Dorothy K. Willner papers

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Level of description



Dorothy K. Willner papers


  • 1974-1986 (Creation)


5.50 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

1927 Born in New York, NY
1947 Graduates with a Ph.D from the University of Chicago
1950-1951 Awarded the Wenner-Gren for Ethnographic research in Ecuador on Technology and Social Organization of Highland Indians as part of the Heye Foundation of Museum of the American Indian
1952 Conducts Graduate Study at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
1952 Marries Sidney Willner, a lawyer who aided in the denationalization of the German coal and steel industry after the Second World War and postwar Hilton International Inc. partner
1953 Awarded Masters of Arts from the University of Chicago
1953-1954 Studies at the University of Paris
1953 Becomes an Instructor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Chicago
1955-1958 Serves as an anthropologist for the Department of Land Settlement, Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, Israel
1958 Serves as a Technical Assistance Administration Expert in Community Development in Mexico
1959-1960 Becomes an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Iowa, Iowa City
1960 Publishes "Community Leadership" for the United Nations
1960 The International Organization of Consumer Unions is formed in The Hague, including members from Brussels, London and New York
1961 Awarded a PhD from the University of Chicago
1961-1962 Serves as a Research Association at Research Center in Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago, Illinois
1962-1963 Becomes an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1964-1965 Becomes an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY
1966-1970 Joins the faculty of University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, as an Associate Professor of Anthropology; Granted tenure in 1967 and promoted to full professor in 1970
1968 IOCU adopts a new constitution, expanding voting members of the organization from the original founders to the entire membership
1969 Publishes Nation-Building and Community in Israel
1970s IOCU creates a regional office in Asia, including an advisory committee comprising of member from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and the Philippines
1973 Contributes to Ronald Yelin Cheng's essay collection The Sociology of Revolution 1
974-1983 Serves as the representative of IOCU at the United Nations
1975 Attends the Trade and Development Conference on the control of restrictive business practices
1978 Manages the IOCU "A World in Crisis" Conference
1978 Attends the United Nations "The Decade of Women" conference
1979 IOCU hosts a dinner in honor of Colston Warne
1979 Participates in the World Health Assembly deliberations on the Code of Marketing Practices of Breast Milk Substitutes 1980s IOCU advises regional offices and the United Nations to ban Clioquinol and Chinoform, used in travel medication, for alleged adverse neurological and gastrointestinal side effects
1981 IOCU establishes a "Consumer Interpol," a global network of correspondents who monitor the marketing and sale of potentially hazardous products on local, national and regional levels
1981 Manages the IOCU Tenth World Congress on "The Food Crisis" and the "Consumer in a Shrinking World"
1981 Contributes to a World Health Organization Infant Formula Resolution
1982 With the assistance of IOCU's Consumer Interpol, the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution for "protection against products harmful to health and the environment."
1985 After more than a decade of campaigning, the United Nations adopts IOCU protocols as the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection.
1990 Dismissed from the faculty of the University of Kansas for allegedly "failing to carry out academic responsibilities"
1993 Dies, leaving her husband and two daughters, Karen Ferguson and Denise Pavia, and a grandson
2005 Sidney Willner dies

