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Esther Marion Nelson Papers

Identifier: MSS 0136

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection relates to research Dr. Nelson conducted about the experiences of the 6888th Battalion stationed in Birmingham, England, and Rouen, France. Additional research information in the collection is about the military caste system. There are early drafts of chapters and narratives that allude to the book she intended to publish. Photographs and personal records complete this collection.


  • Majority of material found in 1940s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Esther Marion Nelson Papers must be obtained from the the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder.


Women’s Army Corps (WAC) – The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was U.S. Army unit created in 1942 during World War II that enabled women to serve in noncombat positions. In 1943, after thousands of women had enlisted, the U.S. Army dropped the “auxiliary” designation and members could receive full U.S. Army benefits. Oveta Culp Hobby helped created the branch and became the director. WACs served in the war theater throughout North Africa, Europe, and Asia. The WAC remained a separate unit of the U.S. Army until 1978, when male and female forces were integrated. – Information from the Encyclopedia Britannica

6888th Battalion – The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the first and only all African American female unit to be deployed overseas during WWII. The unit was active from 1945 to 1946 and consisted of 855 women under the Command of Major Charity Adams. Their nickname was “Six-Triple Eight" and their motto was “No Mail, Low Morale.” – Information taken from .


Dr. Esther Marion Nelson (1900-1981) was an academic professor in education and served in World War II as part of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) from 1943-1946. She attended the University of Oregon for her Bachelors, and Columbia University for her Masters, Doctorate, and post-doctorate research. Her doctoral work “An Analysis of the Content of Student-Teaching Courses for Education of Elementary School Teachers in State Teachers Colleges” was published in 1939 and was widely used in teacher-education institutions. While in the military, she performed public relations work and military intelligence as part of the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations. During that time, she interviewed more than 500 WACs and presented her findings on caste discrimination on WACs in 1946. This research more than likely spawned her interest in her post-doctorate research at Columbia University on human relationships among African American WACs overseas. Nelson interviewed more than 50 women who served in the 6888th Battalion. Her papers indicate that she was preparing to write a historical text on the 6888th Battalion, but this publication never came to light. During the time of her research she was suffering from relapses of Malaria and was instructed by her physician to reside in a warmer climate. She accepted a teaching position at the U.S. Naval Operating Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She then subsequently took a teaching position in the education department at the University of Houston.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials




  1. Personal Records
  2. Research
  3. Drafts
  4. Photographs

Custodial History

These records were formerly housed at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library as MSS 0206 Esther Marion Nelson Papers and were transferred to the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library in March 2019.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Edna Abbott in 1982.
MSS 0136 Esther Marion Nelson Papers
An inventory of her records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Gregory School Repository


(832) 393-1662

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
M Closed | T 10-6 | W 10-6 | Th 12-8 | F 10-5 | Sa 10-5 | Su Closed
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002
M Closed T 10-6 W 10-6 Th 12-8 F 10-5 Sa 10-5 Su Closed