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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1025: T-550

Papers of Jennifer Finney Boylan, 1961-2004


Papers of writer and transgender activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, including professional and personal correspondence, writings, audiotapes, and photographs.


  • Creation: 1961-2004

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research.

Folders #1.8-1.9, 7.1-7.7 are closed during Jennifer Finney Boylan's lifetime and will be open upon her death, as specified in the agreement between Jennifer Finney Boylan and the Schlesinger Library.

An appointment is required for access to audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the unpublished papers created by Jennifer Finney Boylan is held by Jennifer Finney Boylan during her lifetime. Upon her death, copyright in Boylan's unpublished papers will be transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.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. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


4.59 linear feet ((11 file boxes) plus 3 folio+ folders, 3 photograph folders, 9 audiotapes, 1 archived web site)

The Jennifer Finney Boylan papers contain materials that document Boylan's writing. Included are manuscript drafts, sometimes with edits and annotations; audio reel-to-reel tapes of college radio productions; and correspondence and contracts with publishers and agents. The collection also details aspects of Boylan's personal life, including her gender transition, through correspondence with family and friends and a personal diary.

The collection arrived at the Schlesinger Library mostly foldered and organized by Boylan, who also provided some additional notes describing the materials. Where possible, the archivist maintained original folder titles; any titles created by the archivist appear in brackets.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1961-2002 (#1.1-1.12, E.1), includes Boylan's writings from grade school; letters to her parents while studying abroad; college transcripts; and materials related to Boylan's transition and gender affirming surgery, including correspondence with medical personnel and friends, personal writings about her transition, and a diary documenting this time in her life. Jennifer Finney Boylan's web site is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, WRITINGS, ca.1972-2004 (#1.13-11.8, F+D.1-F+D.3), includes Boylan's published and unpublished writings such as juvenilia, college radio plays, screenplays, short stories, novels, and drafts of her memoir She's Not There: A Life In Two Genders. Also included are contracts, royalty statements, correspondence with publishers, and notes, etc. Of note, are scripts for "Squid Family" (#2.1.-2.2), an "underwater radio comedy" serial that Boylan created while a student at Wesleyan University; stories comprised while attending a writing workshop at Johns Hopkins University taught by novelists Stephen Dixon and John Barth; and "Get Off My Cloud" and "Casey Jones" which were written while Boylan was director of Colby College's program in Cork, Ireland, and when she began coming out as transgender to her wife, Deirdre. This series also includes works co-written with friend, writer, and fellow Colby College professor Richard Russo, including the screenplays "Golden Crown," "Getting In," and "Language of Women." Series is arranged chronologically.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1976-2000 (#PD.1-PD.3), contains images of Boylan prior to her transition, as well as later publicity images post-transition. Also includes photograph of Deirdre Boylan pregnant. Most photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. Series is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS, 1977-1979 (#T-550.1-T-550.9), includes reel-to-reel tapes of the radio comedy serial "Squid Family," which Boylan wrote and directed, and the show "Praying Mantis Sandwich" which Boylan describes as "audio jams" of her and other writers and comics at Wesleyan University improvising into microphones. These were all recorded at Wesleyan University's radio station. Series is arranged chronologically.


Author, college professor, and transgender activist, Jennifer Finney Boylan was born in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1958, and given the name James Boylan. She graduated in 1976 from an all-boys private school, The Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Boylan attended Wesleyan University (1976-1980) where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper The Wesleyan Argus in Spring 1980. She also wrote a column for the newspaper, "The Goat Column," originally under the pseudonym "J. Wesley Grumpers," but eventually under her own name. After graduation, Boylan moved to New York City (1980-1985) where she worked for a short time as the managing editor for the pilot issue of American Bystander magazine (1982), which she describes as the "American Punch" imagined by the original cast of Saturday Night Live. In late 1985, Boylan began a master's program at the Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she worked with novelists John Barth and Stephen Dixon, among others. In 1988 she was hired by Colby College as a faculty member in the English Department. She served as co-chair of the department and director of creative writing through 2014, before moving to Barnard College at Columbia University as the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence. In 1988 Boylan married social worker Deirdre Boylan. They have two children.

Boylan is the author of a number of novels, short stories, memoirs, and young adult fiction works. She also writes a bi-weekly opinion column "Men & Women" in The New York Times. Her body of work includes Remind Me to Murder You Later (stories), 1988; The Planets (novel) 1991; The Constellations (novel), 1994; Getting In (novel) 1997; She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, 2003 (memoir); I'm Looking Through You (memoir), 2008; Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders (memoir), 2013; You Are You, 2015; Long Black Veil, 2017; and the Falcon Quinn young adult fiction series (2010-2016). She was also a contributing writer for Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community, 2014. This resource guide includes information on employment, medical and surgical transition, mental health topics, and relationships.

Boylan began her male to female transition in 2000 and documented the events leading up to this period of her life and her gender affirming surgery in her memoir She's Not There. As an advocate for LGBTQ civil rights, Boylan has spoken across the country and has appeared on television, including as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Live with Larry King. She has served on the Board of Directors of GLAAD (2011-2018); on the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction; and on the Board of Trustees of PEN America, the nonprofit group advocating for authors, readers, and freedom of expression. In addition, Boylan was an advisor for the television series Transparent and I Am Cait.

Boylan and her wife Deirdre live in New York City, and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1961-2002 (#1.1-1.12, E.1)
  2. Series II. Writings, ca.1972-2004 (#1.13-11.8, F+D.1-F+D.3)
  3. Series III. Photographs, 1976-2000 (#PD.1-PD.3)
  4. Series IV. Audiovisual Materials, 1977-1979 (#T-550.1-T-550.9)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2018-M128

The papers of Jennifer Finney Boylan were given to the Schlesinger Library by Jennifer Finney Boylan in August 2018.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2019

By: Laura Peimer, with assistance from Molly Kirkpatrick.

In April 2023, Laura Peimer revised this finding aid to bring it into alignment with Schlesinger Library's inclusive and reparative language guidelines. In the biographical note she replaced the text "Jennifer Finney Boylan was born James Boylan" with "Jennifer Finney Boylan was […] given the name James Boylan." She also replaced the terms "sex reassignment surgery" and "gender reassignment surgery" with "gender affirming surgery" in the biographical note and Series I scope note. In addition, she updated the folder titles for #PD.1 and PD.2 with the name "Jennifer Finney Boylan" and added the subject heading, "Trans women."

A previous version of this finding aid has been maintained for transparency around the descriptive process. Please contact the Schlesinger Library for details.

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 Radcliffe Class of 1956 and the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript 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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