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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 901; T-346; Vt-43

Papers of Martha Stuart, 1955-1988 (inclusive), 1968-1984 (bulk)


Correspondence, transcripts, photographs, and audiovisual material of Martha Stuart, producer, director, editor, and founder of Martha Stuart Communications, Incorporated.


  • 1955-1988
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1984

Language of Materials

Most materials in English; some material in Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Javanese, Chinese, or Japanese.

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 Martha Stuart 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.


18.68 linear feet ((41 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio+ box) plus 2 folio folders, 1 supersize folder, 115 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 118 slides, 62 audiotapes, 124 videotapes, electronic records)
This collection documents the personal and professional life of Martha Stuart. Stuart's independent production company, Martha Stuart Communications, allowed her to create and distribute videotapes, photographs, and audiotapes designed to promote community education; enhance communication on the problems of social change, poverty, and discrimination; and to improve human relations. This material includes 118 videotapes, 62 audio tapes, 54 transcripts, correspondence, photographs, project proposals, and reports. Stuart founded her independent production company in 1968, although the idea for her show Are You Listening came to her during the 1964 Democratic Convention while speaking to Adlai Stevenson.

Through Are You Listening, Stuart interviewed people from all walks of life, and these conversations, which were recorded between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, provide insight into changing gender roles in America, women in nontraditional jobs, abortion and family planning, parenting, how women in different countries experienced gender roles and equality, and the economic and rural development in developing countries. Stuart also revealed personal information while conversing with the participants of Are You Listening. For example while recording the episode "People who have Struggled with Abortion," Stuart revealed that her daughter had had an abortion, and during "Single Parents," Stuart shared her own struggle with single parenting. This collection also provides insight into the running of a video production company. With her interest in health, family planning, children, and women's issues, Stuart collaborated with the United Nations and its affiliates, as well as public and private agencies in the United States and around the world.

Between 1969 and 1984, Stuart recorded 55 episodes of Are You Listening. Each show may be documented in the collection by correspondence, project files, proposals, videotapes, photographs, and transcripts. Most episodes are represented by at least one of these formats. Transcripts exist for 54 shows. Four episodes are not available on videotape, but are represented by a transcript. Several shows also have still photographs taken by Stuart during filming. A complete description of most episodes of Are You Listening can be found with the audiovisual material in Series V. The correspondence, project files, proposals, and transcripts related to Are You Listening episodes can be found in Series II. Photographs taken by Martha Stuart during the recording of Are You Listening are located in Series IV.

Stuart's correspondence, which is located throughout the collection, often mixes business and personal information. Topics include Stuart's travel plans, her health, news of her family, her business, requests for funding, her staff, letters of thanks from participants of Are You Listening, and criticism and praise for Stuart's method of production. Stuart often became friends with the people she interviewed for Are You Listening, and received letters from all over the world. Stuart collaborated with Winifred Best from Planned Parenthood, author and social theorist Richard Cornuelle, Dr. William Liu from the University of Notre Dame, and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, III, on multiple projects; their correspondence is found throughout the collection. This collection also documents Stuart's work with Women's World Banking, which was founded in 1976 after the 1975 United Nations World Conference on Women in Mexico City.

Electronic records were received on three 3.5" inch disks. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager and Duke Data Accessioner. Data on all three disks were unrecoverable. Stuart's original folder headings were maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist.

A preliminary inventory of accession #87-M126 was created in September 1987 and eventually published online. This finding aid describes all material from that accession, as well as material received since that time. A copy of the preliminary inventory is in Box 1. A finding aid for the Martha Stuart Videotape Collection, 1968-1981 (Vt-43) was created in December 1994 and eventually published online. A copy of that finding aid is also in Box 1.

