Scope and Contents
The collection is divided into five series as follows:
Series 1. Personal and Political Papers; 1912-2015 and undated
Includes publications, correspondence, photographs, artifacts, and other material representing the personal and political activities of Helen Holt.
Series 2. Press and Media Activity; 1937-2008 and undated
Includes material related to newspapers and media that documents Helen Holt’s personal and political activities.
Series 3. State Government Papers; 1955-1960
Includes correspondence, reports, statements, and publications, among other material documenting Helen Holt’s activity in the West Virginia House of Delegates and as West Virginia’s secretary of state.
Series 4. Federal Government Papers; 1960-1984 and undated
Includes records, correspondence, clippings, reports, photographs, and publications, among other material that represents Helen Holt’s involvement with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Administration.
Series 5. Rush Dew Holt, Jr. Papers; 1953-2014 and undated
Papers collected by Helen Holt pertaining to the personal life and political career of her son, Rush Holt, Jr., who served as U.S. Representative from New Jersey (1999-2015). Material includes correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, and ephemera, among other material.
- 1912-2015 and undated
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
After high school she attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she received an AA degree in 1932. To further her education, Helen Holt applied to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she was inducted into the Delta Delta Delta sorority. While attending Northwestern University, Helen Holt maintained a high grade point average, and she graduated in 1934 with a BA in Biology and a minor in Anthropology. Soon after receiving her degree, Helen Holt was offered a position at Stephens College Science Division to first help establish a library and then to assist students and teachers with research or as needed. This experience led to Helen Holt’s first published work, Function of a Science Divisional Library. In 1936, Helen Holt was encouraged to attend the Marine Biological Laboratory, an institution for research and education, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. During this time (1935-1937) she also completed graduated work in connection with the University of Missouri in Columbia Missouri. After attending the Marine Biological Laboratory where she was able to interact with other students and well-known professors, Helen Holt decided it best to further her education at the graduate level; thus, she applied for a teaching fellowship in Zoology at Northwestern University. She was accepted and began her courses during the 1937 summer term and graduated in 1938. In addition to earning her MS, Helen Holt completed graduate work in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1956.
After graduating with her MS degree, Helen Holt was hired for a position at National Park College in Washington, D.C., where she taught several Science courses from 1938-1941. It was during this time that she was introduced to the youngest member of the United States Senate, Rush Dew Holt of West Virginia, by Helen’s friend and Rush’s sister, Jane (Holt) Chase. They were married a year after they met, and the couple moved to West Virginia in 1941. Two children were born to the couple: Helen Jane Holt (1945) and Rush Dew Holt, Jr. (1948). When Rush Holt, Sr.’s sister died in 1952, the couple adopted her son, David. During this period Helen Holt described herself as a homemaker, but she was later involved with her husband's campaigns and even served as an unpaid assistant in Rush Holt’s Charleston office. This initial involvement in government, however, was only the beginning of Helen Holt’s own political career.
In 1955 after the death of her husband, Helen Holt was appointed by Governor William C. Marland to fulfill her late husband's term in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and she was later elected as a delegate to the 1956 Republican National Convention. After the legislative session ended in March, 1956, Helen Holt accepted a recently-vacated teaching position at Greenbrier College which would prove to be only temporary. In 1957, after the death of Secretary of State D. Pitt O’Brian, Governor Cecil H. Underwood appointed Helen Holt to fill the position, making Helen Holt the first woman to hold the office in West Virginia history. Wishing to remain secretary of state, Helen Holt ran against Joe F. Burdett in 1958 but lost. Despite the unsuccessful campaign, Helen Holt continued to break the gender barrier, becoming the first woman appointed to serve as Assistant Commissioner of Public Institutions in West Virginia (served from 1959-1960) and later the first woman to serve as a trustee on the Board of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.
In 1960 Helen Holt received a presidential appointment from Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration for Nursing Homes Program (1960-1974). During the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, Helen Holt was considered for the position of United States treasurer, but despite numerous letters of recommendation from politicians and prominent individuals, the position was offered to John B. Connelly, Jr. Nevertheless, Helen Holt continued to succeed, and in 1974 the Department of Housing and Urban Development appointed her to serve as assistant to the secretary for programs for the elderly and the handicapped (1974-1983).
