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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 928: T-427

Papers of Rachel Josefowitz Siegel, 1929-2016


Correspondence, educational material, writings, photographs, etc., of feminist psychotherapist and social worker Rachel J. Siegel


  • Creation: 1929-2016

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. The majority of the collection is open for research. Folders #10.8, 10.13-11.1, 13.8, and audiotapes T-427.19-T-427.20, T-427.26, and T-427.30-T-427.31 are closed for 50 years from the date of creation.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Rachel Josefowitz Siegel is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. 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.


5.84 linear feet ((14 file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 1 oversize folder, 7 photograph folders, 55 audiotapes)

The Papers of Rachel J. Siegel document the professional career of feminist psychotherapist and social worker Rachel Josefowitz Siegel. The collection highlights social work careers, the challenges faced by aging women, the role of feminism within the Jewish faith, stereotypes assigned to Jewish women, and the links formed between Jewish women in the United States and Israel. Included are awards, honors, and citations; diaries and journals; educational material consisting of report cards, diplomas, and course work ranging from Siegel's formative education in Europe, to her college and graduate studies in the United States. Although the collection includes some family letters, most of the correspondence is from Siegel's professional colleagues, and includes manuscripts, annotated articles, flyers, and announcements of forthcoming publications and conferences and artwork. Also included are travel diaries, membership material, speeches, and teaching papers.

The bulk consists of papers related to annual meetings and conferences, some of which correspond to the audiovisual material. Audiovisual items in this collection consist of audiocassettes unless otherwise specified. To avoid infringement of third party privacy, some permission forms, questionnaires, transcripts, and audiotapes will remain closed for 50 years from the date of creation. Of particular interest are Siegel's articles, bibliographic material, study guides and partially published manuscript for her proposed book Old Women, adapted from the taped interviews. Siegel's credentials as a certified social worker and papers related to her voluntary work at various social agencies, non-profit organizations, and women's workshops are also included. Photographs in the collection range from Siegel's youth to her later years as a recognized authority in her field. Most of the papers were received in letter size folders, which were worn, or had illegible handwriting. The archivist modified folder titles to avoid duplication and consolidate material, created the arrangement for all series, and sorted and interfiled all loose materials.

Series I, Biographical and personal, 1936-2016, n.d. (#1.1-4.5, FD.1), includes awards, citations and honors; biographical essays; a diary, journals, and other personal writings describing her interactions with family and friends. There is some family and personal correspondence, which includes clippings; greeting cards, and announcements. Educational material in this series includes diplomas, report cards, transcripts and course work representing Siegel's primary school education in Germany and Switzerland; her years at Simmons College; and graduate studies at Syracuse University. Prayers conducted by Siegel at a Bat Mitzvah and other religious services, and travel diaries documenting life in Jerusalem are also included. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series II, Writings, 1974-2013, n.d. (#4.6-8.2), includes articles, bibliographies, study guides, and publishing agreements. Promotional material, consisting of itineraries, event flyers, and invitations, are also included. Named correspondence files include correspondence, articles, published and unpublished manuscripts, clippings, greeting cards, and obituaries from friends and colleagues in the fields of social work, psychotherapy, and related disciplines. An article and select chapters of her proposed book on the challenges of aging, tentatively entitled Old Women, is also included (See also Series III.). This series also includes correspondence from the public responding favorably to Siegel's co-edited publications, which include Women Changing Therapy: New Assessments, Values and Strategies in Feminist Therapy, Jewish Women in Therapy: Seen but not Heard, Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women: Patterns in a Feminist Sampler. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series III, Other professional activities, 1944-2012, n.d, (#8.3-14.8, FD.2, OD.1), includes conference flyers, programs, and speeches; and membership material representing Siegel's professional affiliation with Hadassah, the Feminist Therapy Institute, the American Orthopsychiatric Association's Institute for Women, and other organizations. Also included are files related to work as a consultant, volunteer and active fundraiser at various agencies and organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Hospicare, and the Mental Association of Tompkins County. Highlights include a photograph and correspondence from Hilary Rodham Clinton thanking her for hosting a campaign event in her home. Correspondence, questionnaires, permission forms, and transcripts of interviews and workshops conducted by Siegel for a proposed book entitled Old Women are also included (see also Series IV). At the request of participants, some questionnaires, permission forms, and transcripts will remain closed for 50 years from the date of creation. Folders are arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series IV, Photographs and audio, 1929-2012 (#PD.1-PD.7, T-427.1-T-427.55), includes group photographs of Siegel and her classmates in Berlin prior to World War II, various photographs with family members, and Siegel receiving an award from the Association of Women Psychotherapists, Jewish Caucus (see also #T-427.16). Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. Audiovisual material in this series are audiocassettes unless otherwise noted, and include Siegel's conference presentations on Jewish identity and culture, feminism within the Jewish faith, stereotypes of Jewish mothers, and related topics. Also included are several radio broadcasts on the Ithaca Feminist Radio Collective that address death and dying, and a discussion about menopause. Interviews and workshop sessions, which Siegel conducted for women over sixty, were to be included in a proposed book entitled Old Women. Topics included personal development in later years, comparative differences between black and white women, loneliness, sexuality, gay and lesbian rights and related topics. Siegel was only able to publish several chapters (see Series II). To avoid infringement of third party privacy, some permission forms, questionnaires, transcripts, and audiotapes will remain closed for 50 years from the date of creation. The series is arranged by format and chronologically thereunder. Folder titles were created by the processor.


Social worker, feminist psychotherapist, and writer, Rachel Josefowitz was born in 1924 in Berlin, Germany, to Lithuanian Jewish parents, Frieda Shur and Zachar Pinkus Zelig Josefowitz. In the 1930s, the family, which also included three younger siblings, relocated to Switzerland, where she attended the l'Ecole Superieure de Jeunes Filles, a public school for girls. Alarmed by the rise of fascism in Europe, in 1939 the family immigrated to the United States when Siegel was fourteen years old. Despite the fact that she had no high school diploma, Siegel followed her family's advice and applied to Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She received private tutoring to pass the College Boards, was admitted, and placed on Radcliffe's waiting list. In the interim, she was accepted by Simmons College in Boston, where she majored in the social sciences. She graduated in 1944 and soon after married Benjamin Morton Siegel, a Ph.D. graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple initially settled in Cambridge and had two sons, Charles Ellis and Hyam Barry. Siegel's husband conducted war-related research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and after Siegel became a U.S. citizen in 1945, she became a volunteer worker at the Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck Research Project on Juvenile Delinquency.

In the late 1940s, Siegel's husband joined the faculty of Cornell University and the family relocated to Ithaca, New York. Following the birth of their daughter Ruth in 1950, Siegel became a full-time homemaker, faculty wife, and active community volunteer. She participated in the Parents and Teachers Association, tutored in local schools, was a teacher's aide for emotionally disturbed elementary school children. She also served as president of the Hadassah chapter and as acting director of the Hebrew school at Temple Beth El. As members of Temple Beth El, the Siegel's traveled to Jerusalem between 1960-1961. While there she attended a Hebrew immersion program to gain proficiency in language and writing. During their return to the states, Siegel's husband suffered a heart attack and his long recovery was a significant factor in developing her own identity.

In 1972, Siegel was accepted to the Syracuse University School of Social Work. She also underwent psychotherapy with Dr. Robert Seidenberg, a founding member of the Syracuse Chapter of NOW, who helped her gain awareness of the physical and emotional abuses suffered by women. In 1976, Siegel earned her MS after completing her field work at the Tompkins County Mental Health Clinic. Hired by the clinic as a clinical social worker, Siegel eventually obtained a New York State license and work-related insurance. Eventually, she established a private practice, initially in her own home and subsequently purchased a house, which she shared with her daughter Ruth, a practicing attorney. The house served as a meeting place for various women-centered organizations, including the Ithaca Task Force for Battered Women. During this early phase of her career Siegel conducted the first workshop on menopause at the Women's Community Building, organized the first walk-in women's group, and played an active role in the formation of the Displaced Homemakers Agency. She was also an active board member of several social agencies, including the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service (1974-1976) and the Tompkins County Task Force for Battered Women (1975-1978).

During the 1980s, Siegel achieved prominence as a feminist psychotherapist, a faculty member of the School of Social Work at Syracuse University, and as a highly popular speaker and writer. In 1983 she attended the Women's Institute at the American Orthopsychiatry Association and co-edited and published, with Joan Hammerman, the Institute's conference papers under the title of Women Changing Therapy: New Assessments, Values, and Strategies in Feminist Therapy (1983). She also published numerous articles and essays, and co-edited several volumes of essays, including Jewish Women in Therapy: Seen but not Heard (1991); She was an equally active in many organizations, including the Feminist Therapy Institute, the National Association of Social Workers, the Association for Women in Psychology, and the National Women's Studies Association. She also attended international conferences in Israel, Ireland, and Costa Rica.

The 1990s brought many unanticipated changes for Siegel. Forced to curtail her activities in order to attend to her husband during his final illness, her practice went into decline. When her husband passed away she sought ways to channel her grief through journal writing, poetry, and attending writing workshops. Eventually, she resumed publishing collaborative editions and other writings, includingJewish Mothers Tell Their Stories: Acts of Love and Courage (2000). She also began gathering material for a book on women over sixty, tentatively entitled Old Women. While conducting interviews and organizing workshops, she published an article, and select chapters from the proposed book. Eventually she decided to drop the project citing the need to avoid cultural and class generalizations.

By the end of the decade, Siegel entered a gradual retirement phase, but continued to work as a volunteer consultant and co-leader of a bereavement group at Hospicare. She also lectured and organized workshops on aging at Lifelong, a local Senior Citizen Center. In 2007, she retired to Kendal, a retirement community created by Cornell faculty, where she participated in a wide range of activities, including writing their newsletter The Breeze, organizing events, lectures, and presentations; and participating in book clubs. She also continued to meet with Wise Old Women, a group of women over sixty which she founded in 1984. Her personal memoir My Songs of Now and Then was self-published in 2012.

Siegel's numerous contributions to the field of social work and feminist psychotherapy earned her many awards and honors, which included Social Worker of the Year (1992); the Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Jewish Women in Psychology by the Jewish Caucus of the Association for Women in Psychology (1994); and the Doris Howard Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Association of Women in Psychology (2005). Rachel Josefowitz Siegel died in Ithaca, New York, in 2016 and is survived by her three children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1936-2016, n.d. (#1.1-4.5, FD.1)
  2. Series II. Writings,1974-2013, n.d. (#4.6-8.2)
  3. Series III. Other professional activities, 1944-2012, n.d, (#8.3-14.8, FD.2, OD.1)
  4. Series IV. Photographs and audio, 1929-2012, (#PD.1-PD.7, T-427.1-T-427.55)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M86, 2007-M96, 2007-M164, 2010-M69, 2016-M14, 2016-M50

These papers of Rachel Josefowitz Siegel were given to Schlesinger Library between May 2007 and March 2016.


Donors: Rachel Josefowitz Siegel

Accession numbers: 2007-M86, 2007-M96, 2007-M164, 2010-M69, 2016-M14, 2016-M50

Processed by: Emilyn L. Brown

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

  1. Dialogue, A Newsletter for Cornell Women at Work, Volume III, No. 11, November 24, 1976
  2. Dialogue, A Newsletter for Cornell Women at Work, Volume III, No. 12, December 22, 1976
  3. Networking for Women, A Quarterly Publication of the Israel Women's Network, Vol. 2, No. 3, Winter 1988
  4. Newsletter for Justice and Equality, April 1988

Processing Information

Processed: January 2019

By: Emilyn L. Brown, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following:  books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.  Other material not normally retained include:  clippings that are not by or about the collection's creator; research files; financial documents such as checkbooks, cancelled checks, bank statements, etc. (when there is financial documentation at a higher level); invoices, receipts, orders, airline tickets, etc.; and envelopes (when they do not contain additional information).

When samples of weeded documents are retained, it is indicated in the finding aid.

Siegel, Rachel Josefowitz. Papers of Rachel Josefowitz Siegel, 1929-2016: 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 the Archival Processing Fund, the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Fund, and the 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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