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MC 527

Tobias, Sheila. Papers of Sheila Tobias, 1947-2005: 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 gift from the Edward, Frances and Shirley B. Daniels Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 527
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Sheila Tobias
Title: Papers of Sheila Tobias, 1947-2005
Date(s): 1947-2005
Quantity: 6.26 linear feet (15 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 2 photograph folders, 2 audiotapes, 10 videotapes, and electronic records)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of Sheila Tobias, feminist, lecturer and writer on math and science education, especially anxiety in learning as it relates to male and female students.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 84-M144, 88-M195, 93-M51, 95-M32, 96-M184, 97-M121, 97-M126, 98-M1, 2000-M11, 2001-M97, 2002-M42, 2002-M132, 2003-M111, 2004-M2, 2005-M62, 2005-M81
These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sheila Tobias between August 1984 and June 2005.

Processing Information:

Processed: July 2005
By: Susan Earle


Access. Unrestricted, except that personal material in #1.16 is closed until January 1, 2015, in #1.19 until January 1, 2048 and January 1, 2052; in #2.3 until January 1, 2058; in #6.2 until January 1, 2053, and in #7.3 until January 1, 2081 and January 1, 2083. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers of Sheila Tobias 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.

Preferred Citation:

Sheila Tobias Papers, 1947-2005; item description, dates. MC 527, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donor: Sheila Tobias
Accession Numbers: 95-M32, 96-M184
Processed by: Susan Earle
The following items have been removed from the collection:


Sheila Tobias was born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 26, 1935. She received a B.A. in history and literature from Radcliffe College in 1957, and an M.A. and M. Phil. in history from Columbia University in 1961 and 1974, respectively. (She has also received a number of honorary degrees.) After working as a journalist and publicist in West Germany, and as a television journalist in the United States and Great Britain, Tobias began working in academia, first as a lecturer at the City College of New York. From 1967 to 1970 she served as assistant to Cornell University's Vice President for Academic Affairs and in 1969 organized a feminist conference at Cornell; this conference raised questions concerning the exclusion of material on women from traditional academic programming and led to the development of Cornell's Female Studies (later Women's Studies) program.
In 1970 she became associate provost atWesleyan University, with responsibilities for academic policy, affirmative action, and women's studies. During this time, she became aware of students' fears of mathematics, and began her work on math anxiety, arguing that math avoidance results from lack of confidence rather than lack of ability. She also co-founded a "math clinic" to help students overcome their anxiety; additional clinics were developed at other universities. In 1978 she wrote Overcoming Math Anxiety, in which she addressed gendered attitudes towards math, such as the belief that boys are more skilled at math than girls, and offered techniques for understanding and enjoying math. Other books built on this, as Tobias studied the ways in which math and science are taught and learned, and why the subjects are feared and avoided. In 1994 a new edition of Overcoming Math Anxiety was published, updated to include research showing the lack of actual knowledge of sex differences in brain organization and function.
Since 1978, she has worked as an educational consultant, serving as project director on math anxiety-related projects for the Institute for the Study of Anxiety in Learning, and engaging in a research and writing assignment for the Research Corporation. This project resulted in three books aimed at advancing education and research in the physical sciences: They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier, Revitalizing Undergraduate Science: Why Some Things Work and Most Don't, and Rethinking Science as a Career: Perceptions and Realities in the Physical Sciences. Tobias also developed a program called Peer Perspectives, in which professors in fields other than math and science were taught these subjects by their colleagues and then provided feedback both on lecture style and on the concepts being presented. Other projects include work for the Sloan Foundation in its development of the professional science master's degree, intended to prepare students for careers outside academia, and a long term association with the Universities of Leiden and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
In addition to demystifying math and science, Tobias has written extensively on issues such as military spending and weaponry, and has long been an active feminist. She is involved with Veteran Feminists of America, serving as executive vice president, and has written a book about the feminist movement entitled Faces of Feminism: An Activist's Reflections on the Women's Movement. She also teaches courses on gender studies.
Tobias has lived in Tucson, Arizona, since 1982, and has been married three times, most recently to Carl Tomizuka, whom she married in 1987, and with whom she co-wrote Breaking the Science Barrier: How to Explore and Understand the Sciences. The Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University also holds a collection of Sheila Tobias papers, which overlaps with this one.
The following is a list of books written by Tobias.


The collection is arranged in four series:


The bulk of this collection relates to multiple aspects of Tobias's professional career, most notably her work on math anxiety and the reform of math and science education. Tobias's involvement in the feminist movement is also documented here; relatively little personal material is included. The collection consists of correspondence, abstracts and proposals for various projects, manuscripts of published and unpublished works, articles and speeches, reviews of Tobias's books, videotapes of lectures, two audio tapes, and photographs. Some documents are in German and Dutch. The bulk of the folder headings were created by the processor; those created by Tobias appear in quotation marks.
Series I, Biographical and personal (#1.1-1.15, E.1) consists of articles about Tobias and her career, as well as some personal documents kept by her. Tobias' web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010.
Series II, Correspondence (#1.16-2.12), consists of personal correspondence with Carl Tomizuka, her father Paul Tobias, and other family members and friends, and correspondence pertaining to Tobias's professional activities. Topics include upcoming conferences and lectures, her books, and other projects with which she was involved. Also included are two letters relating to Tobias's donation of her papers and books to the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. Some letters are in German, and some overlap occurs between personal and general correspondence.
Series III, Professional (#3.1-15.13, FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2, T-219.1-T-219.2,Vt-77.1-Vt-77.10), is divided into fourteen subseries, each focusing on a different aspect of Tobias's career. Each is arranged chronologically, except where noted.
Subseries A, Math anxiety (#3.1-4.4), consists of correspondence, articles by Tobias and others on the subject of math anxiety, reviews of Overcoming Math Anxiety, and talks which Tobias gave on this subject.
Subseries B, Peer perspectives (#4.5-4.18, Vt-77.1-Vt-77.2), documents an experimental program Tobias developed in which non-science professors were taught science by their colleagues, and scientists attended poetry classes, with the goal of gaining insight into what makes science difficult for students in the humanities, and giving the professors a look at alternate methods of teaching. The subseries includes correspondence, reports on programs at various universities and colleges, and papers and articles on the project by Tobias and others. Commentary by the professors/students, in which they discuss their initial and final impressions of the classes, is also included.
Subseries C, Research Corporation (#4.19-6.7), documents the research Tobias did for this organization and the development of the three books she wrote or co-wrote under its funding. Included is correspondence covering goals and objectives for each book, and monthly progress reports, which describe meetings with elementary and secondary science teachers and program coordinators, and with professors at several universities. The first folders deal with the project as a whole and are followed by a series of folders on each individual book.
Subseries D, Science Master's degree program (#6.8-6.11, F+D.1), concerns Tobias's work to develop a professional master's degree in science, intended to better equip graduates for work in fields outside academia, such as commerce or research management. Included are articles, a report on the employability of professional M.S. degree recipients, correspondence, meeting programs and presentations, and an interview with Tobias.
Subseries E, Teaching (#6.12-8.4), includes exams, a syllabus, and course readings for gender studies and education courses taught by Tobias at Claremont College and the University of California at San Diego. The subseries also includes writings on education reform and extensive material on her work in the Netherlands, where she served as a lecturer and consultant to revitalize science education and attract more women to science, and to span the gap between programs in the social and natural sciences. Included are articles, case studies, workshop materials, correspondence, and photocopied lecture transparencies. Some of these documents are in Dutch.
Subseries F, Testing project (#8.5-8.9), relates to The Hidden Curriculum: Faculty-Made Tests in Science, a book co-written by Tobias which examines experimental approaches to teaching, and the experiences of teachers who adopted these techniques. The subseries includes promotional items, proposals and abstracts, presentations by Tobias, and an article about the project.
Subseries G, Veteran Feminists of America (#8.10-9.8), consists largely of correspondence regarding planning events and designating honorees. Newsletters and event programs and brochures are also included, as are committee reports and minutes. The first folders contain correspondence, with an emphasis on event planning; these are followed by folders on specific issues or events.
Subseries H, Other feminist organizations (#9.9-10.4), includes meeting minutes, correspondence and other material related to the Clarion, a feminist newspaper with which Tobias was involved. Material from other organizations on whose boards Tobias served is also included.
Subseries I, Feminism book (#10.5-11.4, FD.1), documents the book eventually published as Faces of Feminism: An Activist's Reflections on the Women's Movement. Included are outlines of earlier versions, chapter drafts, manuscript drafts with handwritten edits, and correspondence and comments on the various drafts, including the comments of a pre-publication review panel assembled by W.W. Norton & Company. Also included are advertisements for and reviews of the published book.
Subseries J, Vox Populi project (#11.5-11.8), concerns a proposed book on recreational singing in America and the published article which resulted from the project. Included are correspondence, photocopied programs from 1960s performances of the New York Choral Society, and the article on choral singing which Tobias ultimately co-wrote.
Subseries K, Articles and lectures (#11.9-14.3, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2, Vt-77.3-Vt-77.10), chronicles Tobias's numerous public speaking engagements, as well as articles she wrote or co-wrote. Included is Tobias's first article on math anxiety, articles on defense spending, math and science education reform, women's studies and the status of the women's movement. The subseries also includes the paper "What Really Happened to Rosie the Riveter?" and a subsequent essay titled "New Views of Rosie the Riveter," both co-written with Lisa Anderson. Several videotaped lectures can be found here, as are book reviews by Tobias, publicity materials concerning her lecture appearances and books, and articles about her lectures. Some overlap with other subseries exists. A few documents are in Dutch.
Subseries L, Conferences (#14.4-14.16), relates to conferences in the United States and overseas at which Tobias presented papers. Included are conference programs, some containing abstracts of lectures, and correspondence. Some items are in Dutch.
Subseries M, General professional (#14.17-15.7, T-219.1, T-219.2), relates to a number of Tobias's professional interests, including correspondence concerning Breaking the Science Barrier: How to Explore and Understand the Sciences, a book co-written by Tobias and Carl Tomizuka, a charter she wrote for women in astronomy, and audiotapes of an evaluation of an educational reform project at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a radio program on the 25th anniversary of the 1963 Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty and the role of the women who formed Women Strike for Peace.
Subseries N, Awards and honors (#15.8-15.13), includes honorary degrees and other recognitions Tobias received for her work in the reform of science and mathematics education, in the feminist movement, and for her efforts to explain military issues to the public.
Series IV, Photographs (#PD.1-PD.2), consists primarily of images of Tobias. Some photographs of friends and associates are included, as are participants in a Peer Perspectives exercise. The series also includes photographs of Tobias with school classmates.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Educational change--Netherlands
Educational change--United States
Electronic records
Feminism--United States
Manuscripts for publication
Math anxiety
Mathematics--Study and teaching
Sex discrimination in education--United States
Web sites
Women and peace
Women's studies
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Aylesworth, Kevin
Brownmiller, Susan
Leader, Shelah
National Organization for Women. Tucson Chapter
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Raphael, Jacqueline
Research Corporation
Veteran Feminists of America
Women Strike for Peace