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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 800

Records of Outrageous Women, Inc., 1984-2008 (inclusive), 1984-1990 (bulk)


Records of lesbian S/M magazine Outrageous Women contain submissions, letters from subscribers, and business records.


  • Creation: 1984-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1984-1990

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form to use the collection until January 1, 2040. Folder #6.6 is closed until January 1, 2040; the real names of authors wishing to be identified by pseudonyms have been redacted from documents throughout Series II.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Outrageous Women, Inc., 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.


3.96 linear feet ((9 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, electronic records)

The records of Outrageous Women, Inc., contain administrative files from the creation of the periodical Outrageous Women: A Journal of Woman-to-Woman S/M: business and financial records; poetry and erotica submissions; correspondence with readers and contributors; requests for subscriptions; files on advertisers and bookstores; etc. The records document the activity of the lesbian S/M community and individuals in the 1980s, as well as related businesses, such as feminist and gay bookstores, leather bars and shops, women's music festivals, S/M mail order catalogs, etc. Subscription and other inquiries include letters from lesbians in small towns, rural areas, and foreign countries; incarcerated women and men; straight or bisexual women and men interested in S/M; etc. Some correspondence and files on certain issues evidence the differing views on S/M sexual practices among lesbian and feminist communities and businesses.

When the collection arrived at the Schlesinger Library, about half of the material was in folders or binders; the rest was incoming correspondence still in envelopes, many of the 1989 and 1990 letters had not been opened. When this mail was opened and sorted by archivists, envelopes with no additional information were discarded; postmarks were often transferred to undated letters. Many envelopes were retained, and are enclosed with the letter. In general checks or money orders included in the letters were shredded. The collection is arranged in two series.

Series I, ADMINISTRATIVE AND FINANCIAL, 1984-1995 (#1.1-5.14), includes administrative, business, and financial records of the magazine. The series includes files of Betsy Duren, as well as Adrienne Sainten, who both acted as Treasurers for the magazine. Included are a number of letters Duren wrote to Sainten in 1988 with details of Outrageous Women's financial situation. Advertising files include correspondence and sometimes photo-ready advertisements from businesses selling sex toys, leather goods, and other products of interest to readers. Outrageous Women engaged in reciprocal advertising with several other periodicals. Files on bookstores show where the publication was sold, as well as how many copies of each issue. The financial records detail the publication's struggle to break even. Careful spreadsheets of expenses and income were kept for many years. Tax records show the yearly income reported, and other files show the financial troubles that led to the demise of the magazine. Original folder titles are in quotation marks; all other folder titles were created by the archivist. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, SUBMISSIONS AND SUBSCRIPTIONS, 1984-1991, 2001-2008 (#5.15-10.3, FD.1), includes material sent to Outrageous Women: submissions for publication, requests for information, subscription requests, and general correspondence from readers. Some authors requested to use pseudonyms when their submissions were published in the magazine. A file linking the pseudonyms to author's real names is closed until January 1, 2040, and names have been redacted in any related correspondence. Many submissions have editorial comments on the manuscripts or on the envelopes in which they were sent. The magazine was essentially defunct from June 1988; letters continued to pour into its post office box in Somerville, Massachusetts. Many subscribers wrote increasingly angry and desperate letters when they did not receive their subscriptions; the dearth of other similar publications is evident in their letters. Some of the requests from 1989 and 1990 are a result of ads being placed in other periodicals offering the remainder of back issues, t shirts, reprints of articles, etc. Most of this mail was not opened by Outrageous Women at all. In general, subscription and other requests are from people living throughout the United States and even internationally. Many writers include personal information about themselves and their relationship to S/M. Some express relief at finding a like-minded community. Many letters are from incarcerated women and men; one writer reveals being a transgender woman in a male prison. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Additional material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date. The Schlesinger Library holds all the issues of Outrageous Women. In addition it holds the records of Urania (B/U72), the support group where the founders of Outrageous Women, Inc., met.


Outrageous Women: A Journal of Woman-to-Woman S/M was a magazine by and for lesbians interested in sadomasochism (S/M), published in Somerville, Massachusetts, between winter 1984 and June 1988. A total of eleven issues were produced. The magazine included news and announcements, advertisements for stores and mail-order catalogs selling S/M and leather devices, short stories, erotica, poetry, letters, an advice column, personal advertisements, photographs, and comic strips. Outrageous Women also published a number of articles discussing the relationship between feminism and S/M (including one in the first issue written by founder Betsy Duren); the anti-pornography activism of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin (referred to as "CRAP" for "civil rights anti-porn," by some contributors); and controversies surrounding the refusal of some feminist bookstores to sell Outrageous Women and other sex-positive magazines. One review of the magazine noted the novelty of its multi-racial photography.

The journal's founding editors were Betsy Duren, Beryl Hoffstein, and two women who did not publish their last (or real) names, Beth and Diamond. These women met at Urania, a Boston-area support group for lesbian and bisexual women interested in S/M. The first issue of Outrageous Women proclaimed the journal's purpose: "Outrageous Women seeks to provide a safe and lively space in which to discuss, debate, and fantasize. We're open to any woman who is interested in woman-to-woman S/M." The second issue included the caveat, "Outrageous Women is essentially by and for women; however, we welcome subscriptions from men."

The journal struggled financially from its beginning. Editors were not paid, and the heavy workload of producing a magazine for publication resulted in a changing masthead. Beth resigned as an editor in Vol. 1, No. 4, in February 1985. Outrageous Women, Inc., was incorporated in June 1985. The more formal status of the group was intended to assist with the financial bookkeeping of income from ads and subscriptions. However, it remained difficult for the journal to pay its bills. Sometimes the intended quarterly publication schedule suffered as a result. Both Betsy Duren and Diamond resigned as editors in Vol. 2, No. 2 (February 1986). Beryl Hoffstein was the sole remaining editor from the first group of editors.

For the following issue, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 1986), Cindy [Cynthia Pope], Lynne [Levine], and Adrienne [Sainten] joined Beryl Hoffstein as editors. A year passed in between this issue and the next one; however Vol. 3 was printed on glossy paper. Beth returned as an editor in Vol. 3, No. 1 (June 1987) and No. 2 (October 1987). Sometime between October 1987 and May 1988 Beryl Hoffstein stepped down as an editor, and the organization was more officially handed over to the new slate of editors. In May 1988, Betsy Duren (Treasurer) and Beryl Hoffstein (President and Clerk) formally resigned from the Board of Directors of Outrageous Women, Inc., and a new Board of Directors was elected: Cynthia J. Pope (President), Adrienne C. Sainten (Treasurer) and Lynne Levine (Clerk). In the final issue, Vol. 3, No. 3 (June 1988), Beryl Hoffstein was no longer listed as an editor, replaced by Tina.

After the May 1988 official switch of Board of Directors, the new directors began looking for ways to allow Outrageous Women to continue publishing, despite being deeply in debt. They contacted the feminist sex magazine On Our Backs to see if it would buy Outrageous Women, but On Our Backs declined after reviewing the financial situation of Outrageous Women. The magazine was unable to publish after the June 1988 issue. However, interest in the publication continued, and mail from potential subscribers, authors, and other interested parties continued to be sent to the Outrageous Women post office box until 1991. Many subscribers wrote increasingly angry and desperate letters when they did not receive their subscriptions; the dearth of other similar publications is evident in their letters.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Administrative and financial, 1984-1995 (#1.1-5.14)
  2. Series II. Submissions and subscriptions, 1984-1991, 2001-2008 (#5.15-10.3, FD.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2014-M15

The records of Outrageous Women, Inc., were given to the Schlesinger Library by one if its founders, Betsy Duren, in February 2014.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Records of Urania (organization) (B/U72).


Donors: Betsy Duren

Accession number: 2014-M15

Processed by: Jenny Gotwals

The following item has been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. Southern Lady: A Newsletter for Lesbian and Bi-Sexual Women. Issue # 5 (May 1986)

Processing Information

Processed: August 2014

By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance from Bradley Craig and Caitlin Jones

Outrageous Women, Inc.. Records of Outrageous Women, Inc., 1984-2008 (inclusive), 1984-1990 (bulk): 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 the Esther Margaret Ridder Preservation Fund, the Class of 1950 Fund, the Jeannette Ward Fund, and the Mary Maples Dunn 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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