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The Papers of Lauretta Bender

Identifier: 90-012

Scope and Contents

This collection currently closed to patrons due to conservation treatment. Collection will reopen in 2024

The Papers of Lauretta Bender are comprised primarily of materials covering the years 1926-1968 during the time she was affiliated with Bellevue and Creedmoor Hospitals.  There are records here that also document a large number of professional activities that she was involved with outside of these institutions. 

This collection consists mainly of typescripts of professional correspondence and manuscripts, with a smaller quantity of personal papers, photographs, and other memorabilia.  There are five major record groups: Professional Correspondence, 1936-1969, Professional Activities, 1936-1968, Personal Materials, 1926-1967, Dr. Schilder’s Papers, 1886-1940, and John O. Bender Papers. Dr. Bender pioneered the use of art therapy for children, notably the use of puppet shows at Bellevue and music therapy.  She championed the use of drugs and shock treatment to treat children diagnosed with psychiatric disorders who did not respond to other forms of treatment.  The records also document her assistance in building organizations and schools dedicated to helping children, and her continuous efforts to foster psychiatric studies. Writings and documents related to Dr. Paul Schilder and John O’ Bender (Loretta’s father) can also be found within this collection. 


  • Creation: 1920s-1960s
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930s-1960s

Language of Materials



The Papers of Dr. Lauretta Bender at the Brooklyn College Archives contain patient records which contain individually identifiable health information, particularly concerning mental health. This information is recognized as Protected Health Information (PHI) under the U.S. Federal Government’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA). The Privacy Rule [45 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 160 & 164, effective 4/14/2003] establishes the conditions under which PHI may be used or disclosed for research purposes.

  • 1. Permission to access the PHI of living individuals for research purposes must be separately applied for and be approved by the Legal Department of Brooklyn College.
  • 2. The Head of Archives will permit access to the PHI of deceased individuals if the researcher makes written representations that the use or disclosure being sought is solely for research on the PHI of decedents and that the PHI being sought is necessary for research. Individuals will be presumed to be deceased 50 years after date of birth or date of record creation, whichever occurs first. In all instances, the researcher must provide written proof of death.

  • *This statement above is adapted from the Medical Center Archives, New York—Presbyterian/Weill Cornell located at 1300 York Avenue #34, New York, New York for use at the Archives and Special Collections Department of Brooklyn College Library, Brooklyn, New York. Please request the form entitled “Request for Permission to Access Protected Health Information of Decedents.” This form must be filled out and returned before access to a patient’s record is allowed.


    Collection is open for research. Files can be accessed at the Brooklyn College Library Archives, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y., Room 130.

    This material is not to be distributed or published without the written consent of Dr. Lauretta Bender during her lifetime, or without the consent of her attorney.

    Biographical Note

    LAURETTA BENDER (1897-1987), neuropsychiatrist, researcher and educator, was born in Butte, Montana, to attorney John Oscar Bender and Katherine I. Bender. As a youngster, Lauretta repeated first grade three times. Even though she struggled with dyslexia, Lauretta still graduated as valedictorian of her high school class.

    Lauretta Bender earned her B.A. (1922) and M.A. (1923) from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from the State of University of Iowa (1926).  She had internships and residencies at the Billings Hospital of the University of Chicago, the University of Amsterdam, and at Johns Hopkins.  Dr. Bender held a Rockefeller Traveling Fellowship that took her to Holland and, upon her return, worked at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital. In 1938, Dr. Bender wrote “A Visual Motor Gestalt Test and Its Clinical Use.” The test reproduced nine figures printed on cards (derived from the work of Gestalt Psychologist Max Wertheimer [1880-1943]). Today the Bender-Gestalt is among the top five tests used by clinical psychologists measuring perceptual motor skills and perceptual motor development and also gives an indication of neurological intactness.

    In 1929 while working at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins under Adolf Meyer, she met Dr. Paul Schilder. He had received his M.D. at the University of Vienna in 1909 and a doctorate from the University of Halle in 1911.  Schilder served as physician in the Austrian army during World War I and taught and practiced at the University Hospital of Vienna (1918-1928).  Drs. Schilder and Bender collaborated on writing journal articles and also became involved personally. After his divorce was finalized, Schilder and Bender married in 1936. Dr. Schilder became Director of Clinical Psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital. In 1940, Dr. Schilder was struck and killed by a car while visiting his wife and newborn baby at the hospital. After his death, Dr. Bender edited, translated, and published some of Schilder’s writings.

