Papers of Susan Brownmiller, 1935-2000
Papers of feminist, activist, and writer Susan Brownmiller.
- Brownmiller, Susan (Person)
Language of Materials
Materials in English.
Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is required to use audiotapes. Folders #8.11-8.13 and #22.3-22.5 are closed until January 1, 2050. Individual items are closed as noted to protect personal privacy.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright. Copyright in the papers of Susan Brownmiller is held by Susan Brownmiller. Upon her death, the copyright in the papers of Susan Brownmiller 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.
Extent13.14 linear feet ((31+1/2 file boxes) plus 123 audiotapes, 8 photo folders, 6 slides, 3 motion pictures, 3 folio + folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 folio folder, 1 supersize folder, and electronic records)
The collection consists of Brownmiller's personal and professional correspondence, files concerning her activist and professional work, and fictional writings. The bulk of the collection is made up of papers gathered for freelance articles and Brownmiller's five published books, including drafts of her writing, research material, and correspondence, etc., relating to the publishing of her articles and books. The collection also includes audiotapes, photographs, and motion pictures. Clippings from major newspapers and magazines that are not about or by Brownmiller have not been retained.
Folder headings created by Brownmiller have been retained; the archivist's notes are in square brackets. The names of prominent correspondents have been added to the folder titles. Letters from readers and colleagues divulging personal information have been closed. Loose materials were sorted and combined with the existing record system.
Series I, Biographical and personal (#1.1-2.6, T-326.1-T-326.2, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, Mem.1, E.1), consists primarily of material related to Brownmiller's childhood and college years. This series contains correspondence; a baby book and photographs; schoolwork, including exams, papers, and artwork; report cards for New York public schools and religious education; school certificates; and memorabilia such as medals and plaques. Also included is a scrapbook from Brownmiller's two years at Cornell University, which contains correspondence with parents and friends, telegrams, a letter sent to Brownmiller's parents when she was born, early writings, notes, grade reports, and playbills and reviews regarding plays in which she acted. This series also contains Brownmiller's resumes and passports, and two audiotapes of what appears to be a BBC radio program on women's liberation in which Brownmiller is interviewed. Other biographical material, in the form of interviews related to the publishing of her books, is found in Series III. Also included is Brownmiller's web site, which is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program. The papers are arranged chronologically.
Series II, Correspondence (#2.7-4.15), consists mainly of Brownmiller's incoming correspondence. It also includes some printed material, newsletters, poetry, and photographs, as well as galleys for an article written by Brownmiller and a book proposal and outline for Femininity. The series is arranged with personal correspondence first, followed by work correspondence, and ending with correspondence with individuals or organizations. This arrangement reflects Brownmiller's filing system. There is some overlap between personal and work correspondence. Personal correspondence contains letters to and from family and friends, some relating to her work and activism. Work correspondence includes letters to and from colleagues; correspondence with editors and publishers regarding her work; signed agreements with publishers; invitations to speak, teach, and write reviews; and letters from readers about her work.
Correspondence can be found throughout the collection: early correspondence with family and friends in Series I; correspondence with editors regarding various writing projects in Series III, Subseries B; and correspondence with publishers and readers of Brownmiller's books throughout most of Series III.
Series III, Writings (#5.1-29.20, T-326.5-T-326.123, MP-50, reels 1-3, F+D.1, F+D.3, OD.1, SD.1), contains Brownmiller's fictional stories and plays, poems, articles, book reviews, manuscript drafts of her articles and books, and research files. It also includes correspondence with editors, agents, publishers, readers, friends and colleagues, as well as material related to the publication of her books in the United States and abroad, including contracts and royalty statements. In addition, publicity materials, book tour itineraries, reviews of her books, and interviews with Brownmiller are included. Brownmiller's writings are scattered throughout the collection: see also Series I-II and Series IV.
