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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 880: DVD-129

Papers of Gwendolyn C. Baker, 1942-2015


Correspondence, research, articles, speeches, records and other papers of educator, professor, and activist Gwendolyn C. Baker.


  • Creation: 1942-2015

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Gwendolyn C. Baker 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.


2.09 linear feet ((5 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 3 photograph folders, 11 DVDs)

The papers of Gwendolyn C. Baker contain publications, theses, reports, research papers, magazine articles, certificates, correspondence, speeches, photographs, school report cards, invitations, clippings, interview transcripts, pamphlets, organizational records, and DVDs which mainly document Baker's professional life. These materials provide insight into the development of multicultural education in the United States and the career progression of an African American woman working in academics and the nonprofit field during the late 20th century. The original folder titles created by Baker have been retained; additions by the archivist appear in brackets.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1943-2015 (#1.1-1.16), includes report cards, interviews, articles, notes, writings, awards, a yearbook, and correspondence related to Baker's personal and professional life. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series II, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, 1949-1997 (#1.17-2.7), includes research papers, reports, articles, awards, pamphlets, employment records, and business correspondence related to Baker's academic and professional career at the University of Michigan. Research papers discuss multicultural education, its importance, and how to implement the approach. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series III, YWCA, 1954-1994 (#2.8-3.14), includes business correspondence, contracts, speeches, discussion papers, studies, press releases, articles, awards, and other materials related to Baker's nine-year career as the National Executive Director of the YWCA. Recurring themes in the speeches of this series include the history of the YWCA, women's rights and empowerment, organizational challenges and achievements, and racial justice. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, UNITED STATES COMMITTEE FOR UNICEF, 1993-1996 (#3.15-4.10), includes speeches, articles, by-laws, correspondence, clippings, reports, materials from the Salzburg Seminar "Beyond Child Survival: Promoting the Well-being of Young Children," and publications related to Baker's work as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Committee for UNICEF. Recurring themes in the speeches of this series include global inequalities, gender bias, and UNICEF projects. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series V, OTHER PROFESSIONAL, 1961-2015 (#4.11-5.26, FD.1), includes correspondence, articles, speeches, reports, meeting agendas, and other materials related to Baker's other professional endeavors. Throughout her career, Baker gave speeches at various universities and professional organizations. For three years starting in 1978, Baker served as the Chief of Minorities and Women's Programs for the National Institute of Education. Between 1981 and 1984, Baker was the Vice President of the Bank Street College of Education. Between 1986 and 1991, she served as a member, and eventually president, of the New York City Board of Education. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Baker also worked with the American Educational Research Association, the Howard Gilman Foundation, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the United States Tennis Association Olympic Committee. Of note is the Howard Gilman Foundation, folder (#5.17), which includes personal correspondence with actress Isabella Rossellini concerning how to encourage her son to be proud of his African American heritage. Recurring themes in the speeches of this series include global inequalities, minorities in higher education and international policy, the relationship between racism and public education, UNICEF, and career advice for recent graduates. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1942-1999 (PD.1-PD.3), includes photographs from Baker's childhood and professional career. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series VII, AUDIOVISUAL, 1990-1996 (DVD-129.1-DVD-129.11), includes news reports, talk show interviews, speeches, and meeting proceedings related to the YWCA, the U.S. Committee for UNICEF, and Baker's position as president of the NYC Board of Education. Television program titles appear in quotation marks. Audiovisual materials are stored on DVDs and arranged in chronological order.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Educator, professor, and activist Gwendolyn Calvert Baker was born in 1931 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Viola Lee and Burgess Edward Calvert. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she received a BA in Elementary Education (1964), an MA in Educational Administration (1968), and a PhD in Education (1972).

Known by some as the "mother of multiculturism," Baker began her career as an elementary school teacher. During a parent teacher conference, the father of one of her students noticed the class was learning about the history of Michigan and had created a paper doll timeline that featured Michigan explorers. When he asked why there were no Black explorers, Baker began to question the standard curriculum and why she had automatically assumed there were none. This event served as the catalyst for her involvement in the development of multicultural education, a teaching approach that integrates the influences and contributions of racial and ethnic minorities and women to the development of society in the United States and explores diverse cultural beliefs and values.

Baker conducted research on the topic and championed its benefits in her 1982 book, Planning and Organizing for Multicultural Instruction. Despite early resistance to the approach, Baker believed multicultural education could minimize prejudice and validate the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of all students. Her research is a predecessor to later concerns surrounding diversity, inclusion, and representation in education.

A professor of education at the University of Michigan (1972-1976), Baker also served as its affirmative action director (1978). In 1978 she joined the Carter administration as Chief of Minorities and Women's Programs at the National Institute of Education. For three years, beginning in 1981, Baker served as vice-president and dean of the Bank Street Graduate School of Education and School for Children in New York City.

In 1984 she became the first African American woman to be named National Executive Director of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) where she led a successful organizational restructuring and implementation of its mission to eliminate racism. During this time Baker was also appointed to the New York City School Board where she served for five years and eventually became the first African American woman appointed as board president. From 1993 to her semi-retirement in 1995, Baker was president of the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) where she used her experience with multicultural education to expand the educational component of UNICEF's mission.

After working at UNICEF, Baker continued to serve on the boards of a variety of organizations including the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). In 2014 Baker published her autobiography, Hot Fudge Sundae in a White Paper Cup: A Spirited Black Woman in a White World.


The collection is arranged in seven series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1943-2015 (#1.1-1.16)
  2. Series II. University of Michigan, 1949-1997 (#1.17-2.7)
  3. Series III. YWCA, 1954-1994 (#2.8-3.14)
  4. Series IV. United States Committee for UNICEF, 1993-1996 (#3.15-4.10)
  5. Series V. Other Professional, 1961-2015 (#4.11-5.26, FD.1)
  6. Series VI. Photographs, 1942-1999 (PD.1-PD.3)
  7. Series VII. Audiovisual, 1990-1996 (DVD-129.1-DVD-129.11)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2016-M87

The papers of Gwendolyn C. Baker were given to the Schlesinger Library by Gwendolyn C. Baker in April 2016.

Related Material:

There is related material in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College: see YWCA of the U.S.A. Records, 1860-2002 (MS 324).

There is related material at the La Guardia and Wagner Archives: see Gwendolyn C. Baker oral history and Board of Education records.

Processing Information

Processed: September 2016

By: Jehan Sinclair, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Baker, Gwendolyn C. Papers of Gwendolyn C. Baker, 1942-2015: 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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