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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 670: Vt-188: CD-045: DVD-050

Papers of Alice S. Rossi, 1927-2009


Correspondence, professional and autobiographical writings, datebooks, photographs, and audiovisual material of Alice S. Rossi, sociologist, feminist, and a founder of the National Organization for Women and Sociologists for Women in Society.


  • Creation: 1927-2009


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is unrestricted. Several folders of correspondence and student recommendations are closed: #12.1 until January 1, 2040, and #20.5-20.6 until January 1, 2055. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Alice S. Rossi 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.


10.43 linear feet ((25 file boxes) plus 2 folio+ folders, 3 photograph folders, 1 videotape, 2 CDs, 3 DVDs, electronic records)

The papers of Alice S. Rossi include correspondence, professional and autobiographical writings, datebooks, photographs, a videotape, CDs, and DVDs. Much of the collection is correspondence, either with family, friends and colleagues, or with other activists. Little material is from her early life. Rossi organized her files before sending them to the Schlesinger Library, and most folder titles are hers; those in brackets were created by the archivist.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1927-2009 (#1.1-3.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, PD.1-PD.2, DVD-050.1 - DVD-050.3, CD-045.1, E.1), includes family photographs, datebooks, resumes, and autobiographical writings. A photograph album from the 1930s shows Rossi's unidentified family members and friends. Rossi's high school newspaper articles are collected in a scrapbook (#2.11). A transcript of an interview for the Valley Women's History Collaborative details Rossi's experience with gender politics at University of Massachusetts. The series also includes Peter H. Rossi's privately published autobiography (#3.2), as well as Alice Rossi's unpublished autobiographical writings (#1.2-1.3). One DVD is a video of Peter H. Rossi's 2007 memorial service. The other two DVDs are conversations between Alice Rossi and her daughter Nina, fueled by Nina's suggestion that her mother paid too much attention to work and not enough to parenting. One of the CDs is a radio interview with the two women on the same topic that aired on National Public Radio. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1937-2008 (#3.3-18.5, PD.3), includes Rossi's incoming and outgoing letters to her husband, children, colleagues, students, and friends. Almost daily letters between Peter and Alice detail their courtship and the months leading up to their wedding in 1951, during which time both were also attempting to obtain divorces from their first spouses. Alice maintained an extensive correspondence with her children, particularly Nina, which often details their stormy emotional relationships. Most of Rossi's correspondence with her children was filed in named folders, though some can also be found throughout the general chronological files. Rossi filed her general correspondence alphabetically by sender during the 1970s; she later filed correspondence by year. These arrangements have been maintained. A folder of correspondence between Rossi and her good friend Sarah Betsky includes letters discussing a difficult time in the Rossi's marriage. Most general correspondence is from sociologists, other professional colleagues, students, etc. Correspondence with other academics in the late 1960s and early 1970s often involves questions about scholarship on women and Academic Women on the Move (see also Series III). There is no general correspondence between 1978 and 1992. General correspondence in the 1990s and 2000s is with colleagues working on midlife research, children, and grandchildren. Much of the 2007 correspondence is in response to Peter's death in 2006. The series is arranged with Rossi's family correspondence first, followed by alphabetical and then chronological folders.

Series III, PROFESSIONAL, 1954-1998 (#18.6-22.13, Vt-188.1), includes material relating to Rossi's lectures, awards, papers, reviews, etc., as well as several of her book projects. Folders on lectures and/or conferences may include copies of speeches, correspondence, programs, etc. Several folders relate to the editing and publishing process for The Feminist Papers. Material about Academic Women on the Move includes correspondence with co-editor Ann Calderwood, chapter authors, the Russell Sage Foundation (funders and publishers), etc. The series is arranged chronologically, with material on book projects filed together.

Series IV, ORGANIZATIONS, 1968-2007 (#22.14-25.14, CD-045.2), includes correspondence, notes, and research documents related to the founding of the American Sociological Association Women's Caucus and Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), as well as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Committee W on the Status of Women in Academia. A few folders document Rossi's involvement with the National Organization for Women, including a lengthy written report of the NOW 2006 convention that includes Rossi's memories of events surrounding the 1966 founding meetings. A CD of a 2007 radio show discusses Rossi's 40 years of involvement with NOW. SWS material includes notes, meeting minutes, and correspondence, primarily with other founding members Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Lenore Weitzman, Pauline Bart, Athena Theodore, and Joan Huber. The AAUP Committee W was reactivated in the summer of 1970 after being inactive since the mid 1920s. AAUP material was not particularly well-organized by Rossi and material in folders may overlap considerably. The series is arranged alphabetically.

