Archival Collections
Health Sciences Library

Viola Wertheim Bernard papers, 1918-2000. 

Creator: 
Bernard, Viola W., 1907-1998.
Phys. Desc: 
129.65 cubic feet (382 boxes, 5 oversize boxes, 3 folders)
Location: 
Health Sciences Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, child welfare advocate, and political activist. Bernard was a founder of the field of community psychiatry, which sought to use psychiatric insights to address larger social purposes. She was an influential force in numerous child welfare organizations in New York City; was active in many professional organizations; and had particular expertise in the psychological issues surrounding adoption and infertility. She worked closely in these efforts with Barbara Biber, Marion E. Kenworthy, Margaret Morgan Lawrence, Justine Wise Polier, and others. Bernard helped found the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (1945); was director (1956-1969) of the University's Division of Community and Social Psychiatry, a joint program of the department of psychiatry and Columbia's School of Public Health; and served as medical director (1969-1975) of the Family Development Research Unit (FDRU), a long-term study of the psycho-dynamics of family formation. For additional information see finding aid.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, oral history interviews, reports, patient records, financial records, photographs, audio and video recordings, phonograph records, printed material, newspaper clippings, and artifacts. Almost every aspect of Bernard's life, both personal and professional, is documented in her papers. There are extensive records of her involvement with such educational and social welfare groups as Bank Street College of Education; Bureau of Child Guidance of the New York City Board of Education; Citizens' Committee for Children of New York, Inc.; Louise Wise Services; Northside Center for Child Development; and the Wiltwyck School for Boys. Professional organizations for which there are extensive records include American Psychiatric Association; American Psychoanalytic Association; and Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. Also included are records documenting her work with the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, and her leadership of the University's Division of Community and Social Psychiatry. Bernard's political activism is seen in the records of her work with the Non-Sectarian Committee for German Refugee Children in the late 1930s; her opposition to the Loyalty Oath; her involvement in the legal defense of Alger Hiss; her participation in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; and her long commitment to the racial integration of the psychiatric profession. There is considerable material relating to the Bernard family. Records of the Clarkstown Country Club, an ashram founded by Pierre A. Bernard for the study of yoga and “Eastern philosophy,” can be found here. From 1934 to 1938 Bernard was married to Theos C. Bernard, Pierre's nephew and a pioneer in the study of yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. Of particular note are the many letters and photographs from Theos's stay in Tibet in 1937. For additional information see finding aid.

Subjects