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MC 390

Palmer, Alison. Papers of Alison Palmer, 1971-1978: 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.: MC 390
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Palmer, Alison
Title: Papers of Alison Palmer, 1971-1978
Date(s): 1971-1978
Quantity: .83 linear feet (2 file boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Photocopies of transcripts and exhibits of Palmer's hearing before the United States Civil Service Commission, initial findings, and taped interview of Alison Palmer, concerning her sex discrimination suit against the United States Department of State.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 78-M73, 78-M123, 79-M51
The papers of Alison Palmer were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alison Palmer via Jean Joyce, one of the early founders of the Women's Action Organization in the United States Department of State, in May and July 1978, and March 1979.

Processing Information:

Processed: November 1988
By: Kim Brookes

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Alison Palmer as well as 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:

Alison Palmer Papers, 1971-1978; item description, dates. MC 390, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Alison Palmer was born in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1931; she received a B.A. from Brown University in 1953, and an M.A. from the Boston University African Studies Center in 1966. She attended American University in 1959 and again in 1970, and Virginia Theological Seminary, 1972-1974. She was the thirteenth woman in the United States to be ordained an Episcopal priest.
Palmer began working for the Department of State in July 1955 as a clerk typist, and began her career as a Foreign Service Officer in the spring of 1960. After several ambassadors objected to her assignment to their embassies in Africa in the late 1960s, and when she was expected to act as social secretary to an ambassador's wife, she started an internal grievance procedure through the department's Equal Employment Office charging sex discrimination. In 1969 Palmer, then stationed in Vietnam, was notified that the EEO had found in her favor but refused to enter the report in her personnel file.
Palmer returned to the United States and, with the help of the American Federation of Government Employees, took the case to the Civil Service Commission. The hearings were held in June 1971 by appeals examiner Andrew B. Beath, who found in Palmer's favor. A dispute ensued between Palmer and the department on the question of whether Beath had recommended a retroactive promotion for Palmer; this was granted in 1975. The State Department then announced that sex discrimination would no longer be tolerated. Palmer's case thus provided a basis for the more conciliatory tactics of the Women's Action Organization.
In 1976 Palmer filed a class action suit against the State Department for discrimination against women; the case was heard in a United States District Court and was decided for the Department in September 1985. Also, in 1985, Palmer was planning to publish a book, to be entitled Palmer v. Church and State.


The papers consist primarily of the transcripts and exhibits of Alison Palmer's hearing before the United States Civil Service Commission. Also included are Beath's initial findings, a few papers concerning the conflict over his recommendations, and a taped interview of Palmer by Marguerite Cooper King. Palmer's personal papers are in the Farnham Archives at Brown University.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Sex discrimination in employment--United States
American Federation of Government Employees
Beath, Andrew B.
Macomber, William B.
United States Civil Service Commission
United States. Department of State--Officials and employees
Women's Action Organization