Lisa Sergio was born Elisa Sergio on March 17, 1905, in Florence, Italy. She was the daughter of the Baron Agostino Sergio, a landowner, and of Marguerite Fitzgerald, from a socially prominent family in Baltimore, Maryland. In her early years, Ms. Sergio received little formal education, but through private tutoring, travel, and some coursework at the University of Florence, she acquired a prodigious liberal arts education. Gifted in languages, she also possessed fluency in English, French, Spanish, and German.

Always highly independent, and a staunch advocate of women's rights, Ms. Sergio began her professional career at the young age of seventeen as associate editor of "Italian Mail," a literary weekly published in English in Florence primarily by and for the English-American community in Italy. Contributors to the magazine included such notables as Walter Savage Landor, D.H. Lawrence, Norman Douglas, and Wyckham Steed. Initially unhampered by the government, the magazine was used later as a propaganda sheet by Mussolini. Ms. Sergio resigned in 1928, having advanced to editorship. From 1928 to 1930, she worked as a freelance writer and translator in English, French and Italian.

In 1930, Ms. Sergio became general secretary and bibliographer for the Association of Mediterranean Studies. The organization was formed in 1929, under the patronage of the Department of Fine Arts of the Italian Government, to include the directors of the Foreign Academies of Rome and eminent foreign scholars in a cooperative project to excavate antiquities. Here Ms. Sergio met such notables in the field of archaeology as Eugenie Sellers Strong whom she assisted. During this period, Ms. Sergio first met Mussolini who came to visit the site of a particularly rich excavation of silver artifacts.

Increasing government regulations on archaeological projects, and the diminution of the largely American funds due to the Depression all contributed to Ms. Sergio's decision to accept an invitation from Mussolini to become a news commentator in Rome - the dictator had heard of her reputation, even then, for her skills in translation. Moreover, the urging of an old family friend, Count Guglielmo Marconi, the famous inventer of the wireless, must have encouraged her final acceptance, in 1932, of an assignment as news broadcaster in French and English on Rome's 2RO Radio under the direction of Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law. Neither Marconi nor Ms. Sergio could foresee, at that time, the roles their respective skills were to play in Fascist propaganda.

Ms. Sergio became known as the "Golden Voice of Rome. She was instrumental in establising short-wave radio programs in 21 languages. In addition to her work as translator of Mussolini's speeches and government bulletins, her programs included Italian lessons, broadcast to England, which supplemented a weekly column printed in "World-Radio," a publication of the BBC. In 1935, this culminated in her grammar book, "Shorter Italian" (Hirschfeld Brothers, England).

On March, 10, 1937, Mussolini signed an order for her dismissal. In the five years of her broadcasting service, Ms. Sergio had grown increasingly critical of the government and the dispatches she was required to air. She began to tamper with certain official bulletins. Her anti-Fascists friendships with newsmen and intellectuals drew the attention of the authorities. Eventually, an accumulation of tapped telephone conversations and other indiscreet actions - especially Ms. Sergio's express views regarding the Ethiopian crisis - formed the evidence necessary to oust her as an unreliable citizen of Fascist Italy. It was at the advice and with the assistance of Marconi that Ms. Sergio left Italy. A few days after her departure, a warrant was issued for her arrest.

Ms. Sergio arrived in New York in July 1937. Her English and French broadcasts and several appearances on "The Magic Key" program of WJZ radio, had made her well-known to American radio men. David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America, invited her to serve as guest commentator for NBC. From 1937 to 1939, Ms. Sergio hosted the NBC programs, "Let's Talk it Over" and "Tales of Graet Rivers." She acted as commentator on opera and music. From 1940 to 1947, Ms. Sergio was news commentator for WQXR radio (New York City) where she also hosted the popular program, "Column of Air." She was also news commentator at this time for ABC radio from 1942 to 1947. With the advent of television, she hosted programs in the early 1960s: "Frontiers of Faith" for NBC-TV; "New Nations of Africa" for ABC-TV. Ms. Sergio never abandoned radio, however, and continued to host a popular program entitled, "Prayers through the Ages," on WMAL radio (Washington, D.C.), from 1962 until a few years before her death.

At a party on her first day at NBC radio, Ms. Sergio met Ann Batchelder, food columnist and associate editor for the "Ladies Home Journal." Ms. Batchelder later adopted Lisa Sergio as her daughter and helped her to secure U.S. citizenship, which she received in late 1944. The saga of obtaining her citizenship is detailed in Ms. Sergio's papers here. Included is the painful experience with the American Legion during the McCarthy years when Ms. Sergio's name was included on the Legion's blacklist of notable U.S. citizens whose patriotism was deemed questionable in the rising tide of Communism - Ms. Sergio's name was cleared in 1950. For many years the Ms. Sergio divided her time between her work in New York and Woodstock, Vermont, where Ms. Batchelder was a long-time resident. Ann Batchelder died at the age of 73 in Woodstock, June 1955.

