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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 493: T-498

Papers of NOW officer Mary Jean Collins, 1966-1988


Papers of National Organization for Women officer, Mary Jean Collins, Midwest Regional Director, National Board member, and Action Vice President.


  • Creation: 1966-1988

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Unrestricted with the following exceptions: NOW membership records (#22.4-23.7) are closed for 50 years; folders #1.10-1.14 are closed until January 1, 2029; folder #7.11 is closed until January 1, 2055; folder #7.19 is closed until January 1, 2035; and folder #23.8 is closed until January 1, 2034. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

As of November 2015, written permission of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is no longer required for access to folders #2.1-15.5, and #15.15-26.7.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in papers created by Mary Jean Collins while an officer of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is held by NOW. 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.


10.84 linear feet ((26 file boxes) plus 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 2 photograph folders, 2 audiotapes)

The collection contains mostly correspondence with some notes and speeches by Collins, minutes, agendas, clippings, printed material, and photographs. Materials document the wide-range of positions Collins held within NOW, including office administrator, Midwest Regional Director, Task Force Coordinator, board member, co-director of the NOW ERA campaign, and Action Vice President. Folder headings are those of Collins unless otherwise noted; archivist's headings and notes are in square brackets.

Materials received by the Schlesinger Library after May 2002 were added to the collection in February 2014 and are represented in #15.14-26.7. When the finding aid was updated, Series II, Subseries G, Administration, and H, Campaigns, as well as Series IV, Photographs, were added. Files in the original collection remain in the same order. Folders added in February 2014 are listed in intellectual, not sequential, order.

All printed material by or about Collins, as well as all printed material with annotations, has been kept in the collection. Other NOW publications and reports, except those created by Collins, were transferred to the NOW records in the Schlesinger Library. Non-NOW printed material produced by mainstream organizations and publications was discarded; leaflets and other ephemera of small, transient organizations were retained.

Series I, PERSONAL, 1969-1987 (#1.1-1.14, 15.14), contains copies of and correspondence relating to speeches by Collins, personal correspondence, clippings about Collins and her role in NOW's Equal Rights Amendment campaign, and correspondence and printed material relating to Collins' 1985 job search.

Series II, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW), 1966-1988 (#2.1-15.5, 15.15-26.7, F+D.1-F+D.3, T-498.1 - T-498.2), includes correspondence, agendas, minutes, printed material, notes, etc. It is divided into six subseries.

Subseries A, Conferences and Meetings, 1970-1985 (#2.1-3.18, 15.15-17.5), contains correspondence, agendas, minutes, and Collins' notes. Papers are arranged in the following order: Executive Committee meetings, National Board meetings, National Conferences, miscellaneous NOW meetings.

Subseries B, Budget, 1970-1985 (#3.19-4.7), contains correspondence, minutes of Budget Committee meetings, budgets, and Collins' notes. These papers date from 1982 to 1985 and are arranged chronologically.

Subseries C, Chapters and Regions, 1969-1985 (#4.8-6.4, 17.6), contains correspondence, clippings, printed material, and Collins' notes relating to various actions undertaken by each group. Papers are grouped alphabetically by region (Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South, Northeast, Northwest, Prairie States, South Central, Southeast, Southwest), and within each region, alphabetically by state.

Subseries D, Task Forces, 1968-1975 (#6.5-6.13, 17.7-18.11, F+D.1, T-498.1 - T-498.2), contains correspondence, clippings, and printed material concerning activities of the various task forces, as well as correspondence, notes, and training materials relating to Collins' role as leader of task force training sessions for national board members and task force leaders. Files are arranged alphabetically by task force name, followed by training materials filed alphabetically.

Subseries E, Correspondence, 1967-1985 (#6.14-7.8, 18.12-20.7), contains memos written by Collins and correspondence with and relating to various individuals and organizations. Much of the correspondence from 1967 to 1975 consists of letters sent to NOW officers, notably Aileen Hernandez and Betty Friedan, that were routed through the NOW office in Chicago, which was managed by Jim Collins-Robson's company, C-R Office Programs. Letters discuss office administration, NOW actions, chapter activities, and NOW conferences and meetings. Correspondence from 1983 to 1985 consists mainly of memos written by Collins to NOW officers, chapter presidents, and NOW general membership containing updates on issues NOW planned responses to or organized actions on. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Subseries F, Subject Files, 1966-1988 (#8.1-15.5, F+D.2, 20.8-22.2), contains correspondence, clippings and printed material relating to various topics of concern to NOW, most extensively abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment (nationally and within individual states), and lesbian rights (concerning efforts against anti-gay ballot initiatives and efforts to eliminate homophobic attitudes). Papers are arranged alphabetically by topic and both chronologically and alphabetically within topics.

