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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 721: Vt-249

Additional records of New Words, 1974-2003


Additional records of the women's bookstore New Words, including administrative files, correspondence, financial records, readings and special event files, promotional material, photographs, memorabilia, audiovisual material, and electronic records.


  • Creation: 1974-2003

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the records are open to research. Folder #2.4 is closed until January 1, 2038. Folders #2.10 and #2.12 are closed until January 1, 2046. Folders #2.13 and 2.15 are closed until January 1, 2053. Folder #2.16 is closed until January 1, 2051. Folders #3.23-3.15 are closed until January 1, 2052. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by New Words 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.


4.17 linear feet ((10 file boxes) plus 4 folio+ folders, 2 photograph folders, 1 videotape, 38 objects, and electronic records.)

This collection contains the additional records of New Words bookstore, including administrative files, correspondence, financial records, readings and special event files, promotional material, photographs, memorabilia, electronic records, and audiovisual material that is described separately. Arrangement was created by the processor. Most original folder titles were maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining folder titles were created by the processor. The records are arranged in two series.

Series I, ADMINISTRATIVE, FINANCIAL, PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL, AND SPECIAL EVENTS,1974-2003 (#1.1-10.27, F+D.1-F+D.4, PD.1-PD.2, Vt-249.1, E.1), includes administrative, financial, promotional material, and special event files. Administrative files include correspondence and a log book documenting daily activities of staff and managers; building leases; personnel files; un-cataloged staff photographs and un-cataloged photographs of the interior and exterior of New Words; and strategic planning files, which are evidence of the transition of New Words from a women's bookstore in ca.2002 to the Center for New Words. Financial files include grant material related to the Ford Foundation; planning files for fund-raising, and book order files that document the methods that schools and conference organizers used to supply books to students and audiences during the period of the 1970s-1990s. Promotional material includes advertisements, bookmarks, flyers, posters, and press coverage documenting the efforts of New Words to promote itself as a women's bookstore locally, nationally, and globally. Special event files include individual and group readings among other events. Author reading files include correspondence between New Words representatives and authors, information forms about authors and books, publicity material from publishing companies, un-cataloged publicity photographs, and clippings. Series I also includes the New Words web site, which is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX). Items in this series are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series II, MEMORABILIA, 1977-1998 (#10.28m-10.32m, Mem.1-Mem.2, F+D.1-F+D.4), contains objects such as bookstore banners; bumper stickers; and feminist, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights buttons, among other items. Items are arranged alphabetically by type of object.

A selection of 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 [*]. The collection also includes audiotapes (T-473) and a videotape (Vt-169) which will be described separately.


Founded in 1974 by optician Mary Lowry, Harvard Divinity School graduate Jean MacRae, genetic biologist Rita Arditti (1934-2009), and bookseller Gilda Bruckman, New Words was the country's oldest, continuously-run women's bookstore until 2002. Originally located at 419 Washington Street in Somerville, Massachusetts, New Words moved to 186 Hampshire Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1976. The three of the four founding women each invested $5,000 in seed money to open the store. Later, Laura Zimmerman, Doris Reisig, Joni Seager, Kate Rushin, and Madge Kaplan also joined the collective. During its first years in operation, New Words carried approximately 500 titles written only by women. It would grow to carry 8,000 titles, written by or for women, and to sell over 30,000 books annually. With the expansion of women's writing and publishing, New Words played a key role in making written material by and about women available to readers locally, nationally, and internationally. It also offered music by women artists, merchandise that included feminist buttons and t-shirts, an extensive collection of multi-cultural and non-sexist literature for children and teens, and course books for local colleges and universities. New Words also served as an informal women's community center and host to author readings and other events. In 2002, faced with the rise of competition from superstores and internet sales, New Words closed its doors in order to reinvent itself as the non-profit Center for New Words. The mission of that organization was to "foster and enhance the expressive and intellectual culture of women that flourishes at the intersection of literacy, books, culture, activism, and politics." In 2010, the Center for New Words closed due to financial difficulty.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Administrative, financial, promotional material, and special events, 1974-2003 (#1.1-10.27, F+D.1-F+D.4, PD.1-PD.2, Vt-249.1, E.1)
  2. Series II. Memorabilia, 1977-1998 (#10.28m-10.32m, Mem.1-Mem.2)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2005-M136A, 2010-M75, 2010-M80

The additional records of New Words were given to the Schlesinger Library by New Words between October 2005 and April 2010.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see New Words Records, 1974-2002 (MC 619).

Processing Information

Processed: May 2012

By: Mary O. Murphy, with the assistance of Suzanna Calev.

New Words. Additional Records of New Words, 1974-2003: 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 generous supporters of the Schlesinger Library to the Maximum Access 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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