[OASIS] Harvard University Library
OASIS: Online Archival Search Information System
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:RAD.SCHL:sch00906View HOLLIS Record   Frames Version
Questions or Comments   Copyright Statement

Silbergeld, Ellen K.. Papers of Ellen K. Silbergeld, 1968-1994: 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

The collection was processed under a grant from Clara Schiffer.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: 91-M129--95-M12
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Silbergeld, Ellen K.
Title: Papers of Ellen K. Silbergeld, 1968-1994
Date(s): 1968-1994
Quantity: 16.42 linear feet (16 cartons, 1 file box) plus 7 folders of photographs, 4 audiotapes, 1 videotape)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, drafts, research notes, etc., of Ellen K. Silbergeld, environmental toxicologist and research scientist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 91-M129, 91-M227, 93-M9, 93-M114, 94-M76, 95-M12
These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Ellen Silbergeld between August 1991 and February 1995.

Processing Information:

Preliminary inventory: December 1996
By: Jacalyn R. Blume

Access Restrictions:

Access. During the donor's lifetime, researchers wishing to use the papers must first obtain her written permission.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. The donor transfers her copyright in the papers to Radcliffe College for the Schlesinger Library, except that during her lifetime Radcliffe College will not authorize the publication of quotations from the papers without the donor's written permission.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Ellen K. Silbergeld Papers, 1968-1994; item description, dates. Vt-84, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Additional papers of Ellen K. Silbergeld, 1982-2001 (MC 637).


Environmental toxicologist and research scientist Ellen (Kovner) Silbergeld was born in Washington, D.C., in 1945 and has degrees in history from Vassar College (A.B. 1967) and in environmental engineering sciences from Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D. 1972). Her professional interests include neuropharmacology and toxicology, and environmental risk assessment. In particular, Silbergeld has studied the effects of dioxins and PCBs on humans, and an interest in lead poisoning has spanned her career. The character "Hester Silver" in Janice Kaplan's A Morning Affair (New York: New American Library, 1989) was based on Silbergeld.
Silbergeld has been an activist from the late 1960s. She was an intern--one of "Nader's Raiders"--at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law, and joined the Center for Christian Renewal, a group of disaffected Catholics protesting racism in the church, "oppressive" teachings (re: birth control, divorce, etc.) incompatible with modern life, and the war in Vietnam. She was detained for attempting to pass out leaflets at a mass in 1969, but charges were dropped. That same year, as secretary and program officer at the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, she helped organize a meeting for staff to observe the nationwide moratorium called by the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. In 1971, Silbergeld was arrested twice as a result of her participation in "Mayday" protests on May 3rd and 5th following the Federal Employees for Peace rally in Lafayette Square. Settlements from this action were reached, only in 1980, as a result of a class-action suit brought by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union ).
After a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins in environmental medicine and neurosciences beginning in 1972, Silbergeld's career closely followed her scientific interests. She worked at the National Institutes of Health (1975-1984) as a staff fellow, as chief of the Section on Neurotoxicology, and as guest scientist in the Reproductive Toxicology Section. Bringing together her skills as scientist and lobbyist, Silbergeld became director of the Toxic Chemicals Program and chief toxics scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Washington in 1982, leading EDF's scientific effort to end human exposure to lead and dioxins; she is still part of the permanent program staff, since 1992 holding the Environmental Health Chair at the Environmental Defense Fund. She is concurrently professor of toxicology in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, and also teaches in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins University's School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Because of her expertise and her position with the Environmental Defense Fund, Silbergeld has advised both national and international organizations and advocacy groups, and has been influential in determining policies relating to environmental hazards. She has worked with the Chemicals Program of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) since 1982, and has served on the Science Advisory Board (SAB) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1983-1989, 1994- ). She sat on the Lead Poisoning Advisory Council for the state of Maryland, 1990-1993, is currently an active member of many professional and scientific organizations, and is on the editorial and advisory boards of journals in her fields of expertise.
Silbergeld received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1993, was nominated for a Living on Earth Award, and received the Edward K. Barsky Award of The Physicians Forum of the American Public Health Association. Her husband, Alan Mark Silbergeld, is director of the Washington D.C. office of the Consumers Union. They have two children, Sophia and Nicholas.


The papers are arranged in five series:
Series I, Personal (#1-9), contains curricula vitae, a will and living will declaration, articles about Silbergeld, and materials related to her participation in 1960s protests against the war in Vietnam and the Catholic Church.
Series II, Correspondence (#10-43) consists of Silbergeld's professional correspondence, is arranged in one chronological sequence, and includes applications for fellowships and employment. After 1982, most of the correspondence relates to Silbergeld's work for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Series III, Professional activities (#44-431), is divided into three sub-series:
Chronological (#44-105) includes materials for conferences Silbergeld attended, appointments to editorial and advisory boards, and other general activities and interests.
Organizations (#106-254) consists of files from her involvement with various national and international agencies such as the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the OECD.
Subject file (#255-431) includes papers in various research areas such as lead poisoning, reproductive toxicology, dioxins, PCBs, hazardous waste, cancer, and asbestos; much of this material is related to Silbergeld's work for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Series IV, Writings (#432-497), includes drafts, reprints, research notes, and correspondence pertaining to published and unpublished works written by Silbergeld alone or with others.
Series V, Reference material (#498-543), consists primarily of copies of the abstracts or introductions of published articles by others Silbergeld kept for reference. There are also unpublished drafts of articles by others and conference papers, some with notations by Silbergeld, and a few letters to Silbergeld.
Most folder titles are Silbergeld's, although cumulative headings are used to avoid repetition in individual folder titles. Titles and other information supplied by the processor are in square brackets [].



Container List

Additional Index Terms

Children--Health and hygiene
Church and social problems--Catholic Church--Public opinion
College teachers
College teachers--United States
Environmental law--United States
Environmental policy--United States
Environmental protection--United States
Environmental risk assessment
Environmental toxicology
Hazardous substances--Health aspects--United States
Hazardous substances--Law and legislation--United States
Hazardous waste site remediation
Hazardous waste sites
Hazardous wastes--Incineration
Hazardous wastes--Management
Hazardous wastes--Risk assessment
Health risk assessment
Lead abatement
Lead abatement--Law and legislation
Lobbyists--United States
Love Canal Chemical Waste Landfill (Niagara Falls, N.Y.)
Pesticides--Risk assessment
Political activists
Polychlorinated biphenyls--Toxicology
Reproductive toxicology
Scientists--Political activity
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Women in science--United States
Women political activists
Women scientists--United States
Environmental Defense Fund
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
United States. Environmental Protection Agency
United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Science Advisory Board
United States. Toxic Substances Control Act
University of Maryland at Baltimore