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MC 565; T-300; Vt-119

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Papers of Barbara Ehrenreich, 1922-2007 (inclusive), 1963-2007 (bulk): 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

Call No.: MC 565; T-300; Vt-119
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Ehrenreich, Barbara
Title: Papers of Barbara Ehrenreich, 1922-2007 (inclusive), 1963-2007 (bulk)
Date(s): 1922-2007
Date(s): 1963-2007
Quantity: 10.84 linear feet (25 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 2 photograph folders, 2 folio + folders, 1 oversize folder, 4 audiotapes, 2 videotapes, and electronic records)
Quantity: 5.35 Megabytes (504 files)
Language of materials: Most materials in English; some in Dutch, French, German, and Swedish.
Abstract: Collection includes correspondence, speeches, drafts, course outlines, conference proceedings, notebooks, reviews, clippings, photographs, audiotapes, and videotapes of Barbara Ehrenreich, author and journalist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 2001-M59, 2006-M129, 2008-M42, 2008-M168
The papers of Barbara Ehrenreich were given to the Schlesinger Library by Barbara Ehrenreich between 2001 and 2008, and her sister, Diane Alexander, in 2008.

Processing Information:

Processed: October 2008
By: Mark Vassar

Access Restrictions:

Access requires the written permission of the donor. Following the death of the donor, access requires written permission of one of her children, Rosa or Ben Ehrenreich. For access to electronic records please contact the Reference Desk.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the unpublished papers created by Barbara Ehrenreich is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in Barbara Ehrenreich's published work is outside the scope of this agreement. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may not be photocopied except with the prior written permission of the donor, or, after her death, Rosa or Ben Ehrenreich.

Preferred Citation:

Barbara Ehrenreich Papers, 1922-2007; item description, dates. MC 565, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donor: Barbara Ehrenreich
Accession numbers: 2001-M59, 2006-M129, 2008-M42
Processed by: Mark Vassar
The following items have been removed from the collection:


