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Law & Legislation

Selected Primary Sources in the Sophia Smith Collection

This guide includes papers of women lawyers, judges, and legislators; as well as records of women's advocacy groups and collections relating to the legal status of women in the U.S. and abroad, in employment, sports, advocacy for women in prison, and domestic and child abuse prevention. For additional sources relating to women's reproductive rights, see Reproductive Rights and Women's Health guide; for sources on women and labor reform, see Labor in the U.S.; for more on laws and legislation relating to women's rights, see Contemporary Women's Movement; and for sources on Woman Suffrage, see Suffrage Movement in the U.S..

Personal Papers and Organization Records

Florence Ellinwood Allen Papers
.75 linear ft. (1 box), 1920-1966
Lawyer, judge, suffragist, and pacifist. Allen's papers reflect her career as the first woman judge of a state supreme court and the first woman appointed as a federal judge, as well as her work in the Ohio suffrage and peace movements. Also included are the writings of Florence's mother, Corinne Tuckerman Allen, who was a member of the first class admitted to Smith College. Tuckerman Allen advocated sexual morality, monogamy and family relationships and organized for the Congress of Mothers.
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Brenda Berkman (Oral history)
Lawyer. The oral history focuses on the various phases of Berkman's life but is especially strong on her ultimately successful efforts to join the Fire Department of New York which resulted in a class action suit that in 1982 forced the City of New York to open the fire department ranks to women.
Part of Voices of Feminism Oral History Project (see below)

Vivion Lenon Brewer Papers
3.5 linear ft. (10 boxes), 1947-1991
Co-founder, Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools; volunteer; banker; and lawyer. A native of Arkansas, Vivion Brewer was an advocate of civil rights and integration. This collection documents the experiences of a white Southerner who opposed racism and segregation. Materials include writings, diaries, correspondence, photographs, and various records. Also included are her typescript memoir entitled "The Embattled Ladies of Little Rock;" and organizational material from the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools such as minutes.
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Madeleine Z. Doty Papers
1.5 linear ft. (4 boxes), 1880-1984
Lawyer, journalist, suffragist, prison reformer, pacifist and teacher. Papers include writings (including unpublished autobiography), memorabilia, diaries, and manuscripts. Subjects include peace socialism, prison reform, women's suffrage, child welfare, conditions in Europe before and after World War I, and the international education movement.
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Equal Rights Amendment Campaign Archives Project (ERACAP) Records
30.5 linear ft. 1970-1985
Documentation program. The Equal Rights Amendment Campaign Archives Project Records include correspondence, speeches, legal documents, photographs, press releases, reports, articles, interview transcripts, audio and video tapes, legislative records, logbooks, notes, documentary footage, and memorabilia. The bulk of the records comprise audiovisual materials from two documentaries: "Who Will Protect the Family," Victoria Costello's PBS documentary based on the 1982 North Carolina ERA campaign; and "Fighting for the Obvious" based on the Chicago, Illinois, ERA campaign produced by Virago Video, and ERACAP. There is also considerable material relating to the National Organization for Women’s work to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
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Sophie Friedman Papers
.25 linear ft. (1 box), 1795-1954
Lawyer. Papers document Friedman's work as a lawyer in Tennessee and for women's suffrage, uniform marriage, divorce laws, child welfare, adult education, social hygiene and international friendship. Included is material relating to her defense of Octavia Dockery and Richard Dana in the famous "Goat Castle case" in Natchez, Mississippi (1930s).
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Jane Harman Papers
111 linear ft. (271 boxes), 1960-1998 (ongoing).
Legislative aide, White House attorney, Lawyer, Legislator. Papers document Harman's first three terms as a U.S. Representative from the 36th district of California. Major topics include national defense and the military (including women in the armed forces), the environment, space and technology, California-related issues, the Democratic National Party, healthcare, abortion and domestic and international economic concerns.
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View selected documents and images in online exhibition on Jane Harman.

