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Mary O'Hara papers on Helen Bass Williams

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 311

Scope and Contents

The Mary O'Hara papers on Helen Bass Williams includes records created and collected by O'Hara for her dissertation research on Helen Bass Williams, the Civil Rights Movement, and community organizing, as well as records documenting her personal relationship with Williams. The collection includes research notes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, interview recordings and transcripts, photographs, and scholarship, and includes both physical and digital materials. Of particular interest are recordings of O'Hara's interviews with Helen Bass Williams where Williams retells narratives of her experiences early in life and during the Civil Rights Movement.


  • 1951 - 2007
  • Majority of material found within 1985 - 2000


Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by O'Hara transferred to Purdue University with the exception of her dissertation, "Let it fly", for which she retains copyright. Materials produced by individuals or organizations other than O'Hara are held by the original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Dr. Mary O'Hara is a long-time educator and activist. She was born in 1952 to James O'Hara and Dolores O'Hara Hayes. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Masters in Community Development, and a PhD from the Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. After earning her PhD, O'Hara worked as a sociology professor at John A. Logan College. O'Hara was a close friend of Purdue University professor, Helen Bass Williams. They met in 1984 at the Southern Counties Action Movement's (SCAM) annual meeting, after which they developed a strong personal relationship. She remained a close friend of Williams until Williams' death in 1991. O'Hara wrote her PhD dissertation, titled "Let it fly: The legacy of Helen Bass Williams", on Williams' life experiences and her contributions to the civil rights movement in the United States. In 2007, O'Hara received the "Spirit of Dr. King Community Service Award" for her commitment to effecting social change.


29.882 Gigabytes : Sixty-nine digital files

0.86 Cubic Feet (One full-width legal-size manuscript box, one full-width letter-size manuscript box, one shoe box, and one flat file)

Language of Materials



This collection documents Dr. Mary O'Hara's research into and relationship with Helen Bass Williams and includes research notes, correspondence, oral history recordings, interview transcripts, and published materials.


This collection is organized into four series based on their function and purpose.
  1. Personal papers on Helen Bass Williams
  2. Interviews
  3. Research
  4. Scholarship

Physical Access Information

Audio recordings in Series 2 have been processed and digital copies can be accessed onsite in the Archives and Special Collections reading room. Requests to access born-digital materials must be made at least two (2) days in advance.

Acquisition Information

Materials were donated by Mary O'Hara, August 16, 2019.


No further additions to the collection are expected.

Separated Materials

Materials created and collected by Helen Bass Williams were separated and described as their own unique collection.

Processing Information

Materials were originally interfiled with the Helen Bass Williams papers as they were used for O'Hara's research. Records created and collected by Williams were separated and described as their own collection. Folder titles were retained where present and on occasion were slightly modified for clarity and many align with titles in Helen Bass Williams papers. Folder titles preserved verbatim are placed in quotation marks ["]. Materials were arranged by archivist by function or purpose.

All materials have been rehoused in acid free folders and boxes. Rusty paperclips were removed and replaced with plastiklips. Digital files on optical disks have been transferred to an archives server for preservation and access purposes and were processed by Katey Watson in 2020. Audio recordings were digitized by external vendor in 2021.



Mary O'Hara papers on Helen Bass Williams
Katey Watson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States