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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 871

Papers of Sandi E. Cooper, 1969-1988


Photocopies of trial briefs, depositions, trial transcripts from a 1984 sex discrimination case against Sears, Roebuck & Co. in which Sandi E. Cooper, history professor, testified.


  • 1969-1988

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Sandi E. Cooper 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.


1.46 linear feet (3+1/2 file boxes)

This collection consists of photocopies of trial briefs, depositions, trial transcripts, and the ruling by John A. Nordberg; also included are typescript and manuscript notes by Sandi E. Cooper, and clippings about the lawsuit, 1979-1986. Copies of these documents are also available at the Women's Center, Barnard College. Additional material (accession numbers 87-M49--2014-M180) was added to the collection in January 2017. This material is located in folders #24-34. It consists of additional court documents as well as clippings and articles regarding the case, including drafts of "Women's History Goes on Trial: EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Company" and "Women's History and the Sears Case." Also included are files on a sex equity case, Melani et al. v. the Board of Higher Education (City University of New York), and material gathered by Cooper during her involvement with several women historians organizations. Folder headings and the order of files are generally those of the donor (see #1).


A professor of history at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Sandi E. Cooper collected these papers because of her interest in the case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Sears, Roebuck and Company.

The plaintiff charged Sears with discrimination in two main categories of employment, claiming that women were underrepresented in high-paying commission sales jobs, and that there were disparate salary rates for men and women in certain managerial and administrative positions (so-called "checklist" employees). Sears maintained that the government's statistics did not prove discrimination, and disputed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission assumption that male and female applicants were equally qualified for and interested in commission sales positions. To bolster their respective arguments, the litigants brought in two prominent feminist historians: Rosalind Rosenberg testified for Sears and Alice Kessler-Harris for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They presented conflicting interpretations of women's attitudes toward work and the relative importance of workers' and employers' roles in shaping patterns of employment by sex. The case was tried in 1984 and 1985 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, and in early 1986 Judge John A. Nordberg ruled in favor of Sears.

For further information on the case, see "Women's History Goes to Trial: EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Company," with an introduction by Sandi E. Cooper, in Signs 11 (summer 1986); and Ruth Milkman, "Women's History and the Sears Case," in Feminist Studies 12 (summer 1986).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 86-M39. Accession numbers 87-M49, 93-M61, 96-M161, 2006-M87, 2010-M114, 2014-M180 were added to the collection in January 2017.

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sandi E. Cooper between March 1986 and November 2014.


  1. Box 1: 1-12
  2. Box 2: 13-20
  3. Box 3: 21-30
  4. Box 4: 31-34

Processing Information

Processed: December 1986

By: Anne Engelhart

Updated and additional materials added: January 2017

By: Mark Vassar

Cooper, Sandi E.. Papers of Sandi E. Cooper, 1969-1988: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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