Papers of Shere Hite, 1916-2007
Papers of author and sex educator Shere Hite, including biographical material, correspondence, reader letters, sex questionnaires, drafts, project files, clippings, notes, photographs, audiovisual material, memorabilia, and electronic records.
Language of Materials
Materials in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Japanese, and Portuguese.
Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form to use the collection. Folders containing personal information, including medical and financial information, are closed until January 1, 2043. Additional papers where access would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy for third party individuals are closed for a period of 80 years from the most recent document in the folder. Researchers wishing to use redacted digital copies of the sexuality questionnaires (Series III) or digitized clippings and articles (Series V) must make an appointment with Research Services. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the unpublished papers created by Shere Hite is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in the published works created by Shere Hite is held by Shere Hite. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Unrestricted for personal use for all papers to which access is open upon signing of the special permission form.
Extent111.92 linear feet ((258 + 1/2 file boxes, 3 folio+ boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 3 folio folders, 5 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 38 photograph folders, 3 folio photograph folders, 2 folio+ photograph folders, 19 slides, 4 objects, and electronic records.)
The majority of the Shere Hite papers contain materials relating to her professional career as a researcher and writer on sexuality, a commentator on cultural norms and current events, and as a public figure. The papers include biographical material; correspondence; public response letters to her work; completed questionnaires for the Hite Reports; drafts of her writings; project files; clippings; notes; photographs; memorabilia; and electronic records. Additional materials were added to the collection in April 2021. These materials are housed in #262.1-262.8, 261F+B.11, OD.5. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order.
The collection, originally in storage facilities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Paris, France, lacked any recognizable original order; the 180 linear feet of papers were in a state of extreme disarray, and many items were found loose. Fourteen archivists at the Schlesinger Library roughly sorted the material into broad categories: audiovisual materials; addresses; published articles by and about; biographical; conferences; correspondence; drafts; engagements; fan mail; financial and legal; international; memorabilia; notes and scraps; photographs; posters; publicity; publishers; questionnaires; speeches; and television and film ideas. Two processing archivists then worked as a team, completing further rounds of sorting with help from student assistants. The archivists focused their efforts on limiting extensive cases of overlap and filing inconsistencies. However, due to the nature of the documentation, some overlap within and among series remains. More detailed information regarding the location of specific types of material can be found in the series descriptions below. Researchers are encouraged to use the browser's search feature to locate materials by topic, title, or genre.
Many folders in this collection contain undated materials, and may include random notes on scraps of paper, post-its, napkins, empty match books, and other objects, often folded, taped, and/or stapled together. Such materials have been left in their original condition; preservation photocopying was not attempted. There were some folders or packets of papers with original headings by Hite. Where possible, these original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the processors. To maintain any possible context, Hite's original folders have been kept intact, even when multiple folders with the same headings have overlapping dates. Additional material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this collection.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL, PERSONAL, AND LEGAL, ca.1940-2007 (#1.1-22.12, 261F+B.1-261F+B.6, 262.1), contains correspondence, notes, and printed materials relating to Hite's personal life and legal activities. Of note are drafts of Hite's autobiographical writings and correspondence relating to her lawsuits for libel and defamation.
Subseries A, Biographical and personal, ca.1940-2007 (#1.1-17.4, 261F+B.1-261F+B.6, 262.1), includes writings, correspondence, and notes. Autobiographical and personal writings include photocopies of Hite's early journals, as well as drafts of parts of her autobiography under various titles. This subseries includes her research into graduate school programs as well as samples of papers and school work and transcripts of interviews, many of which were published. Included is correspondence with friends and/or relatives in Florida and St. Joseph, Missouri, including letters from her mother, grandfather, and her Aunt Cile. Correspondence of an extremely personal nature is closed as noted. Folders (#17.1-17.4) contain information on maintenance and sale of the family property. Hite was also the head of the co-op board for her Manhattan home at 2 East 64th Street, and saved numerous files that include shareholder information; board of directors meeting minutes; and correspondence and notes regarding building improvements, building personnel, and sublets. There are also budgets and other financial information, sales documents, and real estate agreements. Mortgage-related information can be found in both financial and real estate folders. Financial materials also include bank account and credit card statements, invoices, bank loan documents, tax forms, and investment information, and are closed until January 1, 2043. For additional financial information, including information regarding royalties, contracts, and payments for articles, see Series II. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries B, Legal, 1974-2005 (#17.5-22.12), includes correspondence with lawyers regarding specific legal complaints and cases, individuals involved in these cases, and law firms regarding billings, as well as Hite's inquiries into potential lawsuits. Of note are correspondence with lawyers regarding protection of the Hite trademark against unauthorized use, including by a Korean beer company that produced Hite beer. This subseries also contains materials relating to Hite's contract and royalties dispute with Macmillan Publishing Company, publishers of The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality; and her complaints against the use of photographs of her in publications here and abroad without her consent. As a tenant at 249 Central Park West, Manhattan, Hite organized and led the other renters in a case against the landlord for neglect of the building, also documented here. Files are arranged alphabetically.
Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, AND RELATED, 1970-2006 (#23.1-115.14, 261F+B.7, 262.2-262.7, 261F+B.11, OD.1-OD.2, OD.5, SD.1), contains materials relating to Hite's professional activities, writings, and special projects in the United States and abroad. There is significant overlap and some possible duplication among each subseries, particularly Subseries A, B, and C (e.g., publicity and agent correspondence, which closely relate to Hite's published works, can be found within all three subseries). Also, there is overlap of information among folders within each subseries (for example, royalty information for a particular publisher may be found within folders titled "royalties," or by the publisher name).
Subseries A, General correspondence, 1970-2006 (#23.1-56.4, 262.2-262.5), contains correspondence and related materials found together, including extensive notes; printed materials; publicity information; writings and draft articles; schedules; contacts and business cards; thank you and holiday cards; postcards; invitations; and clippings. Correspondents include media outlets, public relation firms and publicists, professional organizations, colleagues and friends, business acquaintances, scholars, fans, and agents. Although correspondence is found throughout this series, general files titled "correspondence" are made up of correspondence and related materials found loose and then grouped together and arranged by year. Correspondence documents general information regarding the Hite reports, including methodology and distribution of questionnaires; professional reactions to and impressions of her work; events or conferences she may have attended; publicity, including reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, and advertisements for her work; Hite's articles, series, or columns for various publications in the United States and abroad; new book ideas; financial information relating to agents or article writing; her life abroad; promoting and translating books in Europe; others' related research projects; requests for autographs by fans; inquiries from the public regarding counseling services through the Hite Research Foundation; and the development of the Hite Research Foundation and related administrative issues. Files titled by country name (for example, "Japan") include everything from publicity and publisher correspondence to general information and notes regarding travel and living arrangements. "Japan" folders (#49.7-51.5) also contain information about her adjunct professorship at Nihon University. Although some draft writings are included here with correspondence, the majority are in Series IV. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries B, Publishers, 1971-2005 (#56.5-75.10), includes correspondence; contracts and domestic and foreign publishing rights agreements; financial information and royalties; draft writings; book outlines; notes; clippings; publisher catalogs listing Hite's books; and sample book covers. Topics include book project ideas and book promotion; articles series; details regarding publishing works; requests for foreign rights; book cover designs, layout, and development; and publicity events, including readings; and some legal issues regarding contracts. A number of folders also contain correspondence with agents, editors, and lawyers. See Subseries A for additional material regarding publication. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries C, Publicity, ca.1975-2005 (#75.11-95.8, 262.6-262.7, 261F+B.11, SD.1), contains publicity materials created by Hite, as well as by her publishers. Included are drafts or copies of public relations materials, including fact sheets, press releases, copies of articles or reviews, and materials consolidated in press kits. In addition, there are clippings scrapbooks; publicity tour schedules; press conference materials; draft writings; promotional brainstorming materials; event information; special projects; interviews; lists of contacts; and extensive notes. Many files contain correspondence with agents, publishers, and the media regarding interviews and other publicity-related issues. General publicity and general correspondence files may contain similar materials to the contents in folders listed by book title, as well as general public relations materials. For additional publicity information, see Subseries A, especially correspondence and files by country name, and Subseries B. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries D, Conferences and speaking engagements, 1976-2006 (#95.9-104.12, 261F+B.7, OD.1-OD.2, OD.5), includes materials regarding Hite's participation as a speaker, organizer, or participant in national and international conferences, meetings, lecture series, workshops, symposia, etc. Materials include correspondence; speech transcripts; drafts; notes; proposals and abstracts; contracts with venues, lecture agencies and speakers bureaus; publicity materials; agendas; and conference programs. Also included are research materials, correspondence regarding professional organizations; potential panels and presentations; notes; clippings; articles; writings; panel outlines; and printed materials. There is extensive correspondence regarding coordination for conference panels and suggested panelists, as well as letters regarding rejected proposals. International PEN Congress documents (#100.12) contain information relating to Hite hosting a pre-congress party. The symposium on masculinity was co-organized by Hite and various publishing companies; it is unclear whether the symposium took place. Material (#103.6-103.10) includes letters to successful public figures, including businessmen and celebrities. The American Historical Association conference materials (#96.11-97.10) include information regarding the publication of panel papers. Documentation of multiple conferences or organizations is sometimes grouped in one folder, as originally received. Some general conference folders may include materials relating to conferences also listed by organization. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries E, Response letters, 1972-2005 (#104.13-115.14), contains letters requesting questionnaires; asking to be included in one of Hite's studies; sharing personal stories; or asking questions in response to Hite's published columns or articles. Most of the respondents had either read her works, seen Hite on television, read about her, or heard her being interviewed. Some responses are very detailed and include extensive personal information. Because of the extremely personal nature of these materials, the letters in this subseries are closed for 80 years from the most recent date in the folder. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series III, QUESTIONNAIRES AND RELATED RESEARCH, ca.1972-2005 (#203.1-260.9, 217F+B.1-217F+B.2, 218F+B.1-218F+B.2), contains blank and completed questionnaires, data charts, notes, quotes, and related material for Hite's research, and demonstrate her method of analysis. For drafts of the reports, see Series IV.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Shere Hite developed an extensive survey that included numerous open-ended questions about what women felt, what they liked, and what they thought about sex; the questionnaires were printed on the National Organization for Women, New York Chapter (NOW-NYC) letterhead and distributed with the help of the chapter. To examine her hypothesis that a "woman's place in sex mirrors a woman's place in the rest of society," Hite designed her questionnaires to be answered anonymously. She published the answers in the respondents' own words. Her intention was for women to see their own and other women's personal lives more clearly, thus expanding their views of sexuality, and strengthening their identities as women.
Hite describes her methodology in the introduction of the first Hite Report (1976): "The questionnaire and three different versions were distributed to women all over the country since 1972. Great effort was put in the mailing and distribution of the questionnaires in an attempt to reach as many different kinds of women, with as many different points of view, as possible. Early distribution was done through the National Organization for Women, abortion rights groups, university women's centers, and women's newsletters. Notices appeared in the Village Voice, Mademoiselle, Brides, and Ms. magazines, informing readers that they could write in for the questionnaire. Later, more notices appeared in church newsletters, and Ouí magazine published the questionnaire in its entirety, with 253 women responding to it. Finally, the paperback Sexual Honesty: By Women for Women, which contained forty-five complete early replies, asked women readers to send in their own replies since the publication in 1974. All-in-all, one hundred thousand questionnaires were distributed, and slightly three thousand returned."
Hite continued: "The questionnaires were analyzed in this way: a large chart was made for each question asked. Each person's answer to a question being analyzed was then copied onto that chart, next to its responder's identification number. Once the charts had been prepared, the answers were categorized by finding patterns. The figures were prepared by totaling the number of women in each category, following which representative quotes were selected. This procedure was followed for each question."
While Hite has been praised for using a research method that provoked high levels of honesty in the responses, critics argued that Hite's data was not collected using standard sampling techniques. Some researchers raised questions about her conclusions, which, though presented as representative of the views of various populations, were based on responses from non-scientific samples. Critics further argued that the high non-response rate also biased or skewed the results.
Hite used a similar methodology to gather and analyze research for three additional reports: The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (1981), The Hite Report: Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress (1987), and The Hite Report on the Family (1994). For further information regarding her methodology and funding, and for lists of the organizations and publications that published each questionnaire, see the introductions to the individual books.
Folders are arranged alphabetically by general questionnaire. Following the first survey on female sexuality, Hite distributed three other major questionnaires regarding male sexuality, women and love, and growing up in the family. She also distributed variations of the major questionnaires along with smaller surveys, such as the Japanese questionnaire, which contributed to a Japanese version of the report. Hite received responses to the questionnaires years after the relevant books were published. She likely used these later responses in subsequent editions of her major publications, or other related books, such as The Shere Hite Reader (2006).
All of the questionnaires were intended to be anonymous. Responses in English were digitized and identifying information of those who chose to provide personal names or addresses have been redacted to protect their privacy. Questionnaires completed in languages other than English have not been digitized and are closed for 80 years. All original completed questionnaires in English will be closed for a period of 80 years, while redacted, searchable electronic copies are available at the Schlesinger Library. Researchers wishing to use redacted digital copies must make an appointment with Research Services.
Series IV, WRITINGS AND OTHER PROJECTS, 1975-2007 (#116.1-185.15, 261F+B.8, OD.3), contains drafts of articles, books and related material, and files regarding film, television, and other projects that are arranged alphabetically within three subseries. For published versions of articles, see Series V.