Series I, PERSONAL, 1959-1987, n.d. (#1.1-2.6, 43F+B.1, SD.1), includes date books, awards, personal correspondence, and an unpublished manuscript regarding Stuart's cancer diagnosis and treatments. Stuart's date books contain appointments, phone numbers, purchases, travel arrangements, notes, and Are You Listening screening dates. Personal correspondence includes topics such as Stuart's health, filming schedule, travel, thank yous, and congratulations. Correspondence sent to Stuart after her cancer diagnosis in 1979 includes letters of encouragement and love, advice, poems, and drawings, as well as an article about Stuart's treatment with the experimental drug Interferon at the Instituto San Rocco in Como, Italy. Stuart often handwrote her replies on letters received, which were then typed by her assistants. Some personal correspondence, which relates to Stuart's health and travel plans, is addressed to Stuart's assistants Sherry Delamarter and Jay Savulich. This series also includes "Under Control: Techniques of Taking Responsibility for One's Own Medical Care" by Martha Stuart and Dr. Harold "Hank" Gardner (#2.6). This unpublished manuscript is written from the point of view of Martha Stuart, the patient, and Dr. Gardner, her friend and doctor. Subjects include Stuart's feelings and reactions to her diagnosis, her treatment, her various doctors, and the advice given to her by friends and family. The manuscript also includes Gardner's reactions to Stuart's decisions regarding her treatments, and his thoughts after Stuart's death. Also found in this series is a gallery poster from Stuart's photograph exhibit in the Equitable Building (#SD.1). This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, MARTHA STUART COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNICATION FOR CHANGE, 1967-1988, n.d. (#2.7-38.3, FD.1-FD.2, 43F+B.1-43F+B.8, E.1), includes project proposals, discussion guides, publicity, rental lists, funding proposals, correspondence, memoranda, release forms, articles by and about Stuart, by-laws, financial records, transcripts of interviews recorded by Stuart. This series follows Stuart's work with Are You Listening episodes from start to finish, as it contains proposals, project files, correspondence, and transcripts for many of the shows.

Stuart kept both general and named correspondence files, which are found in this series. Stuart's general correspondence is filed chronologically, and consists mainly of Stuart's responses to incoming letters. Incoming letters throughout the collection are often annotated by Stuart with her reply, and include the carbon copy of the outgoing answer typed by Stuart's assistants. The general correspondence also includes letters from Stuart to the ministers of information and publicity in Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates regarding screenings of the Are You Listening program "Village Women in Egypt"; as well as letters to former Are You Listening participants artist Judy Spock and business owner Bette Nesmith Graham, which are found throughout this series. Correspondence related to Are You Listening includes distribution reports, financial reports to foundations, travel and production arrangements, notes of thanks from the participants, and funding requests. Letters from participants include topics such as family life, Stuart's health, travel plans, and praise for Are You Listening. Other correspondence includes funding requests, project statuses, customs issues, and projects not related to Are You Listening, such as the oral history interviews Stuart conducted for Planned Parenthood (#12.17). The audiotapes of some of these interviews can be found in Series VI.

Stuart often grouped like Are You Listening proposals together to form a series, such as "Single Parents," "Children of Working Mothers," "Mothers Who Are Part of a Supportive Daycare Center," and "Fathers Who Are Discovering Fathering." These proposals can be found under the "mothers, fathers, and children" series (#21.3-21.6). Proposals that became Are You Listening episodes are identified as such. Project files can include release forms, production notes, financial records, participant lists, and memoranda. Folders titled transcripts include edited and unedited versions from Are You Listening episodes, as well as editing and filming notes. The transcripts of shows filmed in other countries often include both the language the interview was conducted in, as well as the English translation.

Audiovisual material from Are You Listening can be found in Series V. Still photographs taken by Martha Stuart while filming Are You Listening are located in Series IV.

This material also contains proposals and project files not related to Are You Listening but produced by Martha Stuart Communications or Communication for Change. Records related to Communication for Change, Incorporated, found in this series include projects funded by the non-profit foundation, as well as documents related to its disbanding (#3.18). This material also includes documents from various seminars, workshops, and festivals that Stuart participated in. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, OTHER PROFESSIONAL, 1955-1983, n.d. (#38.4-42.4, FD.2), includes correspondence, reports, memoranda, notes, and material from Stuart's work with Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri, the State of Oklahoma Semi-Centennial Exposition in 1957, and Planned Parenthood-World Population. This series also contains correspondence and reports from the various boards she served on, including Women's World Banking (#41.7-42.4) and People Matter. This series includes material related to both "The Changing Woman: The Impact of Family Planning" conference that Stuart organized, as well as the published conference proceedings, titled The Emerging Woman: The Impact of Family Planning; an Informal Sharing of Interests, Ideas, and Concerns. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV. PHOTOGRAPHS, 1964-1984, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.115), includes photographs, contact sheets, slides, and negatives removed from folders throughout the collection. This series includes images taken by Stuart during the filming of Are You Listening episodes, or during research trips taken by Stuart for show proposals. Occasionally, contact sheets contain images from multiple episodes of Are You Listening; these folders include both show titles. Photographs from the 1964 Democratic Convention include images of Betty Friedan and the Civil Rights Vigil held during the convention. The correspondence, project files, proposals, and transcripts related to Are You Listening episodes can be found in Series II. Audiovisual material from Are You Listening can be found in Series V. The photographs are arranged to mirror the series above. Negatives and slides are stored separately.

