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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 992

Papers of Shelah Gilbert Leader, 1961-2003


Papers of Shelah Gilbert Leader document her work as recording secretary for the United States National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year; and include Leader's writings on women.


  • Creation: 1961-2003

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Shelah Gilbert Leader 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.


3.34 linear feet ((8 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder.)

The papers of Shelah Gilbert Leader document her work as recording secretary for the United States National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year, and her career as an advocate for women's rights. Collection includes correspondence; draft essays and talks; Leader's research material; and International Women's Year publications, drafts, and meeting notes and minutes.

Most material arrived at the Library in folders or binders; folder titles are Leader's. Titles created by the archivist or additions to Leader's titles are in brackets.

SERIES I, POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND WRITING, 1961-2003 (1.1-3.9, F+D.1), includes Leader's writing-related correspondence, research, drafts, and published articles. The series also includes materials from Leader's early work with the National Organization for Women in Buffalo, New York. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

SERIES II, NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S YEAR, 1975-1982 (#3.10-8.11), includes materials from the Commission's several years of preparation work, as well as from the culminating National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. Commission meeting folders may include Leader's notes, draft and official minutes, agendas, background materials, and correspondence. Also includes Leader's notes and newsletters from the Houston conference, a briefing book for the Houston conference, the Commission's mailing list and various publications. The series also includes a nearly complete set of workshop guides the Commission created for state commissions to use before the Houston conference to work up state-specific issue briefs. Folders are arranged alphabetically.


Shelah Gilbert Leader was born in 1943. She received degrees in political science from Hofstra College (BA, 1965) and received a PhD in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo (PhD, 1971). Leader's scholarship focused on the role of women in China. Leader worked on issues of gender equity within her academic field, including serving as the first treasurer of the Women's Caucus of the American Political Science Association (1972). She was also dedicated to the advancement of women's studies in the academy. She was a founder of and also taught in the Women Studies program at Cornell University (1971-1973). She later was a member of the Steering Committee of the Women's Studies program at George Washington University (1980-1982).

For a number of years Leader researched and taught political science, and then worked on a research grant about women elected officials at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics (1973-1974). She coordinated federal enforcement of Title VI of Civil Rights Act for the Justice Department (1974-1975). From 1975 to 1978, Leader worked for the United States National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year. She first served as staff officer for the Government Affairs Committee and later became Recording Secretary, charged with taking notes and minutes at all Commission meetings. Leader also authored a number of the Commission's Workshop Guides for use by state commissions. Leader also coordinated the film festival at the National Women's Conference in November 1977. After her work with the International Women's Year Commission, Leader was employed as a policy analyst with a variety of government agencies, private firms, and nonprofits. She worked on various topics, including gendered insurance discrimination, Social Security, consumer education, and public relations, but in the mid 1980s her work focused more exclusively on health care policy analysis.

Leader was the first president of the Buffalo chapter of the National Organization for Women (1967-1969) and served as chair of Montgomery County (Maryland) NOW's Insurance Discrimination Task Force (1982-1984).

Leader coauthored What Kind of Guns Are They Buying With Your Butter? A Beginner's Guide to Defense, Weaponry and Military Spending with her husband Stefan Leader, Sheila Tobias, and Peter Goudinoff in 1982. With Marilyn Moon, she wrote Changing America's Health Care System: Proposals for Legislative Action (1989). She has written widely on the topics of health care policy, gender and aging, and women in politics, and in 2018 published American Women on the Move: The Inside Story of the National Women's Conference, 1977 with Patricia Rusch Hyatt.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Political activism and writing, 1961-2003 (#1.1-3.9, F+D.1)
  2. Series II. National Commission for the Observance of International Women's Year, 1975-1982 (#3.10-8.11)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 97-M10, 2019-M64

The papers of Shelah Gilbert Leader were given to the Schlesinger Library by Shelah Gilbert Leader in January 1997 and April 2019.

Processing Information

Processed: July 2019

By: Jenny Gotwals, 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.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Alice Jeanette Ward 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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