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MC 493; T-498

Collins, Mary Jean, 1939- . Papers of NOW officer Mary Jean Collins, 1966-1988: 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

Processing of this collection was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a gift from Jean Faust.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 493; T-498
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Mary Jean Collins, 1939-
Title: Papers of NOW officer Mary Jean Collins, 1966-1988
Date(s): 1966-1988
Quantity: 10.84 linear feet (26 file boxes) plus 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 2 photograph folders, 2 audiotapes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of National Organization for Women officer, Mary Jean Collins, Midwest Regional Director, National Board member, and Action Vice President.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 99-M131, 2002-M65, 2009-M53, 2009-M85, 2009-M138, 2011-M15, 2011-M25, 2011-M73, 2012-M48
The papers of Mary Jean Collins were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Jean Collins between August 1999 and March 2012.

Processing Information:

Processed: November 2002
By: Johanna Carll
Additional materials processed: February 2014
By: Johanna Carll, with assistance of Emily Underwood.


Access. Unrestricted with the following exceptions: NOW membership records (#22.4-23.7) are closed for 50 years; folders #1.10-1.14 are closed until January 1, 2029; folder #7.11 is closed until January 1, 2055; folder #7.19 is closed until January 1, 2035; and folder #23.8 is closed until January 1, 2034. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.
As of November 2015, written permission of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is no longer required for access to folders #2.1-15.5, and #15.15-26.7.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in papers created by Mary Jean Collins while an officer of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is held by NOW. 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.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Jean Collins. Papers of NOW officer Mary Jean Collins, 1966-1988; item description, dates. MC 493, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Mary Jean Collins
Accession numbers: 2009-M53, 2009-M138
Processed by: Johanna Carll
One carton of videotapes of Judy Goldsmith press appearances was transferred to the NOW videotape collection.
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed material collection:
The following posters have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Poster collection (Gr-15):
The following items have been transferred to the National Organization for Women chapter newsletter collection (Pr-1):
The following item was transferred to the National Women's Political Caucus, State and local affiliates newsletter collection (Pr-17):
The following items were transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection:


Mary Jean Collins, Action Vice President and National Board member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), was born December 8, 1939, in Superior, Wisconsin. She graduated from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, majoring in history with minors in English and theology. In 1968, she married Jim Robson; they divorced in 1974. Collins worked in various administrative positions at Taylor Electric in Milwaukee, Allied Radio Corporation in Chicago, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Chicago. From 1975 to 1979, she worked in the collective bargaining program of the Illinois Nurses Association and in 1985, she began working for Catholics for a Free Choice.
Collins held several positions in NOW. She was Midwest Regional Director (1970-1972), a member of the National Board, where she was in charge of task forces (1972-1975), president of Chicago NOW (1978-1980), Executive Director of Chicago NOW (1979), co-director of the NOW equal rights (ERA) campaign (1980-1982), and served as National Action Vice President (1982-1985).


The collection is arranged in four series:


