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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 946

Papers of Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz, 1951-1997


Papers of writer, college teacher, publicist, and social activist Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz, who brought a sex discrimination complaint and lawsuit against Kent State University in the 1970s.


  • Creation: 1951-1997


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Written permission of the donor is required during the lifetime of the donor as specified in the agreement between Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz and the Schlesinger Library. Individual items are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz is held by Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz. Upon her death, copyright will be transferred to 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.


2.5 linear feet ((6 file boxes) plus 1 photograph folder)

The collection contains correspondence and legal documents concerning Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz's sex discrimination complaint and lawsuit against Kent State University. This material provides examples of sex discrimination at universities during the 1970s, and the difficulties faced by married academic women with children in obtaining permanent positions with rank and competitive salaries.

In addition to the materials regarding the Kent State complaints and lawsuits, there is material documenting complaints Kantrowitz filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. There is also correspondence between Kantrowitz and NOW LDEF (the National Organization of Women's Legal Defense & Education Fund) and WEAL (the Women's Equity Action League) regarding the complaints. Kantrowitz's personal lawyer for these actions, Barry Boyd, later sued Kantrowitz in an attempt to collect attorney's fees; there are legal documents and correspondence documenting this lawsuit. In addition, the collection contains correspondence showing Kantrowitz's efforts to apply for academic positions. There is also correspondence about her participation in "Women and Part Time Work" session at Modern Language Association meeting, as well as a draft of her contribution to Rocking the Boat: Academic Women and Academic Processes (1981).

The collection also contains correspondence documenting Kantrowitz's personal life and career. There are letters from friends, family, and colleagues discussing family life, travels, studies, and life in academia. Folder #5.17 contains Kantorwitz's notes about the correspondents. The collection also contains an unpublished manuscript for a book, "The Medieval Adventure," and some material related to work with various organizations, including Westchester NOW.

The collection came to the library in two groups in 1996 and 1997 and was organized by Kantrowitz. Most legal documents and correspondence were in folders with brief titles; there is much overlap between files regarding the sex discrimination complaint. Personal correspondence was bundled by the author of the letter, and these groupings have been retained when possible. Many folder titles were retained and appear in quotation marks. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Writer, college teacher, publicist, and social activist, Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz was born in 1931 in Marquette, Michigan, the daughter of Doris Margaret Jorgensen and Robert S. Spencer. She married sociologist Nathan Kantrowitz in 1958 and they had two sons: Alexander Fraser Kantrowitz and Edward Fraser Kantrowitz.

A graduate of the University of Michigan (BA 1953) and the University of Chicago (MA 1957, PhD 1967), Kantrowitz is the author of Dramatic Allegory: Lindsay's Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis (1975). She was the founding editor of Ralph-A Newspaper for Undergraduate Teaching: Medieval and Renaissance Humanities.

Kantrowitz was a lecturer at Kent State University, Marymount College, Vassar College, the Pratt Institute, and Kent State University (1957-1976). In 1974, she brought a sex discrimination complaint and lawsuit against Kent State. She also filed formal complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). She was joined in these actions by Shirley Graham, a botanist at Kent State who had also been denied a permanent position. In 1976, the HEW investigation found that the women had been discriminated against under Title IX. Kantrowitz's account of the case appears in Rocking the Boat: Academic Women and Academic Processes (1981). She also created the first session at a Modern Language Association meeting on women and part-time work (1977).

In addition to academic work, Kantrowitz worked as an editor and writer for Irving-Cloud Publishing (1954-1956) and worked as Director of Communications for Professional Women in Construction (1985-1989). From 1984 to 1986, she served as a member of the Westchester County (New York) Women's Board. Kantrowitz has also been active with the Westchester National Organization for Women, serving as chair of the task force on religion and morality and vice-president for publicity (1983-1986), the steering committee (1980-1988), and chair of the 20th birthday gala (1980). From 1983 to 1993, she served on the board for Asbury Terrace, privately subsidized lower income housing in Tarrytown, New York. She was also involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Tarrytown, New York, in the early 1990s. Kantrowitz lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 96-M145, 97-M61

The papers of Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz were given to the library by Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz between 1996 and 1997.


Donor: Joanne Spencer Kantrowitz

Accession numbers: 96-M145, 97-M61

Processed by: Paula Aloisio

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division:

  1. Concerns & Research in Progress: A Newsletter for WCM, Saint Louis, Missouri: Women's Caucus of the Modern Languages. Volume 1, Number 4, July 15, 1974; Volume 8, Number 1, July 15, 1978.
  2. Midwest Concerns [Newsletter]. Midwest Women's Caucus for Modern Languages. March 1978.
  3. PWC Professional Women in Construction and Allied Industries [Newsletter], White Plains, New York. May/June 1986.
  4. Wallace, M. Elizabeth, ed. 1984. Part-Time Employment in the Humanities. New York: Modern Language Association of America.

The following items have been transferred to the National Organization for Women chapter newsletter collection (Pr-1):

  1. New York chapter. NOW New York State [Newsletter]: Volume 6, Number 3, May 1979

Processing Information

Processed: December 2022

By: Paula Aloisio, 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.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.  Other material not normally retained include:  clippings that are not by or about the collection's creator; research files; financial documents such as checkbooks, cancelled checks, bank statements, etc. (when there is financial documentation at a higher level); invoices, receipts, orders, airline tickets, etc.; and envelopes (when they do not contain additional information).

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 Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library Fund and the Kim A. Bendheim 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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