File 2007-054/025(22) - Correspondence of Grace Lorch and Lonergan family

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Correspondence of Grace Lorch and Lonergan family


  • 1945-1969 (Creation)

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1 folder of textual records

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Grace Lonergan Lorch (ca. 1903- d.1974) was an school teacher and social activist. Working in the Boston area, she also served as President of the Boston Teachers Union and as a member of the Boston Central Labour Council. Lonergan married Lee Lorch on 24 December 1943, and although she has been a teacher for almost twenty years, she was dismissed by the Boston School Committee due to a policy of not employing married women. She was the first person to challenge the regulation requiring married women to resign from their teaching positions. Although this appeal was unsuccessful (the policy would not be overturned until 1953), her efforts were later recognized in 2003 by the Boston Historical Society, who installed historical plaque at 1060 Morton Street. Lonergan continued to work as a teacher at Charles Taylor School at a substitute teacher's salary until the end of the war.

After 1946, the couple eventually settled in New York City with their young daughter in Stuyvesant Town, a private planned housing community whose tenants were veterans. Lee Lorch, by then Assistant Professor at the City College of New York, petitioned the developer, Metropolitan Life, to allow African-Americans to rent units. In 1949, pressure from Metropolitan Life led to his dismissal from City College. When the family moved so Lee could teach at Penn State College, they allowed a black family, the Hendrixes, to occupy the apartment in violation of the housing policy. This led to Lorch being dismissed from Penn State College in April 1950, and the couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Lorch took up a position at Fisk University.

In response to the Brown vs Board of Education ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Lorches attempted to enroll their daughter in the closest high school to their home in 1955, which previously had been all-black.[1] Due to his related activities in the community, Lee Lorch was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in September of 1954, where he refused to testify regarding his political affiliations and civil rights activities. Under pressure from its white-dominated board of directors, Fisk University fired Lorch in 1955.

The family moved again, this time to Little Rock, AK, where Lorch found work at Philander Smith College. On 4 September 1957, during the Little Rock Central High School Crisis, Grace Lorch intervened to protect Elizabeth Eckford (one of the "Little Rock Nine") from an angry white mob.[2] In October Mrs. Lorch was subpoenaed to appear before the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (chaired by Mississippi Senator James Eastland), where she was questioned by subcommittee member Senator William Jenner about her alleged ties to the Communist Party in Boston. Grace Lorch's refusal to meet with the committee privately and her attempt to read from a prepared statement resulted in a threat by Jenner to hold her contempt of the proceedings (this threat was not carried out). Immediately following the international coverage of the Little Rock Crisis, and her appearance before the subcommittee, Grace Lorch and her family received death threats and hate mail. Grace also received a flood of supportive correspondence from the United States and Canada and from as far away at Belgium and New Zealand. Upon the discovery of dynamite wedged into the family's garage door, Lee Lorch resigned from his academic position..

The family later moved to Canada, where Lee Lorch worked at the University of Alberta, and later, York University. Grace Lorch died in 1974.

[1] Letter written by Grace and Lee Lorch to Virgil Blossom, 21 September 1955. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries. Available at:

[2] Grace K. Lorch FBI Statement Regarding Elizabeth Eckford Incident, 8 September 1957. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries. Available at:

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File consists of family correspondence between Lee Lorch, his wife Grace, and members of her family (the Lonergans).

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2008/11/10 Anna St.Onge:. (Creation)




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