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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 585

Papers of Irene Davall, 1971-1987


The papers of Irene Davall, feminist writer, lecturer, and political activist.


  • Creation: 1971-1987


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Irene Davall 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.


.42 linear feet (1 file box)

The collection contains Davall's writings, including copies of her column, The Liberated Woman (covering topics such as the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive and abortion rights, marriage, divorce, the decriminalization of prostitution, health care, and gender-based socio-economic inequality) and clippings about feminism, but very little personal material. The bulk consists of drafts and correspondence regarding a manuscript compiled by Davall and Phyllis Sanders. Biographical material and general clippings about feminism appear first, followed by Davall's writings, book proposals, drafts, correspondence, and the unpublished manuscript by Davall and Sanders. The manuscript, initially titled The Changing Role of Women, was based on a weekly radio show that Sanders hosted for several years. Sanders interviewed hundreds of women for the program; the proposed manuscript was initially based on interviews of seventy-five women, divided into thirteen subjects. As the project evolved, they limited the number of interviews to forty and changed its title to Voices of Restless Women: Speaking of Their Struggle for Change in the 1970s. The work was not published. Because it evolved, the chapter introductions written by Davall and Sanders often do not match either the chapter titles appearing on the interview transcripts or the various tables of contents. It is arranged below with the introductions to chapters appearing first (# 1.6), followed by folders containing transcripts of the interviews that Sanders conducted, arranged numerically according to chapter. During one of the manuscript's permutations, chapter titles seem to have shifted (as indicated by pencil notations); however, as these shifts are unclear, they are arranged here according to the chapter number typed in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Often Davall and Sanders included several interviews in one chapter; in the folder headings below, individual's names are listed as they were grouped by the authors, with distinct groups separated by semicolons.


Irene Evans Davall was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1916 to Lulu Evans Compton Michaels. Along with her mother, Davall lived with her maternal grandparents, George W. Evans and Kate Evans, until she reached adulthood. After graduating from Norfolk Business College, she moved to New York City where she held several secretarial positions, including serving as a private secretary to Bennett Cerf at Random House and as private assistant to Sir Julian Huxley, Secretary General of UNESCO in Paris. She married Richard Davall, an engineer for the shipping firm US Lines, and the two became active in the civil rights movement. Davall's active interest in promoting women's rights occurred in the 1960s while she was volunteering for Planned Parenthood.

Inspired by her volunteer work, late in 1971 Davall left her secretarial position for the New York Port Authority and became the national coordinator of the newly-founded Feminist Party. She organized Feminist Party chapters (primarily on college campuses), produced a monthly newsletter, and lectured to groups about various feminist issues, including the Equal Rights Amendment, women's rights in divorce, the decriminalization of prostitution, and abortion rights. She worked closely with Florynce Kennedy, a founder of the Feminist Party, helping her publicize a lawsuit against the Catholic Church for its stance on abortion, and supporting Shirley Chisholm's campaign for president.

As one of the coordinators of the Feminist Party, Davall traveled to India, Yugoslavia, Portugal, Mexico, and various African countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, to investigate the condition of women. Throughout the 1970s, she wrote a column, The Liberated Woman, which was syndicated in local newspapers. Davall died in New York City, in May 2000.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 87-M43

The papers of Irene Davall were given to the Schlesinger Library by Irene Davall in 1987.

Processing Information

Processed: April 2009

By: Marilyn Morgan



Davall, Irene, 1916-2000. Papers of Irene Davall, 1971-1987: 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 Ardis B. James Fund.

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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