Kate Millett papers, 1912-2002, bulk 1951-2001

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Correspondence to and from Sophie Keir is closed for her lifetime. Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Many items have been reformatted, and digital access copies are available. Some...
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Millett, Kate
The Kate Millett papers document Millett's life and activities as feminist writer, theorist, and artist, teacher, and global activist, based in New York City. They also document the 20th century women's movement, feminist theory, as well as feminism and women's rights around the globe, especially in France, Italy, and the Middle East. There are many files of correspondence with family, partners, friends, writers, artists, and activists, including significant exchanges with Rita Mae Brown, Phyllis Chesler, Alix Kates Shulman, Yoko Ono, and Gloria Steinem. Annotated manuscripts and other items related to her major publications are present. Topics in these works include prison systems; mental institutions; psychiatry, medications, and mental health; torture and imprisonment; politics, gender, and sexuality; and mother/daughter relationships. Subject files contain research on these topics, as well as materials on abortion, feminism, organizations, the arts, gay rights, and Millett's diagnosis of bipolar disorder, involuntary clinical treatments, and subsequent involvement in anti-psychiatry activism. Additional series relate to writings by other authors; Millett's work as a visual artist and her New York State artists' colony; and her student years and teaching. Other formats in the collection include electronic records, chiely writings; many recordings of interviews, lectures, speeches, art openings, and conversations; photographs; artwork, including drawings, sculptures, and installation components; and print materials such as articles, cards, clippings, fliers, magazine issues, and posters. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University.
93 Linear Feet (198 boxes; 29 oversize folders)
Materials are in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The papers of Kate Millett provide rich documentation of Millett's activities as a feminist activist, artist, and author of numerous works, including Sexual Politics, whose publication established her as one of the founding 20th century feminists. Other works for which supporting materials exist are The Loony-bin Trip, Flying, and The Basement.

Seen in a broader context, Millett's papers provide important documentation of the history of the feminist movement and feminist theory in the United States, including the history of the National Organization for Women. Materials in the collection also cover feminism and the social conditions for women around the globe, especially in France, Italy, and the Middle East - most notably Iran, where Millett traveled in 1979-1980.

The earliest dates in the collection, 1912 and 1928, refer respectively to an early family photograph, and historical resources used when writing the book A.D.. The bulk of the materials span her adult life from the 1950s through the early 2000s.

The collection content reflects the intensely personal nature of much of Millett's work and the frequent fusion of her personal, political, and professional interests, strongly evident in the many files of personal and literary correspondence, including significant exchanges with Ti-Grace Atkinson, Rita Mae Brown, Phyllis Chesler, Andrea Dworkin, Cynthia McAdams, Yoko Ono, Alix Kates Shulman, Gloria Steinem, and many other activists, writers, artists, friends, partners, and family.

Additional series include writings by other authors; papers documenting Millett's work as an artist and instructor; files relating to her New York State farm and artists' colony; materials from Millett's student years, including her thesis which led to the book, Sexual Politics; and scripts and other papers relating to Millett's little-known documentary film, Three Lives (a copy of the film also exists in the collection). Other materials document her relationship with her mother during the last years of her mother's life, also the topic of her book, Mother Millett. Subject files relate to Millett's involvement with the gay and lesbian communities, her research on prisons and torture, and her diagnosis with bipolar disorder and subsequent involvement in anti-psychiatry activism. There are also extensive printed materials such as serial issues, articles, clippings, posters, fliers, mainstream and grassroots newsletters, event programs, and manifestos.

Audiovisual materials, many available through digital access copies, include audio and video recordings of Millett's lectures, speeches, and many conversations with activists, friends, and family. There are also many photographs, slides, and negatives documenting Millett's activities and the people in her life.

Rounding out the visual components of the collection are over 250 pieces of Millett's artwork created by Millett, who was also involved in the Fluxus art movement. Predominant formats include ink drawings, calligraphy, and graphic prints. There are also sculptures and other three-dimensional works, some of which formed part of an installation representing events that surrounded the murder of Sylvia Likens, also the subject of Millett's book, The Basement. A full inventory of the artwork is available in this collection guide.

Electronic formats include some correspondence, book drafts, and other writings. These files are included in the inventory under the appropriate series. The electronic files have been migrated to a library server; please contact the Rubenstein Library for access.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1934 Sept. 14
Born in St. Paul, Minn. to Helen Feely and James A. Millett
B.A., University of Minnesota
B.A., first-class honors, St. Hilda's College, Oxford University
Instructor in English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Instructor in English Literature, Waseda University, Tokyo
First sculpture show, Minami Gallery, Tokyo
Instructor in English Literature, Barnard College
Married Fumio Yoshimura
Chair of Education Committee, National Organization for Women
Professor, Bryn Mawr College
Publication of Sexual Politics
Ph.D., Columbia University
Publication of Three Lives
Distinguished Visiting Professor, California State University at Sacramento
Publication of Prostitution Papers
Publication of Flying
Publication of Sita
Founded women's art colony and farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Publication of The Basement, and Going to Iran, with photography by Sophie Keir
Publication of Going to Iran
Divorced from Fumio Yoshimura
Publication of The Loony-bin Trip
Publication of The Politics of Cruelty
Publication of A.D.
Adjunct Professor, New York University
Publication of Mother Millett
Evicted from her apartment at 295 Bowery after a prolonged court battle; the building was demolished as part of a redevelopment plan
The art colony founded by Millett became a non-profit, and changed its name to Millett Center for the Arts
Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, Seneca Falls, N.Y.
2017 Sept. 6
Died in Paris
Acquisition information:
The Kate Millett Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as purchases and gifts from 2000-2017.
Processing information:

Processed by Katherine Castles, Rodney Clare, Paula Jeannet, and Megan Lewis, 2000-2005. Description updated by Paula Jeannet and Amelia Verkerk, February 2020.

Accessions represented in this collection guide: 2000-0264; 2000-0359; 2002-0201.

Materials received after 2004 (2004-0074, 2005-0002, 2012-0225, 2017-0005) are closed pending processing.

When possible, the original file order has been preserved. Folder titles are transcribed from the original titles when present.

Some printed materials, chiefly books by feminists, have been separated from the papers and are now found in the Duke Libraries online catalog as part of the Rubenstein Library's rare book holdings.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Correspondence to and from Sophie Keir is closed for her lifetime.

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Many items have been reformatted, and digital access copies are available. Some items however may require the creation of access copies.

Although these recordings are now stored in climate-controlled conditions, the playback and sound quality for original items that have not been digitized is unknown.

Please contact the Rubenstein Library to request access before coming to use these materials.

Large-format items from the Elegy for Sita subseries of the Artwork grouping are restricted and require approval by curatorial staff before use: "Ink drawing" (AW10), and "Photos of Sita" (AW11). Large three-dimensional pieces may also require permission for viewing.

These oversized items should be unpacked in a staff workroom with curatorial or conservation assistance before being checked out to the reading room. Staff will contact Conservation for unpacking or repacking assistance if needed.

Electronic records have been migrated to a library server and are available only in the Rubenstein Library onsite reading room.

Terms of access:

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], Kate Millett papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.