During the late 1960s, Ms. Sergio began extensive lecture tours around U.S. universities in response to the anti-war movement. Her keynotes were always on the need for human rights and rights for women; the detrimental effect of war, socially, politically, and economically; and the promotion of international peace. From 1947 to 1950, Ms. Sergio had been an instructor in international affairs in the department of sociology at Columbia University, New York. She was a Danforth visiting lecturer in international affairs from 1960 to 1971, and a William McKinley scholar and lecturer at a consortium of Ohio colleges in 1970. Over the years, Ms. Sergio conducted study tours in Europe and Latin America, as well as lecturing on international affairs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Ms. Sergio was author of several well-received books, among them: "Synoptical History of Fascism" (Government of Italy, 1936); (editor) "Prayers of Women" (Harper, 1965); "I Am My Beloved: The Life fo Anita Garibaldi" (Weybright & Talley, 1969); "A Measure Filled," biography of feminist Lena Madsin phillips, (Luce, 1972); "Jesus and Woman" (EPM Publications, 1975); "You Can Upholster" (). In addition, Ms. Sergio contributed articles and stories to magazines in the U.S. and Italy, including "Reader's Digest," "Rotarian," and "Widening Horizons, IFBPW's newsletter for which she was also editor, 1947 to 1960. An abiding interest in the literary as well as the dissemination of printed information on world affairs is attested to by the numerous proposals among her papers for magazines such as "World Around Press," a quarterly of news articles from abroad that Ms. Sergio proposed to translate into English; a periodical of literary articles entitled, "The Modern Essayist" for which Ms. Sergio hoped to secure contributions from literary notables, including Aldous Huxley (see letter from Huxley); and a literary book club for rare and esoteric books, called "The Rarities Book Corner." Ms. Sergio continued her translation work: one of her primary interests was to translate books by Italian authors for publication in English - these included Italian art history books.

Ms. Sergio's papers give evidence of the many literary and intellectural associations made during her lifetime. These include: writers such as Stringfellow Barr, Katherine Drinker Bowen, Vera Brittain, Ernest Dimnet, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Victoria Ocampo, Lowell Thomas, Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Margaret Widdemer, Dorothy Thompson; feminists such as Carrie Chapman Catt and Lena Madesin Phillips; and other eminent individuals such as Welthy Fisher, president of World Education Inc., whose special interest was literacy in India; Lise Meitner, the Austrian atomic physicist; and the great Italian tragedian Alexander Moissi whose close associate and benefactor was Max Reinhardt.

Perpetually active, Ms. Sergio's career encompassed much work for various organizations, prestigious and important in their respective fields: she was member of the board of managers of the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of churches; director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs; member of the President's Commission for the International Cooperation Yer, 1965, trustee of the Helen Dwight Reid Foundation; member of the board of directors of Bacon House, Washington, D.C.; board member of the Washington Society of Choral Arts; board member of the Lena Madesin Phillips Fund of IFBPW; and board member of the Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C. Supplementing her participation in internationally affiliated organizations Ms. Sergio travelled widely to countries including Jordan, Israel, India, and Latin America. Her focus was always the improvement of life, particularly of conditions for women, in the Third World. Her travels brought her in contact with such leaders as King Hussein and his brother Prince Hassan of Jordan; Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister; Egidio and Giulia Ortona, ambassador of Italy and his wife, not to mention many eminent Americans including Jacqueline Kennedy and Eleanor Roosevelt.

For her years of dedication to the human cause and achievements in broadcasting and publication, Ms. Sergio received many accolades both in the U.S. and internationally. To name a few among the many, Ms. Sergio received honorary degrees from Keuka College, 1963; from St. Mary's College of the University of Notre Dame, 1966; and from Vaparaiso University, 1970. She was names chevalier of the French Legion of Honor in 1947; cavaliere of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, 1975; and presented with the Medal of Independence (or Order of Al-Istiqlal) of the 1st Degree by King Hussein of Jordan, 1976.

Ms. Sergio died at her home in Washington, D.C., June 22, 1989. She was 84.

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The Lisa Sergio Papers span the career of this emminent woman. The bulk of the material dates from 1937 to 1988 and includes correspondence, maunscripts of books and articles, transcripts for lectures, addresses, and radio broadcasts, a wide range of files on the many subjects that interested Ms. Sergio, as well as on the organizations in which she participated, a sizable photographs series that includes Ms. Sergio and her many contacts with notable individuals, and an audio-visual series of recordings (reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, record albums) of addresses and broadcasts by Ms. Sergio, including a film narrated by her and many slides produced during her trips abroad to the Middle East.

Arrangement of the material is outlined in the Synopsis section of this register.

Arrangement of the Index highlights the following subjects that may be useful to prospective researchers: books, articles, lectures, audiotapes/audio records, women, Italy, Marconi, radio programs.

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Extent: 15 boxes, 7 oversized boxes, 1 record album box (28 records).

