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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1155; T-588; Vt-388

Additional papers of Sybil Shainwald, 1937-2019 (inclusive), 1980-2010 (bulk)


Legal papers, correspondence, speeches, and conference, printed, and audiovisual material of women's health advocate and lawyer Sybil Shainwald.


  • Creation: 1937-2019
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-2010


Language of Materials

Most of the material is in English. A small amount is in French and Dutch.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form. Work product and attorney-client privileged records are closed for 50 years after date of creation. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Sybil Shainwald is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


22.94 linear feet ((55 file boxes) plus 18 audiotapes, 5 videotapes, 2 archived web sites)
58.69 Megabytes (71 files)

The collection contains research files, correspondence, legal case files, reports, articles, and video- and audiotapes documenting Sybil Shainwald's role as a lawyer and women's health advocate. Very little personal material is included. There is some overlap with the original collection of Shainwald's papers, MC 748. Shainwald's web sites, which are being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program, are represented in this finding aid as #E.1. Electronic records were received on four 3.5" disks and two CD-Rs and imaged using FTK Imager. Data on two of the 3.5" disks was unrecoverable. The recovered electronic records are described in the finding aid as #E.2-E.72.

Series I, PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL, 1945-2019? (#1.1-10.11, E.1), contains articles about Shainwald; a small amount of material (transcripts, commencement program, etc.) related to her education; and correspondence, primarily dealing with professional matters. Correspondents include women's health activist Barbara Seaman. Also included is a letter from Shainwald to Dean Donald Shapiro of New York Law School, expressing her gratitude for the school's attitude towards older students. The series also includes speeches by Shainwald; conference materials; and program books and other materials from the American Association of Trial Lawyers conventions. In addition, the series includes materials related to the Consumers Union and the related Center for the Study of the Consumer Movement, including the transcript of an oral history of Colon E. Warne by Shainwald; speeches and statements by Warne; a speech by Shainwald honoring him on his retirement; and correspondence regarding a planned history of the Consumers Union. Also included are board meeting minutes, bylaws, notes, printed and conference materials for HERS (Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services). Material related to the National Women's Health Network includes correspondence and press releases concerning legislation that the Network either supported or opposed; Shainwald's nomination to the board of directors, a personnel policies manual; internal memoranda about office business; testimony by Shainwald before the House Select Committee on Aging; and a report from Shainwald as chair of the board of directors. The series also includes a program for a lecture series named in honor of Shainwald's husband Sidney and drafts of an article Shainwald wrote on consumer rights advocate Persia Campbell. Also included are printed material and correspondence on a variety of topics that concerned Shainwald, including abortion rights, (including the transcript of a hearing of a select committee to review New York State's abortion law in 1968) and other women's health issues. Shainwald's archived websites are included in this series as #E.1. The bulk of the folder headings were created by Shainwald or her assistants; folder headings and additions created by the archivist appear in square brackets. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, DIETHYLSTILBESTROL (DES), 1937-2014 (#10.12-49.2, E.2-E.72), includes correspondence, briefs, depositions, transcripts, clippings, notes, research, reports, drafts, and other material relating to several DES legal cases in which Shainwald played a role. DES is a synthetic oral form of estrogen that was prescribed to pregnant women from 1938 through 1971 to prevent miscarriages. The drug was never patented and was produced by numerous pharmaceutical companies under a variety of names including Displays, Stilbestrol, Stibetin, Estrobene, and Dienestrol. In 1954, the first controlled study of DES efficacy revealed that the drug did not prevent miscarriages. In 1971, the Food and Drug Administration banned DES for use during pregnancy because it was found to be associated with a rare form of vaginal and cervical cancer in women exposed to DES in utero. The series includes legal documents regarding Bichler v. Lilly, the nation's first DES daughter victory, as well as correspondence regarding a meeting of DES daughters with Judge Jack Weinstein and a transcript of the meeting. The series includes a considerable amount of printed material regarding DES, including the booklet "Menstruation and its Disorders" by the Eli Lilly Company. Also included are reports and studies of DES by the Eli Lilly Company including a report titled "The Toxicity of Stilbestrol," and copies of the company's brochures and other product and advertising literature. Correspondence between Shainwald's firm and the lawyers representing the various pharmaceutical companies that marketed DES is also included, with much of this correspondence involving settlement agreements. Also included is litigation regarding a dispute about client representation between Shainwald and Morelli-Ratner, a law firm with which she had been associated in the early 2000s. The series also includes electronic correspondence and legal papers; these are represented in the finding aid by the designations #E.2-E.72. Work product and attorney-client privileged records are closed 50 years after date of creation. The bulk of the folder headings were created by Shainwald or her assistants; folder headings and additions created by the archivist appear in square brackets. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, BIRTH CONTROL, BREAST IMPLANTS, AND OTHER CASES, 1978?-2012 (#49.3-55.4), contains correspondence, legal documents, reports, testimony, and printed material regarding cases involving the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device (IUD), the Depo-Provera (Medroxyprogesterone) contraceptive injection, and the Nuva-Ring combination hormonal contraceptive (CHC). Some of this material concerns foreign claimants; materials in Dutch are included. The series also includes a report on Depo-Provera by the National Women's Health Network and course materials from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America/Breast Implementation Litigation Group workshops. Also included are clippings about the Melonie Haller rape case. Haller, a former member of the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter, attended a party at the home of film producer Roy Radin on Long Island and was found unconscious on a commuter train the following day. She said she had been raped and beaten and Robert McKeage pleaded guilty to assaulting her. Shainwald was Haller's lawyer in this case. The series also includes a brief for a libel case in which Shainwald and her firm represented the plaintiff and material related to Shainwald's involvement in cases addressing prenatal testing and the lactation inhibitor Parlodel. The bulk of the folder headings were created by Shainwald or her assistants; folder headings and additions created by the archivist appear in square brackets. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, AUDIOVISUAL, 1970-1997, undated (#Vt-388.1--Vt-388.5, T-588.1--T-588.18), includes recordings of radio and television interviews with Shainwald, in which she discusses issues related to women's health and litigation; audiocassettes of a HERS conference, at which women discuss the impacts of hysterectomies and oophorectomies (with the latter referred to as castration) upon them; and an information session for women with breast implants co-led by Shainwald. Also included are audiocassettes of oral history interviews (mainly by Shainwald) with several early members of the Consumers Union and its precursor, Consumers' Research. Material is arranged by format and then chronologically.