Series V, ARE YOU LISTENING AUDIOVISUAL, 1968-1984, n.d. (#T-346.1-T-346.7, Vt-43.1-Vt-43.91, Vt-43.124), includes 7 audiotapes and 97 videotapes of and related to Martha Stuart's show, Are You Listening. This series is arranged with audiotapes followed by videotapes. Edited and unedited videotapes of Are You Listening episodes are listed together.

This collection consists of 52 shows and 39 unedited tapes from the Are You Listening series, plus seven audiocassettes and three videotapes of shows related to the Are You Listening series. Each show consists of a group discussion facilitated by Martha Stuart. For some of the shows, unedited material from the original shoot is available, noted as unedited source material. The shows were broadcast in 42 countries and by PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC and cable stations in the United States.

The videotapes are arranged in chronological order. Titles were taken verbatim from a list provided by the donor. When the title is not self-explanatory, a description devised by the cataloger is provided; dates are included when known. Are You Listening shows are on Betacam SP and 3/4" U-matic, with sound and color, and in English. The audiocassettes are listed alphabetically by title.

The correspondence, project files, proposals, and transcripts related to Are You Listening episodes can be found in Series II. Still photographs taken by Martha Stuart while filming Are You Listening are located in Series IV. This material was previously listed as the Videotape collection of Martha Stuart, 1968-1981 (Vt-43). A copy of that finding aid is in Box 1.

Series VI, OTHER AUDIOVISUAL, 1965-1984, n.d. (#T-346.8-T-346.62, Vt-43.92-Vt-43.118), includes 55 audiotapes and 26 videotapes produced by Martha Stuart Communications for projects not related to her television show. This series contains audiocassettes from the oral history project, "People Who Pioneered with Margaret Sanger," that Stuart conducted for Planned Parenthood-World Population. Correspondence related to the project can be found in Series II. This series also includes audiovisual material related to The Village Video Network conference, which was held in the Republic of Mali in 1982; some of the conversation is in French. Audiotapes from sessions at the Changing Woman: The Impact of Family Planning conference, which was held at the University of Notre Dame in 1967, are located in this series. Correspondence related to this conference can be found in Series III. Also found here is a videotape on abortion rights sent to Stuart by a Japanese feminist group in 1982. This series also contains the video produced by a group of Stuart's friends and family in honor of her 50th birthday in 1979. This series is arranged with audiotapes followed by videotapes.

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


Martha Rose Stuart was born on December 5, 1929, to Harold and Louise (Jerrell) Newcomb in Des Moines, Iowa. Stuart graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1947, and attended Wellesley College (B.S. 1951). Martha Stuart married Lynn Evans Stuart in 1953; the marriage ended in divorce in 1963. The Stuarts had two children, Sara "Sally" Stuart (born 1956) and Barkley Stuart (born 1959).

Between 1953 and 1962, Stuart was a producer, reporter, writer, and photographer for a number of radio and television stations and newspapers in St. Louis, Missouri, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She also served as promotion director for Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri, and was instrumental in the creation, organization, and promotion of the State of Oklahoma Semi-Centennial Exposition in 1957. In 1963, Stuart became a consultant for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Planned Parenthood-World Population. Her work with Planned Parenthood-World Population led to the founding of the Catholic Committee on Population and Government Policy, as well as the first network radio and television dialogues and documentaries about birth control in the United States. In 1964, Stuart organized Planned Parenthood-World Population's birth control exhibit at the World's Fair in New York. In 1967, Stuart planned "The Changing Woman: The Impact of Family Planning" conference at the University of Notre Dame, which was intended to bring together concerned parties in order to brainstorm about the revolutionary changes in the role of women around the world due to the widespread use of birth control. In 1970, Stuart and Dr. William Liu published the conference proceedings as The Emerging Woman: The Impact of Family Planning; an Informal Sharing of Interests, Ideas, and Concerns.