Subseries A, Articles and related, 1982-2007 (#116.1-132.13), is arranged alphabetically by subject, or title when known, and contains drafts, notes, and correspondence regarding the many articles Hite wrote for foreign and United States publications including Cosmopolitan (London), El País (Spain), and the Washington Post. Topics generally regard human sexuality, equality in the family, and women's issues, as well as many other subjects. Hite appears to have altered or expanded articles for various purposes as the content of many of the articles is similar. Additionally, she may have expanded articles into chapters of books or full-length books, or alternatively, edited chapters or taken excerpts from her books to create articles for publication. For additional drafts of articles, see correspondence regrading articles in Series II, Subseries A.
Subseries B, Books and related, 1976-2005 (#132.14-177.3, 261F+B.8, OD.3), contains drafts of and notes regarding Hite's best known works, such as The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality (1976), The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (1981), and The Shere Hite Reader (2006), as well as book proposals and drafts of books that were never published. Titles of books that were published appear in italics while working titles of unpublished books and chapter titles appear in quotation marks. Books and related material are arranged alphabetically by title.
Subseries C, Film, television, and other projects, 1975-ca.2005 (#177.4-185.15), contains files arranged alphabetically by type and then by production or project title thereunder. Files often relate to articles or books, such as the The Hite Report on Female Sexuality, that Hite may have intended to expand into film, television, or World Wide Web projects. Files also document autobiographical projects, such as biopics. In addition, there are fictional dramas and non-fiction projects, including talk shows and documentary proposals, which may or may not have been produced. Items include correspondence, film and television scripts, proposals, outlines, notes, funding information, executive summaries, business plans, and research material. Various proposals and a significant amount of correspondence document Hite's professional dealings with agents, producers, and representatives from film production companies and television networks.
Series V, CLIPPINGS AND ARTICLES, ca.1970-2006, contains various published articles by and about Hite, reviews, interviews, and profiles of Hite that appeared in newspapers and periodicals within the United States and abroad. Many of these published writings were sent to Hite from a clipping service. Some clippings are syndicated articles that appeared in various newspapers. Archivists and student assistants gathered together clippings that were dispersed throughout the collection; discarded some obvious duplicates, while retaining sampled syndicated versions of columns in order to maintain geographic diversity; and clipped relevant articles from magazines. This series has been digitized and most articles are full text searchable. The originals have been discarded. The digitized series is available at the Schlesinger Library. Researchers wishing to use the digital copies must make an appointment with Research Services. For draft versions of articles by Hite, see Series IV.
Series VI, NOTES, 1977-2003 (#185.16-202.4, 262.8), contains items that have been minimally processed due to the original condition of the material. Items include handwritten "general" notes (#185.16-197.4), and notes regarding specific subjects, arranged alphabetically by topic. "General" notes contain scraps of paper, which are often taped or stapled together; post-its; clippings from magazines and newspapers; napkins; empty match books; and other materials, usually in color marker or pen and often illegible. Hite appears to have written down various thoughts or ideas as they occurred to her, on whatever material was nearby. Notes referred to as "general" include a wide range of topics of a personal and professional nature. Many folders include multiple topics, and include thoughts about articles and publications; contacts; personal health issues and aesthetics; living arrangements; actresses and celebrities; financial information; and weekly schedules and commitments. Extremely personal notes are mixed with those of a professional nature; these folders are closed until January 1, 2043.
Larger batches of notes regarding specific topics have been separated from general notes and are arranged alphabetically by subject; original folder titles have been maintained. Topics include adoption, articles and books, interviews, press releases, public relations, Hite's scientific method, and a proposed women's club. To protect personal privacy, #199.8 and 201.12 are also closed until January 1, 2043.
Series VII, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1916-1995 (#PD.1-PD.45), contains photographs of Shere Hite along with images of her family and husband Friedrich Höricke, her pets, friends, and special events in which she participated. In many of the photographs she is alone. Also included are professional photographs that Hite used on book covers, or that were published with magazine articles about her. Formats include black and white and color photographs, Polaroids, slides, and negatives, and are arranged alphabetically by subject. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.
Series VIII, MEMORABILIA AND OVERSIZED, ca.1970-2004 (#202.5m, FD.1-FD.3, 217F+B.1-217F+B.2, 218F+B.1-218F+B.2, 261F+B.1-261F+B.11, OD.1-OD.5, SD.1), contains buttons, followed by oversized material removed from various series throughout the collection; a plastic bag (#261F+B.9m) is also listed and filed with the oversized material. The oversized listing also serves as a shelflist for oversized items found throughout the collection and listed previously in the series above.
