Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 703: T-452: Vt-185: CD-74

Papers of Catharine A. MacKinnon, 1946-2008 (inclusive), 1975-2005 (bulk)


Papers and audiovisual material of writer, scholar, lawyer, anti-pornography and women's rights activist Catharine A. MacKinnon contain school papers, correspondence, writing and research, teaching material, and legal client files.


  • Creation: 1946-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1975-2005


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Before using the collection, researchers must sign a special permission form agreeing not to publish MacKinnon's email address during her lifetime. It is not necessary to sign the special permission form if only using audiovisual material. Diaries, journals and other personal material designated in the inventory list may be used only with MacKinnon's written permission until her death. Client files can be accessed with either both the client and MacKinnon's permission, or MacKinnon's permission alone, depending on the client. See individual client files for specific restrictions. The remainder of the collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Catharine A. MacKinnon is held by Catharine A. MacKinnon during her lifetime. Upon her death copyright is transferred to 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. Reproduction of files that have been designated "Written Permission Required" is prohibited. This restriction is lifted upon the death of Catharine MacKinnon. Papers without the restriction may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


105.08 linear feet ((252 file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 4 photograph folders, 183 audiotapes, 75 videotapes, 1 CD)

Papers of writer, scholar, lawyer, activist Catharine A. MacKinnon contain personal and biographical material; school papers; correspondence; writing files for articles, papers, contributions, and books; teaching material for various classes taught; legal client files; and audiovisual material from her classes and appearances. All material that came foldered in the collection was transferred to acid-free folders. Original folder titles appear in quotation marks in the inventory. Half of the collection arrived at the library unfoldered, in boxes. A quarter of the material was damaged due to extensive rodent and pet infestation. This damaged material was photocopied when possible and originals were either transferred to the Library's fragile material files or discarded if the damage was extensive. Additional material received as electronic files will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this collection.

Audiovisual material was cataloged and added to the finding aid in May 2014.

Additional material received between 2013 and 2017 (accession numbers 2013-M52, 2017-M82, 2017-M200) was added to the collection in March 2019. These materials are housed in #239.1-243.12. Electronic material received with these accessions will be reformatted at a later date. Material received in 2022 (accession number 2022-M83) was added to the collection in February 2023. These materials are housed in #244.1-252.9).

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1946-2007 (#1.1-7.7, FD.1, F+D.1, PD.1), includes childhood and teen art projects; MacKinnon's baby book; clippings re: early life, tenure, and personal profiles; photocopies of datebooks (originals were kept by MacKinnon, to be donated upon her death); legal files for cases where she was personally involved; and resumes and biographical sheets. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by topic and chronologically within.

Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1951-2005 (#7.8-10.3), contains mostly in-coming correspondence with family, friends, and associates. The series is arranged with MacKinnon's family members first, followed by individual listings of friends, associates, and subject headings in alphabetical order, and ending with chronological correspondence files which include extended family, friends, and associates.

Series III, EDUCATION, 1954-1986 (#10.4-17.1, F+D.2, PD.2 - PD.4), includes notes, notebooks, papers, presentations, and reports from throughout MacKinnon's time in elementary school and Orono High School in Minnesota, Smith College, Yale Law School and Yale University. This series also contains awards, a yearbook, student conference material, and extracurricular interests including women student's status at Yale. Folders are arranged chronologically.

Series IV, WRITING, 1951, 1969-2008 (#17.2-88.28, F+D.3), includes work and research files related to speeches, presentations, articles, books, thesis, etc., written by MacKinnon. This series is arranged in five subseries.

Subseries A, Talks and lectures, 1974-2007 (#17.2-27.4, F+D.3), includes speech drafts, research, conference logistics, correspondence, notes, etc., related to talks or papers presented by MacKinnon. Text for these speeches and papers were often later published by the conference organizers in journals. Files related solely to publication of the conference papers for a journal are in Subseries B. If the presented paper or speech at a conference is included in the folder, its title is listed. Folders are arranged in chronological order according to talk or lecture date.

