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MC 754; T-453; DVD-98

Parvey, Constance F.. Papers of Constance F. Parvey, ca.1920-2011: 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 the Mary Mitchell Wood Manuscript Processing Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 754; T-453; DVD-98
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Constance F. Parvey
Title: Papers of Constance F. Parvey, ca.1920-2011
Date(s): 1920-2011
Quantity: 37.41 linear feet (80 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio box, 1 oversize box, 3 card boxes) plus 3 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 25 photograph folders, 8 audiotapes, 1 DVD)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of Constance Fern Parvey includes extensive writings, notes, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, and audiotapes, and document Parvey's professional career as a Lutheran minister, educator, writer, global feminist, and activist. A significant part of the collection focuses on her international work in elevating women's roles within the church.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 2009-M104, 2011-M116
The papers of Constance F. Parvey were given to the Schlesinger Library by Constance F. Parvey in 2009 and 2011.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 2014
By: Laura Peimer and Bridgette Woodall, with assistance from Emily Underwood.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted, except for #73.4 which contains student information and is closed until January 1, 2064. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Constance F. Parvey 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:

Constance F. Parvey Papers, ca.1920-2011; item description, dates. MC 754, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Donor: Constance F. Parvey
Accession number: 2009-M104, 2011-M116
Processed by: Laura Peimer, Bridgette Woodall
The following film strip has been transferred to the Schlesinger Library audiovisual collection:
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:
The following items have been transferred to the Women's Newsletter and Periodical Collection (Pr-4):
The following pamphlets have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library Feminist Ephemera collection:
The following published materials have been removed for review by the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School for their collection:
The following item has been given to Widener Library:
Printed materials, such as brochures, invitations, publications, etc. relating to Harvard's 350th anniversary celebration were given to the Harvard University Archives.
The following book has been given to Harvard Fine Arts Library:
The following materials have been given to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections:
The following materials have been given to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America archives for review for their collection:


Constance Fern Parvey, daughter of William Robert Parvey and Anna Katherine Dunkel, was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on January 12, 1931. Parvey had two older siblings, a brother Norman and a sister Marjorie. She earned her B.A. in sociology and psychology from the University of Minnesota, in 1952, her B.D. from the Harvard Divinity School in 1963, and an M.A. in social work from the Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research in 1986. Parvey was in the first class of women to be admitted to the Harvard Divinity School in 1955, and in 1972 was the first woman to be ordained in the New England Synod of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), known today as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Parvey was the fifth woman in the United States to be ordained by the LCA. She was the first woman to have her ordination ceremony at Memorial Church at Harvard University.
Campus ministerial work would play an important role throughout Parvey's life. She served in campus ministry as a lay Lutheran chaplain on the staff of the Duke University Chapel in 1953, soon after her graduation from the University of Minnesota. In the mid-1950s she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to work as a lay associate for the University Lutheran Association of Greater Boston, with its mission center at the University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square. In 1962 she was called to the University of Wisconsin as a lay campus minister, working with students struggling through the moral and ethical dilemmas raised by the civil rights and anti-war movements. In 1966 she returned to Cambridge, where she worked for Harvard Divinity School, and edited the Harvard Divinity Bulletin (1966-1968). In 1972 she was called to ordained ministry and served University Lutheran Church as Assistant Pastor, and was again responsible for community building among students in the Greater Boston area. She also served as the Lutheran chaplain at MIT and Harvard University, among other campuses, through 1978.
In addition to her campus ministry, Parvey assumed an international role within the Lutheran Church and was deeply involved with the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is a community of churches throughout the world whose representatives gather to explore multiple issues related to the church and community, in order to foster Christian unity. At the time of Parvey's involvement, the WCC was undertaking issues related to nuclear disarmament; third world and community development; religion, science, and technology; and the place of women in ordained ministry, among other areas. In 1969, Parvey was elected as the Lutheran Church of America (LCA) delegate to the WCC's Faith and Order consultation, "Worship in a Secular Age." Parvey was the first ordained woman from any member denomination to serve on the Faith and Order Commission. In 1974, she was also elected as the LCA delegate to the WCC's conferences in Berlin, Germany; Bucharest, Romania; and Accra, Ghana. From 1954 through 1992 she participated in five of the seven assemblies of the World Council of Churches, including in Nairobi, Kenya; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and Canberra, Australia. In 1978 she was called by the executive committee of the LCA to serve the WCC on the Faith and Order Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was asked to be director of a new study, Community of Women and Men in the Church, a study on the roles of women in churches around the world. The study included 300 local commissions all over the world, each of which, under Parvey's guidance, explored, reflected on, and reported on the roles of women in the churches in their area.
Parvey served abroad for five years before returning to the United States to serve as a lecturer at numerous universities and divinity schools. She was guest preacher and lecturer for several colleges and universities, including visiting lecturer at Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (1982-1983); Roian Fleck Resident in Religion, Department of History, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (1984-1985); instructor, Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1985-1986); and at Harvard Divinity School, where she had taught briefly early in her career (1971-1972) and where she returned in 1988. In 1989 she was called to serve as pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Jericho, Vermont. After seven years in Vermont, Parvey was called back to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to serve once again as the Lutheran Chaplain at MIT (1996-2001).
In addition to her ministerial calling, Parvey worked as the executive director of the Young Women's Christian Association at the University of California, Los Angeles (1962-1963); was an executive producer of a series of television programs on urban life for KTCA-TV in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota (1965-1966); and was director of Special Events for the Eugene McCarthy for President National Fundraising Committee (1968). She also was a consultant on the Boston Model Cities project tackling racism, education, and housing (1969-1970); and a consultant for the United Nations office of non-governmental organizations and the American Academy of Science on the role of international voluntary associations, particularly churches (1970-1972).
Parvey was the author or editor of numerous articles, reports, reviews, chapters, and books related to the ecumenical movement; ordained ministry, including the ordination of women; worship; biblical studies; theology; ethics; student life and campus ministry; and the arts. Of note are Come Lord Jesus, Come Quickly: Lenten Meditations (1976), the report Women and Worship: Rooted in the New Creation (1977), Ordination of Women in Ecumenical Perspective: Workbook for the Church's Future (1980), and the landmark report The Community of Women and Men in the Church (1983). Throughout her career she participated in many conferences and consultations, and contributed to numerous professional organizations, committees, councils, and boards; these include the American Academy of Religion; consulting committee of the Center for Ethics and Society (LCA), New York (1973); consulting committee, status of women, LCA (1972); Board of Directors, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, LCA (1970s); and the commission on worship, LCA (1967-1974). She also received many honors and fellowships, including an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Redlands, California (1977), and Confessor of Christ award presented by The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (1990). Constance Parvey died on May 21, 2011, at the age of 80.


