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NOLA4Women: Jane T. Lemann & Social Welfare in New Orleans

Cover of the Social Welfare Planning Council's annual report.

Jane T. Lemann was born in New York in 1919 and graduated with a degree in psychology from Bryn Mawr College. She married a native of New Orleans, and moved to the city in the mid-1940s. She earned her graduate degree in Psychology from Tulane in 1947. Starting in the late 1950s, Lemann became heavily invested in several social welfare groups, primarily ones aimed at helping needy schoolchildren. Lemann was chairman of several of these groups and committees, such as the Social Action Committee, the Christian Social Relations Committee, the Back-to-School Trust, and the Shoe Fund Committee. She was also a member of the United Church Women of New Orleans, and she sought to use church resources as a way to help families in need.

During the integration of public schools in the early 1960s, Lemann and her organizations were on the front lines fighting for peaceful integration in New Orleans. She helped raise awareness to the problems schoolchildren faced, and she brought attention to the idea that school segregation was a problem that needed to be solved politically. Besides integration, another major cause for Lemann was

to provide shoes and clothing for children so that they would be allowed to attend school. As a member of the Back-to-School Trust, Lemann personally visited families that had a child in an integrated school, asked what challenges they faced, and sought to fix the issues using the Back-to-School Trust’s resources. Her dedication and thoughtfulness earned Lemann the love and respect of those she worked with. Lemann passed away in 1993.

The papers of Jane T. Lemann consist mainly of notes and collected ephemera that she accumulated as a member of various civic organizations. The collection also contains several reports from the Social Welfare Planning Council and the Orleans Parish Public School system. These reports shed light on the trials and tribulations regarding integration in New Orleans public schools. The finding aid for the Jane T. Lemann papers can be found here.

Images from the Jane T. Lemann papers. Images from the Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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