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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 734

Papers of Susan Moller Okin, 1966-2004


Correspondence, teaching syllabi, research notes, and writings of Susan Moller Okin, professor of political science, known for establishing the research field of gender and political science.


  • Creation: 1966-2004

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted except folders #3.4-3.6, which are closed until January 1, 2030.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Susan Moller Okin 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.


9.59 linear feet ((23 file boxes) plus 1 photograph folder, electronic records.)

The papers of Susan Moller Okin include correspondence with colleagues and publishers, typewritten draft manuscripts, syllabi, teaching notes, and class readings. They document Okin's development of her gender and political science courses and her struggles asserting herself in an academic male-dominated department.

The papers were given to the library by Debra Satz, Okin's friend and colleague from Stanford University. Upon arrival, the collection was refoldered and Okin's original folder titles were transcribed on the new folders whenever possible. During processing, the archivist retained the original folder titles, but added new titles for clarity or organization when needed. Original folder titles appear in quotation marks in the inventory. Additional material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this collection.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PROFESSIONAL, 1966-2003 (#1.1-4.1), includes correspondence with colleagues about lectures, academic positions, and detailed comments on Okin's writings. The series also includes Okin's curricula vitae and materials relating to her academic involvement with Brandeis University's Department of Politics, and Stanford University's Department of Political Science. Folders are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically.

Series II, PUBLICATIONS, WRITINGS, AND TALKS,ca.1975-2004 (#4.2-9.6, PD.1), includes correspondence with publishers about monographs and major articles written by Okin. Series II also contains typewritten drafts, publisher's proofs, correspondence, and Okin's handwritten notes regarding her journal articles, conference papers, and talks. Folders are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically.

Series III, RESEARCH AND TEACHING, 1968-2002 (#9.7-23.9), contains handwritten notes and photocopied articles related to courses Okin taught, mainly at Brandeis and Stanford Universities. Folders may also include typewritten lectures, syllabi, examination or discussion questions, and class work. Titles for this series are formatted: name of school, title of course, course number, and then individual lecture name. Some folders are not identifiable as relating to a particular course. In these cases, folders are referred to as "research" or "lecture" depending on the contents of the folder. Folders are arranged alphabetically, then by lecture order.

The photograph in this collection is 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 [*].


Susan Moller Okin was born in 1946, in Auckland, New Zealand. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Auckland in 1967; a master of philosophy degree from Somerville College in Oxford, England in 1970; and a doctorate from Harvard University in 1975. Okin taught political science and philosophy courses at the University of Auckland (1971), Vassar College (1975-1976), Brandeis University (1976-1990), and Harvard University (1990) before joining Stanford University's Department of Political Science in the fall of 1990. In 1992 she was named Stanford's Marta Sutton Weeks Professor and served as the director of the Ethics in Society Program from 1993 to 1996.

Known for establishing the research field of gender and political science, Okin was a liberal theorist whose feminist perspective challenged the established thinking on political philosophers regarding questions about gender and the family. For Okin, feminism represented the view that women, as well as men, are full human beings to which any theory of justice must apply. Okin's research showed that most political theories developed by philosophers such as Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and others failed to view women as full human beings. Questions of justice about the internal operations of the family were not raised. She sought to rehabilitate those theories to accommodate the equality of the sexes and insisted on the inclusion of family among the most important topics studied in the political science and economic fields, since its influence on human development is so pervasive and deep.

In 2000 Okin was awarded Radcliffe's "Graduate Society Medal" in recognition for being a Harvard alumna who made outstanding contribution to her field. For the 2002-2003 academic year, she received a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to research "A Feminist Perspective on Evolutionary Genetics and Its Population," but withdrew in the middle of her term. The following academic year, she was invited back as the Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor in department of Political Science and Ethics in Society to research "Gender, Economic Development, and Women's Human Rights." Okin died of unknown causes at the age of 57 on March 3, 2004, during the spring semester of her visiting professorship at Radcliffe.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and professional, 1966-2003 (#1.1-4.1)
  2. Series II. Publications, writings, and talks, ca.1975-2004 (#4.2-9.6, PD.1)
  3. Series III. Research and teaching, 1968-2002 (#9.7-23.9)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2005-M155

The papers of Susan Moller Okin were given to the Schlesinger Library in 2005 by her colleague, Debra Satz, executor of Okin's estate.


The following items were transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division (pending review by curator):

  1. Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies by Mahnaz Afkhami and Haleh Vaziri, 1996
  2. Domestic Violence and Asian Women by Southall Black Sisters, n.d.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2012

By: Jessica Tanny, with assistance from Samuel Bauer.

Okin, Susan Moller. Papers of Susan Moller Okin, 1966-2004: 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 the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing 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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