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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 722; T-460; Vt-248; CD-81; DVD-83

Records of Center for New Words, 1976-2010


Records of the non-profit Center for New Words, including administrative files, financial records, event and program files, promotional materials, memorabilia, audiovisual materials, and electronic records.


  • 1976-2010

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the records are open to research. Folders #2.8-2.10, 18.16-18.24 are closed until January 1, 2055. Folders #5.18, 20.1, 21.4 are closed until January 1, 2056. Folders #16.28-17.3 are closed until January 1, 2057. Folders #5.6, 6.17-6.76, 10.1-10.42, 12.19 are closed until January 1, 2058. Folders #6.1-6.16, 10.43-10.48, 18.1-18.15, 19.4 are closed until January 1, 2059. Folders #9.22, 21.7, 27.14 are closed until January 1, 2060. Folder #21.9 is closed until January 1, 2061. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Center for 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.


12.51 linear feet ((30 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 object, 21 audiotapes, 30 videotapes, 2 CDs, 3 DVDs, and electronic records.)
The records of the non-profit Center for New Words include administrative files, financial records, event and program files, promotional materials, memorabilia, and electronic records. Material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this collection. Audiovisual materials (accession numbers 2010-M76 and 2010-M81) were added to the collection in June 2014. These materials are housed in #T-460.1 - T.460.21, Vt.248.1 - Vt.248.30, CD-81.1 - CD.81.2, and DVD.83.1 - DVD.83.3. One file of correspondence (#30.15) was added in June 2014. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order

Series I, ADMINISTRATIVE AND FINANCIAL, 1988-2010 (#1.1-17.15, 18.1-18.15, 30.15, F+D.1, E.1), contains administrative, financial, and related material of the non-profit, Center for New Words. The series is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Administrative, 1994-2009 (#1.1-6.16, 7.1-8.9, 30.15, F+D.1, E.1), documents the managerial and operational functions of the Center for New Words. Items includes organizational histories; board of directors records; by-laws; correspondence; endorsements; legal files; meeting minutes and notes; personnel files; and strategic planning files, among other items. The subseries is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically therein. The Center for New Words web site is being captured periodically as a part of the Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection.

Subseries B, Financial, 1988-2010 (#6.17-6.76, 8.10-17.15, 18.1-18.15), provides an overview of the financial state of the Center for New Words as it transitioned from a women's bookstore to a non-profit organization that worked to foster the expressive and intellectual culture of women. The series includes accounting information; advertising rate material; bank deposits, signatures, and statements; book sale material; budgets; donor files; fund-raising material; stockholder agreements; and tax returns and accompanying material. There is a significant quantity of grant material that is arranged alphabetically by granting agency and that reflects the extensive efforts made by the Center for New Words Leadership to establish funding for the organization. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, EVENTS AND PROGRAMS, 1976-2009 (#17.16-17.24, 18.16-29.3), contains files documenting special events, such as author and poetry readings, and Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) Conferences, which comprise the bulk of the series. The series is arranged with other events listed first in alphabetical order, followed by Women & the Media/Women, Action & the Media arranged chronologically. Other events include audience surveys from poetry readings; introductions to and research material re: author readings; fiction contest submissions; event tracking forms; and scripts and other speech material, among other items. Women, Action, & the Media Conference files document the origins of Women, Action & the Media – first called Women & the Media – as a special project of the Center for New Words and later as a separate organization – an organization that would remain in operation after the Center for New Words closed in 2010. This material is arranged chronologically by year and may include items that are dated slightly before or after the specified conference year. Items include budgets, conference evaluations, panelist and speaker information, programs and informational packets, and registration lists.

Series III, PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL, 1992-2007 (#29.4-30.14, Mem.1), contains material that documents Center for New Words marketing strategies. Included are advertising material; brochures and flyers; a Center for New Words banner; a public relations packet; press clippings and releases; sample newsletters and mailings; and web marketing material. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV. AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL, 1998-2008 (#T-460.1 - T.460.21, Vt.248.1 - Vt.248.30, CD-81.1 - CD.81.2, DVD.83.1 - DVD.83.3), contains audiocassette tapes, videocassette tapes, CDs, and DVDs of community events and workshops sponsored by the Center for New Words, as well as recordings of the organization's community cable access television show, New Words Live (later named New Words On Air), a 30-minute show which featured interviews with local feminist authors. Also in this series are recordings of phone interviews that Center for New Words cofounder, Laura Zimmerman, conducted with journalists, authors, and editors across the nation. The interviews discussed the state of the media post 9-11; specifically, they explored the media's lack of neutrality and objectivity in news reporting and its silencing of feminist perspectives. Zimmerman conducted the interviews as part of her research for an essay she wrote for the Women's Review of Books in October 2003. This series also contains audio- and video-recordings of sessions from the annual conferences of Women, Action, & the Media, a project that emerged from the Center for New Words in 2003 and continued as a separate organization after the Center for New Words closed in 2010. Between 2003 and 2008, the Women, Action, & the Media conference grew exponentially; at the start, less than one hundred, primarily locally-based, participants attended; by 2008, over 600 participants hailing from around the country attended. The conferences offered panel discussions and hands-on workshops led by both local women in the media as well as nationally renowned feminists journalists, bloggers, editors, and media experts, including Katha Pollitt, Jennifer Pozner, Jen Angel, Nell Greenberg, Erin Polgreen, Tracy Van Slyke, Betsy Reed, and Christine Cupaiuolo. Titles in quotation marks were created by the speaker. The series is arranged first by format and chronologically thereunder.

Photographs are 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 [*].


In October of 2002, the country's oldest, continuously-run women's bookstore, New Words, closed for business after 28 years of operation. At the same time, the affiliated non-profit, Center for New Words, opened in its place, located first at 186 Hampshire Street in Inman Square and later at 7 Temple Street in Cambridge, MA. Financed by a $75,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and with leadership from Gilda Bruckman, Elyse Cherry, Jaclyn Friedman, Jean Hardisty, Tory Lane, Gail Leondar-Wright, Joni Seager, and Laura Zimmerman, the Center for New Words (CNW) established itself to "foster and enhance the expressive and intellectual culture of women that flourishes at the intersection of literacy, books, culture, activism, and politics." The mission of the center was "to use the power and creativity of words to strengthen the voice of progressive women and women speaking from the margins of society."

The Center for New Words organized special programs to support diverse communities of women to engage with the written and spoken word in all of its expressions (reading, blogging, creative writing, theater and performance, opinion-making in the media). One such program, called Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) functioned to highlight women's voices on social and political issues and to promote women's participation in public discourse and policy-making.

The Center for New Words welcomed diverse audiences to all of its events and programs, regardless of age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. They especially welcomed those whose voices were often silenced or ignored, including women of color, poor and working class women, women with disabilities, lesbians, bisexual women, genderqueers, and transpeople (both male-to-female and female-to-male).

In 2010, the Center for New Words closed after eight years of operation, though its centerpiece project, WAM!, remains in operation as its own independent national nonprofit, dedicated to building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.


The collection is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Administrative and financial, 1988-2010 (#1.1-17.15, 18.1-18.15, 30.15, F+D.1, E.1)
  2. ___Subseries A. Administrative, 1994-2009 (#1.1-6.16, 7.1-8.9, 30.15, F+D.1, E.1)
  3. ___Subseries B. Financial, 1988-2010 (#6.17-6.76, 8.10-17.15, 18.1-18.15)
  4. Series II. Events and programs, 1976-2009 (#17.16-17.24, 18.16-29.3)
  5. Series III. Promotional material, 1992-2007 (#29.4-30.14, Mem.1)
  6. Series IV. Audiovisual material, 1998-2008 (#T-460.1 - T.460.21, Vt.248.1 - Vt.248.30, CD-81.1 - CD.81.2, DVD.83.1 - DVD.83.3)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2010-M76, 2010-M81

The records of Center New Words were given to the Schlesinger Library by Center for New Words in April 2010. Audiovisual materials (accession numbers 2010-M76 and 2010-M81) and folder #30.15 were added to the finding aid in June 2014.

Processing Information

Processed: April 2013

By: Mary O. Murphy with assistance from Samuel Bauer.

Updated: June 2014

By: Marilyn Morgan
Link to catalog
Center for New Words. Records of the Center for New Words, 1976-2010: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
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.

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