In 1983 after twenty-three years of government service, Helen Holt retired, but she remained active in women’s organizations (including the Washington Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, the Association of University Women, and the National League of Pen Women) and in church groups sponsored by the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. In addition to the numerous positions and honors bestowed upon Helen Holt during her political career, including being chosen as West Virginia Daughter of the Year by the West Virginia Society of Washington, D.C. in 1957 and being elected as president of the same society in 1960 and again serving as president from 1965-1966, she was awarded one of her greatest distinctions in 2013 when she received an honorary doctorate from West Virginia University.
Helen Holt passed away on July 12, 2015.
Chronological List of Events:
August 16, 1913: born
1930: graduated from high school
1930-1932: attended Stephens College, received an AA degree
1932-1934: attended Northwestern University, received a BA degree in Biology and a minor in Anthropology
1934-1936: worked at Stephens College Science Division to first help establish a library and then to assist students and teachers with research or as needed
1935-1937: completed graduate study work in connection with the University of Missouri
1936-1937: attended the Marine Biological Laboratory, an institution for research and education, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Summer, 1937-1938: attended Northwestern University, received a MS degree in Zoology
1938-1941: taught Science courses at National Park College
1941 married Senator Rush Dew Holt
1945: birth of Helen Jane Holt.
1948: birth of Rush Dew Holt, Jr.
1955: death of Rush Dew Holt, Sr.
February 17, 1955-December 1, 1956 finished Rush Dew Holt's House of Delegates term, continued to serve in the House of Delegates until 1957
1956: served as a Delegate at Large to the Republican National Convention
1956: completed graduate study work in connection with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
1956-1957: taught at Greenbrier College for Women
1957: stopped serving as professor at Greenbrier College, appointed to secretary of state of West Virginia (thru January, 1959)
1959-1960: served as Assistant Commissioner of Public Institutions in WV
1960-1974: appointed by Eisenhower to the Federal Housing Administration as special assistant to the commissioner for a program overseeing nursing homes
1974-1983: appointed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve as assistant to the secretary for programs for the elderly and the handicapped
1983: retired from government service
2013: received an Honorary Degree from WVU
July 12, 2015: death
A&M 1858, Helen Louise (Froelich) Holt (1913-2015) Papers, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries.
Daly-Lipe, Patricia. Helen Holt: Memoir of a Servant Lady. The Pen Women Press, 2014.
Marquis-Who’s Who Incorporated. Who’s Who of American Women: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living American Women, Volume I (1958-1959). The Benson Printing Company, 1958.
24.14 Linear Feet (Summary: 24 ft. 1 in. (49 document cases, 5 in. each); (8 document cases, 2 1/2 in.); (1 flat storage box, 5 in.); (1 flat storage box, 4 in.); (2 flat storage boxes, 3 1/2 in. each); (1 flat storage box, 3 in.); (4 flat storage boxes, 1 1/2 in. each); 2 photos in photograph filing cabinets)
1.58 Megabytes (1 PDF file)
In an attempt to organize the collections in a more coherent fashion for patron use and to reflect the creator(s) in a more concise manner, the material was reevaluated and reorganized into the three sets of papers with distinct series and subseries: A&M 873: Rush Dew Holt (1905-1955) Papers; A&M 1858: Helen Holt (1913-2015) Papers; and A&M 4218: Rush Dew Holt Family Papers.
Because of the 2016-2017 reorganization, the physical arrangement no longer matches the intellectual arrangement and series order. Furthermore, any box and folder citations created prior to the above-mentioned project are likely no longer accurate.
For assistance locating material using an older citation, please ask a staff member of the West Virginia & Regional History Center.
- Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973
- Byrd, Robert C.
- Greenbrier College (Lewisburg, W. Va.)
- Holt, Helen Louise Froelich, 1913-2015
- Holt, Rush Dew, 1905-1955
- Holt, Rush Dew, Jr., 1948-
- National League of American Pen Women
- Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)
- Nursing Homes -- United States
- Political campaigns
- Politicians -- United States
- Politics and government.
- Presbyterian Church
- Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )
- Schools. SEE ALSO Academies
- Underwood, Cecil H., 1922-2008
- United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- United States. Federal Housing Administration
- United States. Works Progress Administration
- West Virginia -- Politics and government
- West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs
- West Virginia. Legislature
- Women's history -- 1929-1950
- Women's history -- 1951-present
- Helen Holt Papers, 1938-1959
- Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center; James Shaver
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note