Subseries B, Articles and papers, 1981-2008 (#27.5-34.9), include journal reprints, edited drafts, research or subject files, correspondence, notes, etc., related to articles or papers by MacKinnon. Folders have been arranged chronologically by publication date, which is found after the title in parentheses, although dates of items within folders may vary by several months or years.

Subseries C, Books, 1979-2006 (#34.10-77.2), include edited drafts, research or subject files, correspondence, notes, etc., for books written by MacKinnon. Folders have been arranged chronologically by publication date of volume, found after the title in parentheses, although dates of items within folders may vary by several months or years.

Subseries D, Book chapters or contributions, ca.1973-2005 (#77.3-80.6), includes drafts, correspondence, etc., for chapters or contributions by MacKinnon to various books and publications by others, but related to MacKinnon's interests and expertise. Folders have been arranged chronologically by publication date, which is found after the title in parentheses, although dates of items within folders may vary by several months or years.

Subseries E, Yale University thesis, 1951, 1969-1987 (#80.7-88.28), includes a bound final copy, outlines, drafts, notes, and research files related to MacKinnon's thesis Feminism, Marxism, Method and the State for completion of her PhD in political science from Yale University. Unless otherwise noted, the majority of the research files are copies of articles and publications, some annotated by MacKinnon. Folders are arranged with thesis drafts and outlines first, followed by research files arranged alphabetically.

Series V, TEACHING, 1974-2007 (#88.29-166.18, 244.1-251.3), contains files related to MacKinnon's preparation for teaching her law school classes. A majority of this material is related to her class casebooks and reading recommendations. A casebook is a type of textbook used primarily by students in law schools, containing excerpts from cases relevant to a particular class. Casebooks will often contain excerpts from law review articles and legal treatises, historical notes, editorial commentary, and other related materials to provide background for the cases. This series includes printed casebooks, drafts, cite checks, correspondence, syllabi, notes, reading lists, bibliographies, lecture transcripts, etc. In many instances, folders related to the compilation of the casebooks include earlier casebooks which MacKinnon was constantly updating and revising for future classes. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by class title and chronologically within. Files on general teaching material follows the class folders.

Series VI, LEGAL PRACTICE, 1979-2005 (#167.1-192.11, 251.4-252.3), includes correspondence, research, drafts, submitted briefs, court opinions, evidence, and other material from legal cases for which MacKinnon either wrote briefs, advised other attorneys, or served in some other legal capacity. The majority of the documents in the series are court papers: briefs, appendices, opinions, correspondence with the court, etc. In most cases, titles of included court papers are listed. Except for a few cases (Harvey v. California Coastal Commission, Oncale v. Sundowner, and Thoreson v. Penthouse), there is little correspondence with other lawyers or drafts of briefs included here. The series also includes client files relating to two individuals with whom MacKinnon maintained an attorney-client relationship; MacKinnon's client files on Linda "Lovelace" Boreman can be found in Series VII.

While this series does not fully document MacKinnon's involvement in each case listed, the wide range of her interests is well represented. Thoreson v. Penthouse, filed in New York State Court, charges Robert Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse with sexual harassment of a former magazine model or "pet." Oncale v. Sundowner made the claim that same-sex sexual harassment should be eligible as workplace harassment under Title VII protection. Kadic v. Karadzic is a landmark international human rights case in which MacKinnon, working with NOW LDEF as local counsel, argued that a class of Bosnian women could bring a suit alleging sexual torture against the Serbian general Radovan Karadzic in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The case was filed in 1993 and was eventually decided against Karadzic in 2000. The Kadic v. Karadzic material is MacKinnon's briefs accompanied by binders of cases and statutes cited within the briefs. Harvey v. California Coastal Commission is a land-use dispute near MacKinnon's home. MacKinnon acted as both lawyer and representative for a group of neighbors unhappy with a building permit granted for a large house near to their properties. The dispute began at the level of the county planning commission and was appealed several times up to the level of the State of California Court of Appeals.

