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Sprague, Joan Forrester. Papers of Joan Forrester Sprague, 1935-1998: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: 88-M103--98-M166
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Joan Forrester Sprague
Title: Papers of Joan Forrester Sprague, 1935-1998
Date(s): 1935-1998
Quantity: 17 linear feet (17 cartons) plus 1 folio folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of feminist architect and planner, Joan Forrester Sprague.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 88-M103, 90-M6, 98-M128, 98-M166
These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Joan Forrester Sprague in July 1988 and January 1990 by Chester Sprague in July 1998.

Processing Information:

Container list: September 1999
By: Deborah A. Richards


Access. Professional papers concerning her architectural work and planning are unrestricted. Personal papers are closed until April 6, 2008. Certain diaries are closed until January 1, 2017.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Joan Forrester Sprague 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. Unrestricted papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Joan Forrester Sprague Papers, 1935-1998; item description, dates. 88-M103--98-M166, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Joan Forrester Sprague was a feminist architect and planner who worked on developing housing for low-income women and children. She was born in New York City, received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Cornell University in 1953, and a master's degree in education, with a concentration in organization development, from Harvard University in 1976. Early in her career, Sprague designed furniture and did consulting for Sprague Associates, Architectural Resources, Inc., Benjamin Thompson & Associates, Inc., and Hugh Stubbins & Associates, Inc.. One of her designs was the butcher block couch. Sprague was a co-founder of Open Design Office, a non- hierarchical practice of women architects and planners in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Women's School of Planning and Architecture, an alternative school that offered sessions around the country from 1974-1981; the Women's Design Center, which sponsored the Women's China Study Group of Architects and Planners; the Women's Development Corporation in Providence, Rhode Island; and the Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development, Inc., in Boston. She was a consultant for Better Homes Foundation, the Elizabeth Stone House in Boston, the Women's Housing Coalition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Save the Children. Sprague was the author of two manuals, A Development Primer: Starting Housing or Business Ventures by and/or for Women (1984), and A Manual on Transitional Housing (1985); and two books, Taking Action: A Comprehensive Approach to Housing Women and Children in Massachusetts (1988), and More than Housing: Lifeboats for Women and Children (1991). She lectured at Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Arizona State University, as well as in Canada, the Netherlands, the People's Republic of China, and the former Soviet Union. In 1987, she received the Woman of the Year Award from Boston Business and Professional Women, and in 1988 the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus' Abigail Adams Award. In 1957 she was married to Chester Sprague, a professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of their shared interests was the architecture of Native American pueblos from pre-historic times to the 1960s. Sprague died of a brain tumor in Cambridge on April 6, 1998.


The collection is comprised of personal and professional papers including diaries, which detail her work, relationships, family, goals, and financial security; financial, legal, and medical records; personal and professional correspondence; notes; lectures; writings; drafts of published and unpublished work; research files, including brochures, newsletters, articles, unpublished papers by other people, reports, surveys, manuals, journals and books; coursework on organization development; articles and books by and about Sprague; photographs; audiotapes; videotapes; and slides. The container list is divided into two sections: personal and professional. The professional papers are arranged chronologically.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Architects and community--United States
Architects and housing developers--United States
Architecture and women
Cancer--Patients--United States
Marriage--United States
Slides (photographs)
Women--Housing--United States
Women--Services for--United States
Women-owned business enterprises--United States
Open Design Office (Cambridge, Mass.)
Women's Design Center
Women's Development Corporation (Providence, R.I.)
Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development (Boston, Mass.)
Women's School of Planning and Architecture