The collection is arranged in seven series:


The Constance Parvey papers consist of materials which document Parvey's professional career as a Lutheran minister, educator, writer, global feminist, and activist. A significant part of the collection focuses on her international work in elevating women's roles within the church, and as a campus and community minister. The papers include extensive writings, notes, correspondence, printed materials, scrapbooks, photographs, and audiotapes. Although most of the papers were found in folders, the collection was not in any clear order. The archivist focused her efforts on limiting extensive cases of overlap and filing inconsistencies; however, due to the nature of the documentation, some overlap within and among series remains. For instance, World Council of Churches materials, including additional writings and correspondence, can be found in Series I, II, and IV. The bulk of Parvey's writings are in Series IV, but other writings can also be found in Series III. To maintain any possible context, Parvey's original folders have been kept intact, even when multiple folders with the same headings have overlapping dates. Where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the archivist.
Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1931-2011 (#1.1-7.8, #82CB-#84CB, #85FB.1, #86OB.1-86OB.2, F+D.1), includes clippings about Parvey's life and work; coursework and evaluations from classes at Bryn Mawr College; and calendars listing appointments and which include notes, letters, flyers, and other printed materials. This series also includes names and address lists collected by Parvey relating to all aspects of her life, including her professional contacts in the World Council of Churches, rosters from conferences, and a Sunday school class list. Of particular interest are scrapbooks (#6.3-7.5) containing printed materials, photographs, and correspondence which reflect the highlights of her ministries and the World Council of Churches; as well as invitations to Parvey's ordination (#5.13) designed by her friend, educator and artist, Sister Mary Corita Kent. This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1951-2011 (#7.9-17.16), includes personal and professional correspondence with friends; parishioners; colleagues, including Lutheran Church officials and supporters of her ordination; and family. The topics, arranged by year, mirror the numerous events in Parvey's life as noted in the biographical note above, as well as reveal the meaningful and significant relationships within her network of professional and personal contacts. A wide range of topics that are found throughout the collection are represented here, including Parvey's ordination; speaking engagements; political activism; conferences and paper proposals regarding conferences; professional organizations; World Council of Churches and the Community of Women and Men in the Church study; ministries and guest ministries; teaching work; ecumenical issues; publications; and Lutheran Church Women. Materials also include holiday letters and cards, invitations, get well cards, postcards, printed materials, church programs, and flyers. In general, correspondence which was found in files containing a significant quantity of other materials was not removed into Series II. The Series is arranged chronologically, followed by a few files arranged alphabetically by subject at the end.
Series III, MINISTRIES AND PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, 1931-2008 (#17.17-33.7, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.2), contains materials regarding Parvey's professional activities and positions throughout her career. The series includes topics ranging from her participation in the Boston Model Cities project and as a producer for the Twin Cities Town Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to her work as a minister at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Jericho, Vermont), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other campus ministries. Starting in the 1970s, Parvey's role and responsibilities varied in the many professional organizations that she was involved with but much of her work focused on women's equality within the Church. This series includes records relating to her attendance, participation, and planning of conferences and workshops, including "Women and Worship" sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation. It also documents her professional work in numerous organizations, such as the American Academy of Religion, an association of teachers and scholars in the field of religion, and the Seafarers and International House, an organization sponsored by the Swedish Lutheran Synod to provide hospitality and accommodations. Parvey's role in many of the organizations overlapped. For example, she was a Lutheran Church in America delegate to the World Council of Churches. Materials include agendas; schedules and meeting minutes; correspondence; printed materials, flyers, and pamphlets; conference planning materials; reports; notes and other writings, including speech transcripts; correspondence; course materials; and syllabi for her teaching work, etc. Folders regarding funerals, weddings, and memorials (#24.2-24.4, 30.3, 33.3-33.6), include Parvey's homilies and other writings. This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series IV, WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, 1971-2008 (#33.8-48.6, OD.1), contains materials collected or created by Parvey relating primarily to her work with the Faith and Order Commission and the Community of Women and Men in the Church study