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Jan Clausen papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00630

Scope and Contents

Materials documenting Clausen's career as feminist poet, novelist, and writer of non-fiction; her participation in feminist, social justice, anti-nuclear, prison reform, and gay rights activism; and her family life and her relationship with former partner, Elly Bulkin. The correspondence in this collection is particularly strong in its frank discussion of the confluence of feminist theory and personal experience, as are Clausen's diaries. In addition to correspondence between Clausen and Elly Bulkin, there is also correspondence between Clausen and friend/filmmaker, Sandy Smith; letters from former significant other, Richard Garmise; and family correspondence from her sister, Debra (Debby) Clausen, her brother, Sidney Clausen, and her parents. Also of interest are audiotaped interviews with the Women's Construction Brigade, who went to Nicaragua in 1987, conducted by Clausen and used for her M.A. thesis,"North American Feminists and the Sandinista Revolution."

Dates of Materials

  • 1907 - 2017


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Jan Clausen has retained copyright until her death in her works donated to Smith College, with the exception of unpublished works in her papers, to which Jan Clausen retains copyright permanently. After her death, copyright in these works will transfer to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Clausen, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical Note

Jan Clausen was born in North Bend, Oregon to Phyllis Irene Shannon Clausen and Victor Herman Ehler Clausen. From 1967 to 1970, she attended Reed College and dropped out following her junior year. She moved to New York in 1973, where she received her B.A. (1994), as well as her M.A. in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory (1996) from the New School for Social Research. Clausen then moved to Brooklyn and settled into a life of writing, demonstrating and activism on behalf of social justice, especially for women. After more than a decade of"marriage"to a woman with whom she was raising a daughter, she fell in love with a West Indian male lawyer she met on a fact-finding tour to Nicaragua in 1987. Her decision to move in with that man stunned the lesbian literary and political community and they forcefully and dramatically cast her out. Her story is told in the memoir Apples And Oranges: My Journey Through Sexual Identity (1999). Clausen is a poet, novelist, liberal activist, book critic and reviewer. She has written nine additional books: After Touch (1975), Waking at the Bottom of the Dark (1979), Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lover (1980), Movement of Poets: Thoughts on Poetry and Feminism (1982), Duration (1983), Sinking, Stealing (1985), The Prosperine Papers (1988), Books and Life (1989), and Beyond Gay or Straight: Understanding Sexual Orientation (1997). Her short fiction, articles, poetry and book reviews appear regularly in numerous magazines including Kenyon Review, The Village Voice, Ms., The Nation, Poets&Writers, and the Women's Review of Books. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fiction fellowship. In 1981 she won a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and in 2003, she was awarded the New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. Clausen is the director of Eugene Lang College, a division of the New School University (formerly New School for Social Research) in Manhattan, where she teaches fiction and autobiographical writing. [Source: Additional biographical information: ]


27.104 linear feet (24 containers)

Language of Materials



The collection contains materials documenting Clausen's career as feminist poet, novelist, and writer of non-fiction; her participation in feminist, social justice, anti-nuclear, prison reform, and gay rights activism; and her family life and her relationship with former partner, Elly Bulkin.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Jan Clausen donated her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2008, 2009, and 2017.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. The following changes were made in this collection: Accession 2009-S-0018, Boxes 1-8 renumbered as Boxes 16-23

Finding aid to the Jan Clausen papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Madison White, Ellice Amanna
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-10-15: Updated to conform to DACS

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063