Attorney and expert in women's health law, Sybil Shainwald graduated from the College of William and Mary (B.A. 1948), Columbia University (M.A. 1972) and New York Law School (J.D. 1976). Since being admitted to the New York State Bar in 1978, Shainwald has litigated thousands of cases involving drugs and medical devices that have injured women and their offspring, including DES (Diethylstilbestrol); the Dalkon Shield and other intrauterine devices (IUDs); silicone breast implants; Parlodel, a drug once used as a lactation suppressant; and the contraceptive, Norplant. She has also served as co-counsel in cases involving other product liability actions. Shainwald has held many positions in the National Women's Health Network, including board member (1980-1986), president (1982-1986), chair of health law and regulations (1981-1988), and chair of the litigation service (1980-1986). She was also on the boards of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, Dalkon Shield Information Network, National Network to Prevent Birth Defects, and the Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services (HERS) Foundation. An active member of the American Association for Justice (also known as Association of Trial Lawyers of America), she served as chair of their environmental and toxic tort section; co-chair of their breast implant litigation and DES litigation groups; and was a member of their contraceptive implant litigation group. She has written, testified, and lectured widely on subjects such as obstetrical malpractice, IUDs, hormone therapy, and product liability.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Professional and personal, 1945-2019? (#1.1-10.11, E.1)
  2. Series II. Diethylstilbestrol (DES), 1937-2014 (#10.12-49.2, E.2-E.72)
  3. Series III. Birth control, breast implants, and other cases, 1978?-2012 (#49.3-55.4)
  4. Series IV. Audiovisual, 1970-1997, undated (#Vt-388.1--Vt-388.5, T-588.1--T-588.18)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2013-M193, 2013-M214, 2014-M1, 2014-M17, 2014-M53, 2014-M122, 2015-M33, 2015-M74, 2015-M145, 2015-M180, 2016-M11, 2016-M45, 2016-M116, 2017-M30, 2017-M131, 2018-M187, 2019-M55

These papers of Sybil Shainwald were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sybil Shainwald between November 2013 and March 2019.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see the papers of Sybil Shainwald (MC 748).


Donors: Sybil Shainwald

Accession number: 2014-M122

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Periodicals Collection:

  1. Black Women's Health Project News, Vol. 1 No. 2, April 1984
  2. DES Action Canada Newsletter, No. 68, Fall 2002
  3. The DES Action Voice, issues 84, 100, 104, 116-120, 130
  4. DES Action--New Jersey Update, Fall 1988
  5. DES Litigation Reporter, April 20, 1989
  6. HERS Newsletter, Vol. V, No. III
  7. you have struck a rock, CUNY Law School Women's Journal, Vol. 2, 1987

Processing Information

Processed: March 2022

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Yolande E. Bennett.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit. Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

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 the Eliza Taylor and George W. Ransom Memorial Fund, the Robert and Elizabeth Owen Shenton Fund, and the Fleisher Acquisition Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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