Barbara Ehrenreich was born Barbara Alexander on August 26, 1941, in Butte, Montana, to Benjamin Howes Alexander and Isabelle (Oxley) Alexander. She has one brother, Benjamin Jr., and one sister, Diane. Her parents subsequently divorced and remarried, her mother remarrying Duane Isely. Ehrenreich attended Reed College receiving her B.A. in chemistry in 1963 (declining the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship). In 1966 she married John H. Ehrenreich, whom she had met at a Vietnam War protest while in graduate school. The couple had two children, Rosa and Benjamin, and divorced in 1977. In 1983 Ehrenreich married labor organizer Gary Stevenson, divorcing him in 1993.
In 1968 she completed her Ph.D. in cell biology at Rockefeller University. Although completing her doctorate, Ehrenreich did not pursue a career in the field. She first became a program research analyst with the Bureau of the Budget in New York City (1968-1969) and the following year, a research analyst with the Health Policy Advisory Center (1969-1971), an advocacy organization dedicated to the provision of health care to low-income individuals and families. She also became involved with HealthRight (1969-1970), a women's health project based in New York (she continued as a member of the editorial committee for HealthRight until its final publication in 1979), effectively beginning her career as an activist and writer. It was during this time that Ehrenreich completed her first book, Long March, Short Spring: The Student Uprising at Home and Abroad (1969), co-authored with her husband John, which recounted the 1968 student movements in the United States, West Germany, Italy, France, and England. The couple's second book, The American Health Empire: Power, Profit, and Politics, was published in 1970. They later published the essay The Professional-Managerial Class (1977). From 1971 to 1974, Ehrenreich worked as an assistant professor at the State University of New York - Westbury, while pursuing research, writing, and lecturing. In 1972, Ehrenreich began co-teaching a course on women and health with Deirdre English. Gathering together their research for the course, the pair self-published their first pamphlet, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, in 1973. Ehrenreich and English were unable to meet with the demand, and publication and distribution were taken over by the Feminist Press. This pamphlet was quickly followed by Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness (1973), also published by the Feminist Press. As the women's health movement blossomed, the pair continued amassing research in the field, and in an effort to expand upon the information in their first two pamphlets, began work on For Her Own Good: 150 Years of Experts' Advice to Women , published in 1978. Throughout the 1970s, Ehrenreich remained in demand as a speaker on women's health issues, regularly appearing at women's health conferences sponsored by local women's health centers, women's groups, universities, and the federal government.
While continuing her health activism, Ehrenreich also pursued her interests in feminism and democratic socialism. She had been an early member of the New American Movement, a New Left organization founded in 1971 after the disintegration of Students for a Democratic Society. Arguably, Ehrenreich's best known work for the New American Movement was on socialist feminism, and she regularly spoke on this topic and feminism in general at a number of conferences and public appearances. She continued her involvement with the organization until it merged with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (headed by Michael Harrington) to form the Democratic Socialists of America in 1982, when she was appointed as co-chair (she currently serves as honorary co-chair). In addition to the New American Movement and the Democratic Socialists of America, Ehrenreich served as a founding member, advisor, or board member for a number of other organizations including, but not limited to the National Women's Health Network, National Abortion Rights Action League, Women's Health Education Project (New York), National Self-Help Clearinghouse, Nationwide Women's Program of the American Friends Service Committee, Association for Union Democracy (New York), Network of East-West Women, Long Island Workers' Rights Center, National Organization for Women's Commission for Responsive Democracy, Boehm Foundation, Women's Committee of 100, National Writers Union, Progressive Media Project, Ground Zero, FAIR Advisory Committee on Women in the Media, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Center for Popular Economics, Campaign for America's Future, and Action for Women in Chile. She recently founded United Professionals and has been involved with the Working Group on Extreme Inequality.
In addition to her earlier work at the State University of New York - Westbury, Ehrenreich was employed or appointed by several other universities. Between 1979 and 1981, she served as an adjunct associate professor at New York University and as a distinguished visiting professor at both Sangamon State University and the University of Missouri at Columbia. She also served as Regents' Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1989), Writer-in-Residence at Ohio State University at Athens (1992), Wayne Morse Chair at the University of Oregon at Eugene (1997), and Harper's/McLaughlin Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley (1998, 2000). Ehrenreich was also appointed as a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities (1981-1993), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1987), the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. (1990-) where she now serves as a trustee, and the Society of American Historians (1998).
While engaged in many pursuits, Ehrenreich continued to publish book reviews and social commentary throughout her life. Her book reviews have appeared in the American Film, Atlantic Monthly, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Mirabella, Mother Jones, The Nation, New Republic, New York Times Book Review, Salon, TV Guide, Vogue, and the Washington Post. Essays, op-eds, and feature articles have appeared in Esquire, Harper's, In These Times, Lears, Life, Mother Jones, Ms., The Nation, New Republic, Newsday, New Statesman, New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Progressive, Time, Wall Street Journal, Working Woman, and Z. In addition to those books previously mentioned, Ehrenreich published The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and Flight from Commitment (1983); Re-Making Love: The Feminization of Sex, with Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs (1986); The Mean Season: The Attack on the Welfare State, with Fred Block, Richard Cloward, and Francis Fox Piven (1987); Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (1989); The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from an Age of Greed (1990); Kipper's Game (1993); The Snarling Citizen (1995); Blood Rites: Origin and History of the Passions of War (1997); Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (2001); Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy (2003) edited with Arlie Russell Hochschild; Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005); Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy (2007); and This Land is Their Land (2008). She has served on the editorial boards of Social Policy, Ms., Mother Jones, Seven Days, Lear's, The New Press, and Culturefront and as a contributing editor to Harper's.
Ehrenreich has received numerous honorary degrees, among them Doctor of Philosophy, Reed College (1987); Doctor of Philosophy, State University of New York - Westbury (1990); Doctor of Humanities, College of Wooster (1996); Doctor of Letters, La Trobe University (1996). She has also received a number of awards, including the National Magazine Award for Excellence in Reporting (1980); Ford Foundation Award for Humanistic Perspectives on Contemporary Society (1981); Long Island Women on the Job Award (1987); Long Island National Organization for Women, Women's Equity Award (1988); National Women's Political Caucus, Exceptional Merit Media Award (1993, 1996); National Headliner Award (1997); American Humanist Association, Humanist of the Year (1998); Sydney Hillman Foundation Award for Journalism (2000); Eugene V. Debs Award (2007); Franklin Delano Roosevelt Freedom Medal (2007); Metro New York Labor Communications Council Distinguished Labor Communicator Award (2007); American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature (2007); and was a Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Women for a New Los Angeles honoree (2006).