American-born German author, sex educator, and feminist, Shere Hite was born Shirley Diana Gregory in Saint Joseph, Missouri, to Paul Gregory and Shirley Hurt Gregory on November 2, 1942. Shirley Gregory was 16 years old when Hite was born, and divorced her husband and later remarried. Hite was adopted by her stepfather, Raymond Hite, though she was raised by her grandparents and then by her mother's sister.
After graduating from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1960, Hite earned degrees in history (BA, 1963 and MA, 1966) from the University of Florida, Gainesville. From 1969 to 1972 she worked towards a PhD in history at Columbia University (New York City). She would complete her doctorate in international relations with a specialty in gender politics at Nihon University (Tokyo, Japan) in 1996.
Early in her career, Hite worked as a model and posed nude for Playboy magazine. In the 1970s, she became active in feminist circles and began her groundbreaking research relating to women's sexuality. From 1972 to 1982, she directed the feminist sexuality project for the National Organization for Women, New York Chapter, and in 1976 published The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, which was based upon anonymous responses to questionnaires in which women detailed their sexual experiences. This was followed by other works based on responses to questionnaires, including The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (1981), The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up under Patriarchy (1994), and The Hite Report on Women Loving Women (2007), among others.
In 1976, Newsweek magazine named Hite one of the "most outstanding people of the year," and the World Almanac named her one of "America's 25 most influential women" in 1978.
By the early 1990s, she began writing regular opinion pieces and articles for various newspapers and magazines and traveling internationally as a lecturer and consultant. Starting in the late 1990s, Hite founded the Hite Research Foundation, part of Hite Research International, to increase and advance the visibility and potential of women around the world. Related companies and projects included Hite Research Enterprises, which was designed to provide counseling and networking services among women's rights activist groups. Also during this time she began teaching at Nihon University, Chongqing University (China), and Maimonides University (Florida).
Hite married the classical pianist Friedrich Höricke in 1985 and moved to Europe in 1989. Due to ongoing criticism of her research and methodology, Hite renounced her United States citizenship in 1995 and became a German citizen. She divorced in 1999 and subsequently married Paul Sullivan. Hite died September 9, 2020, in London, England.
The collection is arranged in eight series:
- Series I. Biographical, personal, and legal, ca.1940-2007 (#1.1-22.12, 261F+B.1-261F+B.6, 262.1)
- Series II. Correspondence, speaking engagements, and related, 1970-2006 (#23.1-115.14, 261F+B.7, 262.2-262.7, 261F+B.11, OD.1-OD.2, OD.5, SD.1)
- Series III. Questionnaires and related research, ca.1972-2005 (#203.1-260.9, 217F+B.1-217F+B.2, 218F+B.1-218F+B.2)
- Series IV. Writings and other projects, 1975-2007 (#116.1-185.15, 261F+B.8, OD.3)
- Series V. Clippings and articles, ca.1970-2006
- Series VI. Notes, 1977-2003 (#185.16-202.4, 262.8)
- Series VII. Photographs, ca.1916-1995 (#PD.1-PD.45)
- Series VIII. Memorabilia and oversized, ca.1970-2004 (#202.5m, FD.1-FD.3, 217F+B.1-217F+B.2, 218F+B.1-218F+B.2, 261F+B.1-261F+B.11, OD.1-OD.5, SD.1)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession numbers: 2008-M69, 2008-M91, 2008-M139, 2008-M145, 2008-M158
The papers of Shere Hite were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Shere Hite in 2008.
Processed: September 2012
By: Mary O. Murphy and Laura Peimer, with assistance from Camille Owens, Madalyn Durgin, Adrian Gonzalez, Daily Guerrero, Jeanne Mack, Catie Ressijac, and Sandy Uwimana
Updated and additional materials added: April 2021
By: Laura Peimer
- Authors and publishers
- Bisexual women--United States
- Body image in women
- Businesswomen--United States
- Children--Family relationships
- Compact discs
- Cultural politics
- DVD-Video discs
- Electronic records
- Financial records
- Gender identity--United States
- Lesbianism--United States
- Literary agents
- Married women--Sexual behavior
- Men--Sexual behavior
- Motherhood--United States
- Mothers and daughters--United States
- Motion pictures
- Press releases
- Publishers and publishing
- Sex (Psychology)
- Sex customs
- Sex in marriage
- Sex in mass media--United States
- Sex role in the work environment--United States
- Sexual behavior surveys
- Sexual intercourse--Psychological aspects
- Women authors, American
- Women in public life--United States
- Women--Sexual behavior
- Hite, Shere. Papers of Shere Hite, 1916-2007: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- Language of description
- Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from generous supporters of the Schlesinger Library to the Maximum Access Fund.
- EAD ID
Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository
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