within the World Council of Churches (WCC). As a subgroup of the WCC, the Faith and Order Commission was tasked to bring together church representatives from around the world to work through potentially divisive or complex theological questions through the creation of study documents and dialogue. This series reflects Parvey's involvement in these efforts and her work coordinating and compiling information relating to the Community of Women and Men in the Church study, which explores the role of women in the church. This series also documents her participation with other international efforts of the World Council of Churches and its initiatives, including the interplay of religion and technology; nuclear disarmament; and community building. Materials include working files; meeting, conference, and assembly files; reports; printed materials; clippings; notes; research materials and writings; correspondence; and publications. Materials related directly or tangentially to the Community of Women and Men in the Church Study can be found in most folders in this series. For additional correspondence and writings related to the World Council of Churches, see series II and series V. This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series V, WRITINGS, RESEARCH, AND RELATED, 1951-2008 (#48.7-81.5, FD.3), contains the bulk of Parvey's writings, sermons, notes, and research materials from throughout her career. The writings include scholarly, theological, and personal topics, and consist primarily of articles, sermons and lectures, notes, and research materials. In addition the series includes poetry, critical essays, notes, and printed materials.
Subseries A, Writings, sermons, and notes, 1951-2005 (#48.7-67.4, FD.3), includes Parvey's published and unpublished writings relating to women in the ministry, social justice, student life and campus ministry, feminist theology, as well as creative and personal writings, many of which were written for classes on memoir and non-fiction. This subseries includes articles, lectures, reports, notes, and sermons; as well as drafts, research materials, typescripts, correspondence, and project proposals. Included, as well, are research materials and draft writings related to Parvey's work on an autobiography (unpublished). Some folder titles contain article titles in quotes; in these instances quotes do not signify that the titles were created by Parvey. This subseries is arranged alphabetically; general writings located at the end of the subseries are arranged chronologically.
Subseries B, Notebooks, 1957-ca.2002 (#67.5-77.10), contains Parvey's notebooks, which cover a wide range of subject areas and include notes regarding her theological research; her ministerial work; scholarly research and course work; personal thoughts about her life and study; conferences, lectures, and sermons; the World Council of Churches, Faith and Order Commission, and Community of Women and Men in the Church study. In addition, this subseries contains Parvey's notes regarding counseling and hospice work. Notebooks found in files containing a significant quantity of other materials was not removed to this subseries. See also calendars (#2.10-4.1) in Series I which contain notes, as well as appointment information. This subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Subject files, 1954-2008 (#77.11-81.5), contains general resource files on various subject areas related to Parvey's research interests. Included are printed and published materials, annotated articles, clippings, typescripts, reports, as well as some correspondence and notes by Parvey. Of interest is an interview transcript with Parvey regarding her impressions of the Klingenthal consultation on the ordination of women sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation (1993) (#79.4-79.5). This subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1920-2006 (#PD.1-PD.25fv), includes images of Parvey that document relevant episodes and activities in her life, including her ordination, officiating as a minister, and participating in conferences. Some photos were taken by Parvey's friend Carolyn Ackerman, editor of the New England Lutheran and a correspondent for The Lutheran. This series is arranged alphabetically.
Series VII, AUDIOVISUAL, 1973-2005 (#T-453.1 - T-453.8, DVD-98.1), includes audiotapes of Parvey speaking on religion, science, technology, and her work in ministry at MIT; as well as a video regarding the ordination of women sponsored by the Lutheran Church. Materials that are identified as #T-453 are audiocassettes. This series is arranged by format, then date.
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Other photographs found throughout the collection are not being cataloged separately and are being treated as part of the documents they accompany, either because they are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging or are similar in content to the images in Series V.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

College chaplains--United States
DVD-Video discs
Lutheran women--United States
Ordination of women--Lutheran Church
Women clergy
Women--Religious aspects--Christianity
Ackerman, Caroline Iverson
Communauté de Taizé. LinkAmerican Academy of Religion
Community of Women and Men in the Church Study
Corita, 1918-1986
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Jericho, Vt.)
Harvard Divinity School
Lutheran Church in America--Clergy
Lutheran World Federation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Commission on Faith and Order
World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches. Commission on Faith and Order