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MC 586; T-351

Sojourner (Cambridge, Mass.). Records of Sojourner, 1920-2004 (inclusive), 1975-2002 (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 586; T-351
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Sojourner (Cambridge, Mass.)
Title: Records of Sojourner, 1920-2004 (inclusive), 1975-2002 (bulk)
Date(s): 1920-2004
Date(s): 1975-2002
Quantity: 36.12 linear feet (81 file boxes, 3 folio+ boxes, 2 card file boxes) plus 1,032 photo folders, 2 oversize folders, 5 supersize folders, 3 audiotapes, 1 object)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Records of the feminist newspaper Sojourner, including correspondence, administrative records, photographs, and promotional materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 2002-M138, 2002-M152, 2002-M159, 2003-M89, 2004-M107
The records of Sojourner were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sojourner between October 2002 and September 2004.

Processing Information:

Processed: April 2009
By: Mary O. Murphy and Laura Peimer

Access Restrictions:

Certain records are restricted. Contacts (#18CB-19CB); professional recommendations found throughout the personnel files, including #11.20; and salary information found throughout financial records, including #20.20, are closed until January 1, 2085. In addition, some records have been redacted to protect privacy. Reference copies are interfiled in the collection; originals have been removed and are closed until January 1, 2085. Rejected author submissions (#48.1-53.4) are closed until January 1, 2074. An appointment is required for access to audiovisual materials.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Sojourner 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. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Sojourner Records, 1920-2004; item description, dates. MC 586, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donors: Sojourner
Accession numbers: 2002-M138, 2002-M152, 2002-M159, 2003-M89, 2004-M107
Processed by: Mary O. Murphy and Laura Peimer
The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed material and microfilm collections:
55 audio-cassettes of Sojourner from 1990-1994, originally created by Sojourner to provide visually impaired readers an opportunity to discover the newspaper by listening to its articles and stories on tape, were donated to Adrienne Asch, director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University in New York City.


Sojourner was a feminist periodical that evolved from a small Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) women's newspaper to a national forum for feminist analysis of news, opinion, and the arts, as well as women's creative writing and poetry. By the 1990s, Sojourner prided itself as a vital link for the feminist community, including those marginalized women who were on welfare or incarcerated. Although there was a loyal readership, Sojourner experienced financial challenges throughout its history. The newspaper would see a steady decline in advertisers and subscribers, and by 2002 discontinued publication.
The following provides a brief history of Sojourner:




The collection is arranged in eight series:


