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COLLECTION Identifier: 87-M143--87-M171

Papers of Rosalind Rosenberg, 1979-1987


Court documents including trial dispositions, briefs, transcripts, and decisions relating to a sex discrimation case (EEOC vs. Sears, Roebuck and Co.) in which Rosalind Rosenberg, history professor, was an expert witness.


  • 1979-1987

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Rosalind Rosenberg 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 linear feet (3 cartons)

This collection of papers relating to EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Company is divided into three series:

Series I, 1-20, Personal correspondence, 1985-1987, includes letters from historians and feminists with Rosalind Rosenberg's replies, supporting or criticizing Rosalind Rosenberg's testimony on behalf of Sears.

Series II, 21-48, Articles, 1985-1987, about the trial, some with Rosenberg's annotations.

Series III, 49-91v, Trial documents, consisting of written depositions and oral testimony of Rosenberg, Alice Kessler-Harris, et al., briefs, statistical analyses, other exhibits, and decisions.


In 1979 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against Sears, Roebuck and Company for employment practice violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964). Sears was charged with "a pattern and practice" of sex discrimination in two areas: discrimination in the hiring and promotion of women in commission sales jobs, and discrimination in pay in management positions. The plaintiff's case was based on a statistical analysis of the Sears workforce by EEOC statistician Bernard Siskin (see 88v-91v), which claimed to demonstrate disparities between men and women in pay and in commission sales jobs. There were no individual women complainants.

The trial was held in Chicago, Illinois from September 1984 to July 1985; Judge Nordberg decided in favor of Sears in January 1986. Both sides sought to strengthen their case by including historians as expert witnesses. Sears called Rosalind Rosenberg, associate professor of history at Barnard College; the EEOC called Alice Kessler-Harris, professor of history at Hofstra University. Rosenberg argued that historically men and women have had different interests, goals, and aspirations regarding work, and that women's own attitudes made them reluctant to take risky jobs in commission sales. Therefore, she concluded, historical forces other than employer discrimination were responsible for the statistical disparities seen in the Sears data. Kessler-Harris argued that women historically have made the most of any economic climate, taking whatever jobs have been offered. Women's choice of work can be understood only within the framework of available opportunities. Kessler-Harris concluded that Sears had not done enough to counter cultural forces and to open opportunity equally to women.

The Sears case caused a storm of argument among historians of women and feminists. Letters received by Rosenberg and articles collected by her, 1985-1987, contested her historical interpretation of women's attitudes to work, and raised the philosophical issue of the role of scholars and feminists in offering their expertise to parties in lawsuits. Rosalind Rosenberg faced heavy criticism from feminists and historians alike.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 87-M143, 87-M171

Trial documents were sent to the Schlesinger Library by Morgan Associates, at the request of Rosalind Rosenberg, in September 1987; the other papers were sent by Rosalind Rosenberg in November 1987.


  1. Carton 1: 1-68
  2. Carton 2: 69-87
  3. Carton 3: 88v-91v

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: March 1989

By: Jane S. Knowles

Rosenberg, Rosalind, 1946- . Papers of Rosalind Rosenberg, 1979-1987: 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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