    In addition to her hospital affiliations, Dr. Bender was a prolific writer, participated in a broad range of professional activities, served as advisor to governmental committees, and supported many organizations devoted to helping children diagnosed with psychiatric disorders.  Bender spent many years researching the cause of childhood schizophrenia and studied child suicides and violence. In 1956, after 26 years of distinguished service at Bellevue, where she became Senior Psychiatrist in charge of the children's ward, Dr. Bender was appointed Director of Research of the new Children's Unit at Creedmoor State Hospital. This provided her with an opportunity to embark on what she described "as my life's work.”  She received the Adolf Meyer Memorial Award for her contributions to better understanding schizophrenic children.

    Dr. Bender retired from Creedmoor in 1968, but continued working for the state until 1973 when she moved to Annapolis, Md. Dr. Bender taught at the University of Maryland and was a consultant to the Children's Guild Inc., a group that works with children who suffer from emotional issues.

    In 1965, at the age of 70, Dr. Bender married Henry Benford Parkes, professor of History at New York University.  Upon his death in 1973, she moved to Annapolis, home of her son Peter Schilder. She died in a nursing home in 1987.


    33.1 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

    Collection Outline

    Sub-Group I: Professional Correspondence

    • Series 1: Correspondence / Associations, Agencies
    • Series 2: Correspondence / Individuals
    • Series 3: Public Appearances
      • Sub-Series 1: Speaking Engagements
      • Sub-Series 2: Hearings, Conferences, Meetings, Radio Programs
    • Series 4: Controversies
      • Sub-Series 1: The Father Divine Controversy
      • Sub-Series 2: The Bender-Gestalt Controversy
    • Series 5: Writings
    • Series 6: Grant Applications / Reports
    • Series 7: Long-Term Studies
    Sub-Group III: Personal Materials
    • Series 8: Personal Materials
    Sub-Group IV: Schilder Papers
    • Series 9: Professional Materials
    • Series 10: Publication-related Materials
      • Sub-Series 1: Reviews, Correspondence, Notes
      • Sub-Series 2: Published & Unpublished Works
    • Series 11: Personal Materials
    Sub-Group V: John O. Bender Papers
    • Series 12: John O. Bender Papers