Subseries G, Administration, 1966-1974 (#22.3m-24.4), includes correspondence, notes, mailing lists, membership applications, etc., relating to the administration of NOW's Chicago office between 1966 and 1971. Collins served as a liaison between NOW's national board and C-R Office Programs, ensuring that requests for information were filled and that mailing lists were kept up to date. She also assisted in the hiring of an office administrator for NOW's Chicago office in 1973. Files are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries H, Campaigns, 1975-1985 (#24.5-26.7, F+D.3), includes financial records, notes, correspondence, printed campaign materials, etc., relating to Collins' unsuccessful 1975 bid for NOW's presidency, her successful 1982 bid for NOW Vice President-Action, and her unsuccessful 1985 bid for NOW Vice President-Action. Files are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically.

Series III, OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, 1973-1987 (#15.6-15.13), contains correspondence, printed material, and Collins' notes on organizations she was involved with outside of NOW, including her position on the Drafting Committee of the 1984 National Democratic Platform and NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund. Papers are arranged alphabetically by organization name.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1974-1985 (#PD.1-PD.2), contains photographs from NOW meetings and of Collins in the NOW office and at NOW events. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Mary Jean Collins, Action Vice President and National Board member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was born December 8, 1939, in Superior, Wisconsin. She graduated from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, majoring in history with minors in English and theology. In 1968, she married Jim Robson; they divorced in 1974. Collins worked in various administrative positions at Taylor Electric in Milwaukee, Allied Radio Corporation in Chicago, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Chicago. From 1975 to 1979, she worked in the collective bargaining program of the Illinois Nurses Association and in 1985, she began working for Catholics for a Free Choice.

Collins held several positions in NOW. She was Midwest Regional Director (1970-1972), a member of the National Board, where she was in charge of task forces (1972-1975), president of Chicago NOW (1978-1980), Executive Director of Chicago NOW (1979), co-director of the NOW equal rights (ERA) campaign (1980-1982), and served as National Action Vice President (1982-1985).


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Personal, 1969-1987 (#1.1-1.14, 15.14)
  2. Series II. National Organization for Women (NOW), 1966-1988 (#2.1-15.5, 15.15-26.7, F+D.1-F+D.3, T-498.1 - T-498.2)
  3. ___Subseries A. Conferences and Meetings, 1972-1985 (#2.1-3.18, 15.15-17.5)
  4. ___Subseries B. Budget, 1970-1985 (#3.19-4.7)
  5. ___Subseries C. Chapters and Regions, 1982-1985 (#4.8-6.4, 17.6)
  6. ___Subseries D. Task Forces, 1968-1974 (#6.5-6.13, 17.7-18.11, F+D.1, T-498.1 - T-498.2)
  7. ___Subseries E. Correspondence, 1967-1985 (#6.14-7.8, 18.12-20.7)
  8. ___Subseries F. Subject Files, 1969-1988 (#8.1-15.5, 20.8-22.2, F+D.2)
  9. ___Subseries G. Administration, 1966-1974 (#22.3m-24.4)
  10. ___Subseries H. Campaigns, 1975-1985 (#24.5-26.7, F+D.3)
  11. Series III. Other Organizations, 1973-1987 (#5.6-15.13)
  12. Series IV. Photographs, 1974-1985 (#PD.1-PD.2)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 99-M131, 2002-M65, 2009-M53, 2009-M85, 2009-M138, 2011-M15, 2011-M25, 2011-M73, 2012-M48

The papers of Mary Jean Collins were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Jean Collins between August 1999 and March 2012.


Donors: Mary Jean Collins

Accession numbers: 2009-M53, 2009-M138

Processed by: Johanna Carll

One carton of videotapes of Judy Goldsmith press appearances was transferred to the NOW videotape collection.

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed material collection:

  1. Capitol Alert, Sacramento, California. Volume 2, Number 10, July 5, 1972.
  2. Center for Women's Studies & Services Newsletter, San Diego, California, Volume 1, Number 14, January/February 1973.
  3. Coalition Newsletter, Women's Liberation Coalition of Michigan, April? 1970.
  4. Women's Liberation of Michigan Monthly (continuation of Coalition Newsletter), Volume 2, Number 9, September 30, 1971.
  5. CWLU News, Chicago Women's Liberation Union, February-July 1970.
  6. CWSS Newsletter, Center for Women's Studies and Services, San Diego, California, Volume I, Number XI, August/September 1972; February 1973.
  7. First Things First: The First Official Catalog of Titles Supplied by 1st Things 1st-Books for Women-Fe-mail Order House, Washington, D.C., September 1973.
  8. Glory: A Magazine for Interesting Women, Grand Rapids, Michigan, December 1970.
  9. Hard Times, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Volume II, Numbers 13-15, December 10, 1971 - January 14, 1972.
  10. Kaleidoscope, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Women's liberation special, Volume 2, November 7-20, 1969.
  11. Men's Center Newsletter, Berkeley, California, February 6, 1973.
  12. Mushroom Effect: A Directory of Women's Liberation, compiled by Jane Martelli, Albany, California, 1970.
  13. Mushroom Effect: A Directory of Women's Liberation, 2nd edition revised, compiled by Jane Quincey, Albany, California, 1970.
  14. National Newsletter of the Sexual Freedom League, Inc., Berkeley, California, June 1971 - June 1972.
  15. The National Woman's Party Bulletin, Volume IV, Number 2, Second Quarter 1969.
  16. The New Feminist, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Volume 4, February 1970.
  17. Newsletter, Illinois Citizens for the Medical Control of Abortion, Chicago, Illinois, October 1970, November 1970.
  18. Newsletter, New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal, Volume 2, Number 2, February 1970.
  19. Newsletter, Planned Parenthood Association of Vermont, Number 4, June 1970.
  20. Roosevelt Torch, Chicago, Illinois. Pages 7-14 feature special supplement on women's liberation, Volume 25, Number 17, March 9, 1970.
  21. Scholastic Teacher, elementary teacher's edition. Issue titled "Women's Lib Comes to Class," November 1971.
  22. Sexual Freedom, Sexual Freedom League in San Francisco, California, Numbers 7-9, 1971-1972.
  23. The Spokeswoman, Chicago, Illinois, Volume 1, Number 5, June 5, 1970; Volume 2, Number 7, January 1, 1972; Volume 7, Number 4, October 16, 1976.
  24. Stewardesses for Women's Rights, Alexandria, Virginia, Volume 2, Number 9, September/October 1974; Volume 2, Number 10, November 1974.
  25. Vocations for Social Change, Canyon, California. July/August 1970, January/February 1971, July/August 1971.
  26. Women for Peace Bulletin. Chicago, Illinois, October 1971.
  27. WLW Newsheet. Women's Liberation Workshop, London, England, Number 6, October 24, 1970.
  28. Women's News Ex Change, Boca Raton, Florida. Volume 1, Number 1, February 15, 1972.
  29. Women's Newsletter, Ames, Iowa, March 1971?, April? 1971.
  30. WorkForce, Vocations for Social Change, Canyon, California. March/April 1973.
  31. Zontian, Zontian International, Fall 1969, Summer 1971.

The following posters have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Poster collection (Gr-15):

  1. "Epistle to Paul," by Mary Adelaide McIntyre Blake, March 17, 1970 (2009-M138)
  2. "Free University of New England Growing Together," Free University of New England (FUNE), School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2009-M53)
  3. "Stop War in Vietnam," by A. [Anton] Refregier, 1970 (2009-M53)
  4. "What Can a Girl Do?," The Feminist Press (2009-M53)

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

  1. California. Beach Cities chapter. [Newsletter]: Vol. 2, No. 4 (April 1974)
  2. California. Berkeley/East Bay chapter. [Newsletter]: Vol. 1, No. 2 (January 14, 1970); Vol. 1, No. 3 (February 16, 1970)
  3. California. San Diego County chapter. [Newsletter]: Vol. 5, No. 8 (August 1974)
  4. Illinois chapter. A Chapter Development Bulletin: Vol. 1, No. 1 (August 1975)
  5. Illinois. Springfield chapter. Newsletter: February 1974
  6. Maryland. Washington County Chapter. The Washington County Woman: Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1974); March-April 1974
  7. Massachusetts. Campus National Organization for Women. Campus N.O.W. News: April 24, 1969
  8. Minnesota. Twin Cities chapter. NOW Newsletter: January 12, 1971; March 1971; July 1971; October 1971
  9. New Jersey. Central New Jersey chapter. Newsletter: November 1969; April 1970; July 1970
  10. New Jersey. Essex County chapter. Chapter News: Vol. 5, No. 9 (October 1975)
  11. New York chapter. National Strength Through Chapter Development, 1979
  12. North Carolina. Winston-Salem chapter. NOW News: Vol. 4, No. 7 (July 1975)
  13. Ohio. Cincinnati chapter. Newsletter: June 30, 1971; September 28, 1971
  14. Washington. Tacoma chapter. NOW Notes: Vol. 1, No. 4 (November 6, 1972)
  15. Wisconsin. Racine/Kenosha chapter. Equality NOW: Vol. 1, No. 1 (March 1971)

The following item was transferred to the National Women's Political Caucus, State and local affiliates newsletter collection (Pr-17):

  1. Texas. Fort Worth Women's Political Caucus. Pressure Point: Volume 1, Number 1, September 12, 1972.

The following items were transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection:

  1. Mailing List of Movement Organizations For Radical Social Change, Central Committee of Correspondence, October 1970, July 1971, April 1973.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2002

By: Johanna Carll

Additional materials processed: February 2014

By: Johanna Carll, with assistance of Emily Underwood.

Collins, Mary Jean, 1939- . Papers of NOW officer Mary Jean Collins, 1966-1988: 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 a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a gift from Jean Faust.

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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