The collection is arranged in three series:


Electronic records were received on 67 5.25" disks. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager and Duke Data Accessioner.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1922-2007 (#1.1-4.11, E.1-E.3), includes family correspondence, appointment books, photographs, financial records, and a small amount of family biographical material, including school records and awards.
Subseries A, Biographical, 1922-2007 (#1.1-1.6, E.1-E.2), includes biographical material for her father, Benjamin Alexander, consisting of school attendance and progress records, a child identification card (including fingerprints), and a commencement program for the Montana School of Mines (1942); typescript reminiscences of Bernice Oxley (1975), Ehrenreich's maternal grandmother; and biographical material for Barbara Ehrenreich consisting of report cards, honor roll cards and certificates, awards, diplomas, and commencement programs from a number of elementary, junior high, and high schools in Massachusetts (Waltham, Hamilton, and Lowell), New York (Queens), and Los Angeles, and Reed College (Portland, Oregon); honorary degrees; and awards received by Ehrenreich in her adult life. For Ehrenreich's eulogy of her mother, see #21.1. Materials are arranged by individual, and thence chronologically.
Subseries B, Appointments, 1973-2003 (#1.7-2.3), consists of appointment books (1973-1978, 1987-1988, and 2002) in which Ehrenreich recorded both personal appointments (e.g. children's doctor appointments, lunch with friends, etc.), and professional appointments (conferences, meetings, etc.). The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Family correspondence, 1964-2004 (#2.4-3.6, E.3), contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence (copies and originals) with a number of family members, including Ehrenreich's parents, siblings, and children, as well as her grandmother and various aunts and cousins. Early correspondence with immediate family members documents the split in the family due to her parents' separation and subsequent divorce and remarriage, her father's struggle with alcoholism, and her mother's bout with depression and stay in a psychiatric hospital. Also documented in her early letters is her mother's journey to the South in an attempt to assist in the civil rights movement (#2.5-2.6), and Ehrenreich's involvement in anti-Vietnam War protests (#2.6). The remainder of the correspondence documents family relationships; birth, marriage, and death announcements for various family members; and the family's effort at caring for their father who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease in his later years. One folder contains correspondence neither addressed to nor written by Ehrenreich; most are letters received by her mother, Isabelle Alexander Isely, from several friends and family members, as well as a letter sent by her to ex-husband Benjamin Alexander, and a greeting card received by Rosa Ehrenreich from a friend. Family correspondence was removed from a general correspondence subseries, but its chronological arrangement was retained.
Subseries D, Contracts and financial documents, 1968-2007 (#4.1-4.11), consists of a small number of Ehrenreich's copies of contracts for articles, books, and public appearances, and correspondence regarding these contracts. Also included are a number of financial documents consisting of check registers, royalty statements, investment statements, and tax documents, including correspondence, tax returns, account statements, expense listings, etc. The subseries is arranged chronologically. CLOSED UNTIL JANUARY 1, 2031.
Series II, PROFESSIONAL, 1963-2007 (#3.7-3.10, 5.1-27.6, E.4-E.12), documents Ehrenreich's professional activities. It consists of correspondence; draft and typescript speeches; conference ephemera; draft and published writings; notebooks; course materials from classes taught at New York University; reviews of Ehrenreich's publications; and publicity clippings and programs, flyers, etc., for lectures, appearances, book signings, and interviews.
Subseries A, Correspondence, 1963-2007 (#3.7-3.10, 5.1-14.8), includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence with personal and professional acquaintances. Much of this correspondence documents her early activism with organizations such as the Health Policy Advisory Center; Chicago Women's Liberation Union; the Women's Health Forum; Action for Women in Chile; the New American Movement and Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee and their successor, the Democratic Socialists of America; and her work on socialist feminism, both in conjunction with and following the Socialist Feminist Conference at Antioch College in 1975. Also included is correspondence with various universities, feminist health collectives, women's groups, health organizations, New Left organizations, and governmental agencies regarding scheduling, topics, and reimbursement for appearances at conferences, meetings, etc., to speak on the subjects of women's health, the health system, feminism, socialist feminism, and politics. In addition to correspondence with her literary agent, Charlotte Sheedy, much of the subseries regards Ehrenreich's writing, editorial work, and support of New Left press and publications including, but not limited to, Socialist Revolution, Social Policy, Monthly Review, HealthRight, In These Times (including correspondence regarding its establishment), Seven Days, Radical America, Liberation, Mother Jones, Socialist Review, Moving On, Z Magazine, Dissent, The Nation, Feminist Press, and South End Press, as well as the mainstream press, including Doubleday/Anchor, HarperCollins, Pantheon Books, Time, The Atlantic , New Republic, Ms., etc. A small amount of correspondence refers to her work as a professor at State University of New York - Westbury, the University of Missouri at Columbia, and others; her work as a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities and the Institute for Policy Studies; and to her reviews and critiques of the writing of personal and professional acquaintances. Two folders of material identified by Ehrenreich as "The Network Project" are also included, and consist of correspondence among a number of leftist acquaintances who discuss and propose actions for issues and events of concern (beginning with the impeachment of Richard Nixon) in the manner of a committee of correspondence. Correspondence from fans and admirers, which includes letters to the editors of numerous publications and commentary on Ehrenreich's articles, columns, and books, has been foldered separately. Additional correspondence related to Ehrenreich's professional work can be found in Series I, Subseries D (Contracts and financial documents) and in Series II, Subseries B (Engagement and speeches), Subseries C (Writings), Subseries D (Notebooks), and Subseries E (New York University course materials). The original chronological arrangement was maintained. Additional material received on floppy disks will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this series.
