Phyllis Chesler papers, 1968-2003

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Summary

Creator:
Chesler, Phyllis
Abstract:
The papers of Phyllis Chesler are divided into the following series: Writings, Custody Speakout Project, Women and Health Organizations, and Personal and Professional Papers. Chesler's Writings are separated into subseries by titles of her published works, and comprise the bulk of the collection. These papers include research files, interviews, and chapter drafts for her books Women and Madness; Women, Money and Power; About Men; Mothers on Trial; and Sacred Bond. The detailed research files in the Writings Series also contain audio tapes and selected transcripts of interviews conducted by Chesler in conjunction with her research on women and mental health, women's history, child custody (particularly the "Baby M" case involving the lawsuit between Mary Beth Whitehead and William Stern and baby Melissa Stern), and feminist concerns. The Writings Series includes Chesler's miscellaneous writings and provides insight into her personal and professional life through correspondence, manuscripts and notes surrounding each work as well as clippings and records documenting her feminist activism. Among the major correspondents are Carolyn Shaw Bell, Sheila Kaplan, Kate Millet, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Adrienne Rich, Donna Shalala, Susan Sontag, and Gloria Steinem.
Extent:
118 Linear Feet
88,500 Items
Language:
English.
Collection ID:
RL.00221

Background

Scope and content:

The papers of psychologist, radical feminist author, and professor Phyllis Chesler span the dates 1968-2001. For the most part, Chesler's original folder titles have been maintained throughout the collection. The collection is divided into the following series: Writings, Custody Speakout Project, Women and Health Organizations ,Personal and Professional Papers, International Committee for Women of the Wall ,On the Issues, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Chesler's Writings are separated into subseries by titles of her published works, and comprise the bulk of the collection. These papers include research files, interviews, and chapter drafts for her books Women and Madness;Women, Money and Power;About Men; With Child; Mothers on Trial; Sacred Bond; and Letters to a Young Feminist. The detailed research files in the Writings Series also contain audiocassettes and selected transcripts of interviews conducted by Chesler in conjunction with her research on women and mental health, women's history, childbirth and pregnancy, child custody and surrogate mothers (particularly the "Baby M" controversy concerning Mary Beth Whitehead and the Stern family), and feminist concerns. The Writings Series includes Chesler's miscellaneous writings and provides insight into her personal and professional life through correspondence, manuscripts, and notes surrounding each work as well as clippings and records documenting her feminist activism. Materials related to Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground can be found in the International Committee for Women of the Wall Series. Chesler's complete writings from 1991 to the present, as well as selected archives of her writings from the 1970s and 1980s are available at her website, The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

The Personal and Professional Papers Series is subdivided into the following subseries:Teaching Material, which provides insight into Chesler's feminist activism and includes student evaluations and selected student papers for classes at the College of Staten Island and CUNY; Publicity Files, which contain reviews of Chesler's work as well as articles by and about her; Juvenilia, which documents Chesler's artistic and intellectual development through high school; People Files,Financial Papers, Correspondence, and Invitations. These latter four subseries document aspects of Chesler's personal and professional relationships and her family life. Among the major correspondents in the People Files Subseries are Carolyn Shaw Bell, Sheila Kaplan, Kate Millett, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Adrienne Rich, Donna Shalala, Susan Sontag, and Gloria Steinem. The Custody Speakout Project Series and the Women and Health Organizations Series document Chesler's concern and activism for women's health and custody rights, while the International Committee for Women of the Wall Series documents Chesler's involvement in activism surrounding the right of women to pray at the Kotel with a Torah scroll, as well as her work as co-editor of the anthology Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground. The On The Issues Series contains correspondence, article and column drafts, pre-published and published issue files, financial materials, meeting notes, and other papers related to the publication of On The Issues, a quarterly feminist magazine. Chesler served as an editor-at-large for the magazine, and she correspondedfrequently and worked closely with its publisher and editor-in-chief, Merle Hoffman. The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Series contains Chesler's research and drafts of writings on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also referred to by the acronyms CFS and CFIDS.

Many American feminists are represented in Chesler's personal and professional correspondence in the Writings Series as well as the People Files Subseries of the Personal and Professional Papers Series. The Invitations Subseries in that series documents Chesler's involvement in feminist, environmental, and other political events and protests. The Teaching Materials Subseries and the People Files Subseries contain correspondence, clippings, notes, and other miscellaneous materials related to individuals and institutions with which Chesler was in contact in the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the material in the People Files Subseries documents Chesler's personal and professional concerns following the publication of Women, Money and Power and prior to publication of About Men and With Child, with a particular emphasis on her relationships with other feminist writers and activists.

