Scope and Content
Title: Jean Field Committee Records,
Date (inclusive): 1951-1952
Collection number: MSS 71
Jean Field Committee
Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
Abstract: These are records from the Jean Field Committee, which was formed in 1951 to aid Jean Field in her child custody appeal case.
Field lost custody of her children in 1950 based only on the contents of two letters she wrote criticizing the U.S. government
involvement in Korea at the time. She had been awarded sole custody in 1940 when her husband abandoned her and the children.
He never had any further contact nor provided financial support up to the time of the custody reversal. The records contain
correspondence, fliers and brochures, an account written by Field, a report of a support raising tour conducted by Martin
Hall, and receipts of donations made to the committee.
Obtained by Library founder, Emil Freed.
The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research
query prior to making a visit.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single
copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written
permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the
Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical
items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Jean Field Committee Records, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles,
Jean Field was a single mother, living in Santa Monica, California, who had been raising her two children without any financial
support or contact from their father for ten years, when she was declared an unfit mother and denied custody by the Oklahoma
courts in 1950. Field had been awarded sole custody of her children by the Oklahoma court at the time of her divorce in 1940
because her husband, Vernon Field, had abandoned his family. The children were visiting their father in Oklahoma for the first
time since he had left the family. In response to questions asked during a telephone conversation with her son Jay regarding
U.S. involvement in Korea, Field wrote two letters expressing her pacifism and objections to U.S. foreign policy of the time.
These letters were the sole basis for the change in parental custody issued by the Oklahoma court. On the belief that the
Oklahoma court had no jurisdiction to award custody, Field went to Oklahoma to retrieve her children. Upon returning with
them to California she was arrested for kidnapping. The California court recognized the Oklahoma court's decision and returned
the childred to their father, who took them back to Oklahoma. Field's only recourse was to appeal her case in the Oklahoma
The Jean Field Committee was formed in 1951 to raise awareness of the case on a national basis, and to provide funding for
the court appeal. Martin Hall undertook a tour to raise interest in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. Hall was particularly
effective in gathering backing from clergy and psychologists and ACLU chapters in the midwest and east coast. He also sought
the support of "influential people in society" in New York. Arthur Miller was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser. Hall's article
in the "The Churchman" brought the case to international attention. Individuals from the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe
sent funds for the case.
Albert Kahn wrote a pamphlet "The Crime Against Jean Field", detailing the case, which was serialized in The National Guardian
in February, 1952. The Committee and other support organizations distributed the pamphlet in the U.S. and abroad.
Leonard Schroeder of the NAACP took an interest in the case and prepared an article for the Yale Law Review, as well as securing
support for the case from Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP. Unions also raised funding and support, specifically: the United
Electrical Union of Canada, the International Longshoreman's and Warehousemen's Union and the International Ladies Garment
Jean Field felt that the custody case was not instigated by her husband, who had never expressed any interest in his children,
but rather by her husband's father, J. Walker Field, who was the Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma. Disappointed by his
feckless son, Field believed the grandfather was particularly interested in his grandson Jay. Both of the paternal grandparents
were disturbed by Field's belief in equality between the races and her encouragement of friendship between her children and
African American children at their school in California. This objection was also given as testimony against Field in the case.
Herbert B. Hyde was hired to try the case, which was scheduled for hearing in April 1952. But by that time Jay Field was old
enough to decide for himself with which of his parents he wanted to live.
Scope and Content
The collection is made up primarily of correspondence of the committee. About half the letters are Pauline Schindler's, the
chair of the Committee on National Organization and Individual Contacts. Schindler corresponded with Albert Kahn, Martin Hall,
and Leonard Schroeder regarding the Field case. The other correspondence are letters of solidarity to Jean Field and to the
Governor of Oklahoma in support of her case. There is a report to the committee from Martin Hall regarding his tour to raise
interest and funding for Jean Field, a copy of "The Jean Field Case: as told by Jean Field", informational fliers and brochures
produced by the Committee, as well as signed petitions. The receipts of donations to the legal defense display the broad base
of individuals in the U.S. and abroad who were moved by the case.
A copy of Albert Kahn's "The Crime Against Jean Field" is in the Library's Pamphlet Collection.