Wonderful Women Wednesday: Helen Munroe

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

As the head of the Smithsonian publication room, Helen Munroe managed the distribution of all of the Institution’s publications to diverse audiences, from technical experts to schoolchildren, until the mid-1940s. 

The first reference to Munroe’s affiliation with the Smithsonian is listed in William Jones RheesThe Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History, 1835–1899, published in 1901. In the preface, Rhees wrote, “Thanks are due to the intelligent and efficient aid of Miss Helen Munroe and Mr. Edward L. Springer.” Interestingly, when Rhees passed away in 1907, he left in his will a gift of $200 to Munroe. 

Munroe stands over Rhees, who is seated at a desk. She is holding a paper.

For more than two decades, Munroe served as the “chairman” of the Smithsonian’s Red Cross auxiliary, beginning in 1917. She recruited new members in the employee newsletter, distributed materials, organized fundraising efforts, and collected items for donation. In its first year, the group raised more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross to buy an ambulance. 

Three men and one woman at work in a room. On man is standing over the woman, who is seated at a des

Munroe was born on April 23, 1871 and died on February 23, 1962 at age 90.

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