Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 883: T-304

Papers of Lawrence Lader, 1918-2006


Articles, speeches, reproductive rights ephemera and Mifepristone (RU-486) material of Lawrence Lader, writer and reproductive rights advocate.


  • Creation: 1918-2006


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 Lawrence Lader 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.


3.34 linear feet ((8 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folders, 7 slides, and 1 audiotape)

Series I, WRITINGS, SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS EPHEMERA, 1918-2006 (#1.1-5.8, PD.1sl, FD.1, F+D.1, T-304.1), includes correspondence; speeches; draft and published writings; ephemera, etc. The bulk of the series consists of material from Lader's early writing career and includes draft and published articles, correspondence with publishers and editors, and clippings. Less than half of these writings document Lader's interest in reproductive rights, instead focusing on theater, children, mental health, and separation of church and state. Of particular interest are two notebooks of interview notes written by Lader while he was a foreign correspondent during the Israel-Arab War. Letters received from individuals seeking assistance in obtaining an abortion were generally sent in response to several articles published by Lader that referred to unnamed doctors who performed abortions. Many individuals were requesting contact information for these doctors. Several writers (both male and female) refer to the Vietnam War draft as a significant influence on their pregnancy planning. For example, one man writes about having just returned from a "three-year Army tour" and not being ready for a child. One woman talks about having gotten pregnant while her husband was in Vietnam. Another woman mentions that her husband could drop out of grad school to go to work so he could support the baby, but that this would make him eligible for the draft, so they want an abortion instead. Material from speaking engagements in this series consists of draft speeches and notes, programs, and conference schedules and focus on abortion law, reproductive rights, and population control and document his early activism in reproductive rights beginning in 1966. Reproductive rights ephemera consists of published and unpublished papers, fact sheets, conference materials, reports, etc., which were created by a number of pro-choice organizations including Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, Medical Students for Choice, Abortion Rights Mobilization, Catholics for a Free Choice, etc. Lader's interview by Jane Knowles includes information about Lader's early writings on abortion, his referral of women to abortion providers prior to the passage of Roe v. Wade, the founding of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (later National Abortion Rights Action League) and legal battles encountered, and the founding of Abortion Rights Mobilization and their clinical study of Mifepristone (RU-486). Folder titles were created by the archivist. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, MIFEPRISTONE (RU-486) STUDY, 1990-2005 (#5.9-8.8), includes correspondence, memos, reports, study protocols, legal research, clippings, meeting notes, press releases, institutional review board approvals, consent forms, conference material, etc. This study was sponsored by Abortion Rights Mobilization to investigate the efficacy of using Mifepristone (RU-486) on its own and in conjunction with other drugs for early term abortions. The main investigator for the study was Doctor Eric Schaff who conducted the studies at the University of Rochester with subjects participating in clinics around the country. Study protocols were regularly reviewed, amended, and approved by an institutional review board. There were problems with early attempts to gain access to Mifepristone from a French manufacturer, requiring Abortion Rights Mobilization to purchase a cloned version from China. They were later able to find a chemist who could manufacture a small number of pills in the United States before finding a manufacturer who could produce large quantities. Funding for the study was provided by various philanthropic organizations including the Packard Foundation and the Soros Foundation (New York) (now the Open Society Institute). Folder titles were created by the archivist. Series is arranged chronologically.


Lawrence Lader was born in New York City to Ludwig and Myrtle (Powell) Lader in 1919. He attended Harvard University and received a BA in 1941. While at Harvard, Lader was involved with The Harvard Crimson, and the Phillips Brooks House, as well as setting up a radio station. In 1942 he married Jean MacInnis. The couple divorced in 1946. He married Joan Summers in 1961 and the couple had one daughter, Wendy. Lader was a writer and worked with the press department of the American Broadcasting Company (1941-1942), served as a contributing editor for Coronet Magazine (1946), a feature editor at Glamour (1953), and was a regular contributor to American Heritage, Reader's Digest, New York Times Magazine, and many others (1941-). He also served as a foreign correspondent during the Arab-Israel War (1948) and completed other overseas assignments between 1951 and 1957. Between 1967 and 1972 he served as an adjunct associate professor of journalism at New York University. He published a number of books including The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control, The Bold Brahmins: New England's War Against Slavery, Abortion, Breeding Ourselves to Death, Foolproof Birth Control: Male and Female Sterilization, Abortion II: Making the Revolution, Power on the Left: American Radical Movements Since 1946, and A Private Matter: RU 486 and the Abortion Crisis. Lader was a founding member of the National Association for the Repeal Abortion Laws in 1969 (later the National Abortion Rights Action League and now NARAL Pro-Choice America). He served as chairman of the executive committee (1969-1972) and chairman of the board of directors (1972-1976). He left the National Abortion Rights Action League in 1976 and founded Abortion Rights Mobilization, a reproductive rights organization that he was involved with until his death. Lawrence Lader died in 2006 of colon cancer at the age of 86.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Writings, speaking engagements, and reproductive rights ephemera, 1918-2006 (#1.1-5.8, PD.1sl, FD.1, F+D.1, T-304.1)
  2. Series II. Mifepristone (RU-486) study, 1990-2005 (#5.9-8.8)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2001-M85, 2001-M122, 2001-M176, 2002-M116, 2002-M133, 2004-M132, 2006-M84

These papers of Lawrence Lader were given to the Schlesinger Library by Lawrence Lader between June 2001 and May 2006.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Countway Library (Harvard Medical School); see Lawrence Lader Papers, 1948-1994 (H MS c304), and at the New York Public Library; see Lawrence Lader Papers, 1956-1985 (MssCol 1678).


Donor: Lawrence Lader

Accession numbers:

Processed by: Mark Vassar

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed materials division:

  1. Ideas for an Open Society, Open Society Institute, 2001
  2. Issues in Brief, Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1997
  3. Update, Medical Students for Choice, 1997-1998

Processing Information

Processed: August 2017

By: Mark Vassar, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Lader, Lawrence. Papers of Lawrence Lader, 1918-2006: 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 a gift from the Elsie Rodd Fund in the Schlesinger Library.

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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA