Anna Kelton Wiley Papers

Anna Kelton Wiley (1877-1964) was the wife of Dr. Harvey W. Wiley (1844-1930), prime mover behind passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Law when he worked as chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than thirty years his junior, Anna Kelton married Dr. Wiley in 1911, when he was in his sixties and she was in her early thirties. They went on to have two children, whom Dr. Wiley lived to see into their teens. It was Dr. Wiley's first and her only marriage.

Theirs is the great love story to emerge from the research done for the Coolidge-Consumerism collection. In 1873, while working in a laboratory at Harvard University, where he completed his B.S. degree, Dr. Wiley wrote the poem "Chemico Metrical Madrigal" (now in the papers of his wife), in which he paid tribute, in images drawn from chemistry and in four-line rhyming stanzas, to a blond, blue-eyed ideal of feminine beauty. So compelling was his vision of the woman he was looking for that he waited for her another twenty-five years, until in 1898 he first saw Anna Kelton.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Wiley were leaders in the fight for improved consumer health and safety in relation to food, drug and beverage products on the market. Anna Kelton Wiley was president of the Housekeepers' Alliance from 1912-1914, and again in 1922. The alliance was an organization of housekeepers formed in 1908 to promote the interests of the home and the homemaker-consumer with respect to safety and sanitation of food, clothing and other household items, and with respect to "just weights and measures." The Alliance also turned its attention to how to use and save money in the home. Wiley's papers show that she was active in the nationwide Thrift Movement as well. (INTRO NOTE Thrift)

In addition, Anna Kelton Wiley was president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Consumers League, 1911-1912 (DIRECTORY NOTE National Consumers League Papers), and president of the American Pure Food League, 1933-1935.

Colorful, densely textured glimpses into the daily life of an activist consumer-homemaker in a large metropolitan area during the first half of the 1920s emerge especially from two files in her papers. Homemaker-Consumer Life in Washington, D.C., 1922-23 brings to light such curiosities as President Coolidge's preferences in bread (an Evening Star article, "Coolidge, Champion of Wholewheat Bread, Urging its Use"); airs the hotly contested issues of whether loaves of bread should be standardized by weight, and also whether loaves should be sold in wrappers to keep children from squeezing them with dirty hands and dogs from sniffing them; and reflects the debate over the trapping and killing of animals to make women's fur garments. (A photo-illustrated pamphlet produced by the Anti-Steel-Trap League, which Mrs. Wiley saved, is in this file.)

A second, slightly later file, Homemaker-Consumer Life in Washington, D.C. 1924, reflects, among other things, the debate about whether women consumers will stick with bread that they bake at home, or prefer more (reputedly) scientifically nutritious, quality-standardized, mass-produced bread.



Selections from the Manuscript Division