The collection contains mostly correspondence with some notes and speeches by Collins, minutes, agendas, clippings, printed material, and photographs. Materials document the wide-range of positions Collins held within NOW, including office administrator, Midwest Regional Director, Task Force Coordinator, board member, co-director of the NOW ERA campaign, and Action Vice President. Folder headings are those of Collins unless otherwise noted; archivist's headings and notes are in square brackets.
Materials received by the Schlesinger Library after May 2002 were added to the collection in February 2014 and are represented in #15.14-26.7. When the finding aid was updated, Series II, Subseries G, Administration, and H, Campaigns, as well as Series IV, Photographs, were added. Files in the original collection remain in the same order. Folders added in February 2014 are listed in intellectual, not sequential, order.
All printed material by or about Collins, as well as all printed material with annotations, has been kept in the collection. Other NOW publications and reports, except those created by Collins, were transferred to the NOW records in the Schlesinger Library. Non-NOW printed material produced by mainstream organizations and publications was discarded; leaflets and other ephemera of small, transient organizations were retained.
Series I, PERSONAL, 1969-1987 (#1.1-1.14, 15.14), contains copies of and correspondence relating to speeches by Collins, personal correspondence, clippings about Collins and her role in NOW's Equal Rights Amendment campaign, and correspondence and printed material relating to Collins' 1985 job search.
Series II, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN (NOW), 1966-1988 (#2.1-15.5, 15.15-26.7, F+D.1-F+D.3, T-498.1 - T-498.2), includes correspondence, agendas, minutes, printed material, notes, etc. It is divided into six subseries.
Subseries A, Conferences and Meetings, 1970-1985 (#2.1-3.18, 15.15-17.5), contains correspondence, agendas, minutes, and Collins' notes. Papers are arranged in the following order: Executive Committee meetings, National Board meetings, National Conferences, miscellaneous NOW meetings.
Subseries B, Budget, 1970-1985 (#3.19-4.7), contains correspondence, minutes of Budget Committee meetings, budgets, and Collins' notes. These papers date from 1982 to 1985 and are arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Chapters and Regions, 1969-1985 (#4.8-6.4, 17.6), contains correspondence, clippings, printed material, and Collins' notes relating to various actions undertaken by each group. Papers are grouped alphabetically by region (Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South, Northeast, Northwest, Prairie States, South Central, Southeast, Southwest), and within each region, alphabetically by state.
Subseries D, Task Forces, 1968-1975 (#6.5-6.13, 17.7-18.11, F+D.1, T-498.1 - T-498.2), contains correspondence, clippings, and printed material concerning activities of the various task forces, as well as correspondence, notes, and training materials relating to Collins' role as leader of task force training sessions for national board members and task force leaders. Files are arranged alphabetically by task force name, followed by training materials filed alphabetically.
Subseries E, Correspondence, 1967-1985 (#6.14-7.8, 18.12-20.7), contains memos written by Collins and correspondence with and relating to various individuals and organizations. Much of the correspondence from 1967 to 1975 consists of letters sent to NOW officers, notably Aileen Hernandez and Betty Friedan, that were routed through the NOW office in Chicago, which was managed by Jim Collins-Robson's company, C-R Office Programs. Letters discuss office administration, NOW actions, chapter activities, and NOW conferences and meetings. Correspondence from 1983 to 1985 consists mainly of memos written by Collins to NOW officers, chapter presidents, and NOW general membership containing updates on issues NOW planned responses to or organized actions on. Folders are arranged chronologically.
Subseries F, Subject Files, 1966-1988 (#8.1-15.5, F+D.2, 20.8-22.2), contains correspondence, clippings and printed material relating to various topics of concern to NOW, most extensively abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment (nationally and within individual states), and lesbian rights (concerning efforts against anti-gay ballot initiatives and efforts to eliminate homophobic attitudes). Papers are arranged alphabetically by topic and both chronologically and alphabetically within topics.
Subseries G, Administration, 1966-1974 (#22.3m-24.4), includes correspondence, notes, mailing lists, membership applications, etc., relating to the administration of NOW's Chicago office between 1966 and 1971. Collins served as a liaison between NOW's national board and C-R Office Programs, ensuring that requests for information were filled and that mailing lists were kept up to date. She also assisted in the hiring of an office administrator for NOW's Chicago office in 1973. Files are arranged alphabetically.
Subseries H, Campaigns, 1975-1985 (#24.5-26.7, F+D.3), includes financial records, notes, correspondence, printed campaign materials, etc., relating to Collins' unsuccessful 1975 bid for NOW's presidency, her successful 1982 bid for NOW Vice President-Action, and her unsuccessful 1985 bid for NOW Vice President-Action. Files are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically.
Series III, OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, 1973-1987 (#15.6-15.13), contains correspondence, printed material, and Collins' notes on organizations she was involved with outside of NOW, including her position on the Drafting Committee of the 1984 National Democratic Platform and NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund. Papers are arranged alphabetically by organization name.
Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1974-1985 (#PD.1-PD.2), contains photographs from NOW meetings and of Collins in the NOW office and at NOW events. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Abortion--United States
Boycotts--United States
Catholic women--United States
Civil rights--United States
Democratic Party (U.S.)--History--20th century
Equal pay for equal work--United States
Equal rights amendments--United States
Feminism--United States
Feminists--United States
Gay rights--United States
Lesbian activists--United States
Lesbianism--United States
Pay equity--United States
Politics, Practical--United States
Pro-choice movement--United States
Sex discrimination against women--United States
Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States
Women's rights--United States
Goldsmith, Judith
National Organization for Women
National Organization for Women--Employees
NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund
Plitt, Jane R.
Riddiough, Christine
Sears, Roebuck and Company