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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 753: T-486

Records of Quest: A Feminist Quarterly, 1970-1985


Articles, minutes, correspondence, business and financial records, retreat materials, audiotapes, t-shirts, and banners of Quest: A Feminist Quarterly


  • Creation: 1970-1985

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Quest: A Feminist Quarterly 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.


15.64 linear feet ((33+1/2 file boxes, 1 oversize box) plus 2 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 3 photograph folders, 76 audiotapes, 3 objects)

This collection documents Quest's work to produce a quarterly feminist journal, and includes article drafts; notes re: articles and development of journal issues; correspondence with authors (including rejection letters); meeting minutes; office manuals and material re: office administration and staff retreats; financial records (including tax returns); fundraising materials and grant applications; brochures; audiotapes; t-shirts; and banners. The bulk of the folder headings were created by the processor; those created by Quest staff appear in quotation marks. The processor maintained the original order of the material whenever possible. The majority of the records were given to the Schlesinger Library by Delores Cole in 1985; in 2001, Susan Hester donated a small amount of additional material (minutes and material re: Building Feminist Theory: Essays from Quest, in honor of her partner, Mary-Helen Mautner (1944-1989).

Series I, ADMINISTRATION AND PUBLICITY, 1970-1985 (#1.1-10.9, FD.1, OD.1, 35OB.1m-35OB.9m, Mem.1+ - Mem.3+, PD.1-PD.3, T-486.1 - T-486.60), includes correspondence; statements of purpose and ownership; articles of incorporation; meeting minutes; financial records; office manuals; audiotapes, agendas, and notes from several retreats that Quest held; audiotapes of a class on feminist theory taught or attended by Quest staff and of conferences at which staff members presented. Additional material includes staff job descriptions and vitas and audiotapes of staff orientations; grant proposals; correspondence related to Quest's legal and subscription difficulties caused by other magazines using variations of the name "Quest"; and fundraising and publicity materials. The series also includes several t-shirts commemorating feminist organizations and causes and banners with slogans supporting lesbian and gay rights. Of particular note are the material regarding the possible future of Quest, including negotiations with Varied Voices and Off Our Backs, and the decision to dissolve the organization (#1.6-1.9, 1.11, 1.14), and the minutes (#6.21-8.6), which provide a revealing look at Quest's weekly activities. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PUBLICATIONS 1972-1984 (#10.10-34.5, FD.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, T-486.61 - T-486.76), includes articles, audiotapes of planning discussions and of interviews of feminist activists, correspondence with authors, rejection letters, reports to readers (describing Quest's operations and goals), assessments of articles, letters to the editor, and notes and memos regarding theme development, layout, and issue planning for all 20 published issues and for an additional issue titled "Designing the Future" which was apparently never produced. The series also includes general correspondence re: the publication of Quest: A Feminist Quarterly; author contracts; editing stylesheets and audiotapes of editing workshops and discussions; apparently unsolicited articles; and correspondence, contracts, and publicity for Building Feminist Theory: Essays from Quest. In addition the series includes readers' surveys (#12.17-13.6), which provide information about the genders, sexual preferences, living situations, ages, jobs, educations, and interests of Quest readers; the survey also invites readers to describe why they subscribe to Quest and the type of material they would like to see in future issues. Of particular note are #22.11 and #23.1, in which Quest readers urge Quest to embrace strikingly different philosophies. The series is arranged alphabetically.

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


Quest, A Feminist Quarterly, Inc., was founded in 1973 by Charlotte Bunch, Dolores Bargowski, Mary Helen Mautner, Emily Medvec, Juanita Weaver, and others, in Washington, DC. Many of these women had been involved with The Furies, a feminist lesbian newspaper published from 1972 to 1973, or with the Women's Center or Rape Crisis Center; all shared a history of political activism and a sense of the importance of lesbian feminism, class, and power to feminist ideology. The women had begun meeting as a study group in 1972, looking for ways to further the women's movement's political development, with the original focus being more on movement building than on the production of a journal. The quarterly was aimed primarily at women’s movement organizers, theorists, and analysts, but the intended audience also included women wanting to learn more about the women’s movement, and people involved in other areas of activism (political, economic, etc.) The journal was a forum for feminist writers and artists, with most issues focusing on a particular theme, such as "The Body Politic," "Race, Class & Culture," or "International Feminism." A book of articles, Building Feminist Theory: Essays from Quest, was published in 1981.

The majority of the staff were unpaid, although two positions were funded for a time by the Institute for Policy Studies, and most worked full-time at other jobs while volunteering at Quest. The quarterly faced considerable financial difficulties, with budget constraints resulting in the production of only one issue a year in 1979, 1980, and 1981. Among the difficulties was the fact that the largely unpaid staff did not have much time to dedicate to publicity and promotion. Some internal tension also developed over Quest's goals and the roles different staff members played within the organization. Publication was suspended with the 1982 issue "Movement Building," although at that time at least one additional issue was planned. In 1983 there was the possibility of Varied Voices: A Lesbian Publishing Collective or Off Our Backs taking over from Quest but neither of these plans came to fruition. Quest disbanded in 1984.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Administration and publicity, 1970-1985 (#1.1-10.9, FD.1, OD.1, 35OB.1m-35OB.9m, Mem.1+ - Mem.3+, PD.1-PD.3, T-486.1 - T-486.60)
  2. Series II. Publications, 1972-1984 (#10.10-34.5, FD.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, T-486.61 - T-486.76)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M65, 2001-M48

The records of Quest: A Feminist Quarterly were given to the Schlesinger Library by Delores Cole in March 1985, with an additional donation in March 2001 by Susan Hester, in memory of Mary-Helen Mautner (1944-1989), whose papers these were.

Related Material:

There is related material: Charlotte Bunch Papers, 1967-1985 (85-M30--85-M66), Charlotte Bunch Additional papers, 1950-1988 (87-M149--88-M18), and Charlotte Bunch Additional papers, ca.1944-2010 (MC 708).


Donor: Delores Cole

Accession number: 85-M65

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following item has been removed from the collection and transferred to the audiovisual collection of Naomi Weisstein at the Schlesinger Library:

  1. Women's Liberation Rock Band at Niantic Prison for Women, December 13, 1970. 7 1/2-inch reel-to-reel tape.

Processing Information

Processed: September 2013

By: Susan Earle, with the assistance of Emily Underwood.

Quest: A Feminist Quarterly. Records of Quest: A Feminist Quarterly, 1970-1985: 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 gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

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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