This collection contains the records of Sojourner. Much of the material has been kept in its original arrangement. Where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotations.
Series I, ADMINISTRATIVE FILES, 1975-2002, n.d. (#1.1-17.4, 18CB-19CB, F+D.1-F+D.4, SD.1-SD.4), documents Sojourner's administrative functions, and includes founding documents, meeting records, personnel materials, distribution files, contacts, etc.
Subseries A, History and organization, 1975-2002, n.d. (#1.1-2.16, F+D.1-F+D.3), contains official documents, correspondence, notes, proposals, brochures, and flyers regarding the founding and history of Sojourner, legal matters, and strategic planning. Folders are organized alphabetically by topic.
Subseries B, Meetings, 1975-2002, n.d. (#2.17-9.26), contains agendas, minutes, notes, correspondence, informational packets, and training materials that document Sojourner's Advisory Board, Board of Directors, Committees of the Board, and staff meetings. These records offer insight into Sojourner's internal activities and management style. Files are organized hierarchically, and chronologically therein, beginning with the Sojourner Advisory Board.
Subseries C, Personnel, 1975-2002, n.d. (#10.1-13.25, SD.1-SD.3), contains organizational charts; personnel policies; contact lists; Advisory Board and Board of Directors recruitment, membership, orientation, and resignation files; Board and staff retreat documents; staff files; intern and volunteer files; compensation-related materials; and job descriptions. Advisory Board and Board of Directors files include correspondence, solicitation letters, response letters, sign-up sheets, Sojourner information sheets, and prospective member and member résumés. Although many résumés were discarded during processing, those that provide insight into the types of persons who sought work, worked for Sojourner, or sat on the Sojourner Board have been retained. Additional résumés can be found within specific job description files that include hiring materials.
Subseries D, Operational, 1976-2002, n.d. (#13.26-17.4, F+D.4, SD.4), contains facilities, equipment, and distribution records that document physical aspects of producing and distributing Sojourner. These records consist of office-related correspondence; rental agreements; leases and financial reports; building-management memoranda; office-equipment files; website-planning documents; and distribution, mailing, and indexing files. Distribution files contain lists of bookstores and distributors, distribution and sales reports, financial data, as well as notes and correspondence relating to distribution at events (See also Series V for additional event distribution records). Included as well are correspondence with printers and distributors, as well as with volunteers dropping off copies of Sojourner at local businesses. This subseries also includes oversize floor plans of Sojourner's Boston office located at 42 Seaverns Avenue in Jamaica Plain (#F+D.4, SD.4).
Subseries E, Contacts, n.d. (#18CB-19CB), consists of three sets of Rolodex cards used by the Sojourner editorial staff. The cards list contact information for local and nationally known feminists, other women, and local and national women's organizations that Sojourner staff likely contacted in the preparation of Sojourner articles or for special projects or events. Cards have been removed from the original Rolodexes for preservation purposes. This subseries is closed until January 1, 2085.
Series II, FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1976-2002, n.d. (#20.1-57.3), cover a broad range of financial and fundraising topics, including general budget and shareholder records, as well as special events and subscription files. Financial materials that relate to board presentations or meetings have been moved to Series I.
Subseries A, General financial records, 1977-2002, n.d. (#20.1-21.21), contains various types of financial data including cash flow, financial goals, financial and fundraising consultant records, valuations, budget analysis, income and expense reports, and spreadsheets. Included are files relating to specific donations, such as a bequest (#20.3) and gift of stock (#21.15). Financial documents may include information related to other subseries, such as financial data relating to subscriptions, as well as records which reflect financial and fundraising strategies in all areas including solicitation, events, and grants. Financial records are organized alphabetically. See also distribution files in Series I.
Subseries B, Advertising and promotion, 1977-2002, n.d. (#22.1-24.3), contains records relating to the solicitation of ads from outside advertisers, as well as the placing of Sojourner's promotional ads, including ad exchanges. There is correspondence with advertisers and other organizations interested in submitting calendar listings, and materials, such as articles and award letters, which promote Sojourner. Of note is a letter to the editor of the Boston Phoenix by Karen Kahn in support of Sojourner (#23.18). Sponsorship records (#24.3) contain Sojourner materials requesting sponsor support for specific issues, such as the 2001 Pride issue. This subseries contains financial data and charts in the Advertising Department folders (#22.4-22.6) and ad sales charts folder (#23.2). Folders are organized alphabetically. See also Series V for additional materials.
Subseries C, Direct mail, subscription, and solicitation, 1981-2002, n.d. (#24.4-28.14, F+D.5), contains sample form letters for Sojourner's direct mail drives, including solicitation, subscription renewal, and campaign letters. In addition, this subseries contains donor lists, mailing lists, and records relating to list exchanges, and letters from supporters and subscribers, correspondence with institutions which received complimentary copies of Sojourner, and vendors who provided mailing services. Folders are arranged chronologically. Although this subseries does contain some donor letters sent in response to solicitations, the bulk of documentation relating to specific donations can be found in Subseries A.
Subseries D, Grants and loans, 1977-2002, n.d. (#28.15-34.15), contains accepted, rejected, and considered grant and loan materials, including correspondence, applications, budgets and other supporting documentation, reports, notes, and grant award letters for various operational, subscription, training, institutional development, and project-related activities, such as the Welfare Organizing Media Project (WOMP) and Inside/Outside: Sojourner's Women in Prison Project. This subseries contains correspondence and notes relating to potential funding opportunities as well as records regarding events and workshops coordinated specifically by funding organizations for potential or past grantees. Folders are organized alphabetically.
Subseries E, Shareholder records, 1976-1998, n.d. (#34.16-36.4), includes correspondence, annual reports, proxy statements, and stock certificates, as well as lists of shareholders and statements of ownership. Of note are correspondence regarding the initial offering of stock in the 1970s, to the transfer of shares to the non-profit Sojourner Feminist Institute in 1996.
Subseries F, Special events, 1980s-2002, n.d. (#36.5-42.15, OD.1-OD.2), contains Sojourner event records covering all aspects of event planning, including fundraising and budgets, promotion and advertising, logistical information, correspondence with vendors, attendee responses, and agreements with artists and venues. Folder title dates reflect the date of the event; however, material within the files may include a broader span of years. See also Series VII for photographs.
Series III, GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 1980-2002, n.d. (#43.1-57.3), contains letters from authors and readers, as well as some professional correspondence, a chronological file of Sojourner's outgoing letters relating to various topics, and permission requests. The author letters may include response letters from Sojourner, although the majority of Sojourner responses appear as annotations on the manuscripts, letters, and editorial comment worksheets. Author and artist letter files may include solicited or unsolicited article submissions. Writers who were solicited include Terri Jewell, Susanna Sturgis, and Anne Mi Ok Bruining. Clearly identified rejected submissions are separated out in the inventory and may include Sojourner letters or notes suggesting rewrites or resubmissions. These files are closed until January 1, 2074. Writers submitted political, historical, fiction, opinion, memoir, and current event writings, as well as conference papers and summaries, book and film reviews, and poetry. Letters often contained biographical and background information on the writer and sometimes only story and article suggestions. Author letter files may also include letters from publishers, book authors, and record companies offering books or music for review or commenting on reviews that appeared in Sojourner. Author letters may also contain a response to writings that appeared in Sojourner. These letters remain in their original arrangement, possibly indicating that they were considered for publication as letters to the editor. Of note are letters in response to the controversial article, "Blaming the Mother", by Ruth Whitman in 1993.
Reader letters also include responses to articles which appeared in Sojourner but were originally filed separately from author letters and were probably not published. Additional topics include subscription renewals, concerns regarding missing subscriptions, donation and fundraising suggestions, explanations of why they read Sojourner, and requests for more information on resources that appeared in the paper. Some reader reactions included irritation at what was perceived as too much of a lesbian focus. Also of interest were letters requesting Sojourner print announcements for gay union ceremonies. Reader letter files contain a few Sojourner letters. See also Series II, Subseries C for additional correspondence with subscribers.
Included throughout this series are letters from prisoners, which contain personal stories, article submissions, and requests for free subscriptions.
Permission requests contain letters and completed forms sent from authors, publishers, and teachers requesting the right to reprint, use, copy for classroom use, quote from or mention in another published work. Sojourner also sent permission requests to use articles and graphics. Professional correspondence includes letters to and from universities; activist organizations (such as Boston NOW and Oxfam America); the media; publishing companies (particularly small feminist publishers); and individuals regarding a variety of issues including publishing, activism, and community projects.
Series IV, SPECIAL PROJECTS, 1976-2004, n.d. (#57.4-74.31, F+D.6-F+D.15), contains administrative files, contacts, contracts, correspondence, drafts, letters, pen pal advertisements, project files, project reports, publications, publicity materials, and subject files relating to special projects coordinated by Sojourner. Items in this series are arranged in two subseries documenting various special projects and the larger, Inside/Outside: Sojourner's Women in Prison Project.
Subseries A, Various projects, 1976-2002, n.d. (#57.4-58.19, F+D.6-F+D.15), consists of materials arranged alphabetically by project name. Sojourner's Classroom Project distributed Sojourner in classrooms to connect students to current events affecting women; Frontline Feminism was a Sojourner book project that culminated in a published collection of essays selected from the newspaper's first 20 years; and poetry was published in Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology. The Sojourner Reader Survey Project conducted at least two reader surveys that included questions and responses regarding reader demographics, interests, and impressions of the newspaper. The Sojourner Reading Project recorded Sojourner on tape for the visually impaired. The Welfare Organizing Media Project (WOMP) worked to "fight back against punitive welfare reform policies" by advocating for accurate representations of welfare recipients in the media. As a part of WOMP, Sojourner published the WelfareBeat - a feature in Sojourner focusing on women and poverty issues. WOMP also helped welfare activists use alternative and mainstream media more effectively and to connect women living in poverty with area journalists. Finally, the Women's Business Directory project published an annual list of women-owned businesses such as health-care providers, artists, and attorneys in the greater Boston area. Sojourner published at least three Women's Business Directories between 1995 and 1999, although correspondence suggests an additional issue may have been published in 2000.
