letter


Like the previous document, this transcription details Eleanor Stevenson’s ongoing support for veterans and reiterates her utopian vision for the world. This letter that was presumably widely distributed throughout the city of Oberlin. In it, Bumpy champions a plan to create a recreation program which she believes will aid veterans and improve the overall health of the community. While it is unclear precisely what Eleanor meant by “community recreation program,” at least a component of that program was allowing Oberlin residents regular access to Oberlin College’s gym.[1] It likely also included offering other events and service to the town, possibly free classes, the building of parks of bike trails, or the sponsorship of dances and other communal events.

Of particular note in this document is the final paragraph, where Eleanor explains why she believes so strongly in working to improve the world.



Original                       Both                    Transcription


oberlin letter



To my Friends and Neighbors of Oberlin:


There has been a great deal of comment in regard to the year-round community-wide recreational program that is being suggested for Oberlin. I am vitally interested in such a project believing there is a definite need for it in our community.


I have been asked by a number of people as to why I am so interested and as to why I am willing to give so much of my time and effort to this undertaking. I wish I could tell you what I feel. I wish I could explain to you why I care. During my service overseas I saw many boys die horrible deaths. After four years back home, I still have a very heavy heart. I wish that everyone in the world had been able to spend just one-half hour in the Receiving Tent of an Evacuation Hospital. Why did these boys die? So that Oberlin and communities like Oberlin could have a CHANCE [sic] to become the most perfect places for people to live in. What is $2,000, what is $20,000[2] if we can help people, help them to develop and progress, help them to overcome pettiness and bitterness, intolerance and prejudice, help them to be joyous and kind; to understand and to love each other, to be friends with each other. Oberlin is a beautiful place. It has beautiful music and beautiful art. It has wonderful people with wonderful children. It has a wonderful college. It could be a center of great influence.


I repeat- those boys died to give us a chance to make it that way. If we have not learned during this last devastating war what is important, if we have not learned that dollars are not important, if we have not learned that human relationships are the only things that are important, may I say- if we have not learned these things- then we deserve to be blasted off the face of this earth. With its rich heritage and tradition, Oberlin MUST [sic] strive to develop its people physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually.


Eleanor B. Stevenson

[1] Jay Weiner, “P.E. Dept Gives Nod to Open Hales Gym,” Oberlin Review, 20 February 1973.

[2] When adjusted for inflation, 2,000 dollars in 1950 would be almost $20,000 in 2016, while 20,000 1950 dollars would be nearly $200,000 today (“US Inflation Calculator.” US Inflation Calculator. Accessed 5 July  2016. Source.