    Sub-group and Series Descriptions


      SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE / ASSOCIATIONS - AGENCIES, 1942-1968.  5 document boxes. 2.25 cubic feet. Alphabetically arranged by organization; then filed in chronological order.
      This series has professional correspondence, reports, memoranda, abstracts of papers connected with many of the agencies and organizations Bender was associated with on both a voluntary and paid basis.
      Materials here relate to the American Psychiatric Association (1952-1967), particularly to its Committee on Child Psychiatry (1942-1951); the American Psychopathological Association (1944-1967), including Bender's presidency in 1962; American Public Health Association (1956-1961), chiefly in connection with the preparation of a publication called "Services for Children with Emotional Disturbances;" Center for Applied Linguistics (1966); Committee on Psychiatric Services for Children (Department of Hospitals, N.Y.C.; 1962-1964); Community Council of Greater New York (1958-1961); Community Mental Health Board, an offshoot of the Committee on Psychiatric Services for Children (1963-65); the Council for Exceptional Children (1959-61).
      There are extensive materials (from 1947-1959) on Irvington House, a residential facility at Irvington-on-Hudson for children with rheumatic disorders. Bender served on its medical board from 1947-1959 during her teaching tenure at New York University. Items also deal with the League for Emotionally Disturbed Children (1950-61) and its offshoot, the League School for Seriously Disturbed Children (1956-66).  Bender became a member of the League's Advisory Board in 1953.  There are materials on the Lifeline Center for Child Development (1964-66) and Manfred Sakel Foundation (1959-68). Professional correspondence with the New Jersey Neuro-Psychiatric Institute (1953-1958) covers courses conducted and lectures given by Bender.
      SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE / INDIVIDUALS, 1936-1969. 4 boxes.  2 cubic feet.  Alphabetically arranged.
      Documents include letters on projected and completed visits by prominent persons, notifications of staff changes, and recommendations for persons who worked under Bender.  Of note are documents regarding the Red Scare? Bender wrote several letters and affidavits vouching for friends and colleagues on trial for “disloyalty” to the United States. A separately alphabetized folder (maintained by Bender) contains correspondence with persons of importance.  These include the following, arranged alphabetically: Percival Bailey, Augusta Bonnare; Hyman Caplan; Mildred Creak; Madame C. Crespin; Katrina de Hirsch; G. Heuyer; Leo Kanner; John C. Kerridge; Henning Poulsen (her son Peter's director) with a few written by Peter while under Poulsen's direction; Fredric Wertham; and Herman Wortis.
      SERIES 3: PUBLIC APPEARANCES, 1936-1968.  3 boxes; 1.5 cubic feet.  Arrangement varies.
      Here are Dr. Bender’s speaking engagements which she undertook or refused; her participation or requested participation in such events; items on professional conferences; government hearings at which she testified as an expert; and radio programs in which she participated.
      SUB-SERIES 1: SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, 1953-1968. This sub-series contains speaking engagements which Bender classified as accepted and completed; they are arranged chronologically.  Speaking engagements which she did not accept are also in chronological order, separated from the rest. There are materials here regarding a planned lecture tour in Argentina(1964-1966) that did not materialize.
      SUB-SERIES 2: HEARINGS, CONFERENCES, MEETINGS, RADIO PROGRAMS, 1936-68. Here are the records at government conferences and hearings.  (Items on a hearing conducted by Senator Estes Kefauver in 1950 regarding the effects of comics on children are in Box 16 under "Comics").  Bender testified on the subject of youth and family in 1955 at the Sub-Committee on Youth and the Family of the Temporary Commission on the Courts; on youth and crime, in the same year, before the Law Enforcement Institute sponsored jointly by Senator Jacob K. Javits and Mark A. McCloskey of the New York State Youth Commission; and on youth and delinquency, also in 1955.  In 1957, she testified on education of children diagnosed with psychological disorders at the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare of the United States Senate, and in 1959, on special education for people with emotional difficulties at the Committee on Education and Labor at the U.S. House of Representatives.  She submitted written testimony to the Sub-Committee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the U.S. Senate in 1960.  The series includes programs for many conferences in which Bender is listed as a participant from 1936-68.  Finally, there are correspondence on radio programs in which Bender participated between 1936 and 1963, with the bulk of the material falling in the 1940s.
      SERIES 4: CONTROVERSIES, 1935-1962. 1 document box. .5 cubic foot. Arranged alphabetically, with interior chronological arrangement.
      SUB-SERIES 1: THE FATHER DIVINE CONTROVERSY, 1935-1944 This sub-series contains material regarding Father Divine. It consists of correspondence from followers of Father Divine in reaction to Bender and Dr. M.A. Spalding’s article “Behavior Problems in Children from the Homes of Followers of Father Divine” published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases in 1940.
      SUB-SERIES 2: THE BENDER-GESTALT CONTROVERSY, 1945-1962 This series records Bender's successful fight against infringement of her copyright for the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test (popularly known as the Bender-Gestalt Test) which she developed and reported in 1938.  The bulk of records fall from 1960-1962, when Bender engaged attorneys against Max L. Hutt and Gerald J. Briskin for reproducing the Bender-Gestalt Test without obtaining copyright.
      SERIES 5: WRITINGS, 1928-1966.  3 document boxes.  1.5 cubic foot. Arrangement varies.
      The writings here contain materials on Bender's published/unpublished writings (sometimes written in collaboration with others) and are arranged alphabetically, by title.  These materials, when compared with the bibliography she prepared (located in Box 15), represent only a small fraction of her total written output. In addition to the copies of Bender's writings, Series 5 includes her correspondence and reviews concerning her own publications, arranged chronologically, and a folder of correspondence dating from 1958-1961 concerning the founding of the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry.
      SERIES 6: GRANT APPLICATIONS; REPORTS, 1943-1956.  1 document box. .5 cu. ft.  Arranged alphabetically.