Mary Metlay Kaufman Papers
49 linear ft. (102 boxes), 1917-1994
Lawyer, professor, and political activist. Major themes reflected in the papers include international law, anti-communism, civil rights, the anti-Vietnam war and anti-nuclear movements. The papers also document Kaufman's close associations with other prominent civil rights attorneys and her involvement in international war crimes tribunals. Material includes trial records and research; correspondence; published and unpublished writings; speeches; and teaching materials.
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Dorothy Kenyon Papers
29 linear ft. (69 boxes), 1850-1998
Lawyer, feminist, judge, and political activist. Papers document the continuity of social activism around such issues as race, class, poverty, and gender from the 1930s-60s. Topics include worldwide suffrage; abortion rights; minority legal rights; the Equal Rights Amendment; and civil rights. Materials include writings, speeches, organizational records, photographs, memorabilia, and audio tapes of interviews and speeches.
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Anna Moskowitz Kross Papers
3 linear ft. (9 boxes), 1905-1974
Lawyer, judge, Commissioner, New York City Department of Corrections, and social reformer. The bulk of the collection covers Kross's career as the Commissioner of Correction. Writings, speeches, and taped interviews reflect Kross's efforts to institute major reforms focusing on education and social rehabilitation for women prisoners. Correspondents include Constance Baker Motley and Eleanor Roosevelt.
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G.J. Stillson MacDonnell Papers
3.75 linear ft. (3 boxes), 1970-1987
Lawyer; Civic leader; Lobbyist. Papers document the Connecticut women's movement in the 1970s and 1980s, including women's organizations such as the Feminist Credit Union, the Coalition of Connecticut Organizations Concerned with Women's Issues, the Connecticut Commission on the Status of Women, the first rape crisis service and the first battered women's shelter in Connecticut. Topics include the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights, married women's surname, and taxation of single people.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Patsy T. Mink Papers
2.5 linear ft. (5 boxes), 1965-1982
Lawyer, legislator, and local official. The Mink Papers focus primarily on her first tenure as a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii, 1965 to 1977. Types of materials include speeches, photographs, press releases, articles, legislative bills, and an oral history transcript. Topics include education, the status of women, women in politics, foreign relations with Vietnam and China, labor unions, the armed forces and national defense, and minority rights.
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Constance Baker Motley Papers
6 linear ft. (16 boxes), 1948-1988
Judge, lawyer, civil rights advocate, and state senator. The bulk of the Motley papers document her professional life; material includes speeches, interviews, photographs, and memorabilia. The collection sheds light on the successes and failures of programs that emerged from the public policy applications of civil rights in such areas as the war on poverty and race discrimination; urban renewal; and in the New York State courts and political systems. Notable correspondents include: Bella Abzug, Brooke Astor, Shirley Chisholm, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson, Florynce Kennedy, Dorothy Kenyon, Martin Luther King, Jr., John V. Lindsay, George McGovern, Floyd B. McKissick, James Meredith, Pauli Murray, A. Philip Randolph, and Robert F. Wagner. Individuals represented in speeches and published sources include Jack Greenburg, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall.
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Marie Munk Papers
4.5 linear ft. (13 boxes), 1901-1976
Lawyer, judge, and marriage counselor. Papers include correspondence, writings, and memorabilia and document her work on domestic relations, marriage counseling, juvenile delinquency, and women's rights. Of special interest are manuscripts, written in both English and German, on the position of women before and after World War I; her experiences as a judge in pre-Hitler Germany; and an oral history conducted at Smith College in 1971.
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National Order of Women Legislators Records
1933-1988, 3.75
Legislators' organization. The National Order of Women Legislators was founded in 1938 when women legislators from more than a dozen states assembled in Washington to establish a non-partisan group. As outlined in its constitution, the group's members are interested in promoting "a spirit of helpfulness" among women members of state legislatures, acting as a "clearing house for information," and promoting the election of competent women to public office. The bulk of the collection consists of scrapbooks of clippings, photographs, correspondence, and printed material, about individual legislators and NOWL meetings, mostly dating 1970s-1980s.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) Records
1.75 linear ft. (2 boxes), 1975-2001 (ongoing)
Women's shelter. The NELCWIT Records include reports and other writings, publications, fundraising and outreach materials, articles and clippings, and early planning board minutes. The collection documents the organization's administration, shelter and counseling services, and educational programs from its founding to the present. Included are personal writings by survivors of domestic violence and abuse; research papers; and publicity and printed materials related to issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Western Massachusetts and beyond.
[Note: Partially restricted access - contact the Sophia Smith Collection for more information. Researchers must sign an Access Agreement Form, agreeing to protect confidentiality, before using this collection.
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"Sandra Day O'Connor: the oral history of a pioneering woman in the judiciary : an interview" / conducted by Mauree Jane Perry, April 4, 2001. Part of oral history series: A Woman's Legacy: Five Women Who Made a Difference.

Kathleen A. O'Shea Papers
6 linear ft. (6 boxes), 1910-2006
Author; Lesbian activist; Social reform advocate; Catholic nun. Papers include research related to O'Shea's writings on women on death row with files on sixty-five women prisoners, including correspondence from some, and video recordings about women in prison, including several about Aileen Wuornos. O'Shea has provided extensive annotation, explanatory notes, and biographical information, which add to the collection's richness and depth.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]