Many of MacKinnon's legal approaches to limiting pornography gained greater traction in Canada under its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For several years she advised and wrote briefs with Canadian attorneys from Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). R. v. Butler, R. v. Keegstra, and Taylor v. Canadian Human Rights Commission are some of the LEAF cases that address various aspects of obscenity laws. LEAF and MacKinnon also argued in R. v. Canadian Newspapers Co., that publishing the names of sexual assault victims violated their equal rights protected by the Charter. In Tomen v. Ontario Teachers Federation, MacKinnon was a consultant and expert witness for the Federation of Women Teachers Associations of Ontario, arguing that all-female public teachers associations promote sex equality. MacKinnon also worked on Canadian cases, including R. v. Sullivan and Lemay and Borowski v. Attorney-General of Canada, which focused on women's right to reproductive control as an equality right under the Charter.

Client files include correspondence, research, notes, etc., that MacKinnon generated for individuals whom she represented individually: film director Peter Bogdanovitch and Jeffrey Masson. The Bogdanovitch client file mainly contains documents relating to a dispute with Universal Pictures regarding the editing of and music included in his 1985 film Mask. It also contains some correspondence re: Hugh Hefner and his claims about Bogdanovitch's book about former Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten. The files on Jeffrey Masson both deal with questions of libel. Masson filed a lawsuit accusing journalist Janet Malcolm and The New Yorker of misquoting him; while MacKinnon did not entirely represent Masson in the lengthy lawsuit, she assisted in brief writing and took notes at the resulting jury trial. Masson himself was accused of libel by his former psychoanalyst related to statements Masson made in his autobiographical account of psychoanalysis, Final Analysis.

MacKinnon's original folder titles are in quotations. Cases are arranged alphabetically by title, followed by client files.

Series VII, LINDA "LOVELACE" BOREMAN, 1959-2002 (#193.1-201.6, FD.2, OD.1), includes correspondence, financial material, contracts, legal papers, notes, etc., comprising Linda Boreman's own papers, as well as MacKinnon's client files on Boreman. Boreman was the star of the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat; in 1980 she wrote an autobiography, Ordeal, in which she accused her then-husband, Chuck Traynor, of physically abusing her and pressuring her into pornographic film roles. MacKinnon and other feminists including Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem tried to help Boreman gain some legal recourse for the abuse, as well as for other, primarily financial, exploitation she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Traynor and a number of business managers and lawyers. The series is arranged in two subseries. ACCESS TO THE ENTIRE SERIES REQUIRES WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM CATHARINE MACKINNON. REPRODUCTION OF MATERIAL IS PROHIBITED.

Subseries A, Linda "Lovelace" Boreman papers, 1959-2002 (#193.1-195.11, OD.1), includes correspondence, bills and other financial documents, notes, contracts, and other material documenting primarily the last ten years of Boreman's life. The majority of these papers contain financial documentation and bills; Boreman seemed to often be in dire financial straits. After a liver transplant in 1987, her health was often poor, and she received public social services from the state of Colorado (#195.8). Several folders contain Boreman's contracts with production companies interested in making movies about her life; her side career as an anti-pornography speaker at college campuses is also documented here (#195.9). Boreman may be referred to in documents as Linda Lovelace, Linda Traynor, Linda Boreman, or Linda Marchiano. Most of the material arrived unorganized; Boreman's own folders and folder titles have been kept where evident; her original titles are in quotation marks. Files are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, MacKinnon's client files, 1971-1989, 2000 (#195.12-201.6, FD.2) includes correspondence, research, legal documents, notes, etc., that MacKinnon gathered and generated, primarily during the time period from 1980 to 1982 when she was representing Boreman. In order to assess the legal landscape and possible remedies for Boreman's claimed abuse, MacKinnon gathered earlier documents (correspondence, legal papers, contracts, etc.) from Boreman's earlier lawyers. These can all be found in this subseries, along with MacKinnon's own notes, time sheets, correspondence with Boreman, other feminists and lawyers, etc., Boreman may be referred to in the documents as Linda Lovelace, Linda Traynor, Linda Boreman, and/or Linda Marchiano.

