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Rosa Lee Guard was secretary to Samuel Gompers. Her papers consist of four folders that include her poetry, clippings of magazine and newspapers articles, her Br'er Rabbit stories and messages and magazine clippings of Br'er Rabbit stories by Joel Chandler Harris. Br'er Rabbit was Samuel Gompers' mascot and the creative stories written by Guard set Gompers as the inspiration for the rabbit character.
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Rosa Lee Guard was secretary to Samuel Gompers. Her papers consist of four folders that include her poetry, clippings of magazine and newspapers articles, her Br'er Rabbit stories and messages and magazine clippings of Br'er Rabbit stories by Joel Chandler Harris.
Guard's poetry, both in printed and typed forms, contemplates various subjects such as the sea, music, death and her tributes to Samuel Gompers. The clippings include a newspaper piece she wrote about Memorial Day, an English and Spanish version of her tribute to Gompers, her poem "In Memoriam," printed in The Jackson Labor Journal (Jackson, Tennessee, December 12, 1925) and a magazine article on how a woman should handle worry (Today's for July, 1913). Guard also composed whimsical memos that played on the Br'er Rabbit stories; Br'er Rabbit was Samuel Gompers' mascot. One was entitled "SHE OF THE POETICAL TEMPERAMENT vs. BR'ER RABBIT IN A TANTRUM ET AL," which may have alluded to a time when the wellknown Gompers' temper was evident.
Rosa Lee Guard was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in
1882, and was educated in the public schools there. She served as Samuel Gompers' secretary from April 1898 until his death on December 13, 1924. Guard often took responsibility for answering correspondence and for routine matters when Gompers was absent on official American Federation of Labor business. When Gompers' eyesight became seriously impaired during the later years of his life, Guard read to him at the American Federation of Labor office in Washington and while he was traveling. Gompers would dictate comments about the readings for Guard to record in a notebook.
When Bright's disease affected his heart, she ensured that Gompers remembered to take his medicine on time. Gompers left his personal and unofficial files in the custody of R. Lee Guard, his confidential secretary, and Florence Thorne, his assistant in the writing of his autobiography. Guard mentions a letter written in November or December 1923 from Samuel Gompers to her
personally, which she held in her possession, authorizing Guard and Thorne "to go through his desk and his papers." After the death of Samuel Gompers, Guard and Thorne arranged to send the pamphlets written by Gompers to the New York Public Library. After 1924, Guard became chief clerk for the AFL under Gompers' successor, William Green, until her death on May 9, 1937. Guard's creed: "A secretary should be self-effacing, merely a machine for turning out work," was included in her obituary notice.
During her personal time, Guard wrote poetry, entertaining memos and a pamphlet. Some of her writings were published in union publications, but most of her poetry remained outside the public domain.
Arrangement is by document type, alphabetically within the folders.
The records comprising this collection were transferred to the George Meany Memorial Archives from the AFL-CIO Library vertical file in July 1983. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.
Clippings of her obituary notices and her death certificate have been removed to the biographical files in The George Meany Memorial Archives.
Sue Ann McMaster at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in November 1990. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2017, at which point Jennifer Eidson updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Jennifer Eidson also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.
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