      Series 6 has applications, correspondence, and reports connected with various grants made to Bender, and/or to institutions with which she was affiliated, between 1943 and 1956. 
      SERIES 7:  LONG-TERM STUDIES, 1929-1960. 7 document boxes. 3.5 cubic feet. Arranged alphabetically
      This series contains information on various long term studies undertaken by Dr. Bender. This includes the Phipps-Maryland Study, a longitudinal study of ninety schizophrenic women; Bender’s research and involvement in the Comics industry; the effects of movies and television on children; art and music therapy; and drug use.
      SERIES 8:  PERSONAL MATERIALS, 1926-1967.  7 document boxes, 1.25 cubic feet.  Arrangement varies.
      The materials include several undated bibliographies of her writings, several CVs, a biographical essay by her son, Peter, a revealing autobiographical sketch, dated 1964. Also included are official documents including medical licenses and certificates. Bender retained some family letters, including correspondence with her mother dating from the 60's when Mrs. Bender was a resident in the Longwood Manor Sanitorium; with her brothers John and Karl in the 50's and 60's; from her children; and with various school officials concerning their schooling.
      Three colleagues, Joseph Montague, Merrill Moore, and Helen Yarnell, whose deaths apparently had great importance to Bender, are the subject of a separate folder containing materials dated from 1940 to 1961. Bender also collected clippings relating to some of her colleagues, particularly, in 1966 and 1967, to Elliott Shapiro, the embattled principal of a public school in Harlem (see Series 2 for related correspondence).
    Sub-group IV.  SCHILDER PAPERS
      SERIES 9: PROFESSIONAL MATERIAL, 1886-1940.  2 document boxes.  .75 cubic foot.  Arranged chronologically within categories.
      This series is comprised of the professional correspondence and official documents of Paul Schilder (1886-1940), Bender's first husband.  Much of this, in fact, predates her acquaintance with Schilder which commenced, according to her autobiography, in 1930.  There are three handwritten notebooks in German, the first one dated 1926; the papers in these notebooks have been removed, unfolded, and placed in folders. There are typed and handwritten correspondence and memos in both German and English, from 1928-1940. Letters of a professional nature, acknowledging referrals, for example, are grouped chronologically and range from 1932 to 1941, while a separate folder contains letters in French, German and Spanish, spanning the years 1926 through 1940; letters to private patients over the years 1933 to 1940, also arranged chronologically, are grouped together.  Case histories of some patients, some of which are dated, are arranged in the order of the last name or initial of the patient.
      Schilder, and then Bender, retained clippings concerning two controversies of the 30s; Schilder's own clashed with Psychoanalytic Society (1933-1944), and the public clashes that raged between Dr. M.S. Gregory, chief of the psychiatric hospital at Bellevue, and Dr. S.S. Goldwater, Commissioner of Hospitals, in 1934 and 1935.
      SERIES 10: PUBLICATIONS-RELATED MATERIALS, 1913-1919.  6 boxes, 2.5 cubic feet
      Series 10 is comprised of reviews regarding professional publications by and about Schilder, arranged by date; the voluminous correspondence about his publications carried on by Bender following his death (she continued to edit and issue his writings for approximately twenty years while carrying on full-time professional activities and raising their three infant children), also arranged by date; as well as notes Schilder left.
      This sub-series contains speaking engagement which Bender classified as accepted and completed; they are arranged chronologically.  Speaking engagements which she did not accept are also in chronological order, separated from the rest. There are materials here regarding a planned lecture tour in Argentina (1964-1966) that did not materialize.
      This series also has Schilder's published and unpublished paper retained by Bender, arranged by title.  These are in both handwritten and typed form and in both English and German.  Prominent among them are the manuscripts of his Goals and Desires of Man and his Psychoanalytic Theory of Psychoses.  There are also a few unidentified pages.
      SERIES 11: PERSONAL MATERIALS, 1886-1962.  2 boxes, 1 cu. ft.  Arranged chronologically.
      Series 11 contains personal photos ranging from 1912-48; personal effects, including Schilder's birth certificate and death certificate in addition to general correspondence and a professional paper connected to Schilder's death in December 1940.  The paper, "The Death of the Leader in Group Psychotherapy" by Schilder's colleague, Pauline Rosenthal, M.D., discusses the effects of Schilder's death on his group-therapy patients.  There is a folder of personal letters on the Schilder family including some to Ms. Bender from Adolf Woltmann, the puppeteer (Box 27, File #5).  There is also a folder of letters and cables relating to Schilder's death dates mainly from Dec. 1940 – Jan. 1941.  Some of the clippings on Schilder's death mention the feud between Bender and his first wife.  In addition, there is a folder of financial documents from 1929-40 offering information on Schilder’s divorce as well as a folder about Schilder's life and several bibliographies of his writings. 
    Sub-group V.  JOHN O. BENDER PAPERS
      SERIES 12: JOHN O. BENDER PAPERS.  1 document box.  .5 cubic foot. Arrangement varies. Contains writings by Dr. Lauretta Bender's father, John O. Bender
      This series is comprised of Dr. Bender’s father’s papers. There is some ephemera, an obituary notice, photographs, as well as correspondence.
      SERIES 13: OVERSIZED BOXES. 8 oversized boxes., 10.25 linear feet Arrangement varies.
      This series consists of various oversized records from all sub-groups. The oversized boxes vary in size, from extra oversized, moderate oversized, and smaller oversized. Box 32 consists entirely of Box 12, File #17- Correspondence Concerning Publications, 1942-1959.


    These papers were donated to the college at the prompting of Dr. A.S. Eisenstadt from Brooklyn College’s History Department. The first three cartons of materials, consisting of both Dr. Bender's records and those of her first husband, psychiatrist Paul Schilder (1886-1940), were deposited on March 18, 1965.  In October 1969, upon Dr. Bender's retirement from Creedmor State Hospital, she sent two additional cartons of materials.  One more box was delivered to the library archive on October 9, 1974.

    The Papers of Lauretta Bender
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    Repository Details

    Part of the Brooklyn College Archives and Special Collections Repository

    Brooklyn NY 11210 United States