MacKinnon's original folder titles are in quotation marks. Files are arranged alphabetically.

Series VIII, RESEARCH FILES, 1952-2008 (#201.7-234.7, 252.4-252.9), contains files accumulated on subjects related to MacKinnon's work including CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women); International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda; obscenity laws; pornography; prostitution; United States Department of Justice Attorney General's Commission on Pornography hearings from various cities; and information on anti-pornography ordinance work going on nationally and internationally.

Folders may contain transcripts, case information, clippings, notes, research papers, etc. Files are arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically within.

Series IX, GENERAL PROFESSIONAL, 1977-2007 (#234.8-238.13), includes material on colleague Andrea Dworkin; fellowship and grant files; libel issues re: MacKinnon and her work; and permission forms for publication of excerpts of MacKinnon's writings. Files are arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically within.

Series X, AUDIOVISUAL, 1981-2007 (#T-452.1 - T-452.179, Vt-185.1 - Vt-185.75, CD-74.1) includes audio and video recordings of class lectures; presentations where MacKinnon served as a sole speaker or on a panel with others; and interviews and group discussions on television or radio shows. Material is primarily related to MacKinnon and her work on sexual harassment, anti-pornography, and human rights.

Subseries A, Audio, 1981-2007 (#T-452.1 - T-452.179, CD-74.1) includes lectures for "Sexuality and Legality," "Sex Equality," and "Sex Discrimination" classes; two public debates with Phyllis Schlafly; testimonies for the Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance during the 1983 Minneapolis city council public hearings and 1985 Los Angeles Women's Commission hearings; symposium on sexual harassment at Yale Law School, organized in honor of the 20th anniversary of MacKinnon's book Sexual Harassment of Working Women; and other presentations, panels, lectures, and interviews. Recordings are arranged in chronological order and, unless otherwise specified in the description, MacKinnon is presenting, participating, etc., in the event.

Subseries B, Videotapes, 1983-2005 (#Vt-185.1 - Vt-185.75) includes television show interviews and discussions; class lectures from MacKinnon's 1991 and 1993 mini course on sex equality; and a symposium on sexual harassment at Yale Law School, organized in honor of the 20th anniversary of MacKinnon's book Sexual Harassment of Working Women. The videotapes are arranged in chronological order, and unless otherwise specified in the description, MacKinnon is presenting, participating, etc., in the event.

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


Feminist, lawyer, activist, and professor Catharine Alice MacKinnon was born in 1946 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her mother is Elizabeth Valentine Davis. Her father, George E. MacKinnon, served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. She has two younger brothers. MacKinnon graduated from Orono High School in Minnesota as salutatorian (1964) and went on to attend Smith College (B.A. with honors in government 1969), as had her mother and grandmother. MacKinnon earned her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1977 and her Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1987. While in law school, she organized the first course to be taught in the Yale women's studies program, and conceived and worked to establish the legal argument that sexual harassment in the workplace is sex discrimination. This work grew into her first book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women (Yale, 1978). Her legal framework was adopted by the United States Supreme Court in 1986 in its first sexual harassment case, on which she was co-counsel and wrote the brief. During the 1980s, MacKinnon taught law at Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Minnesota, UCLA, and Osgoode Hall (Canada), before being hired with tenure at the University of Michigan Law School, where she was subsequently named the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law. MacKinnon later visited at the University of Chicago long term, and at the University of Basel, Columbia University, Hebrew University, New York University Shgnahai, and the University of Western Australia. She is the long-term James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and from 2008-2012 served as the first Special Gender Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (The Hague).