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Dorothy Willner Papers (1974-1986) consists primarily of correspondence, reports, and conference material pertaining to Willner's fostering of a relationship between the International Organization of Consumer Unions (IOCU) and the United Nations. The papers have been arranged to reflect Willner's interaction between these two organizations and the issues their members faced during this transitional period in consumer advocacy.
The collection is organized into five series: 1) IOCU Files; 2) Publications; 3) United Nations Files; 4) Subject Files; 5) Oversized Material.
The IOCU Files Series consists of three boxes of correspondence, reports, and event material relating to the issues Dorothy Willner regularly managed as a representative of the IOCU. While the collector's name appears on few of these documents, the accumulated contents of letters addressed to her and Florence Mason as well as Willner's hand-written notes are the centerpiece of the collection, illustrating the service Willner and IOCU provided period grass roots organizations throughout the world with access to research, media attention, regional coordination with other consumer group, and representation on the international level.
Some files include correspondence between leading consumer advocates Colston Warne and Esther Peterson. Other files include reports on the March 1979 World Health Organization (WHO) conference on the haphazard technical cooperation among developing countries in the field of health and the related 1981 WHO resolution on the quality and content of mass produced infant formula. Other files contain Willner's notes on correspondence with members, meetings with international representatives, and conference talks. The series also contains newspaper clippings and research, which likely served as briefing material for Willner.
The Publications Series spans two boxes and collects pamphlets, newsletters, digests, reports, and booklets. These imprints were produced by a wide of assortment of international groups in several languages and by the United Nations on business practices and consumer issues. Some of the periodicals collected by Willner include Que Choisir?, Utusan Konsumer, Warta Konsumen and Orientatcion de Consumidores y Usuarios. The series also contains a small assortment of publications produced by the United States Consumer Affairs Office, the Danish Government Home Economics Council, and the Australian Federation of Consumer Organization, Inc. Other files in this series also contain material related to the growth of international businesses and produced by different United Nations commissions, councils, and agencies, including the Center on Transnational Corporations, the Conference on Trade and Development, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The United Nations Series consists of five boxes of memoranda, correspondence, press releases, critiques, conference material, and drafts of committee reports created by the international organization. While some files relate to the "Decade for Women" events, the majority of this series is centered on the United Nation's response to IOCUs consumer protection lobbying efforts. One section of the series collects the administrative work of several notable 1970s conferences, which covered issues relating to the creation of model laws as guards against restrictive business practice and the application of technology on international businesses and their consumers. Other files demonstrate the increased visibility of consumer issues in the General Assembly and the ECOSOC. Still others feature different drafts of United Nations reports, discussing the formation of both legal protection for consumers and an international business code of conduct for transnational corporations. Finally, this series also features guidelines for non-government organizations (NGOs) within the United Nations, including the IOCU.
The Subject Files Series spans two boxes and consists of newspaper clippings, memos, reports from other consumer organizations and Willner's own background research on a wide assortment of topics relevant to both IOCU members and United Nations administration. Several of the files are relevant to the growth of consumer unions in Asia. Others relate to fair trade issues, the creation of standards for foods and drugs, and the formation of a "Consumer Interpol" to act as a watchdog against abusive international business practices, including the use of Third World nations as "dumping grounds" for allegedly defective or untested medical devices, drugs, pesticides unpassable by western standards." Another contains material from the IOCU's October 19, 1979 dinner for American Consumer leader and IOCU motivator Colston Warne. Finally, a few files also contain research relating to the changing shape of United States unions and consumer laws in the 1980s, including the Consumer Protection Act and the United Auto Workers.
The Oversized Material Series collects in one box large documents and bound matter. The majority of the series includes material relating to the creation and development of consumer education in the Philippines. Researchers may find of particular interest Dorothy Willner's Asean Consumer Protection seminar discussing the measures under development at the United Nations to curb abusive business practices of transnational corporations.

System of arrangement

The arrangements of these records reflect Willner's multi-tiered professional work on behalf of international consumers. They are organized in the following manner: 1) IOCU Files, 2) Publications, 3) United Nations (UN) Files, 4) Subject Files, 5) Oversized Material.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsiblity for observing all copyright, porpoerty, and libel laws and they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Dorothy Willner Papers have been assigned Accession Number: P1993.11. Processing of the collection was completed by Paul A. Thomsen in January, 2010

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Sidney Willner (Husband)
Acqusition Method: Donation
Acqusition Date: 19930101

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

The Willner Papers provide an in-depth perspective on the relationship between local and national consumer causes and the process of crafting international law. While some documents cover the daily administrative paperwork and correspondence during Willner's tenure at IOCU, other sections examine the non-governmental organization's period initiatives and long-term goals on behalf of consumer rights organizations against international/transnational corporations. The collection includes a wide assortment of pamphlets and booklets in several languages, which describe consumer activities in Germany, Greece, Norway, the United States, and other countries. Similarly, the records emphasize the increased influence of Asian-based consumer union activities in the 1980s on the international community. Documents created by several organs of the United Nations are, likewise, prominently featured in the collection, including the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Science and Technology Commission, and the Industrial Development Organization. Finally, researchers will find of particular interest Willner's Subject Files, which illustrate the interconnectedness of different consumer issues between different local consumer issues with national unions and their international representation.


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Notes element

General note

Preferred Citation: [Item title], [item date], Dorothy K. Willner papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

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Description control element

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard

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Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Paul A. Thomsen
Processing Info: Processing of the collection was completed by Paul A. Thomsen in January, 2010. Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, May 2015.
Publication Date: 2015-05-28

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Physical storage

  • Box: Boxes
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