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COLLECTION Identifier: 85-M108--85-M157

Papers of Joan Kelly, 1973-1984


Notes, outlines, book drafts, etc., of Joan Kelly, feminist historian, author, and professor.


  • Creation: 1973-1984

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Joan Kelly 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.


.63 linear feet (1+1/2 file boxes)

The papers consist of memorial tributes to Joan Kelly, syllabi and course outlines for lectures on women's history, brief lecture notes and notes on reading, and the draft of her unpublished book on the history of feminism. Folder headings (except for #1 and #2) are based on Joan Kelly's abbreviated headings. Dates have been added by the processor; other added information is in square brackets: [ ].


Joan Kelly, historian and feminist, was born in New York City in 1928; her father was a policeman. She took night courses at St. John's University, Queens, New York, working during the day, and received her A.B., summa cum laude, in 1953. That year she was the only woman in New York State to receive a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. She received an M.A. (1954) and Ph.D. (1963) in history from Columbia University, having studied with Garret Mattingley, who considered her dissertation to be "the best Columbia dissertation he had ever read"; it became the basis of her first book, Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 1969). The book embodied the theme of her life's work: the interrelationship of ideology and economic and political forces.

Joan Kelly joined the faculty of the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1956, teaching first at Baruch College and later at City College (CCNY) and the Graduate Center. In 1963-1964, she was a visiting professor in Renaissance History at Columbia. In the l960s, Kelly became politically active, joining the movement against the war in Vietnam, lobbying for Black Studies and for day care facilities, and supporting open enrollment at CCNY. She began to study Marxist thought and incorporated it into her teaching. From 1972 to 1974 she was on leave from CCNY and taught at Sarah Lawrence College where she developed her interest in women's history. Together with Gerda Lerner, she developed the first M.A. program in women's history at Sarah Lawrence and was acting director of the women's studies program at CCNY, 1976-1977. She defined herself as a socialist feminist and developed a Marxist-feminist theory of history.

Kelly was author of many articles, including: "Did women have a Renaissance?" and co-author of Households and Kin: Families and Flux, a high-school textbook. She completed "Early feminism and the querelle des femmes" in 1982. A collection of her essays, Women, History and Theory was published posthumously (University of Chicago Press, 1984).

Kelly served on the executive board of the Renaissance Society of America (1971-1976),was chair of the Committee of Women Historians of the American Historical Association (1975, 1977), was one of the organizers of institutes on the integration of women's history into high-school curricula, 1976-1979,and was on the board of the Feminist Press and on the editorial board of Signs. She was the Clark lecturer at Scripps College, 1978-1979.

Kelly married Eugene Gadol while in graduate school; they were divorced in 1972. She married Martin Fleisher, professor of political science at Brooklyn College, in 1979. She died of cancer in 1982.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M108, 85-M135, 85-M157

The papers of Joan Kelly were given to the Schlesinger Library by her husband, Martin Fleisher, in June and July, l985.


  1. Box l: l-42
  2. Box 2: 43-49

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: December 1985

By: Adelaide M. Kennedy

Kelly, Joan, 1928-1982. Papers of Joan Kelly, 1973-1984: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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