In 1948, Helen Maud Cam, became the first female faculty member to be tenured at Harvard. Yet women have been present and making history at the University for centuries.
Women with a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and identities have worked, taught, studied, visited, and lived at Harvard from the 17th century to the present. The Harvard University Archives' collections by and about women highlight their unique professional, intellectual, and personal experiences.
Numerous Harvard women have given their personal materials to the Archives and continue to do so today. But much information about women at the University is also found throughout University records and the archives of others.
Our collections include lab notebooks and other documentation created by women researchers who worked on scientific and computational projects, such as Annie Jump Cannon. We also hold photos and field notes taken by the wives of male faculty who, while not “officially” on the payroll, at times conducted a share of the field work that led to their husband’s publications. Many women supported their spouse's work, while others often maintained their own academic or other careers at Harvard or elsewhere.
And, of course, the Archives is the primary repository for the personal and professional archives of tenured women faculty and others, such as:
- Archeologist Emily Townsend Vermeule
- Literary scholar and the first woman appointed as A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, Helen Vendler
- Astronomer Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin
- Political theorist Judith Nisse Shklar
- Eileen Jackson Southern, the first African-American woman to be appointed as a tenured full professor at Harvard
- Dean Patricia A. Graham, Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education, emerita, who was the first woman at the University to be named dean of a whole faculty
- Evelynn M. Hammonds, who served as dean of Harvard College as well as Barbara Gutman Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of the History of African and African American Studies
The collections of the Harvard University Archives also complement the records of Radcliffe College, held by The Schlesinger Library.
Accessing These Materials
This guide details how to access materials held by the Harvard University Archives.