Shirley Lerner Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of the industrial relations academic, Shirley Walowitz Lerner.

The archive primarily comprises papers relating to her academic and university work. The archive does not contain a comprehensive set of Lerner's draft and unpublished monographs, articles and lectures, although there are a number of items dating from the 1960s (SWL/1). There is limited correspondence in the archive, mostly connected to research and publications (SWL/2).

There is a small amount of research material in the archive, which is disparate in nature (SWL/3); this includes some undergraduate and postgraduate notes on economics and industrial relations (including lectures and articles by her future brother-in-law, Abba Lerner). Some research notes relate directly to published works, while in other cases, it is unclear whether this research was published.

A series of miscellaneous documents (SWL/4) is very diverse in nature, and includes some primary source material collected by Lerner concerning British Jewish labour history, Manchester trade unions, and socialism in Edwardian Sheffield. There are also two large typescripts, one relating to trades union officials and the other an economics textbook; it is believed that neither was authored by Lerner.

Lerner did not habitually date documents, so in most cases only approximate dates of creation can be assigned (usually by decade).

Administrative / Biographical History

Shirley Walowitz Lerner was born in Chicago in 1924, the daughter of Irving and Bessie Walowitz.

She studied economics at Roosevelt College, Chicago between 1948 and 1953, where she was a member of C.O.R.E. (Congress of Racial Equality) which advocated non-violent direct action to oppose racial segregation in Northern American cities. She was also national [US] secretary of the Socialist Youth League, 1945-7.

Lerner then undertook postgraduate work at the London School of Economics, receiving a Ph.D. in 1957. She was a Simon Fellow at the University of Manchester from 1957 to 1959, and a Leon Fellow at the University of London from 1959 to 1961. Lerner was appointed lecturer in Industrial Relations at Manchester in 1961 (within the Department of Economics), and was promoted to senior lecturer in 1967. She was visiting professor in industrial relations at the University of Michigan in 1966. Lerner was a founder member and vice-president of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society, which held its first meeting in 1964.

She was married to Jack Lerner, younger brother of the economist Abba P.Lerner. Shirley Lerner died of cancer on 29th April, 1969.

Shirley Lerner was primarily a labour economist and industrial relations academic; she had a particular interest in the organization of British trade unions. She was author of Breakaway unions and the small trade union (1961) as well as many articles on trade unions and labour markets. Her last work, Workshop wage determination, authored with John R. Cable and S. Gupta, was published posthumously in 1969.


The collection was disordered at point of acquisition and there was no arrangement into obvious series of records. The archive includes broad categories of documents such as unpublished writings, notes and correspondence, and an attempt has been made to create series based on these categories. However, some material either overlaps between categories or does not fit into a discernible series. A small miscellaneous series containing very varied documents has therefore been included, and this includes any unpublished writings, where Lerner is not considered to be the author.

  • SWL/1 - Lectures, reports, draft articles and other unpublished writings
  • SWL/2 - Correspondence
  • SWL/3 - Notes and research materials
  • SWL/4 - Miscellaneous

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA 2018. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the archive is not known. It is assumed that the collection was donated to the Library some time after Lerner's death in April 1969.


None expected.

Geographical Names