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Schlesinger Library

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Schlesinger Library
Schlesinger Library

The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America is a research library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. According to Nancy F. Cott, the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director, it is "the largest and most significant repository of documents covering women's lives and activities in the United States."

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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Schlesinger Library is the premier collection of documents and artifacts on the history of American women, in the United States and arguably in the world. - The mission of the library is to document the history of women in America. But by telling that story, we're also telling the story of American history. So our collections transcend time and geography and class. We cover all political issues, sides of political and social issues. The collections we have help illuminate all aspects of our shared history. - When you think about that statement, and you think about how really recent a field women's history is, it becomes very profound to think about this entire institution, with a talented staff and rich collections, is dedicated to documenting the experience of a group of people who for a long time weren't written about in history. This is one of the vaults that we have on site, and it is a cold storage room for archival materials. And so we have really tall shelves and aisles that are collapsible for even more space. When you're in the reading room and you've filled out your call slip, we will come to this vault or one of our other vaults and locate the items, climb up and down the ladders, put them on a library cart, and then bring them back to you. -We've got about 3,000 collections, and we focus on special collections, which means we're looking for things that are more or less unique in the world. An easy way to illustrate that is letters, letters or diaries where there's only one of it. -So we look at issues of women's sexuality. We look at issues of feminism, women's rights, equality of opportunity, and who are the major players-- what individuals, what organizations? - Finding, identifying scholars, activists, elected officials-- the woman on the street who's making a difference in a community at a time when it is not obvious that she is doing something that will have historical significance down the road. -Obscure print-- there are ways in which some of our printed artifacts are among the most vulnerable things. People take good care of diaries and letters and pass them down for generations, but the leaflets that announce student theater might get thrown out or, back in the day, might have been used to wrap fish-- so rescuing that kind of print ephemera. - Not just the big names that we might have familiarity with-- Betty Friedan, Flo Kennedy, Julia Child, Pauli Murray-- but the everyday women who just kept journals about what it was like for them to give birth, or what was their private experience with depression. So we keep all of that material, and we keep it safe. And we will keep it accessible in perpetuity for scholars, for people who are curious, so that people have access to the record of women's lives. I think there's just this personal connection that you have when you're in the reading room with the documents that you don't get through the computer screen. And we really want people in the doors, in the reading room, exploring and discovering. - --making sure that no undergraduate leaves this campus without knowing something of the astonishing resources in special collections libraries in Cambridge and in [MUSIC PLAYING]



Maud Wood Park
Maud Wood Park


The library is named after Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., a noted history professor at Harvard during the 20th century; and his wife Elizabeth Bancroft Schlesinger, a noted feminist. The library was begun on August 26, 1943, when the Radcliffe College alumna Maud Wood Park '98, a former suffragist, donated her collection of books, papers, and memorabilia on female reformers to Radcliffe.[1] This grew into a research library called the "Women's Archives", which was renamed in 1965 after Elizabeth Bancroft Schlesinger and her husband Arthur M. Schlesinger, as they were strong supporters of the library's mission.[1]


The Schlesinger Library exists to document women's lives and endeavors. Its wealth of resources reveals the wide range of women's activities at home in the United States and abroad from the early 19th century to the present day.


Cover page of the report for the 24th National Anti-slavery Bazaar-festival
Cover page of the report for the 24th National Anti-slavery Bazaar-festival
Suffrage poster
Suffrage poster
Photographer Jessie Tarbox Beals standing next to her camera
Photographer Jessie Tarbox Beals standing next to her camera

The library’s holdings include manuscripts; books and periodicals; and photographic and audiovisual material.

While its focus for collecting is American women, the library has an abundance of print and manuscript materials bearing on issues around the globe as a result of American women's extensive travel and foreign residence. Some examples are letters of early missionaries in China, activists' accounts of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, and the world-spanning speeches and writings of Shirley Graham Du Bois.

Detailed records for the library’s manuscript collections as well as books and periodicals can be found in HOLLIS. The catalog record gives a description of the item or collection and provides other important information such as offsite location or access restrictions. Researchers can learn more about the manuscript collections by consulting the Schlesinger Library's Research Guides.[2] Research Librarians can be reached through Ask a Schlesinger Librarian.[3]


There are more than 2,500 unique manuscript collections from individuals, families, and organizations. Women's rights movements past and present, feminism, health and sexuality, social reform, and the education of women and girls are core manuscript holdings. Ordinary lives of women and families and the struggles and triumphs of women of accomplishment are richly documented in diaries and other personal records. Many collections, such as the papers of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Pauli Murray, and the records of the National Organization for Women, feature political, organizational, and economic questions. In 1972 the National Organization for Women chose the Schlesinger Library as the archives for its records; the collection has grown to be one of its largest (300 linear feet of manuscripts and growing as of 2013) and one of its most heavily used by researchers.[4]

Books and periodicals

More than 80,000 printed volumes include scholarly monographs as well as popular works. These cover topics including women’s rights; women and work; women’s health; women of color; comparative material about women in other cultures; works on women in the arts and in music; women and family; feminist and anti-feminist theory; and lesbian writings. Hundreds of periodical titles, including popular magazines such as Ladies' Home Journal, Ebony, Seventeen, highlight domestic concerns, leisure pursuits, etiquette, fashion, and food.

The library has two distinguished special collections. A culinary collection of over 15,000 books — spanning five centuries and global cuisines — is one of the world's most significant. This collection also includes the papers of several famous chefs and foodwriters such as M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Elizabeth David. The archives of Radcliffe College, 1879–1999 — including papers of college officers, students, and alumnae — richly record the history of women in higher education.

Photographic and audiovisual material

More than 90,000 photographs, ranging from casual snapshots to the works of professional photographers, create an unparalleled visual record of private and public life. Audiotapes, videotapes and oral history tapes, and transcripts add the soundtrack to the story of women’s lives.

The Schlesinger Library is home to the Black Women Oral History Project, recorded between 1976 and 1981. With support from the Schlesinger Library, the project recorded a cross section of women who had made significant contributions to American society during the first half of the 20th century.[5]


  1. ^ a b "You Are Here - Schlesinger Library - About the Library". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Archived from the original on May 5, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Schlesinger Library Research Guides - Schlesinger Library Research Guides - Research Guides at Harvard Library
  3. ^ Ask a Schlesinger Librarian
  4. ^ Records of the National Organization for Women | Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
  5. ^ "Schlesinger Library | Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University". Retrieved 2016-05-07.

External links

This page was last edited on 7 December 2018, at 18:08
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