In 1965, Stuart founded Martha Stuart Communications as an independent production company. In 1967, Planned Parenthood-World Population hired Martha Stuart Communications to record oral histories with men and women who had worked with Margaret Sanger in the birth control movement during the 1920s and 1930s. This project, titled "People Who Pioneered with Margaret Sanger," included interviews with Richard Dyer Bennett, Pearl Buck, Max Eastman, Morris Ernst, Judge Jonah Goldstein, Senator Ernest Gruening, Sir Julian Huxley, Dorothy Brush Walmsley, Dr. John Rock, and Grant Sanger. The project was suspended in the early 1970s. After moving to New York from St. Louis, Missouri, in 1963, Stuart began to produce a show titled Are You Listening, which introduced videotape programs featuring in her words, "people who are endlessly talked about and rarely listened to." With Are You Listening, Stuart brought together groups of people who had a particular experience in common, and encouraged them to speak openly and candidly with each other in order to exchange their perspectives and experiences. Stuart would record roughly 3 hours of conversation in order to produce a 29-minute long episode.

Are You Listening, which was broadcast in 42 countries, covered a wide range of topics, including "Parents of Disturbed Children," "Mujeres Colombianas," "Women Business Owners," "Women Who Have Had an Abortion," "Women Who Didn't Have an Abortion," "Widows," "World Feminists," "Village Women in Egypt," and "People Who Have Struggled with Abortion." While many episodes of Are You Listening were recorded at a New York City studio, others were produced on location all over the world. Most of the details needed to work at remote locations, including equipment, rental prices, and videotape format availability, were handled via correspondence. Stuart often had to choose between paying huge shipping costs to send her own video equipment, or attempting to find suitable equipment nearby. She also had to balance procuring funding to bring all of her own staff, or finding appropriately trained staff in the area. When the editing of an episode of Are You Listening was complete, Stuart would send copies to the participants. Occasionally, when sending the tapes overseas, they were confiscated by customs, and she would have to write a letter stating that the tapes were for personal use, and not being sold for profit.

A groundbreaking and award-winning show, Are You Listening won the National Cable Television Association's Award for Public Affairs in 1974, and in 1975, the Public Broadcasting Service aired two episodes of Are You Listening, making it the first independent public affairs production aired on network televison in the United States. Stuart's many honors include the 1975-1976 Emmy Award for an Outstanding Informational Series for the Are You Listening episode, "Older People"; the 1980 National Committee on Working Women Broadcast Award; and the 1980 National Mental Health Association Film Festival Award. Stuart presented her work at the Athens Video Festival, the Communications Institute of the East-West Center, and Video Roma '79 and '80.

In 1975, Stuart was invited to film episodes of Are You Listening at the International Women's Year Tribune, which was held as a parallel forum during the International Women's Year Conference in Mexico City, Mexico. Stuart interviewed women from 12 countries, and interviewed journalists who were reporting on the International Women's Year conference. Beginning in 1977, Stuart assisted Alessandro Silj in planning an international video festival, titled Video Roma '79, for independent producers. Silj, who was working with the Department of Cultural Affairs of the City of Rome, Radiotelevisione Italiana, and The Ford Foundation, hoped to create a forum for video artists and video producers that would feature public screenings, seminars, and exhibits. Video Roma '79 highlighted 300 works by video artists and documentarians from around the world, including Italy, the United States, France, Great Britain, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, and Germany. Stuart showed several episodes of Are You Listening, including "Black Peace Stone Nation," "Widows," "Prisoners," and "Prison Guards." There was a second Video Roma in 1980, and there were plans to bring the festival to New York in 1981, which did not materialize.

In 1974, Martha Stuart Communications received an United States Agency for International Development grant for a Jamaican Family Planning Project, in order to produce a videotape on family planning to use as a communication tool in Jamaica, as well as to provide training on video technology and its applications within health care services. The project brought together ten Jamaican women from all walks of life to share their views on marriage, family planning concerns, childbirth, and a woman's life-cycle. At the same time, Stuart conducted a two-week workshop in video techniques to agencies around Jamaica, including the Bureau of Health Education, Agricultural Information Services, the National Family Planning Board, and the Jamaican Family Planning Association. This experience led Stuart to create a "Videotape as a Development Tool" project, which could be used worldwide as a means for sharing ideas and experiences over long distances, and among people who did not read or write. Stuart felt that video technology gave oral traditions a new electronic life.

