Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 536

Records of Midlife: Options for Women, 1981-1999


Records of Midlife: Options for Women, a resource and support center for middle-aged women, which sponsored discussion groups and seminars and published a newsletter.


  • Creation: 1981-1999

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except that individual items throughout the collection are closed as noted to protect personal privacy. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Midlife: Options for Women 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.


3.96 linear feet ((9+1/2 file boxes) plus 7 photograph folders, 1 audiotape, 3 videotapes)

The collection documents Midlife's forums and other activities. It includes by-laws and articles of organization, minutes, financial information, registration cards, membership and mailing lists, correspondence, program planning materials, audio and videotapes, photographs, and newsletters.

Most of the folder headings were created by the processor; Midlife's headings, when used, appear in quotation marks. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as parts of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back by an asterisk in square brackets [*]. A number of membership forms and registration cards containing only generic information were weeded from the collection. (Those membership forms which include members' programming interests were retained.)

Series I, HISTORY AND POLICY, 1981-1999, n.d. (#1.1-3.22, F+D.1-F+D.2, T-333.1), is divided into four subseries, described below. With the exception of Subseries B, they are arranged chronologically.

Subseries A, Policy, 1981-1998, n.d. (#1.1-1.11, T-333.1), includes Midlife's articles of organization and by-laws, as well as publicity on Midlife's early years and an information sheet describing the organization's purpose and activities. For correspondence about Midlife's incorporation, see #9.20 and 9.27. Also included are documents regarding Midlife's dissolution and members' reactions to the organization's demise.

Subseries B, Minutes, 1985-1998 (#1.12-1.17), consists primarily of board meeting minutes, but also includes minutes and reports for annual and policy meetings, as well as the minutes of a retreat held in 1993. Topics include the professional training and areas of expertise of founding members, possible collaborations with other women's groups, early planning and goals, development of special sessions and groups, program planning, evaluations of Midlife's past and present programming, and the possibility of Midlfe's merging with another organization. The annual meeting minutes provide an overview of Midlife's activities from 1991 to 1994, which included a brown bag lunch focusing on reactions to the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings. Policy meeting minutes include discussion of whether Midlife should sponsor a conference; this discussion led to Midlife's annual forums. The subseries is arranged with board meeting minutes appearing first.

Subseries C, Financial, 1986-1999, n.d. (#1.18-3.2, F+D.1-F+D.2), consists of budget information, check registers, tax records, and itemized expense reports.

Subseries D, Office administration, 1985-1998, n.d. (#3.3-3.22), includes Midlife's phone log and information on the lease of Midlife's office space and other administrative matters, including some resource files and contacts. (The bulk of the phone log concerns requests for information about Midlife; some requests for workshops on specific topics, and offers to assist the organization in various ways, are also included.)

Series II, MEMBERSHIP, 1986-1998, n.d. (#3.23-5.6), consists primarily of mailing and membership lists. Some information on issues in which members were interested, ranging from empty nest syndrome to women's health to alternative lifestyles after 70, is included, as well as surveys and evaluations conducted by Midlife to ascertain the success of its programming and goals. The series is arranged with evaluations, surveys, and membership forms noting members' interests appearing first, followed by membership and mailing lists.

Series III, PROGRAMS, 1983-1998, n.d. (#5.7-9.18, Vt-142.1-Vt-142.3), consists of the two subseries described below.

Subseries A, Forums, 1986-1996, n.d. (#5.7-8.23, Vt-142.1), documents the day-long events Midlife held between 1989 and 1996. (No forums were held in 1994 or 1995.) Topics include health care, managing finances, and self-esteem. Included are planning materials, expenses, evaluations, programs and registration forms, lists of registrants, and information on speakers and individual sessions. The subseries is arranged with information on individual forums appearing first, followed by general forum planning files.

