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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 616: T-309: Vt-154: CD-4

Papers of Naomi Weisstein, 1967-2007


Collection includes writings and research of pioneer in cognitive neuroscience, feminist, and author Naomi Weisstein.


  • Creation: 1967-2007

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

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

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. During her lifetime, Naomi Weisstein retains copyright in her published and unpublished materials. Upon her death, the copyright will be transferred to Jesse Lemisch, and, upon his death to Charles S. Harris, after whose death copyright will be transferred to 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.


7.09 linear feet ((16 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 1 photograph folder)

The papers include personal correspondence, memoirs, fiction writing, and materials relating to Weisstein's health and feminist activities, as well as correspondence, writings, and research data relating to her scientific research. Many of Weisstein's notes throughout the collection have extensive doodle artwork. Audiovisual material (including original source material for the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band's album, Mountain Moving Day and the 2005 re-release CD, Papa Don't Lay That Shit On Me) was removed and will be cataloged separately as T-309, Vt-154, and CD-4.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1969-2006 (#1.1-3.9, PD.1), includes personal papers, correspondence, and materials relating to Weisstein's health issues.

Subseries A, Personal and correspondence, 1969-2006 (#1.1-2.11, PD.1), includes primarily correspondence as well as materials relating to the Chicago Women's Liberation Union and the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band, daily planners, materials relating to her 25th high school reunion, notes, and several photographs. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Subseries B, Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), 1982-2000 (#2.12-3.9), includes personal accounts, notes, and correspondence. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Series II, WRITINGS, 1967-2007 (#3.10-9.6), contains memoirs, fiction writing, feminist essays, and writings on humor.

Subseries A, Memoirs, 1988-2007 (#3.10-4.14), includes memoirs written as a book proposal, a published personal essay, and as a self-interview. Folders are arranged alphabetically by title followed by other memoirs.

Subseries B, Fiction, 1977-2000 (#5.1-9.1), includes "Transmitter," an unfinished feminist mystery novel written as a "potboiler" intended to correct the sexism of the genre (#5.1-8.7). Folders are arranged alphabetically by title followed by other fiction.

Subseries C, Feminist and humor, 1967-1995 (#9.2-9.6), includes "Psychology Constructs the Female," other feminist writings and an entry written on humor for the Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Series III, VISUAL COGNITION RESEARCH, 1968-1996 (#9.7-18.13), includes materials relating to presentations, papers, and lab research on object-superiority, metacontrast, and other aspects of visual cognition studies. The archivist separated materials relating to writings, conference presentations, research projects, colleagues, and University at Buffalo departmental materials into their own subseries. Remaining folders were left in their original order for the "research data and notes" subseries.

Subseries A, Writings, 1968-1992 (#9.7-11.1), contains a book proposal, published papers, papers with unknown publication status, and peer reviews. This subseries was organized using Weisstein's curriculum vitae as a guide. Folders are arranged alphabetically first by topic, then chronologically.

Subseries B, Conference presentations, 1976-1984 (#11.2-12.5m), contains abstracts and papers presented at conferences, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). Folders are arranged chronologically by title followed by other conferences and program committee work.

Subseries C, Research projects, 1976-1996, (#12.6-14.4) contains research projects and related grant proposals, as well as materials related to the filing of U.S. Patent 4,405,920. Folders are arranged alphabetically by project title followed by other projects and general notes and correspondence.

Subseries D, Colleagues, 1968-1996 (#14.5-15.3), contains correspondence, reprints, and photocopied articles from colleagues in the cognitive studies field. Papers were only retained if annotated. For letters from colleagues in honor of Weisstein's birthday, see #2.1. Folders are arranged alphabetically by colleague's last name, followed by other colleagues.

Subseries E, University at Buffalo, 1969-1983 (#15.4-15.13), includes course work, postdoctoral fellow and graduate student research assistant files, a continuing appointment letter for 1983, and other administrative documents from Weisstein's tenure at the University at Buffalo. Recommendation letters have been temporarily removed and restricted. Folders are arranged alphabetically by topic.

Subseries F, Research data and notes, 1968-1983 (#15.14-18.13), contains handwritten notes, charts, and data used as figures in papers and presentations representing the visual cognitive research produced by Naomi Weisstein and her lab at the University at Buffalo. Represented in this subseries is research by Ph.D. candidates, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate student research assistants including Jim Brown, C. Roy Genter II, Amanda Williams, Mary C. Williams, Deborah Walters, and Eva Wong. Folders and loose notes were left in original order and only refoldered when necessary. All original folder titles were retained and appear in quotation marks.

Some 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 part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].


Naomi Weisstein was born in New York City on October 16, 1939, to Mary (Menk) Weisstein, a psychoanalyst, and Samuel Weisstein, a lawyer. After graduating from Bronx High School of Science in 1957, Weisstein went on to receive her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1961. At Harvard University, she won a Departmental Distinctions award and gained her Ph.D. in Social Psychology (1964) after two and a half years. From 1964 to 1965 she was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow with the Committee on Mathematical Biology at the University of Chicago, and in 1966 began teaching psychology at Loyola University (Chicago). In 1973 Weisstein became Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, teaching courses and running her own data research lab.

A pioneer in cognitive neuroscience, Weisstein published major articles in several leading scientific journals. In 1979 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study the psychophysical aspects of visual perception. Over the next several years, she was awarded grants from major research foundations including the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Weisstein was also an important figure in the feminist movement. In her 1968 paper "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female," regarded as one of the earliest feminist critiques of scientific content, she declared that psychology had neglected, omitted, and made myths about women. In 1969 Weisstein became a founding member of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, one of the feminist, pluralist, multi-issue organizations working for women's liberation in a variety of venues -- women's health, education, employment and gay rights. In 1970, she founded the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band (CWLRB). Challenging masochism in rock for three years, the CWLRB shouted and sang their insurrection (Weisstein, 1999, #1.3)

Weisstein always considered the merging of her scientist self and her feminist self as the key to living in her own personal "wonderland." "We feminists need to know about science, not only for the sheer aesthetic joy of it -- although that is important -- but also so its wonders will not be turned against us. Women who are ignorant of science and technology have as much chance of participating in the direction of the new millennium as, in the words of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 'a clam at a horse race'" (Weisstein, February 2000, #4.14). Weisstein was physically active as both a scientist and a feminist until the early 1980s when she became bedridden from Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). Although still bedridden in 2010, she continues to work and write.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1969-2006 (#1.1-3.9, PD.1)
  2. ___Subseries A. Personal and correspondence, 1969-2006 (#1.1-2.11, PD.1)
  3. ___Subseries B. Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), 1982-2000 (#2.12-3.9)
  4. Series II. Writings, 1967-2007 (#3.10-9.6)
  5. ___Subseries A. Memoirs, 1988-2007 (#3.10-4.14)
  6. ___Subseries B. Fiction, 1977-2000 (#5.1-9.1)
  7. ___Subseries C. Feminist and humor, 1967-1995 (#9.2-9.6)
  8. Series III. Visual cognition research, 1968-1996 (#9.7-18.13)
  9. ___Subseries A. Writings, 1968-1992 (#9.7-11.1)
  10. ___Subseries B. Conference presentations, 1976-1984 (#11.2-12.5m)
  11. ___Subseries C. Research projects, 1976-1996 (#12.6-14.4)
  12. ___Subseries D. Colleagues, 1968-1996 (#14.5-15.3)
  13. ___Subseries E. University at Buffalo, 1969-1984 (#15.4-15.13)
  14. ___Subseries F. Research data and notes, 1968-1983 (#15.14-18.13)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 96-M175, 2000-M43, 2000-M189, 2001-M42, 2006-M97, 2007-M108

The papers of Naomi Weisstein were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Naomi Weisstein between 1996 and 2007.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Audiovisual collection of Naomi Weisstein, 1970-2005 (T-309, Vt-154, Phon-45, CD-4).

Processing Information

Processed: February 2010

By: Jessica Tanny

Weisstein, Naomi. Papers of Naomi Weisstein, 1967-2007: 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 1968.

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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