Sophia Smith Collection

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Sophia Smith

The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College is an internationally recognized repository of manuscripts, photographs, periodicals and other primary sources in women's history. It was founded by Margaret Storrs Grierson in 1942 to be the library's distinctive contribution to the college's mission of educating women.[1] The collection is named for Smith College founder Sophia Smith.


Named to honor the founder of Smith College in 1946, today the Collection consists of over 8,000 feet (2,400 m) of material documenting the historical experience of women in the United States and abroad from the colonial era to the present.[citation needed]

Subject strengths include birth control and reproductive rights, women's rights, suffrage, the contemporary women's movement, U.S. women working abroad, the arts (especially theatre), the professions (especially journalism and social work), and middle-class family life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century New England. Many of these collections are rich sources of visual, as well as manuscript and printed material.

Open to the public free of charge, the Collection does not circulate but is available to everyone, can be visited online, or requested as photocopies. The Sophia Smith Collection shares facilities with the Smith College Archives on the college’s campus in Northampton, Massachusetts.


The Sophia Smith Collection includes over 500 collections (8,000 linear feet) of personal and professional papers of individuals and families, organization records, subject collections, oral histories, periodicals, photographs, and audiovisual materials.

Personal and Family Papers[edit]

The Personal and Family Papers contain letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs. The most widely used collections include those of birth control crusader Margaret Sanger; Ellen Gates Starr, co-founder with Jane Addams of the Chicago settlement, Hull House; Mary van Kleeck, social researcher and reformer; the Garrison, Hale, and Ames families; political activist Dorothy Kenyon; the papers of author and activist Gloria Steinem; and lesbian feminist and architect Phyllis Birkby.

Records of Organizations[edit]

Records of Organizations include the minutes, correspondence, reports, publications and related materials documenting the activities of more than sixty organizations focused on women’s issues, like Planned Parenthood Federation of America; the National Congress of Neighborhood Women; and the National Board of the YWCA.

Subject collections[edit]

Subject collections include materials on African American Women, Artists, the Contemporary Women’s Movement, Diaries, Autobiographies, Family Papers, Journalism, Labor, Women in Medicine, Reproductive Rights and Women’s Health, Social Work, and the Suffrage Movement. Organization Records

Oral Histories[edit]

Oral Histories, from both individual and within collections of personal papers, cover topics such as women in the birth control movement, social work, suffrage movement, Italian immigrants, African American women, and American women in the Vietnam War. These projects, sponsored by Smith or other institutions, include interviews on audiotapes, CD-ROM, videotapes, DVDS, and/or typed transcripts, some of which are accompanied by small amounts of biographical materials, photographs, or project records. The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project, founded by Arden Eversmeyer in 1999, is archived as part of the Sophia Smith Collection. [2]

The SSC Periodicals Collection[edit]

The SSC Periodicals Collection includes over 1,000 titles of current and historical women’s magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and other serials, and 50 current subscriptions. Its holdings represent periodicals such as Godey's Ladies' Book (1830–1889), Woman's Journal (1870–1916), Lucifer the Lightbearer (1897–1901), Eugenesia (Mexico, 1943–45), Church Woman (1943–49), and Black Sash (South Africa, 1956–72), as well as early women’s liberation periodicals Shrew, Rat, and Velvet Fist.

The Girl Zines Collection[edit]

The Girl Zines Collection consists of 9 linear feet (18 boxes) of small, self-published magazines (known as "zines") created primarily by young women and girls. The collection is primarily made up of individual issues, mostly dating from the 1990s, and they share a strong feminist perspective.

Digital Collections[edit]

Sophia Smith Digital Collections


  1. ^ "The Power of Women's Voices". September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  2. ^

External links[edit]

  • Smith College
  • Smith College Archives
  • Review of "Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History through Family Papers," a Sophia Smith Collection website, on
  • [1] of "Agents of Social Change: 20th-Century Women's Activism," a Sophia Smith Collection website, on