Subseries B, Other programs, 1983-1998, n.d. (#8.24-9.18, Vt-142.2-Vt-142.3), documents Midlife's brown bag lunch program, workshops on topics such as financial planning, and interest groups focusing on special issues, such as menopause. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, CORRESPONDENCE, 1982-1998, n.d. (#9.19-9.27), includes requests for information about Midlfe; letters and resumes from women suggesting programs and offering their services to Midlife; letters asking if Midlife had centers in other parts of the country; correspondence regarding Midlife's administration; and letters and poems by Janice Gail Knowlton, author of Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer. In many letters, women express their happiness at learning that a group like Midlife exists, and report difficulties and frustrations encountered since reaching middle age. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series V, NEWSLETTERS, 1986-1998, n.d. (#9.28-10.2), consists of issues of Midlife's newsletter, which was published three times a year and included an advice column, a "Connections" page, which listed meeting times and topics for Midlife's various groups, book and movie reviews, short pieces by new board members, articles about the forums, poems, and other short articles. Some background material is also included in the series. A master set of newsletters is closed to research (#10.1-10.2); the run is incomplete. To use Midlife's newsletter, researchers should consult Schlesinger Library periodicals.

Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1991-1994, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.7), consists of images of Midlife's founders and board members, as well as forum speakers and participants, and other individuals associated with Midlife.


Midlife: Options for Women originated from discussions between social workers Joan Weiss and Marybelle Cochran. In 1984, after leading an assertiveness training course for women returning to the work place, Weiss and Cochran saw a need for a resource and support center where middle-aged women could pool their experiences and expertise. As they began talking about developing such a center and identifying areas of concern for women in their middle years, the discussions grew to include other women: psychologist Jean Mason, social workers Mimi Dohan and Elizabeth Cady, and Darlene Hopkins, a counselor with Displaced Homemakers. The group's first meeting was held on November 7, 1985, and the center, in Brookline, Massachusetts, opened on January 23, 1986, with a brown bag lunch program on exercising for fitness and health. Later brown bag lunches focused on finances, legal issues, housing, job searching, spirituality, and many other topics.

Midlife incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1988, and in 1989 held the first-ever forum for midlife women, titled Self-esteem in Midlife. The organization held annual forums from 1989 to 1993, with a final forum in 1996; the forums featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, and morning and afternoon sessions on specific topics. Keynote speakers included feminist and mystery novelist Carolyn Heilbrun (under the name Amanda Cross), Judy Norsigian, a founding member of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and writer Linda Weltner. In addition to the forums and brown bag lunches, Midlife's activities included affiliated interest groups on job search strategies, menopause, and other topics, a shared housing and resource exchange, daytime and evening discussion and support groups, a Sunday brunch group, and a stock club. From 1986 to 1998, Midlife also published a newsletter, which had over 2000 subscribers. In 1998, due both to the increasing number of groups offering services to women in their middle years and to a dwindling number of volunteers, the group disbanded.


The collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Series I. History and policy
  2. ___Subseries A. Policy
  3. ___Subseries B. Minutes
  4. ___Subseries C. Financial
  5. ___Subseries D. Office administration
  6. Series II. Membership
  7. Series III. Programs
  8. ___Subseries A. Forums
  9. ___Subseries B. Other programs
  10. Series IV. Correspondence
  11. Series V. Newsletters
  12. Series VI. Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 99-M28, 2000-M2

The records of Midlife: Options for Women were given to the Schlesinger Library by Midlife: Options for Women in March 1999, and by Joan Weiss in January 2000.


Donor: Midlife: Options for Women

Accession Number: 99-M28

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Periodicals Department.

  1. Re:Sources: A Newsletter for Midlife and Older Women, 1985-1989

Processing Information

Processed: November 2006

By: Susan Earle

Midlife: Options for Women (Organization). Records of Midlife: Options for Women, 1981-1999: 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 Edward, Frances and Shirley B. Daniels Fund, with additional support from Midlife: Options for Women.

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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA