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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c437

Elizabeth B. Connell papers


The Elizabeth B. Connell papers reflect the professional activities of Elizabeth B. Connell (1925-2018). Connell is a medical practitioner and specialist in the field of reproductive health. From the 1960s, her work has centered on reproductive medicine in terms of contraception and women’s health. The collection focuses on her work on forms of contraception including oral contraceptives and intrauterine contraceptive devices as well as her involvement in issues such as the controversy around silicone breast implants in the 1980s and 1990s.


  • Creation: 1960-2010 (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-1990 .


Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series III. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

Access to electronic records in this collection (as found in Series II) is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit.

The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for further information about retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


7.5 cubic feet (7 records center cartons, 1 letter-size half-manuscript box, and 1 legal-size flat box)

The collection reflects the professional work of Elizabeth B. Connell, a specialist in women’s health, between the 1960s and the 1990s. Connell worked on many levels to promote open access to birth control and adequate reproductive health care for women in the United States. Materials in the collection reflect Connell’s work with hospitals, private organizations, and government institutions on a variety of women’s health topics, primarily birth control and breast implant safety. Records include correspondence, clippings, reprints, publications, and manuscripts, transcripts of court proceedings, subject files on pharmaceuticals and clinical trials of intrauterine devices. The bulk of the collection is made up of subject files and reprints or publications. Topics include birth control methods, including early testing and release of the birth control pill and development of intrauterine devices, women’s health outside of the United States, and a large amount of material reflecting Connell’s involvement in the legal activity around the safety and use of silicone breast implants.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Notes

Elizabeth B. Connell (1925-2018), A.B., 1947, and M.D., 1951, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, was professor emerita of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and a guest researcher in the Center for Health Promotion and Education at the Centers for Disease Control.

Elizabeth B. (Bishop) Connell was born in 1925 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, receiving her A.B. in 1947 and her M.D. in 1951. Connell interned at the Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1951-1952 and completed a residency in pathology and anesthesia between 1952-1953.

In 1958, Connell moved to Blue Hill, Maine, with her first husband, John Connell, to work in a general practice based around a small rural hospital. Connell later said that this was where she first became acutely aware of the health issues that particularly affected her female patients, including conception and fertility.

Connell and her family moved back to Philadelphia so she could pursue further medical training, including a residency in gynecology. In 1960, Connell moved from Philadelphia to New York in order to take an obstetrics residency at Mount Sinai Hospital. After completing her residency in 1961, Connell received an American Cancer Fellowship which allowed her to gain experience in performing radical cancer surgeries. During the same period, she worked on opening family planning clinics in the Spanish Harlem area of New York City.

In 1962, she was appointed associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York Medical College, a position she held until 1969. She was also director of the Family Planning Center run between the New York Medical College and the Metropolitan Hospital Medical Center from 1964-1969.

In 1970, Connell was appointed Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in charge of family planning at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital. At the same time, she held a position as clinical consultant on family planning activities with the Department of Health.

In 1973, Connell took a position at the Rockefeller Foundation; she stayed at the Foundation for five years working on grant distribution. In the same year, she was the first woman to chair a Food and Drug Administration panel; after 1973, she served as chair or member of numerous FDA advisory panels, including on breast implant safety (1991-1992) and an obstetrics and gynecology devices panel (1988-1992).

In 1981, Connell moved to the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, taking a position as professor in the department of gynecology and obstetrics. She held that position until 1997 when she was named a professor emerita.

Connell held positions on many advisory boards and committees including for Planned Parenthood, the Food and Drug Administration, the New York City Department of Health, and the Human Resources Administration. She was a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American College of Surgeons, the American Public Health Association, the American Fertility Society, the American Medical Women’s Association, the Medical Women’s International Association, the Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of Health.

Connell married her first husband, John Thomas Connell, in 1949. The couple had six children: Robert (1953), Thomas (1954), Richard (1955), David (1959), James (1961), and Patricia (1963). Connell and her first husband later separated and she married Howard J. Tatum, M.D. Tatum was the inventor of an intrauterine device prototype, the “Tatum T,” one of the original IUD designs. Tatum died in 2002 in Atlanta, Georgia. Connell died of congestive heart failure on 20 August 2018 in Framingham, Mass.

Series in the Collection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1964-2003
  2. II. Subject Files, 1962-1993
  3. III. Reprints, 1960-1989
  4. IV. Slides, undated, 1968-2003

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. Acc. 2014-083. Elizabeth B. Connell. 2014 May 13.

Related Collections in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Alan Guttmacher. H MS c155.
  2. Warren Anatomical Museum Catalogue Number 21589: One Searle Laboratories intrauterine device, “CU-7” intrauterine copper contraceptive, in sterile package.
  3. Warren Anatomical Museum Catalogue Number 21590: One A H Robbins intrauterine device, “Dalkon Shield,” in sterile package.

Related Records at Other Institutions

  1. Records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. MS 371.
  2. Rockefeller Foundation Archives.


Two packaged, unused intrauterine devices (a Dalkon Shield and a Cu-7) have been separated and transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum for preservation; researchers should request Warren Anatomical Museum catalog numbers 21589 and 21590.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2015 July.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Material stored in 3-ring binders was removed, and foldered; the original binders were discarded. Oversize items are stored in Box 9. 5 ¼ inch floppy disks were found in the boxes and left in their original folders in Series II. The disks have been labelled and are entered in the folder list; however, the disks could not be imaged and there are no digital surrogates for research use. Researchers should contact Public Services for more information.

Two packaged, unused intrauterine devices (a Dalkon Shield and a Cu-7) have been separated and transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum for preservation. Projection slides have been removed from their original, non-archival sleeves and 3-ring binders and placed in archival sleeves and folders. A small, fragile “Guest Book” has been enclosed for preservation purposes and is in Box 9. A set of data charts and graphs was found in a moldy scrapbook; the pages were removed and refoldered and are in Box 9. The original scrapbook was discarded.

Connell, Elizabeth B. Papers, 1960-2010 (inclusive), 1970-1990 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Description rules
Language of description
The Elizabeth B. Connell papers have been processed and made available by the Archives for Women in Medicine project with generous support from our donors.

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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