A selection of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database.


Sociologist and feminist Alice Emma Schaerr Rossi was born to Emma and William A. Schaerr in Brooklyn, New York, on September 24, 1922. She attended Grover Cleveland High School in Brooklyn, Brooklyn College (BA, 1947), and received a PhD in sociology from Columbia University in 1957. At 19, she married Max Kitt, her former teacher; they were divorced in 1951. Later that same year she married sociologist Peter H. Rossi (1921-2006), who also obtained a divorce from his first wife in order to marry. They had three children: Peter Eric, Kristin, and Nina.

After marriage, Alice worked as a research associate at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the National Opinion Research Center, and Johns Hopkins University, as Peter held academic jobs at or near those institutions. In 1969, Alice became Associate Professor of Sociology at Goucher College. In 1974 both Rossis received faculty appointments at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where they taught until retirement.

Alice Rossi's academic work focused on issues of women's equality, life choices and changes, and professional work; gender within the family; and abortion laws and public attitudes toward abortion. Her 1963 paper, "Equality Between the Sexes: an Immodest Proposal" (published in Daedalus in 1964) decried full-time motherhood as a significant obstacle to women's political and social equality with men. She was editor (with Ann Calderwood) of Academic Women on the Move (1973), a volume that looked at women's achievements, stumbling blocks, and representation throughout academia. Rossi also edited The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir (1973), an early and influential work in the field of women's history.

Rossi attended the organizational meeting of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, and served on that organization's national board until 1970. She also served on the board of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL, 1969-1972). She was appointed to the National Commission for the Observance of International Women's Year (1977-1978) and later published an account of the resulting conference: Feminists in Politics: A Panel Analysis of the First National Women's Conference (1982).

Rossi was extremely active in several professional associations. In 1969 Rossi and other women members of the American Sociological Association (ASA) formed a Women's Caucus. In 1971, that caucus was further transformed into a new organization, Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS). SWS was intended to promote professional opportunities for women in sociology, provide job market services, explore the contributions of sociology to the humanization of sex roles, and serve as guardian for women in the ASA. Rossi was the first president of SWS (1971-1972). She continued to serve a variety of functions within ASA itself, including president (1982-1983), vice-president (1977-1978) and president of the Family Section (1987-1989). She also served as chair of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Committee W on the Status of Women in Academia from 1970 to 1973. During Rossi's tenure, Committee W researched and recommended policy changes on issues like nepotism (a common university policy which forbade spousal hiring and was a barrier to the employment of dual-academic couples) and parental leave. Rossi also served as vice-president of AAUP (1974-1976), president of the Eastern Sociological Society (1973-1974), and chair of the Social Science Research Council (1976-1978).

With her husband, she wrote Of Human Bonding: Parent-Child Relations Across the Life Course (1990). She edited several volumes relating to women and sociology, including Gender and the Life Course (1985), Sexuality Across the Life Course (1994) and Caring and Doing for Others: Social Responsibility in the Domains of Family, Work, and Community (2001).

Alice Rossi was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. She died of pneumonia on November 3, 2009, in Northampton, Massachusetts.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1927-2009 (#1.1-3.2, F+D.1-F+D.2, PD.1-PD.2, DVD-050.1 - DVD-050.3, CD-045.1, E.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1937-2008 (#3.3-18.5, PD.3)
  3. Series III. Professional, 1954-1998 (#18.6-22.13, Vt-188.1)
  4. Series IV. Organizations, 1968-2007 (#22.14-25.14, CD-045.2)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M211, 2008-M3, 2009-M257

The papers of Alice S. Rossi were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alice S. Rossi in 2007 and 2008, and by her children in 2009.

Related Material:

The Schlesinger Library also holds the records of Sociologists for Women in Society (74-203--2004-M15) and the National Organization for Women (MC 496). A videotape of Rossi's 1989 lecture on "Women and Intellectual Development" at Brandeis University (#22.7) is also available at the Schlesinger Library (Vt-044).

Processing Information

Processed: January 2011

By: Jenny Gotwals with assistance from Su Ciampa

Rossi, Alice S., 1922-2009. Papers of Alice S. Rossi, 1927-2009: 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 gifts from Radcliffe College Class of 1950 and 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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