Processed by Lisette C. Matano

Date: September 6, 1990

BULK DATES: 1937 - 1988
SPAN DATES: 1900 - 1989

EXTENT: 28.50 lf; 23 boxes


SERIES: 1. Individual Correspondence Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 1, Folders 1 - 45; Box 2, Folders 1 - 42) Files containing correspondence and information from and about prominent people in contact with LS or notable friends. Arranged alphabetically by individual surnames.

SERIES: 2. General Correspondence Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 2, Folders 43 - 59; Box 3, Folders 1 - 4) This series includes general correspondence received by LS from various individuals whose letters usually number no more than 1-4. Arrangement is alphabetical by surname. Correspondence from LS is included. Arrangement is chronological. Additional folders contain correspondence re. LS's 70th birthday; memorial service programs for friends of LS; and typescript copies (made by LS?) of correspondence by eminent individuals such as Robert Hume and Albert Schweitzer.

SERIES: 3. Subject Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 3, Folders 5 - 34; Box 4, Folders 1-38; Box 5, Folders 1 - 22) This series contains files on numerous non-literary projects and interests of LS. Subjects include Africa, India, Italy, Latin America, the Middle East. Additionally, there are files on the various associations and churches LS was involved with.

SERIES: 4. Manuscripts

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 5, Folders 23 - 35; Boxes 6 - 8; Box 9, Folders 1 - 34) This series contains files and manuscripts relating to LS's books, articles, and miscellaneous literary ventures, including a book club she attempted to start, called the "Rarities Book Corner." Arrangement is roughly alphabetical by type, e.g. books, magazine/periodical articles; manuscripts (miscellaneous manuscripts bearing no references to prospective publication in any periodicals, or to radio and lecture presentations); translations; projects by LS; and projects by others submitted to LS for advice and assistance. This series includes all related manuscript material and correspondence.

SERIES: 5. Lectures/Address Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 9, Folders 35-38; Box 10; Box 11, Folders 1-59) This series contains files on LS's lectures and addresses. Includes all correspondence, typescripts and related material. Folder arrangement is as follows - Chronological correspondence - Folders 9:35 to 10:3 Lecture programs/series - Folders 10:4 - 10:22 Lecture outlines - Folders 10:23 - 10:32 Lecture/speech publicity flyers/announcements - Folder 10:33 Individual addresses (by topic and title) - 11:1 - 11:58

SERIES: 6. Radio and Television Files

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 11, Folders 60 - 84; Box 12; Box 13, Folders 1 - 14) This series contains files relating to LS's work in radio and television broadcasting. Content is primarily transcripts of programs by LS. Arrangement is as follows - Correspondence (Miscellaneous) Commentaries (radio) Programs (radio) Television

SERIES: 7. Personal Items

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 13, Folders 15 - 32) Contains miscellaneous items of a personal nature belonging to LS, such as appointment books, awards and honorary degrees, passports. Includes biographical information on LS and some genealogical data on the Sergio family.

SERIES: 8. Clippings and Photographs

SERIES DESCRIPTION: (Box 13, Folders 33 - 37; Box 14, Folders 1 - 30) The first part of this series contains newsclippings collected by LS on herself, as well as on notable individuals that were associated with her (see Correspondence and Subject series.) Arrangement is alphabetical by surname. This series also includes printed matter such as reprints or published papers inscribed by the authors and presented to LS. (Box 14, Folders 31 - 67) The second part of this series contains photographs of LS and people in her life, arranged alphabetically by surname.

SERIES: 9. Audio-Visual Series / Muniments / Oversized Matter

SERIES DESCRIPTION: This section is divided into subseries as follows. Audio-Visual Series (Box 15, Folders 1-18; Box 16:1 - 16:3; Box 17) This series consists of audio-tapes (both reel-to-reel and cassette types), record albums, slides, and 1 reel kodachrome color film. Contents include - Audiotapes Lectures: Miscellaneous Radio program: "The Good Life" moderated by LS. Radio program: "Prayers through the Ages" hosted by LS. Radio braodcasts of talks by LS - subjects include Jordan, poetry readings by LS, and interviews by LS of such notable individuals as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mahatma Gandhi, Arthur Schlesinger. Audiotape recordings of other people including Christopher Bird, Jon Metzger, Paul Tillich, and an interview of LS by Bob Considine. Slides of miscellaneous subjects, particularly of LS's trips to the Middle East (Israel and Jordan) and to Somalia. Film: "People Helping People." Record Albums. Muniments and Oversized Matter (Box 16:4 - 16:12; Boxes 18 - 24) This section consists of certificates of awards, diplomas and medals presented to LS. Also included are such mementos as keys to cities presented to LS, an embroidered book mark with LS's initials, and a silk handkerchief belonging to Alexander Moissi. A total of 17 scrapbooks comprise the last six oversize boxes of this collection. These contain newsclippings covering much of LS's broadcasting and publishing career, lecture programs, menus, some correspondence (including that of Guglielmo Marconi) and photographs. The datespan is from 1924, Italy to 1981, U.S.A.