Subseries A, Early writings (#5.1-5.5), contains corrected drafts of plays, fiction, and poetry written by Brownmiller during the 1950s and 1960s. All works are unpublished. The papers are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries B, Journalism and related (#5.6-6.11, MP-50, reels 1-3), contains papers related to Brownmiller's work as a freelance writer, editor, and journalist. Included are corrected drafts and published versions of freelance articles; three motion pictures (possibly from Brownmiller's work as a television reporter); book and play reviews; correspondence with editors and publishers; and notes, clippings, and other research material related to assignments. This subseries also contains newsletters Brownmiller wrote for the Alicia Patterson foundation during her fellowship; copies of the Albany Report, a newsletter edited by Brownmiller; and a paper on Lee Harvey Oswald written by Mark Lane. In addition, there is material concerning Brownmiller's unpublished book on the topic of friendship, and a folder of assignments and correspondence from a writing course taught by Brownmiller. The papers are arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Against Our Will (#6.12-14.3, T-326.5-T-326.6, F+D.1, F+D.3, OD.1), relates to the researching, writing, and publishing of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975). The subseries contains correspondence with readers, friends, colleagues, editors, and publishers; grant applications and letters of support; interviews, including a transcript from a television appearance in Australia; advertisements, photographs, bestseller lists, press releases, book jackets and covers, posters, and other publicity materials; and copyright registration certificates. Also included are reviews and book excerpts in magazines; audiotapes of Angela Davis reviewing Against Our Will on her Berkeley radio show; a television treatment of Against Our Will; academic papers written in response to the book; and a play written by students at Dartmouth College. The subseries also contains material related to publishers, including contracts with publishers (domestic and international), records of royalties received by Brownmiller, and trip itineraries and printed material from book tours. Brownmiller's folder titles were retained; in keeping with Brownmiller's filing system, the subseries is arranged alphabetically, with files related to the publishing of the book first and rape research files listed at the end. Files pertaining to foreign editions contain primarily correspondence and contracts with publishers, and do not contain the actual foreign edition of the book. For the American edition of Against Our Will, see the Schlesinger Library book collection. This subseries also contains Brownmiller's "rape research" files, which include notes from primary and secondary sources, correspondence, corrected drafts, reports, printed material, a grant proposal and printed material for rape crisis centers. Most of the clippings from major newspapers and magazines were not retained. There are also three files of material gathered by Brownmiller after the publishing of Against Our Will, which contain notes, correspondence, clippings (many citing Brownmiller), reports, drafts of New York state legislation, and printed material.
Subseries D, Femininity (#14.4-16.3, F+D.1, OD.1, SD.1), relates to the writing and publishing of Femininity (1984). The subseries contains correspondence with readers, friends, colleagues, editors, and publishers; interviews, advertisements, press releases, photographs, book jackets and covers, posters, and other publicity materials; and reviews and book excerpts in magazines. The subseries also contains material related to publishers, including contracts with publishers (domestic and international), records of royalties received by Brownmiller, and trip itineraries and printed material from book tours. Brownmiller's folder titles were retained; in keeping with Brownmiller's filing system, the subseries is arranged alphabetically. Files pertaining to foreign editions contain primarily correspondence and contracts with publishers, and do not contain the actual foreign edition of her book. For the American edition of Femininity, see the Schlesinger Library book collection.
Subseries E, Waverly Place (#16.4-19.2, OD.1), relates to the writing and publishing of Waverly Place (1989), Brownmiller's fictional treatment of the murder of Lisa Steinberg by her adoptive father, Joel Steinberg, and Steinberg's abuse of his partner, Hedda Nussbaum. The subseries contains correspondence with readers, friends, editors, and publisher, including correspondence with Brownmiller's agent regarding an unpublished book about the topic of friendship; interviews, advertisements, book jackets and covers, photographs, and other publicity materials. Also included are reviews and book excerpts in magazines; notes, correspondence, and drafts of an article written by Brownmiller for Ms. Magazine; editorials written by Brownmiller; a television rights agreement and teleplay; and an annotated manuscript submitted to the publisher. In addition, there are research notes, including reports, printed material, notes, and corrected drafts. The subseries also contains material related to publishers, including contracts with publishers (domestic and international), records of royalties received by Brownmiller, and trip itineraries and printed material from book tours. Brownmiller's folder titles were retained; in keeping with Brownmiller's filing system, the subseries is arranged alphabetically. Files pertaining to foreign editions contain primarily correspondence and contracts with publishers, and do not contain the actual foreign edition of the book. For the American edition of Waverly Place, see the Schlesinger Library book collection. Clippings from major newspapers and magazines regarding the Steinberg case and trial have not been retained.
