Irene McCoy Gaines Papers

Institution: Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (312) 642-4600
Date: 1893-1968
Extent: 5 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
Irene McCoy Gaines was a Chicago community and civil rights leader, a Republican Party activist, and an African American club woman of national standing. She was employed as a stenographer until the First World War opened opportunities to advance into full-time social work. After receiving special training from the War Camp Community Service and the Community Service of Chicago, she undertook additional training in social work in the YWCA Training School and at the University of Chicago and Loyola University. Thereafter until 1947, when she retired to devote herself to volunteer activities, Mrs. Gaines worked as a full-time social worker in a variety of positions, including service with the Cook County Bureau of Public Welfare, the Juvenile Court, the Cook County Hospital, and the Veterans Bureau, and as Industrial and General Secretary of the YWCA. Mrs. Gaines also was a caseworker consultant and the Director of the Women’s Division of the Chicago Urban League.

Mrs. Gaines helped to found and served as the first president (1938-1952) of the Chicago Council of Negro Organizations, a coordinating organization comprised of approximately one hundred civic, educational, religious, labor and social organizations. Another major concern of Mrs. Gaines was the Idlewild Lot Owners Association in Idlewild, Michigan, a resort area favored by African Americans, of which she was president from 1940 to 1954. Mrs. Gaines became president of the Illinois Association of Colored Women in 1941. In 1952, she was elected president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc. (NACWC), at the time an organization of approximately 100,000 members in 44 states.

Scope and Content Note:
Correspondence, mimeographed and printed material, certificates, posters, phonograph records of speeches, minutes of meetings and conventions, scrapbook, and other papers relating to activities of Mrs. Gaines, a leader in local, state, and national organizations of African American club women, Chicago social service organizations, and the Republican Party. Topics include the civil rights movement; her service as president of the National Association of Colored Women; Republican Party activities and Mrs. Ruth Hanna McCormick's senatorial campaign; and personal and family matters. Little in the collection relates directly to Mrs. Gaines' career as a social worker in Chicago. The collection includes few papers of Mrs. Gaines' husband, Harris B. Gaines, who was a Chicago lawyer and Illinois legislator, and of her sons, Harris B. Gaines, Jr., (known as Harry) and Charles E. Gaines. There are a few radio and play scripts relating to African American history in which her son, Harry Gaines, performed.

Related Material: