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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 712: T-454: Vt-233

Records of Silent Spring Institute, 1970-2011


Contracts and proposals; correspondence; minutes; presentation files; project and research files; reports and publications; air and water test sample results; work plans and budgets; photographic and audiovisual material; etc.; of Silent Spring Institute's work on the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, the Newton Breast Cancer Study, and Long Island, New York Breast Cancer Study.


  • Creation: 1970-2011

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form to use the collection. Folders #3.1, 8.2,11.1, 11.3, 11.12, 11.13, 12.4, 12.6, 12.8, 12.9, 13.6, 13.8, 13.10, 13.12, 15.9, 15.10, 16.8, 16.10, 16.11, 16.13, 17.2, 42.2, 42.3, 42.8, 49.10, and 64.8 are closed until January 1, 2073, and folders #2.2, 2.4, 2.6, 2.8, 2.10, 2.12, 2.14, 2.16, 2.18, 4.11, 5.2, 7.9, 7.11, 7.13, 8.5, 8.7, 8.9, 8.11, 8.12, 8.13, 10.7, 10.9, 25.7, 40.8, 59.5, 63.12, and E.2 are closed until January 1, 2093.

Originals of redacted items in folders #69.2 and #69.4 are closed for 90 years from the date of creation. Folders #82.6 and 83.1 and originals of redacted items in folder #73.7 are closed from 70 years from the date of creation. Originals of redacted photocopies of correspondence, interview summaries, mailing lists, and water test sample results from private well owners found throughout the collection will be reintegrated into the collection on January 1, 2073 or January 1, 2093 as applicable.

Researchers must obtain written permission from the Executive Director of Silent Spring Institute to use #52.5, 52.10, 52.11, 77.2-78.2, T-454.1 - T-454.21, and Vt-233.3 - Vt-233.5.

Following the dissolution of the Institute, all restricted records will be opened 10 years from date of creation.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Silent Spring Institute 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. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


36.28 linear feet ((87 file boxes) plus 6 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 119 slides, 23 audiotapes, 5 videotapes)
26.3 Megabytes (188 files)

The records of the Silent Spring Institute reflect the Institute's work, research methods, and subsequent findings related to the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study and the Newton Breast Cancer Study. The processor rearranged or combined related folder contents, maintained most original folder titles, and provided the overall arrangement; folder titles in brackets were created by the processor. Electronic records were received on 43 3.5 inch disks, 7 CDs, and 1 5.25 inch diskette. Files on 1 data cartridge were unrecoverable. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager and Duke Data Accessioner. Material received in 2013 (accession number 2013-M210) was added to the collection in September 2016 and is housed in #69.1-87.5. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order. There is some overlap between this and the previous accession.

Series I, CAPE COD BREAST CANCER AND ENVIRONMENT STUDY, PHASE I AND II, 1970-2011 (#1.1-63.8, 69.1-87.5, F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, SD.1, PD.1sl, T-454.1 - T-454.23, Vt-233.1 - Vt-233.5, 40.6m, E.1-E.6), contains completed applications; budgets; conference and workshop material; contracts and agreements; correspondence; draft letters, minutes, reports, etc.; fundraising material; recorded interviews and transcriptions of interview summaries; mailing lists; maps; meeting minutes; planning and research notes; presentation files; press releases and publicity material; program and project files; proposals; reports and publications; research files and annotated resource material; statistical and journal logs; survey questionnaires; air and water test sample results; work plans and schedules; announcements, flyers, and pamphlets; audiotapes; videotapes; photographs; slides; oversize material; memorabilia; clippings; the Institute's web site; etc. The series is divided into five subseries.

Subseries A, Administrative and related, 1993-2011 (#1.1-7.3, 69.1-71.6, E.1), contains records relating to the Institute's overall work on phase I and II of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment study, which includes applications for access to confidential records of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry, the National Death Index, and related; board minutes, correspondence, and reports; contracts and agreements with universities, test laboratories, and other related professionals to head research projects, conduct interviews, and collect and analyze air and water test samples; correspondence from the general public; grant and contractor proposals for research projects; publicity material (i.e., news releases, press packets, announcements and flyers, clippings, etc.); administrative annual, quarterly, and financial reports submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; survey questionnaires; project work plans, schedules, and budgets; etc. Correspondence includes letters of inquiry, personal accounts, and editorial comments related to issues of breast cancer on Cape Cod primarily from local residents. Also included in the correspondence are Institute response letters to general public inquiries and some general administrative letters and memos. Originals of redacted items in folders #69.2 [board] and #69.4 [correspondence] are closed for 90 years from the date of creation. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by record type, and thereunder chronologically. The Silent Spring Institute web site, which includes photographs and other writing, is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX).

Subseries B, Committees, projects, activities, etc., 1981-2006, n.d. (#7.4-26.10, 71.7-78.8, PD.1sl, T-454.1 - T-454.23, Vt-233.1 - Vt-233.5. E.2-E.4), contains records specific to the Institute's individual committees, projects, activities, etc., such as its breast cancer focus groups; monthly investigators' meetings; public advisory committee; science advisory committee; the tracing committee; peer review groups of Massachusetts' departments of environmental protection and public health; E-screen [estrogenicity screen], ethnicity, and field sampling projects; fundraising initiatives; and public outreach programs. The subseries includes administrative correspondence; budgets and invoices; conference and workshop material; drafts of projects plans, reports, official letters, etc.; fundraising events; recorded interviews and summary transcriptions with Cape Cod residents (including members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and Cape Verdean communities) and health and environment professionals regarding breast cancer and environmental factors on Cape Cod; mailing lists; meeting minutes and notes; planning and research notes; presentation files; publicity material; committee reports; research data; testimonies; work plans and schedules; photographic and audiovisual material; etc. Conference and workshop materials primarily contain abstract proposals, professional papers, and PowerPoint presentations of Institute staff members who were invited as speakers; topics include breast cancer risk factors, endocrine disruptors in the environment, pesticide use on Cape Cod, estrogen related cancers in women, evaluating the effectiveness of E-screen [estrogenicity screen], investigating GIS [geographic information systems], effects of phenols in water supplies, results from the field sampling project, overviews of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, etc. Massachusetts Military Reservation [plume program] records address issues regarding groundwater contamination sites and cleanup programs on the property. Presentations by topic contain a cache of annotated PowerPoint presentations arranged alphabetically by topic such as air modeling of pesticide drift, breast cancer risk factors, cranberry bogs, enhanced surveillance, groundwater basins, household exposure study, land use, pesticides, residential sampling plan, etc. Tracing committee records relate to the Institute's creation of databases and its web site. The audiovisual material includes audiotapes of interviews and meetings from the breast cancer focus groups, ethnicity project interviews, and a 2002 meeting of the public advisory committee; videotapes of the Institute's 2001 and 2006 annual dinners and meetings from the breast cancer focus groups; slides from the 2002 presentation files of the scientific advisory committee; and related photographs. Contracts and survey questionnaires found throughout the subseries were incorporated into Subseries A. Project reports intended for publication, journal articles, and other Institute publications were incorporated into Subseries C. Oversize material was incorporated into Subseries E. Originals of redacted items in folder #73.7 are closed for 70 years from the date of creation. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by name of committee or activity, and thereunder chronologically.

Subseries C, Project reports, publications, and related, 1991-2002, n.d. (#27.1-38.14, 78.9-79.9), includes project and research reports intended for publication from phase I and II of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; article submissions to professional journals; other Institute publications; and a few papers presented at conferences, committee meetings, and other professional and public forums. Topics include descriptive epidemiology; endocrine disruptors; estrogenic phenolic compounds; exposure to alkylphenols, pesticides, phthalates, electromagnetic fields, etc.; factors for ductal carcinoma in situ; method validation of nonylphenol ethoxylates; trace phenols; using gas chromatograph/mass spectrometry and geographic information systems; wastewater and land use on Cape Cod; etc. Drafts and revisions are also included in the subseries. Related material (i.e., correspondence, clippings, flyers, notes, etc.) found with the reports, articles, and publications were maintained with the corresponding work. Additional reports/publications found in Subseries B and Subseries D were incorporated into Subseries C. Oversize material was incorporated into Subseries E. The subseries is arranged chronologically, and thereunder alphabetically by title.

Subseries D, Research files, data collection, and test results, 1985-2006, n.d. (#38.15-63.8, 80.1-87.5, 40.6m, E.5 - E.6), contains research notes, planning material, and related correspondence; field test results of air and water samples on Cape Cod; collected and annotated resource material relating to Cape Cod on such topics as chemical use and pesticides, drinking and waste water systems, electromagnetic fields, radon causing sources, food supply, population migration, etc.; annotated census records, other statistical data, and area maps; excerpts from professional journals; official government reports and interviews; compiled bibliographies; contact lists; data logs; etc. Also included in the subseries is general information on breast cancer research from the 1990s and 2000s; study results and project reports from the National Breast Cancer Coalition, the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, and related breast cancer initiatives (including materials from Boston University's 1980s Upper Cape Cod Breast Cancer Study); environmental issues surrounding the Massachusetts Military Reserve on Cape Cod; developing and using geographic information systems in relation to Cape Cod; and a bumper sticker (#39.3) and button (#40.6m) from the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. Test sample results contain analyzed results of water samples taken by the Institute from private and public water sources and air and dust samples taken from private homes on Cape Cod. The test result files consists of annotated statistical data and charts highlighting various chemical contents found in the samples. Contracts and survey questionnaires found throughout the subseries were incorporated into Subseries A. Project reports intended for publication, journal articles, and other Institute publications were incorporated into Subseries C. Oversize material was incorporated into Subseries E. Folders #82.6 and 83.1 are closed for 70 years from the date of creation. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by topic, and thereunder chronologically.

Subseries E, Oversize maps, plans, and related, 1970-1999, n.d. (#F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, SD.1), serves as the shelflist for oversized items removed from preceding series and grouped as listed. Included are charts, maps, and plans. This subseries also contains unfoldered items, including census maps, used in the final report of the Cape Cod Breast and Environment Study (#F+D. 4), posters (#F.D.5) and maps of groundwater contamination and sewage plume wells in Upper Cape Cod (SD.1).

Series II, NEWTON BREAST CANCER STUDY, 1996-2001, n.d. (#63.9-68.6), contains the Institute's work on the Newton Breast Cancer Study, which focuses on high and low incidence areas of breast cancer rates in Newton, Massachusetts. Material includes a completed application for conducting medical and scientific data research; background information on the study itself (i.e., fact sheets, research notes, clippings, etc.); correspondence; meeting minutes from the Newton investigators' meetings; publicity and press conference materials; presentation files; grant proposals; reports; research files; a survey questionnaire from the study; the Institute's statistical logs; and related. Correspondence includes administrative letters and memos, a few letters from the general public concerning the Institute's work on breast cancer, and a collection of 2001 letters sent to Congressional members requesting funding for the Institute. Presentation files contain PowerPoint material used in conjunction with an undated Earth Day presentation and few pages on breast cancer prevention and cancer causing chemicals. Reports include the 1996 Massachusetts Department of Public Health study on incidences of breast cancer in Newton from 1982 to 1992; several drafts and two final reports on the Institute's Newton study submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; and other related reports. Research files contain notes, related correspondence, and annotated resource material relating to Newton on such topics as radio frequency exposure, hazardous waste sites, geographical information systems, land use, etc. Statistical logs contain statistical data collected on the relationship between socioeconomic factors and exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors in Newton. The series is arranged alphabetically by record type, and thereunder chronologically.


Founded in 1994 by a group of women within the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, Silent Spring Institute was established as a non-profit scientific research organization. Staffed by activists, scientists, and physicians, the Institute is dedicated to identifying links between the environment and women's health, especially with respect to breast cancer. Awarded a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and with funding from the Massachusetts legislature, the organization launched phase one of its Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study and its Newton Breast Cancer Study within its first three years; phase two of the Cape Cod study began in 1998. Results from the studies have pointed to the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds (which may have various health effects, including effects on hormonal cancer) in the drinking water on Cape Cod and in personal care products, thus supporting a link between environmental toxins and breast cancer. These finds have led to other initiatives, including household exposure studies on Cape Cod and in northern California, a study of the marketing of personal care products containing endocrine disruptors to women since the 1950s, a comprehensive review of environmental factors and breast cancer, and an analysis of the ethical issues surrounding the reporting of personal exposures to environmental chemicals. Recognized for its unique research model of partnering activists, scientists, and the people affected by breast cancer, the Institute has enabled community participation in research efforts and in defining the research agenda. Also, the Institute has collaborated with researchers at a number of universities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and over 100 grassroots breast cancer advocacy organizations. Working to break the barriers which have traditionally held women back in the sciences and studying scientific issues of importance to women, the Institute continues to conduct leading edge research and influence research and the public policy agenda nationally.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, Phase I and II, 1970-2011 (#1.1-63.8, 69.1-87.5, F+D.1-F+D.6, OD.1, SD.1, PD.1sl, T-454.1 - T-454.22, Vt-233.1 - Vt-233.5, 40.6m, E.1-E.6)
  2. Series II. Newton Breast Cancer Study, 1996-2001, n.d. (#63.9-68.6)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2009-M112, 2010-M26. Accession number 2013-M210 was added in September 2016.

The records of Silent Spring Institute were given to the Schlesinger Library by Silent Spring Institute between 2009 and 2010 with additional material donated by the Silent Spring Institute in 2013.


Donor: Silent Spring Institute

Accession numbers: 2009-M112, 2010-M26

Processed by: Bridgette A. Woodall

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Women's Newsletter and Periodical Collection (Pr-4) (pending review):

  1. Advancing Women's Health, newsletter. New England Women's Health Care Forum
  2. CABLEGRAM, newsletter. Business and Professional Women of Lower Cape Cod
  3. Endocrine/ Estrogen Letter, newsletter. Global Press
  4. Keeping Abreast, newsletter. Marin Breast Cancer Watch
  5. Project Lead Update, newsletter. National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund
  6. Rachel Carson Council News, newsletter. Rachel Carson Council, Inc.
  7. Raising Our Voices, newsletter. New Hampshire Breast Cancer Coalition
  8. Strong Voices, newsletter. Breast Cancer Fund
  9. Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition, newsletter. Wisconsin breast Cancer Coalition

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Books and Printed Materials Division (pending review by curator):

  1. Agenda for Research on Women's Health for the 21st Century, ca.1997 (vol. 7). National Institute of Health
  2. Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, newsletter.
  3. Breast Cancer Action, newsletter. Breast Cancer Action
  4. Breast Cancer: An Environmental Disease
  5. Breast Cancer 2000: An Update on Facts, Figures and Issues
  6. Cancer and the Environment: What You Need to Know, What You Can Do
  7. Giving Voice, newsletter. Women's Cancer Resource Center
  8. Mission News from the Front, newsletter. Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
  9. News and Features: Special Issue, Research on Women's Health, 1997 (fall issue). National Institute of Health
  10. Report, newsletter. Breast Cancer Fund
  11. Research News from the Front, newsletter. Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
  12. Ribbon, newsletter. Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors in New York State
  13. State of the Evidence: The Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer
  14. State Profiles on women's Health, 1998 (first edition). Jacobs Institute of Women's Health
  15. Stop the Epidemic!, newsletter. Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
  16. Voices of the Ribbon, newsletter. Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester

Processing Information

Processed: October 2012

By: Bridgette A. Woodall with assistance from Suzanna Calev.

Updated and additional materials added: July 2017

By: Emilyn L. Brown

Genre / Form



Silent Spring Institute. Records of Silent Spring Institute, 1970-2011: 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 generous supporters of the Schlesinger Library to the Maximum Access Fund. Processing of materials added to the collection in July 2017 was made possible by gifts from the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library, Schlesinger Library General Gift Fund, and the Radcliffe College Class of 1950 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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