Harriet F. Pilpel Papers
13.75 linear ft. (28 boxes), 1913-1981
Lawyer; birth control advocate; and abortion rights advocate. Research files primarily related to her professional work with sexual and reproductive rights. Includes court documents from various legal cases on the state and federal level. The papers allow for a comprehensive, state-to-state comparison of a variety of sexual and reproductive laws, and provides a sense of the debates going on in individual states and the country regarding sexual and reproductive issues. Materials include correspondence, memoranda, press releases, reports, legislation, notes, journal and newspaper articles, and court documents.
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Hilda Schwartz Papers
13.75 linear ft. (11 boxes), 1930-1994
Lawyer; Judge; Founder, New York Women's Bar Association. Papers consist of correspondence, campaign records, legal documents, biographical materials, newspaper clippings and photographs documenting Schwartz's public career and legal work in New York City; as one of the first women to sit on any New York court, serving on the New York City Magistrates Court, then New York City Civil Court; and then on the New York State Supreme Court (1972-1984).
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Stop It Now! Records
2.5 linear ft. (2 boxes), 1993-2005 (ongoing)
Child abuse prevention and advocacy organization. The Stop It Now! Records document the organization's work to prevent the sexual abuse of children through education and intervention. Materials include conference materials; newsletters; printed material pertaining to sexual abuse of children; brochures; reports; clippings; administrative records of various branches in the U.S.; and writings and speeches by the organization's founder, Fran Henry.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use. Researchers must sign an Access Agreement Form, agreeing to protect confidentiality, before using this collection.]
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Dori Jacobson's Women's Rights Portfolio
.25 linear ft. (1 box), 1977-1986
Photographer and feminist. Portfolio includes photos of individual women and events, including women's rights actions in Illinois, the Equal Rights Amendment movement in Illinois, the National Organization for Women, New York anti-pornography rally, abortion rights and antinuclear events, and the March for Women's Lives, Washington, D.C.
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YWCA of the U.S.A. Records
570 linear ft. (1132 boxes), 1860-2002
Social service organization founded in the 1850s to provide services, job training, education, and recreation to employed women. Of particular interest are records relating to the YWCA's Public Advocacy Program which encompassed "[a]ny issue affecting our common life which requires collective citizen action, legislation, or the development of public policy or efforts to change or improve the conditions or quality of life for all citizens, or correct inequities." These activities increased after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Association lobbied Congress directly and also worked to shape public opinion on civil liberties and democratic rights, international relations, social and economic welfare, public education, public health and safety, science and the environment, and issues affecting youth. In addition, the Records include significant materials about the Association’s defense of membership and employment policies (which excluded men) which, since the 1970s, have been regularly challenged on the basis of sex discrimination.
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Subject Collections

Crime, Prisons, and Reform Schools Collection
.75 linear ft. (2 boxes), 1850-1977
Documents the activities and experiences of female criminals, the efforts of social scientists to understand them, the work of prison reformers to improve their treatment, and the changing approaches and methods used by the state to manage them. Material includes printed material, correspondence, drawings, reports, and unpublished papers that focus on the United States and England.
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Employment Collection
30.75 linear ft. (67 boxes), 1817-2006 (ongoing)
Lawyers; Primarily printed materials and books, plus some unpublished writings, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera, pertaining to employment issues and specific occupations of women primarily in the U.S. and England. Topics include affirmative action, sex discrimination, labor organizing, child labor, immigrant workers, women in industry, jury duty, and protective legislation. Occupations represented include: law, government and politics.
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Prostitution Collection
.75 linear ft. (2 boxes), 1834-1975
Collection consists almost entirely of printed materials dating from 1834 to 1978 and documents the changing relationships among prostitutes, the police, social and legal reformers, and the public over the course of this period. Includes such writings as "The Legislation of Female Slavery in England" (1876). Also included are two books on trafficking of young girls written in 1899 and 1910, and an audiotape of The Dick Cavett Show on the legalization of prostitution (1972).
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Sports Collection
6.5 linear ft. (5 boxes), 1942-2007
This small collection is comprised mostly newspaper clippings about girls and women breaking into collegiate and professional sports, and youth sports, circa 1970s. Included are printed materials on the Women's Equity Action League Educational and Legal Defense Fund (WEAL) and its interpretations of Title IX - Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all federally funded education programs.
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Violence against Women Collection
2.4 linear ft. 1967-1990.
This collection includes mostly published sources focusing on domestic violence, pornography, rape and sexual assault. It documents 20th century women activists and organizations which sought to draw attention to these issues and provide resources and support for women victimized by violence. Included are records of legislative and grassroots efforts to create and sustain shelters, counseling services, and legal support for victims of violence, plus articles and newsletters that articulate a feminist perspective relating the patriarchal structure of society to the perpetration of violence against women.
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Women's Rights Collection
25.5 linear ft. (49 boxes), 1789-1999
This collection contains both printed materials and unpublished sources documenting the broad spectrum of women's rights struggles and movements from the late eighteenth century to the present, primarily in the United States. Materials document changes in women's legal status in individual states and in the United States at-large. There is also an important concentration of sources on women's rights conferences and conventions; records of the President's Commission on the Status of Women and state-level Commissions on the Status of Women; and "The Fight for ERA: Leaders, Strategies and Directions," interviews with 29 ERA leaders.
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Oral Histories (see also Oral Histories list)

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project
28 linear ft. (72 boxes), 1990-2006
Feminists, Civil rights activists, Lesbian activists, Labor organizers, Reproductive rights activists, Grassroots organizers, Pacifists, Writers, Artists
Narrators include labor, peace, and anti-racism activists; artists and writers; lesbian rights advocates; grassroots anti-violence and anti- poverty organizers; and women of color reproductive justice leaders. Most oral histories consist of video and audio recordings, as well as transcripts. Most of the transcripts are available online.

For secondary sources, see the Browsing and Reference collections in the Special Collections Reading Room.

(Note: The SSC is actively collecting the papers and oral histories of women and the records of their organizations. Please see the complete list of collections or contact us for updated information on our holdings.)