In 1970, Martha Stuart founded Communication for Change, Incorporated, as a non-profit foundation, in order to produce and distribute videotapes, films, photographs, and other means of communication designed to promote community education; to enhance communication on the problems of social change, and to improve human relations. It was difficult to run both a commercial business and a non-profit organization, and Communication for Change did not follow the proper procedures to be considered a non-profit foundation. By 1976, Communication for Change had become defunct. After Stuart's death in 1985, however, Martha Stuart Communications was renamed Communication for Change, and became a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

In 1982, Stuart co-formed the Village Video Network with the United Nations University. The Village Video Network's essential purpose was to further the use of videotape as a communication and development tool; to facilitate the development of country-wide projects that produce videotapes about their development priorities, their problems, and their solutions; and to facilitate and co-ordinate the exchange of such tapes between projects, communities, and countries around the world. Each country was expected to contribute a specified number of locally generated video programs. In return, they received an equivalent number of blank tapes, and privileges to use all the programs in the Village Video Network lending library. Stuart believed that by teaching villagers in the developing world how to use small-format portable video equipment, she provided them with a means by which to exchange information and experiences without the distortions built into the use of conventional media.

The Village Video Network was composed of members from Mali, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Antigua, China, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Guyana, Japan, Indonesia, and the Navajo Nation. These members also worked to design production facilities; offering training in production, editing, and equipment maintenance; and purchasing videotape equipment at appropriate levels of technological development for each client. At the beginning of the project, these services were provided at no cost, although it was suggested that these consulting services could become a source of revenue for the Network.

From 1968 to 1984, Stuart's office, screening room, and home were located on Bank Street in the West Village of New York City. Stuart left her Bank Street location in 1984, moving to West 22nd Street. Since Stuart's home was located in the same space as her screening room, she provided banquets for the participants of Are You Listening before and after recording the program. In 1982, Stuart's still photography was exhibited in the lobby of the Equitable Life Assurance Society Building in Manhattan.

In 1979, Stuart was diagnosed with lymphoma in her hipbone. She underwent radiation therapy, which caused the cancer to go into remission, but in 1981 the lymphoma returned. Stuart opted for an experimental treatment, which used a mixture of medications, instead of traditional chemotherapy, at the Instituto San Rocco in Como, Italy. In 1982, lymphoma was discovered in Stuart's neck, and she underwent chemotherapy at a New York hospital. In the fall of 1984, the lymphoma returned. Martha Stuart died in New York City, on February 15, 1985.


The collection is arranged in six series:
  1. Series I. Personal, 1959-1987, n.d. (#1.1-2.6, 43F+B.1, SD.1)
  2. Series II. Martha Stuart Communications and Communication for Change, 1967-1988, n.d. (#2.7-38.3, FD.1-FD.2, 43F+B.1-43F+B.8, E.1)
  3. Series III. Other professional, 1955-1983, n.d. (#38.4-42.4, FD.2)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1964-1984, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.115)
  5. Series V. Are You Listening audiovisual, 1968-1984, n.d. (#T-346.1-T-346.7, Vt-43.1-Vt-43.91, Vt-43.124)
  6. Series VI. Other audiovisual, 1956-1984, n.d. (#T-346.8-T-346.62, Vt-43.92-Vt-43.118)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M109, 87-M126, 88-M65, 89-M63, 91-M13, 2001-M23

The papers of Martha Stuart were given to the Schlesinger Library by her children Sara Stuart and Barkley Stuart between June 1985 and February 2001.


Donors: Sara and Barkley Stuart

Accession numbers: 85-M109, 87-M126, 88-M65, 89-M63, 91-M13, 2001-M23

Processed by: Cat Lea Holbrook

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:
  1. Contraception and Catholics: a New Appraisal, by Louis Dupré, 1964
  2. The Emerging Woman: The Impact of Family Planning; an Informal Sharing of Interests, Ideas, and Concerns, edited by Martha Stuart with William T. Liu, 1970
  3. Man and Woman: A Christian Perspective on Human Sexuality, Love, and Marriage, by Ronald J. Wilkins and Nancy B. Wilkins, 1980
  4. Who Will Raise the Children? New Options for Fathers (and Mothers), by James A. Levine, 1976

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: September 1987

Anne Engelhart and Susan von Salis

Processed: June 2017

By: Cat Lea Holbrook, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.
Link to catalog
Stuart, Martha. Papers of Martha Stuart, 1955-1988 (inclusive), 1968-1984 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Zetlin Sisters Fund and the Jane Rainie Opel '50 Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

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