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Helen Sioussat papers

 Collection 0014-MMC-LAB
Helen Sioussat (1902-1995) was Director of the Talks and Public Affairs Department at CBS from 1937 to 1958, where she oversaw as many as 300 broadcasts a year addressing such topics as government, labor, education, religion, civil rights and international affairs. She would go on to create the television program, Table Talk

Dates

  • 1913-1992 and undated
  • Majority of material found within 1937-1958

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit, so we may determine the proper steps to be taken.

Duplication and Copyright Information

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 researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Extent

53.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Helen Sioussat Papers contains a variety of material from every aspect of Ms. Sioussat's career. Included are: correspondence, press releases, media, artifacts, transcripts, manuscripts, citations, photos, financial records, photo albums and other material as well as a complete, hardbound run of Talks Magazine and an interview of Helen Sioussat by Fay Gillis Wells, recorded on October 3, 1979. The papers of Helen Sioussat spans the years from 1913 to 1992 and contains some undated materials. The bulk of the collection dates from 1937 until 1958.

Biography

Helen Johnson O'Doyle Sioussat (1902-1995) was an American broadcasting executive. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Maurice and Helen Sioussat. She attended Goucher College in 1921 but left to take a 30-day business course, securing a job two days before the course was finished. Taking a year off from the business world, she spent ten months touring on stage, headlining with partner Raphael Sanchez, as a Spanish Adagio dance team. Ending up in Kansas City, Missouri in 1927, she began a career in business.

Returning east to Washington, DC, in 1935, she became Assistant to the Treasurer of the Planning & Coordinating Committee for the Petroleum Industry, during the last year of the National Recovery Act (NRA). In Washington she met Phillips H. Lord, actor and producer of many popular radio programs such as "Gang Busters," "Seth Parker." and "Mr. District Attorney." She became the Washington, DC manager for his radio programs. To help facilitate getting official information from closed files upon which the radio series was based, Ms. Sioussat was given an office next to J. Edgar Hoover in the Department of Justice. Her friendship with Mr. Hoover lasted for many years and she kept up a correspondence with Hoover until his death in 1972. Later, she transferred to New York City and became manager of all Lord productions.

In 1936 she decided to try employment at one of the radio networks, and on her way to NBC for an interview, stopped off at CBS to see if any jobs were available. Told that the new director of Public Affairs, Edward R. Murrow, was looking for an assistant. She was hired two days later and became Assistant Director of the Talks and Public Affairs Department. The following year when Murrow went overseas to become chief of CBS's foreign correspondents (and subsequently to cover World War II), Miss Sioussat took over his job.

As Director, Miss Sioussat was responsible for arranging the network's public affairs programming. In this capacity she scheduled broadcasts (often numbering more than 300 per year) featuring an incredible array of speakers on topics of current interest. Spokespersons for these programs came not only from politics and government, but from education, labor, industry, religion, civil rights, international affairs and other related areas. She also took part in formulating policy for all CBS public service programs. In 1941 she created, produced and hosted one of the first round-table discussion programs on television, "Table Talk with Helen Sioussat." She was CBS liaison with the White House and Congress and regularly attended the political conventions of both parties. In 1945 she led the CBS delegation to the San Francisco Conference that heralded the formation of the United Nations.

Miss Sioussat was promoted to the Executive Offices of CBS in Washington in 1958, where she served primarily as a liaison between the network, Congress and federal agencies. She continued in this capacity until her retirement in 1962.

An acknowledged expert on speech techniques, Miss Sioussat was in great demand as a lecturer and author. In addition to numerous articles and pamphlets, she wrote a book, "Mikes Don't Bite" (L. B. Fischer, 1943), a collection of amusing anecdotes from her radio career.

Miss Sioussat received the George Foster Peabody Foundation Award in the category of the Best Educational Program of 1954 for the series "Man's Right to Knowledge." Ms. Sioussat was also the composer of songs, including: "Unathletic Me" (which was recorded by Sioussat's longtime friend Julie Wilson), "My Beloved," "Meet Me at the Waldorf," and "Beautiful Cat Cay."

Miss Sioussat passed away in her Washington home on December 2, 1995. She had no immediate survivors.

Arrangement

The collection is organized as ten series:
Series 1
Resumes/Biographical Material
Series 2
Correspondence
Series 3
Clippings
Series 4
Writings
Series 5
CBS
Series 6
Organizations
Series 7
Photos
Series 8
Other
Series 9
Media/Books/Artifacts, etc.
Series 10
Audio

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Helen Sioussat papers were donated to the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland Libraries in 1995 by Fay Gillis Wells, a longtime friend of Ms. Sioussat.

Additional correspondence was received in 2018 from David Rosen. David Rosen received the letters from Linton Wells II, the son of Fay Gillis Wells.

Related Materials

In the early 2000s, a subset of the Helen Sioussat photographs were digitized in the Jerry Lee Online Archive. Digitized photographs from the Jerry Lee Online Archive are available upon request and via the Internet Archive at .

Separated Material

An interview of Helen Sioussat by Fay Gillis Wells, recorded on October 3, 1979, is housed with other LAB audio materials.

Processing Information

In 2018, additional material was added to the collection and interfiled in the appropriate place within the correspondence series. An audio series was added and 28 discs that were part of the original accession were added to the finding aid.

6 boxes of books were deemed out of scope and weeded from the collection.
Title
Guide to the Helen Sioussat papers
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Cary O'Dell and updated by Jen Wachtel
Date
2004; 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Sponsor
Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King
  • 2008-02-08: EAD revised by Karen E. King
  • 2008-02-11: EAD revised by Karen E. King
  • 2009-07-10: EAD revised by Stephanie Selzer and checked by Karen E. King.
  • 2017-12-14: Minor updates and revision made post ArchivesSpace migration by Joanne Archer
  • 2018-04-26: Added correspondence from Phelps Clawson in accession 2018-0054-MMC to existing folders in Series 2, Box 2 and modified dates on those folders. Rehoused and renumbered folders in Series 2, Box 1 and Series 2, Box 2. Rehoused Series 1, Box 1 into its own separate box. Container listing and inventory updated by Jen Wachtel.
  • 2018-04-26: Added two new folders of correspondence received from Basil O'Connor in accession 2018-0054-MMC to Series 2, Box 7, and renamed folders to 3a-3c. Added one folder of correspondence received from Sioussat's father Maurice Sioussat in 2018-0054-MMC to Series 2, Box 14. Rehoused William Rogers through Bernard Shanley correspondence from Series 2, Box 7 to Series 2, Box 8 and renumbered all folders in Series 2, Box 8. Updated folder title in Series 2 from "Roosevelt, Franklin D." to "Roosevelt, Franklin D., Jr. and Eleanor." Container listing and inventory updated by Jen Wachtel.
  • 2018-04-30: Created audio series and added one box of 28 audio discs from the original accession, 1996-0020-MMC.
  • 2019-05-21: Added inclusive and bulk dates to Series 7: Photographs and added a Related Materials note for the LAB's Jerry Lee Online Archive.
  • 2019-05-23: Updated extents to include two additional Hollinger boxes in Series 7.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212