Subseries F, Seeing Vietnam (#19.3-19.11), relates to the writing and publishing of Seeing Vietnam: Encounters of the Road and Heart (1994). The subseries contains correspondence with her literary agent, publisher, readers, and people she met in Vietnam; interviews, advertisements, a book cover, press kits, press releases, slides, photographs, and other publicity materials; and trip itineraries and printed material from book tours. Also included are reviews and book excerpts in magazines. In keeping with Brownmiller's arrangement, the subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Subseries G, In Our Time (#19.12-29.20, T-326.7-T-326.123), relates to the writing of In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (1999). The subseries contains correspondence with friends, colleagues, and activists in the feminist movement. It also contains research material, including biographical material sent to Brownmiller by fellow activists, such as resumes, photographs, memoirs, poems and essays; clippings, minutes, member lists, reports, and other printed material from women's liberation groups and rape crisis centers; and a transcript of a sexual harassment speakout in Ithaca, New York. This subseries also contains material related to Brownmiller's activism, particularly her involvement in the New York Radical Feminists; more material related to her work can be found in Series IV. In writing In Our Time, Brownmiller interviewed feminists active in the women's liberation movement, and this subseries contains audiotapes (90-minute tapes) and typed transcripts of many of the interviews. There are seven interviews that have audiotapes and no accompanying typed transcripts. In keeping with Brownmiller's filing system, the subseries is arranged alphabetically with subject files first, followed by two folders containing material related to various people and topics. Interviews are listed last.
Series IV, Activism (#30.1-32.13, T-326.3-T-326.4, F+D.1, OD.1-OD.2), contains correspondence, notes, printed material, clippings, telegrams, press releases, charts, member lists, fact sheets, minutes, newsletters, photographs, audiotapes, etc., related to Brownmiller's political activism and her involvement in the civil rights and feminist movements. Also included are Brownmiller's talks, presentations, papers, articles and other writings related to her activist work, as well as materials from various conferences in which she participated. In particular, the series documents the Ladies' Home Journal sit-in and subsequent publications, as well as Brownmiller's work with anti-pornography groups, especially Women Against Pornography, a group she co-founded. More material related to Brownmiller's activism, particularly her involvement with the New York Radical Feminists, is in Series III, Subseries G. The papers are arranged chronologically.
Series V, Photographs (#PD.1-PD.8), contains portraits of Susan Brownmiller and snapshots of Brownmiller's friends and dog. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.
Writer, feminist, and activist Susan Brownmiller was born in Brooklyn, New York, on February 15, 1935, the only child of Mae and Samuel Warhaftig. She attended Cornell University (1952-1954), and after leaving school, studied acting in New York City. While training as an actor, she took the stage name Brownmiller, legally changing her name in 1961. Brownmiller's interest in journalism and editorial work began with a position at a confession magazine. She went on to work as an assistant to the managing editor at Coronet magazine (1959-1960), as an editor of the Albany Report (1961-1962), and as a national affairs researcher at Newsweek (1963-1964).
In the mid-1960s, Brownmiller continued her career in journalism with positions as a reporter for NBC-TV in Philadelphia (1965), staff writer for the Village Voice (1965), and as network newswriter for ABC-TV in New York City (1966-1968). Beginning in 1968, she worked as a freelance writer; her book reviews, essays, and articles appeared regularly in publications including the New York Times, Newsday, the New York Daily News, Vogue, and the Nation.
Brownmiller published her first book, Shirley Chisholm: A Biography, in 1970. Written for young readers, the biography told the life story of the first African American United States Congresswoman. During the late 1960s, Brownmiller became active in the women's liberation movement. In 1970, she orchestrated a sit-in at the offices of the Ladies' Home Journal to protest the content of the magazine, which they considered demeaning to women. Brownmiller became inspired to explore the topic of rape after helping to organize a 1971 conference on rape with the New York Radical Feminists (an organization of which she was a co-founder). In 1975, she published the feminist classic, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. The product of four years of research, the controversial Against Our Will argued that rape was a "conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." Against Our Will was a bestseller, and Brownmiller received both criticism and acclaim. In 1975 she was named one of Time Magazine's twelve Women of the Year.
After publishing Against Our Will, Brownmiller lectured widely on the topic of rape. Her continuing interest in women's issues led her to help found Women Against Pornography in 1979. She published another feminist analysis, Femininity, in 1984. In 1987, Brownmiller, like many New Yorkers, was captivated by the Joel Steinberg domestic abuse case, which occurred in her Greenwich Village neighborhood, and she published a fictional treatment of the case, Waverly Place, in 1989. In 1992, Brownmiller visited Vietnam for Travel & Leisure magazine. The trip led her to write a travel memoir, Seeing Vietnam: Encounters of the Road and Heart (1994). In the mid-1990s, Brownmiller interviewed over two hundred activists for her chronicle of radical feminist movement, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (1999).