MacKinnon's many scholarly books include Sex Equality (2001/2007), Feminism Unmodified (1987), Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), Only Words (1993), Women's Lives, Men's Laws (2005), and Are Women Human? (2006). She practices law and consults nationally and internationally on issues of women's human rights. She has represented many women including Linda "Lovelace" Boreman and Bosnian women survivors of Serbian sexual atrocities, whose case, Kadic v. Karadzic, she won in United States courts, first establishing that rape was an act of genocide under law. MacKinnon works with Equality Now, a non-governmental organization working for international sex equality rights for women, and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).


The collection is arranged in ten series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1946-2007 (#1.1-7.7, 239.1-239.3, FD.1, F+D.1, PD.1)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1948-2005 (#7.8-10.3, 239.4-239.7)
  3. Series III. Education, 1954-1986 (#10.4-17.1, F+D.2, PD.2 - PD.4)
  4. Series IV. Writing, 1951, 1969-2008 (#17.2-88.28, 239.8-240.1, F+D.3)
  5. Series V. Teaching, 1974-2007 (#88.29-166.18, 244.1-251.3)
  6. Series VI. Legal practice, 1976-2005 (#167.1-192.11, 240.2-243.10, 251.4-252.3)
  7. Series VII. Linda "Lovelace" Boreman, 1959-2002 (#193.1-201.6, 243.11-243.12, FD.2, OD.1)
  8. Series VIII. Research files, 1952-2008 (#201.7-234.7, 252.4-252.9)
  9. Series IX. General professional, 1977-2007 (#234.8-238.13)
  10. Series X. Audiovisual, 1981-2007 (#T-452.1 - T-452.179, Vt-185.1 - Vt-185.75, CD-74.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2009-M33, 2009-M76, 2010-M165, 2013-M52, 2017-M82, 2017-M200, 2022-M83

The papers of Catharine A. MacKinnon were acquired from Catharine MacKinnon between 2009 and 2022.


Donor: Catharine MacKinnon

Processed by: Stacey Flatt

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Audiovisual department:

  1. Andrea Dworkin, KPIX show "People Are Talking" interview, June 2, 1987, VHS.
  2. "What Is Found There" radio show interview with Adrienne Rich, poet, 1993. Audiocassette.

The following items were separated from the collection and returned to the donor:

  1. Class readings (1 booklet): Law, Gender, Equality class (Osgoode Hall Law School, winter 1987) with Mary Jane Mossman and Diana Majury.
  2. Class readings (1 booklet): Sexuality and the Law class (Osgoode Hall Law School, September 1988) with Bruce Ryder.
  3. Class readings (2 bound booklets): Transnational Law class (University of Michigan Law School, winter term 2001) with Professors J. Hathaway and M. Reimann.
  4. Class readings (4 bound booklets): seminar 857 - Genocide, Tribunals and Truth Commissions class (winter 2002) with Professor Daniel Rothenberg.
  5. Class readings (9 packets): #838 - Terrorism and Internation Law class (winter term 2002) with Professor Karima Bennoune.
  6. Class readings (1 bound booklet): L9254 - International Law Workshop: Human Rights Scholarship and Pedagogy (fall 2002).
  7. Class readings (5 bound booklets): 756 - Comparative Human Rights Law class (University of Michigan Law School, fall semester 2003) with Professor Christopher McCrudden.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2012

By: Stacey Flatt and Jenny Gotwals with assistance from Suzanna Calev.

Updated and material added: March 2019

By: Jenny Gotwals

Additional material added: February 2023

By: Johanna Carll

Genre / Form




MacKinnon, Catharine A. Papers of Catharine A. MacKinnon, 1946-2008 (inclusive), 1975-2005 (bulk): 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 1945.

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