Chesler's professional literary career is documented in the Correspondence Subseries of the Personal and Professional Papers Series which focuses on Chesler's relationships with publishers, promotion for her books, and royalty statements related to Chesler's books. The Financial Papers Subseries also documents Chesler's business concerns and professional expenses. Further correspondence with publishers can be found in the research files of individual subseries within the Writings Series. The Women and Health Organizations Series,Custody Speakout Project Series, and the Invitations Subseries subseries of the Personal and Professional Papers Series provide information regarding the organizations supported by Chesler.

Chesler's attention to women's custody rights appears in the Writings Series within the Mothers on Trial Subseries. The bulk of Chesler's work on child custody is documented in the Custody Speakout Project Series which contains organizational files including proposals, resource lists, fundraising projects, speaker information and agenda files for the Custody Speakout Project.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1940, Oct. 1
Born in Brooklyn, NY to Leon and Lillian (Hammer) Chesler
1962
Bard College, B.A.
1967
New School for Social Research, M.A.
1968-1969
Clinical research associate at Metropolitan Hospital, New York City
Psychotherapy intern at Washington Square Institute for Psychotherapy and Mental Health
Graduate study at New York Medical College
1969
New School for Social Research, Ph.D.
1969-1998
Professor of psychology at the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York
1970
Cofounder, Association for Women in Psychology
Psychotherapist in private practice
Lecturer at various institutions, including Instititute for Developmental Studies and New School for Social Research
1972
Charter member of board of directors of Women's Action Alliance
1974
Member of board of directors of Center for the Study of Psychiatry
1976
Cofounder of National Women's Health Network
1997-
Research associate at International Research Institute on Jewish Women, Brandeis University
1998
Professor Emerita of City University of New York
Acquisition information:
The Phyllis Chesler Papers were purchased, 1992-1994. Additional materials received in 2000, 2003, and 2004.
Processing information:

Completed February 29, 2000

Encoded by Melissa Delbridge and Lisa Stark

International Committee for Women of the Wall Series processed and encoded by Stephanie Barnwell, November 2013

On the Issues Series, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Series, and Letters to a Young Feminist subseries processed and encoded by Samantha Crisp, April 2014

Accessions described in this finding aid: portions of 1992-0070, 1993-0320, 1994-0085, and 2003-0046.

Arrangement:

The collection is organized into the following series: Writings, Custody Speakout Project, Women and Health Organizations, Personal and Professional Papers, International Committee for Women of the Wall, On the Issues, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Subjects

Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Subjects:
Sex role
Pregnancy -- Psychological aspects
Mothers -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
Mother and child
Power (Social sciences)
Mothers -- United States -- Biography
Feminism -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
Feminists -- United States -- Biography
Mental illness
Men -- Psychology
Surrogate mothers -- United States -- Case studies
Surrogate mothers -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- Case studies
Custody of children -- United States -- Case studies
Childbirth -- Psychological aspects
Women -- Health and hygiene -- Sociological aspects
Wealth -- United States
Women -- United States -- Social conditions
Women -- Psychologists
Women's rights -- United States
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Names:
Women of the Wall (Organization : Israel)
Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture
Sontag, Susan, 1933-
Steinem, Gloria
Rich, Adrienne Cecile
Shalala, Donna E.
Olsen, Tillie
Paley, Grac
Kaplan, Sheila, 1945-
Millett, Kate
Whitehead, Mary Beth -- Trials, litigation, etc.
Stern, Melissa, 1986-
Stern, William, 1946 -- -Trials, litigation, etc.
Bell, Carolyn Shaw
Chesler, Phyllis
Chesler, Phyllis -- Women, Money and Power
Chesler, Phyllis -- Women and Madness
Chesler, Phyllis -- With Child: A Diary of Motherhood
Chesler, Phyllis -- Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M
Chesler, Phyllis -- Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody
Chesler, Phyllis -- About Men

Contents

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Restrictions:

The Phyllis Chesler Papers contain sensitive information regarding persons other than Phyllis Chesler. Therefore, patrons who wish to use this collection must sign a research agreement, which may be obtained from any Special Collections reference staff person.

The collection also includes oral history interviews in the form of audio recordings and hardcopy transcripts that do not have release forms transferring intellectual property rights from interviewees or interviewers to researchers using this collection. Researchers are cautioned that the publication of information contained in these interviews may violate the legal rights of interviewees or interviewers. It is the sole responsibility of researchers to secure permission from interviewees or interviewers to publish quotes from either, and to ensure that information gained from research in this collection is not used in any way that violates rights remaining with interviewees, interviewers or their heirs.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Phyllis Chesler Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.