Subseries B, Inside/Outside: Sojourner's Women in Prison Project, 1998-2004, n.d. (#59.1-74.31), consists of project files and prisoner letters relating to Sojourner's advocacy program for women inmates. Originally coordinated by the Gay Community News, Sojourner took over the project in 1999, publishing a criminal justice column, providing free subscriptions to inmates, helping incarcerated women gain access to other advocacy organizations and resources, and managing a pen-pal program that generated hundreds of letters from female and male prisoners on various topics. Prisoners often submitted poetry, essays, and/or illustrations along with letters that were considered for or published in Sojourner. A particularly interesting set of prisoner letters are found within support materials for an article on the Carol Ann Bell suicide, providing witness accounts and the Ohio Reformatory for Women's response (#60.9). Sojourner also conducted a "census" of female prisoners in response to the 2000 United States census that did not request personal information from inmates. The questionnaires include basic information about prisoners, as well as short narratives of personal and prisoner experiences (#60.2-60.3). This subseries is arranged alphabetically, with the letters from prisoners following the project's administrative files.
Series V, OUTSIDE EVENTS AND CONFERENCES, 1985-2002, n.d. (#74.32-76.6), contains programs, correspondence, contracts, and notes regarding Sojourner's participation or requests to participate in events and conferences not organized by Sojourner. For some events, it is unclear to what extent Sojourner did participate, if at all. Participation may include attending, volunteering, sponsoring, exhibiting and selling, advertising and publicizing in conference programs, submitting donations of the newspaper for raffles or auctions, and participating as a panelist or discussion leader. Of note are records regarding Sojourner co-leading a delegation tour to Cuba to meet with Cuban women journalists and media activists in 2000. Folder title dates reflect the date of the event; however, material within the files may include a broader span of years. For additional materials relating to distribution of Sojourner at outside events, see Series I, Subseries D, particularly (#16.2) and (#15.10).
Series VI, SUBJECT FILES, 1984-2002, n.d. (#76.7-81.16), contains brochures; flyers; newsletters, many from small, activist organizations; correspondence; notes; and other writings relating to topics and people researched for or written about in Sojourner. Topics include women's health and sexuality, global political and social issues, women's rights, the arts, and activists and artists, including Bell Hooks and June Jordan. These materials are arranged alphabetically by topic.
Series VII, VISUAL MATERIALS, 1920-2001, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.1118, 81.17-83.24), contains administrative and special-event photographs, stock photographs, publicity shots, negatives, slides, and graphic materials.
Subseries A, Photographs: Sojourner, 1976-2001, n.d. (#PD.1-PD.27), contains snapshots of Sojourner staff and a selection of publicity photographs documenting Sojourner activities, special projects, special events and performers, and supporters.
Subseries B, Photographs: general subject, 1935-2000, n.d. (#PD.28-PD.146), contains professional stock photographs, film stills, and photojournalist images that document a variety of subjects. Arranged alphabetically by topic, subjects include Abortion [rallies] (#PD.28-PD.29), the AIDS - Names Project (#PD.30), Disabled women (#PD.61), and Minority women and protests (#PD.110). Although a number of professional photographers captured images contained in this subseries, Boston-area photographers Linda Haas and Marilyn Humphries contributed a large selection of local images. Photographs include women at work and unionization images documenting the Harvard Clerical Workers Union and the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) (#PD.145).
Subseries C, Photographs: individuals, 1920-2001, n.d. (#PD.147-PD.1118), contains professional photographs and publicity shots arranged alphabetically by category. Categories include activists, actors and filmmakers, artists, comedians, dancers, international women, local people, local women, musicians, politicians, women of organizations, and writers. Within each of these categories, files are arranged alphabetically by individual. Images include photographs of activist and attorney Florence (Flo) Kennedy (#PD.178) and orchestral conductor Antonia Brico (#PD.428).
Subseries D, Graphic materials, 1971-2000, n.d. (#81.17-83.24), contains cartoons, flyers, illustrations, postcards, and posters arranged alphabetically by topic. This subseries also includes a large collection of political cartoons by professional illustrator Eleanor Mill.
Series VIII, MEMORABILIA AND OVERSIZED, 1977-2002, n.d. (#83.25m-86F+B.21, Mem.1, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1-SD.5), includes memorabilia and oversized materials removed from throughout the collection.
Subseries A, Memorabilia, 1977-1994, n.d. (#83.25m-84F+B.5m, Mem.1), contains various items used by Sojourner, including aprons and an embossing seal, as well as a sample Sojourner t-shirt created for a fundraising drive.
Subseries B, Oversized, 1981-2002, n.d. (85F+B.1-86F+B.21, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1-SD.5), contains various oversized materials, such as financial charts, brainstorming notes from staff retreats and other meetings, and special event posters. It is the shelflist for oversized items found throughout this collection and listed in the series above.
Most of photographs in this collection 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 [*].
Certain folders have been closed due to financial or other personal information about individuals. These restricted files are listed in the inventory and are closed until the date indicated. In addition, some folders contain specific records which have been photocopied and the information redacted to protect privacy. Reference copies are interfiled in the collection; originals have been removed and are closed until January 1, 2085.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

American fiction--Women authors
American poetry--Women authors
Business records
Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Direct-mail fund raising--United States
Feminism--New England--Periodicals
Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Feminists--United States
Frontline feminism 1975-1995
Jamaica Plain (Boston, Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Journalists--United States
Lesbians--United States
Letters to the editor
Manuscripts for publication
Pen pals--United States
Periodicals--Publishing--United States
Political cartoons
Public welfare
Readership surveys
Welfare economics
Women journalists--United States
Women--New England--Periodicals
Women political activists--United States
Women prisoners--United States
Women--Social networks
Women-owned business enterprises--Massachusetts
Women's periodicals, American
Women's studies--United States
Women's writings
Women's business directory
Flaherty, Anne
Gabriner, Vicki
Kahn, Karen, 1955-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mill, Eleanor
Pett, Amy
Sojourner Feminist Institute, Inc.