Subseries B, Engagements and speeches, 1974-2007 (#14.9-20.14, E.4), includes handwritten drafts and typescripts of speeches, conference publicity, programs, brochures and related ephemera, notes (see also Subseries D, Notebooks), and correspondence (see also Subseries A, Correspondence) related to conferences, events, etc., at which Ehrenreich either appeared as a featured speaker or guest, or attended as a participant. Conferences, events, etc., were generally sponsored by universities, women's groups, health organizations, and governmental agencies, as well as the New American Movement and the Democratic Socialists of America. Prominent subjects addressed by Ehrenreich at these conferences include women and the health system, socialist feminism (and socialism and feminism in general), patriarchy and masculinity, abortion, nuclear power, the New Right, the feminization of poverty, and the American middle class. Conferences that may be of particular interest include the International Conference on Women and Health in Washington, D.C. (1975), and the National Socialist Feminist Conference at Antioch College (1975), as well as a number of conferences sponsored by the New American Movement and the Democratic Socialists of America. The arrangement of the series by event and thence chronologically by Ehrenreich was retained, as were most of the original folder titles, which appear in quotes; information in square brackets was supplied by the processor. Additional material received on floppy disks will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this series
Subseries C, Writings, ca.1969-2007 (#20.15-23.11, E.5-E.11), consists of handwritten draft manuscripts and typescripts, outlines, project descriptions, grant proposals, research and interview notes (see also Subseries D, Notebooks), correspondence (see also Subseries A, Correspondence), critiques, etc., related to position papers, articles, columns, reviews, books, etc., both published and unpublished, and either authored or co-authored by Ehrenreich. Of particular note is Ehrenreich's work on a "Socialist Feminist Manifesto" with Deirdre English and Liz Ewen (#21.2-21.8), documented by meeting notes, drafts, working papers and correspondence from a number of feminists and feminist organizations including Michele Russell, Ann Ferguson, Marlene Dixon, Diane Horwitz, Boston Women's Union, Chicago Women's Liberation Union, and the New American Movement. The subseries is arranged chronologically by project. Most original folder titles were maintained and appear in quotations with information in square brackets supplied by the processor. Clippings and loose copies of published articles, columns, and reviews were added to the end of the subseries and are arranged chronologically. While titles for drafts are included in the inventory, article titles may have changed in the final published versions. Ehrenreich's blog is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the blog will be available through this finding aid in 2010. Additional material received on floppy disks will be reformatted at some future date for inclusion in this series.
Subseries D, Notebooks, 1970-1983, 1993, n.d. (#23.12-25.8), consists of a series of spiral-bound notebooks containing research notes for books and articles, conference notes, interview notes, and correspondence, as well as telephone messages. One notebook documents Ehrenreich's trip to China, ca.1972-1973 (#23.16), and contains commentary on Chinese communism, another (#25.3) contains notes on a grant-funded trip to India (1993) during which she made appearances at a number of universities and women's organizations to speak about feminism. Topics of interest include women and the health care system, socialist feminism (and feminism and socialism in general), sexism, sexuality, and the feminization of poverty. Meeting notes for several organizations are also present, including the New American Movement, Action for Women in Chile, Health Policy Advisory Center, and the publication HealthRight. Notebook pages have been numbered and disbound, and the location of loose materials noted and the materials left in place. Folder titles were created by the processor. Material is arranged chronologically.
Subseries E, New York University course materials, 1978-1981 (#25.9-25.11), consists of course descriptions, outlines, notes, syllabi, program and course evaluations, and correspondence relating to several health care-related courses taught by Ehrenreich for the Metropolitan Studies Program at New York University.
Subseries F, Reviews and publicity, 1969-2007 (#25.12-27.6, E.12), includes clippings and reviews of books authored or co-authored by Ehrenreich; published interviews; press packets; advertisements; sample dust jackets and paperback covers; flyers and posters regarding appearances; schedules for press tours, etc., from across the U.S. and abroad, generally following the release of a new book; general interviews and press coverage; and reviews, advertisements, flyers, programs, etc., for performances of Joan Holden's theatrical adaptation of Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, as well as Holden's published script. Materials are arranged by book and thence chronologically. General publicity is foldered at the end of the series and is arranged chronologically. Folder titles were created by the processor. Ehrenreich's 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 III, Photographs, Audiovisual, and Oversized, ca.1945-2007 (#PD.1-PD.2, T-300.1 - T-300.4, Vt-119.1 - Vt-119.2, F+D.1, OD.1), consists of photographs of Ehrenreich and family members, audiotapes, videotapes, and oversized materials. They are arranged by format in three subseries.
Subseries A, Photographs, ca.1945-2007 (#PD.1-PD.2), includes photographs and contact sheets of Ehrenreich at speaking engagements and family events, as well as several photographs of her as a child. Several additional photographs were taken by professional photographers for book jackets, newspapers, and related publicity. Family members included in photographs are her daughter Rosa and son Benjamin, her mother Isabelle Alexander Isely, and her grandmother Bernice Oxley.
Subseries B, Audiovisual, 1984, 1995, 2003 (T-300.1 - T-300.4, Vt-119.1 - Vt-119.2), consists of recordings of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's radio program Ideas in 1984, featuring Ehrenreich's book The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and Flight from Commitment (T-300.1 - T-300.3); a short interview with Ehrenreich as part of a multi-part program entitled "Issues '84" sponsored by Rochester, Minnesota, radio station KLSE, which was also produced during her publicity tour for Hearts of Men: American Dreams and Flight from Commitment (T-300.4); a video recording of Ehrenreich's appearance at the University of Miami Fall Convocation in 2003, where she also participated in a protest by university support workers and students demanding a living wage (Vt-119.1); and a recording of Ehrenreich's appearance on the television show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher while promoting her book The Snarling Citizen (Vt-119.2).
Subseries C, Oversized, 1975-1976, 1985, 1991, 1993, 2007 (#F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1), consists of oversized material transferred from other series. The majority of these are posters from conferences or events Ehrenreich either attended or where she appeared as a speaker.
Many of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].


Researchers should refer to this index because there is correspondence spread throughout the collection. This index includes the names of selected letter writers and recipients, both individuals and organizations. Correspondents for whom only first names were available are listed alphabetically following the list of complete names.
Key: No symbol = Writer; * = Writer and recipient; # = Recipient

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Appointment books
Authors and publishers--United States
Electronic records
Fan Mail
Feminists--United States
In these times
Journalists--United States
Manuscripts for publication
Mothers and daughters--United States
New Left--United States
Patient advocacy--United States
Sisters--United States
Socialist feminism
United States--Politics and government--1981-1989
United States--Politics and government--1989-
United States--Social conditions--1980-
Web sites
Women journalists--United States
Women political activists--United States
Women--United States--Social conditions
Women's health services--United States
Women's rights--United States
Action for Women in Chile
Cagan, Beth, 1944-
Cagan, Leslie
Cagan, Steve, 1943-
Democratic Socialists of America
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Blood rites: origins and history of the passions of war
Ehrenreich, Barbara. For her own good: 150 years of the experts' advice to women
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Hearts of men: American dreams and the flight from commitment
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Remaking love: the feminization of sex
Ehrenreich, John, 1943-
English, Deirdre
Horwitz, Diane S.
Lynch, Roberta
Magdoff, Harry
Navarro, Vicente
New American Movement (Organization)
New American Movement (Organization). Socialist Feminist Commission
New York University. Metropolitan Studies Program
O'Reilly, Jane
Reiner, Beatrice Simcox
Riessman, Frank, 1924-2004
Seaman, Barbara
Weinstein, James, 1926-2005
Zaretsky, Eli