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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 954: T-462

Interviews by Bonnie Spanier, 1912-1998 (inclusive), 1979-1988 (bulk)


Transcripts and audiocassettes (and related consent forms, notes, correspondence, and printed material) of oral history interviews conducted by biologist Bonnie Spanier of fellow scientists.


  • Creation: 1912-1998
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1979-1988

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research.

#1.16 and T-462.23 - T-462.24 are closed until the death of Susan C. Geller.

#2.3 and T-462.28 - T-462.29 are closed until the death of Donna Haraway.

#3.9 and T-462.61 - T-462.62 are closed until the death of Karna Wahlstrand.

#T-462.63 - T-462.64 are closed until the death of Edith Woodward.

An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Bonnie Spanier 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.


1.04 linear feet ((2 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 65 audiotapes)

The collection documents Spanier's project of interviewing women (as well as three men) in a variety of scientific fields and at various stages of their careers. Included are audiocassettes of interviews; interview transcripts and summaries; notes and printed material; and consent forms. The transcripts have not been corrected and the transcriptions are not always accurate (e.g. Rhonda Hughes's reference to "math anxiety" becomes "mass anxiety" in the printed transcript). The interview subjects range from a graduate student to women who, like Ruth Patrick and Mildred Cohn, received advanced degrees in the early 1930s. The women describe the obstacles they faced (including varying degrees of discrimination and sexism at many stages of their educations and careers) and the support or lack thereof they received, with several noting the importance of the encouragement they received from their husbands. (In many of these cases, the husbands were also scientists.) Many women also discuss the difficulties of balancing childcare and private life with their professional lives. The interviewees also describe their research interests, childhoods and how they became interested in science, and their parents' attitudes towards their pursuit of higher education. While some women, such as Susan Geller, Joan Borysenko, and Ruth Patrick cite their fathers' encouragement, others, like Carlene Raper and Rose Schneider, felt their families were more invested in their brothers' education. Many of the women were also active in the feminist movement and discuss women's rights issues with Spanier.

Folder titles were created by Spanier. The collection is arranged with administrative material appearing first, followed by an alphabetical listing of transcripts and tapes.


Bonnie Spanier graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1967 and received her doctorate in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard University in 1975. She was an assistant professor of biology at Wheaton College from 1975 to 1978. From 1978 to 1980 she was a fellow at the Bunting Institute (now the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program) at Radcliffe College, where she began a series of interviews with women scientists to look at their experiences as women within a male-dominated field. Many of the interviewees, like Spanier, were Bunting fellows at the time of their interviews. Spanier continued interviewing women scientists after her fellowship ended and also interviewed a few men. She interviewed medical scientist Joan Borysenko and botanist Ruth Patrick several times, with the intention of writing a book about the two women, thereby comparing and contrasting the lives of women scientists at different stages of their careers. This book was never written and the ultimate use to which Spanier put those and the other interviews is not apparent.

Spanier returned to Wheaton College in 1980 as project associate/director of its "Toward a Balanced Curriculum: Integrating the Study of Women into the Liberal Arts" program. In 1984, she joined the Women's Studies Department at the University of Albany as an assistant professor and department chair. She became an associate professor in 1992 and retired from the university in 2009. After her retirement, Spanier relocated to Michigan and taught at Grand Valley State University. She is an internationally recognized consultant on women's studies and has also been active in educating about activism and evidence-based medicine in women's health issues, particularly breast cancer. Her books include Toward a Balanced Curriculum : a Sourcebook for Initiating Gender Integration Projects (edited by Spanier, Alexander Bloom, and Darlene Boroviak; based on the Wheaton College Conference) (1984) and Im/partial Science : Gender Ideology in Molecular Biology (1995). She has also published articles and book chapters. As of 2019, she was living in Traverse City, Michigan.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2010-M102, 2011-M50

The Bonnie Spanier interviews were given to the Schlesinger Library by Bonnie Spanier between May 2010 and March 2011.

Related Materials

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library: see the papers of Ruth Hubbard (MC 735), Mary Ingraham Bunting-Smith (MC 564), and Evelyn Fox Keller (MC 713).

There is related material at the Harvard University Archives: see the papers of Evelynn Maxine Hammonds (Accession 18461).

There is related material at the Countway Library of Medicine: see the papers of Arthur B. Pardee (H MS c372).

There is related material at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany, SUNY: see the papers of Bonnie Spanier, ua902.073.


Donors: Bonnie Spanier

Accession number: 2010-M102

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the papers of Ruth Hubbard (MC 735):

  1. Two audiocassettes re: symposium honoring Ruth Hubbard's retirement from Harvard University, June 2, 1990.

Processing Information

Processed: January 2019

By: Susan Earle 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.


Spanier, Bonnie. Interviews by Bonnie Spanier, 1912-1998 (inclusive), 1979-1988 (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 Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing 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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