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Women@MIT Archival Initiative

The Women@MIT archival initiative seeks to add the records of women faculty, staff, students and alumnae to the historic record by collecting, preserving, and sharing their life and work with MIT and global audiences. Extending from this initiative we are also making efforts to acquire, preserve, and make accessible the papers of gender non-binary and non-conforming individuals at MIT to help share their stories and contributions

Lab notebook

Lab notebook from a professor’s personal archives. Distinctive Collections.

The Department of Distinctive Collections is casting a wide net and collecting broadly beyond the records of those widely known in their fields and include those who have contributed to their field in general. These efforts are made possible thanks to the generous support of Barbara Ostrom ‘78 and Shirley Sontheimer with the hope that this project will encourage more women and underrepresented people to become engaged in science, technology, and engineering.

The first year of the project focused on reaching out to faculty who were ending the active phase of their careers to collect material. Currently, the first wave of collections are being processed to prepare them for researchers and future collecting planning efforts are underway.

Why We Collect

Personal archives are unique and diverse in subjects, offering insight into the professional lives and accomplishments of scientists and engineers. In a broader context, personal archives are rich resources to help understand science and technology, the history of higher education, and gender and labor equity issues.

The Women@MIT initiative aims to collect such records in the hopes of illuminating and elevating the stories of these individuals, knowing they have often been marginalized in the historical record. In addition, as collections are created by MIT affiliated women, the topics in them also often align with and represent impact areas identified by MIT such as public service, diversity, energy, industry, and cancer research, allowing us to highlight their work and inspire others to build on their efforts.

Highlights

  • Shirley Ann Jackson (MC-0195) ‘68, PhD ‘73, first African American woman to receive a PhD from MIT, lifetime member of the MIT Corporation, chair of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999).
  • Alice K. Hartley (MC-0754) ‘59, an American computer scientist, who worked on several dialects of Lisp, implementing multiple parts of Interlisp, maintaining Macintosh Common Lisp, and developed concepts in computer science and programming language design still in use today.
  • Lotte Bailyn (MC-0644), T Wilson (1953) Professor of Management, Emerita at the MIT Sloan School of Management, former Chair of the MIT faculty, whose research investigates how institutional and organizational processes intersect with people’s lives, with a special emphasis on the dynamics of gender and diversity.
  • Lisa Redfield Peattie (MC-0723), professor emerita of urban anthropology in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, known for her groundbreaking work The View from the Barrio.
  • Annamaria Torriani-Gorini (MC-0702), professor emerita of biology, known for her work in bacterial physiology.
  • Mary Rowe (AC-0232), adjunct professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, special assistant to the president and ombudsperson, a conflict resolution specialist whose work led to MIT having one of the nation’s first anti-harassment policies.