This collection includes records of Elizabeth Arterburn Wilson's career as Louisville recreation specialist (1930s), Louisville U.S.O. director (1940-45), recreation specialist with the American Red Cross in Germany (1945-50) and cultural affairs officer with the United States Information Agency in Hanover, Germany (1950-71). Also included are photograph albums of the Wilson family and life at the University of Louisville during the 1920s. Please note that while the photographs are in good condition, the albums themselves are quite fragile. Wilson worked in the Louisville Neighborhood House for twenty years as part-time worker and volunteer, and over those years she amassed a collection of Settlement House books and materials. She and her sister, Ruth Wilson Cogshall, were very active in Louisville theater groups, particularly U of L's Playhouse at Belknap Theater, and the collection includes material relating to those endeavors. Elizabeth Wilson also spearheaded the development of the Service Mens' Club in Louisville during World War II and then served twenty-seven years with the United States Foreign Service, posted in Germany and Washington, D.C., and this work is documented in her diary of 1945, newsclippings, correspondence, and similar materials.
1.25 linear feet (1 records center box)
Elizabeth Arterburn Wilson was born in Louisville in 1902. Her parents were Perry Truman Wilson (1868-1906) and Sophia-lou DeAubra Arterburn (1871-1939). When her father died, the three young girls – Martha Cooper, Ruth Truman and Elizabeth Arterburn - accompanied their mother to Owensboro. By 1915 the family was back in Louisville, and Elizabeth graduated from Louisville Girls High School in 1920. Four years later she received her A.B. degree from University of Louisville, the last class to graduate from the old school at 119 West Broadway.
In 1925, Elizabeth Wilson received a Certificate in Social Service for the completion of a two-year course offered by the U of L School of Social Work. Since 1918, Elizabeth had served as volunteer at Neighborhood House. After graduation, she began a twenty-year professional association with Neighborhood House and with the Louisville Municipal Department of Recreation. In 1938, she received her Masters degree in Sociology from U of L. The next year, she was asked to investigate facilities in Louisville available for use by service personnel by Fort Knox; an immediate outcome of her survey was the establishment of the Louisville Service Club, the first such club in the United States and a model for other U.S.O. clubs all over the country.
Throughout her career, Elizabeth Wilson continued her interest in the theater. From her student days in U of L Dramatic Club and the U of L Players, she developed into a life-long supporter and participant in The Little Theater Company, receiving The Little Theatre medallion in 1935-36. She also was named “Distinguished Alumni of U of L” in 1948 during the 150th anniversary of U of L.
She went to occupied Germany with the American Red Cross and during the 1950s was appointed by the U.S. Department of State to set up youth programs in Hesse, Germany. When the U.S. Information Agency was created, Elizabeth transferred to Hannover, Niedersachsen as Cultural Affairs Officer. She retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 1971 having served twenty-one years.