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Mead Smith Karras papers

 Collection 0011-GWP

Mead Smith Karras served as an Economist for the Labor Division of the Allied Occupation Forces in Japan from 1946 to 1949. She wrote a monthly report on labor developments and worked with Japanese officials on the development of sound labor statistics. She also worked with U.S. and Japanese officials to develop and implement Occupation policies on problems affecting women and children in the workforce, such as the organization of a Women’s and Minor’s Bureau, participation of women in unions, and enforcement of the Japanese Fair Labor Standards Act. The papers span 6.5 linear feet, 5 Hollinger and 3 oversize boxes, including monthly reports, office memorandum and labor statistics, posters, question cards, kamishibai (“paper theater stories”), letters, approximately 2,500 photographs, and miscellaneous items.


  • 1946-1949

Language of Materials

Materials in this collection are in both Japanese and English. Distinctions can be found within the scope and contents notes of each series.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Maryland Room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a research find sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


6.5 Linear Feet (5 Hollinger boxes, 3 oversize boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Mead Smith Karras papers primarily consists of materials dated from 1946-1949 that Mead Smith Karras created, received, or collected during her time as an economist for the Labor Division during Allied Occupation of Japan. While the bulk of the materials originated from this time period, the collection also contains items as far back as 1939 and one from as recent as 2007. The materials include monthly reports on labor developments; survey responses and statistics; copies of the monthly Labor Bulletin; conference schedules and speech drafts; conference attendee submitted questions; correspondence; print material such as kamishibai (“paper theater stories”), posters, pamphlets, and artists’ prints; and photographs.

Biographical / Historical

Mead Smith Karras (1922-2010) was instrumental in advancing the rights of women and minor laborers in post World War II Japan. Born in Evanston, Illinois, and then earning her BA in Economics in 1943 at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Mead Smith Karras started her career as an economist in the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. While there, she became a staff writer for the Monthly Labor Review, the official publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April of 1945, she joined the American Red Cross and was stationed in Okinawa, where she stayed and worked for a year following the end of the war. From Okinawa she was recruited to work as an economist for the Labor Division of the Economics and Scientific Section during the Allied Occupation of Japan from 1946-1949.

While a part of the Labor Division, Mead Smith Karras worked with U.S. and Japanese officials to develop and implement Occupation policies on problems affecting women and children in the workforce. This included the organization of a Women’s and Minor’s Bureau, advocating for the participation of women in unions, enforcement of the Japanese Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as collecting and analyzing survey results regarding the distribution of women workers in different industries and minors’ labor welfare. Throughout her ongoing efforts to promote labor rights in Japan, she wrote a monthly report for the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers containing details such as unemployment levels, labor legislation, labor disputes, and union activities.

Through the availability of these monthly reports, publications created by the Labor Division, conference speeches, and photographs, the Mead Smith Karras Papers offer an insightful intersection of Women’s History, Labor Rights, and Post-War Japan.


The collection is organized as six series:

Series 1
Labor Division of the Economic and Scientific Section Monthly Reports
Series 2
Research Materials
Series 3
Labor Standards for Women and Children in Industry Conference Question Cards
Series 4
Series 5
Series 6
Graphic Materials and Publications

Custodial History

The Mead Smith Karras papers were donated to the University of Maryland Libraries by her husband, George Karras, on December 8, 2014.

Related Materials

Materials related to the Mead Smith Karras papers held by the Special Collections of the University of Maryland Libraries include: the John Harold papers, which document Harold's time as a Labor Officer and later the Acting Chief of the Labor Relations Branch of the Labor Division of the Supreme Command Allied Powers, the Mary Koehler slides, Lois Beno photographs and oral history, Leora Smith photographs and oral history, and the Marlene J. Mayo oral histories.

Processing Information

Upon arrival to the Prange Collection, the Mead Smith Karras papers were placed within archival boxes. Since the collection appeared to have some original order intact, the order was maintained and a container inventory was produced while awaiting processing.

During processing, many of the original folders were replaced with acid-free folders and assigned labels. Acid-free archival paper was used for interleaving between delicate materials within folders as well as items that would stain. The question cards were placed in mylar sleeves to provide stability and aid in viewing. Correspondence were removed from their envelopes and flattened during processing. Each letter group (envelope, Japanese original, and (if present) English translation) has been interleaved with archival paper. Some materials that had been interfiled by the creator were moved during processing between Series 1 and Series 2.

Guide to the Mead Smith Karras papers
Minimally processed by Rebecca Thayer.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742