Brownmiller received numerous awards and fellowships. In writing Against Our Will, she was awarded both an Alicia Patterson grant for journalism and a Louis M. Rabinowitz Foundation grant in 1973. She received the Mademoiselle Achievement Award (1975), the Women In Communication Matrix Award (1984), and the Travel Story Grand Award from the Pacific American Travel Association (1994). She has served as a judge for the National Book Awards (1980) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (1991).
The collection is arranged in five series. There is significant overlap between the series. Most of Brownmiller's writings are found in Series III, but they can also be found in Series I, II, and IV. Titles of her writings have been added to folder titles as necessary. Correspondence is also scattered throughout the collection. In addition, Brownmiller's activism is reflected in her writing, and therefore there is overlap between Series IV and other series in the collection.
- Series I. Biographical and personal
- Series II. Correspondence
- Series III. Writings
- Series IV. Activism
- Series V. Photographs
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Accession numbers: 2000-M197, 2001-M72
These papers were purchased from Susan Brownmiller by the Schlesinger Library in December 2000. Additional material was donated by Susan Brownmiller in May 2001.
Donor: Susan Brownmiller
Accession number: 2000-M197
Processed by: Paula K. Aloisio
The following item has been removed from the collection:
- "I Remember Esther: A Personal Memoir," Norma M. Swenson (1995) re: Esther Rome. Transferred to Boston Women's Health Book Collective Records, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute.
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library book collection (pending review by curator):
- Burris, Barbara. Fourth World Manifesto: an Angry Response to an Imperialist Venture Against the Women's Liberation Movement. Detroit: Women-Fourth World, The Advocate Press, 1971.
- Colton, Helen. What's on Women's Future Agenda? Los Angeles: Family Forum, 1967.
- Feminism & Psychology, vol. 3, no. 2 (1993).
- Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter, January/February/March 1975.
- Goodbye to All That, vol. 40, June 1973.
- Hanisch, Carol. Frankly Feminist: A Collection of Writings from the Hudson Valley Woman 1991-1995. Port Ewen, NY: Truthteller, 1997.
- How to Start a Rape Crisis Center. Washington, DC: Rape Crisis Center, 1972.
- Lessons from the Damned; Class Struggle in the Black Community, by the Damned. Washington, NJ: Times Change Press, 1973, 1990.
- Linz, Daniel. Pornography. Communications Concepts 5. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1993.
- Newspage. Women Against Pornography & Media, vol. 1, no. 1 (June 1977); vol. V, no. 4 (May 1980).
- Newsreport. Women Against Pornography, March 24, 1980; Fall 1982; volume V, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 1983).
- Oasis: Newsletter of the Feminists Against Pornography. Washington, DC: Washington Area Women's Center, vol. 1, nos. 1-3 (1980); vol. 2, nos. 1-6 (1981); vol. 3., nos. 1-3 (1982); vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1983).
- Meeting Ground. Women's Liberation Front, no. 12 (1990).
- Modern Love: True, Complete Confessions, vol. 10, no. 5 (March 1972).
- Personal Romances, vol. 46, no. 5 (March 1972).
- Real Confessions, vol. 15, nos. 2-3 (1972).
- Science for the People , vol. 12, no. 1. (January/February 1980).
- True Romance, vol. 93, no. 6 (February 1972).
- True Life Confessions, vol. 4, no. 6 (April 1972).
- True Love, vol. 96, no. 2 (February 1927).
- Veteran Feminists of America, vol. IV, no. 1 (Fall 1997).
- Women Against Violence Against Women, nos. 4-6 (1978); no. 7 (1979?).
Processed: February 2006
By: Paula Aloisio
- Abortion--United States
- Authors and publishers
- Authors, American
- Autograph albums
- Boston Women's Health Book Collective
- Civil rights--United States
- Demonstrations--United States
- Electronic records
- Family violence--United States
- Feminism--United States
- Feminists--United States
- Jewish women--United States
- Journalists--United States
- Ladies' home journal
- Manuscripts for publication
- Motion pictures
- Oral histories
- Pornography--Social aspects--United States
- Rape victim services--United States
- Sex discrimination against women--United States
- Vietnam--Voyages and travels
- Violence--United States
- Web sites
- Wife abuse
- Women Against Pornography
- Brownmiller, Susan. Papers of Susan Brownmiller, 1935-2000: 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 Radcliffe College Class of 1968.
- EAD ID
Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository
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