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Rosalind Petchesky papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00639

Scope and Contents

Extensive documentation of Petchesky's long involvement in reproductive rights and health, sexual rights, women's rights and gender equality, population control, global justice and economic justice, and womens studies and gender studies in academia. Includes files on her work with NARAL, Fourth World Women's Conference (including follow-up conferences), International Conference on Population and Development, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, International Reproductive Rights Research Advocacy Group, Women's Environment and Development Organization, Reproductive Health Matters, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, World Summit on Social Development, World Social Forums (Philippines and India), International Conference on Women, Gender and Law (Cuba), and Global Call to Action Against Poverty. The collection also contains Petechesky's writings, including her M.A. thesis, Judicial Remedies for Private Parties Against Illegal State Acts Under European Community Law; materials pertaining to her PhD dissertation and several of her books; lectures and speeches; and published articles and book chapters.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1959 - 2022


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, Petchesky has retained copyright until her death in her works donated to Smith College. 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 Petchesky, 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

Rosalind Petchesky is a political scientist and activist, producing prominent works on political theory around transnational feminism and reproductive justice and sexual rights. Her career includes nearly 50 years of teaching, of which twenty-five were spent at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of Political Science. She is also a founding member of the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA), the successor of the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CESA) and a response to the passage of the Hyde Amendment.

Driven by activism in her youth while growing up in a Jewish family in Tulsa, Oklahoma and witnessing racism and the effects of Zionism as a teenager while on a youth trip to Israel, Petchesky participated in the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Government from Smith College, graduating summa cum laude in 1964.

While earning her M.A. and PhD from Columbia University, Rosalind Petchesky was part of a group of student protestors in 1968 who demanded the university use an unoccupied mansion to provide an alternative community childcare center which operated for ten years. With CARASA, she worked within networks of other feminists and reproductive justice advocates throughout the 1970s and 80s to connect discussion and action around abortion to a much broader range of other health and social justice issues. This work included ending sterilization abuse and providing maternity leave, full access to health care, childcare, safe birth control, sex education, gender equality and sexual rights for LGBTQI persons, youth, and cis women.

Petchesky has written books on the gender, macroeconomic and biopolitical aspects of these issues transnationally and in the United States, Uganda, Haiti, and contexts of war and displacement. She has collaborated in research and advocacy, including at the United Nations conferences of the mid-1990s, with the International Reproductive Rights Research Action Group (IRRRAG, which she founded in 1995), Sexuality Policy Watch based in Rio de Janeiro, the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies and the International Women’s Health Coalition, among others.

Her landmark book, Abortion and Woman’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom (1990 revised) was cited by the United States Supreme Court in its 1992 decision upholding Roe v. Wade (Planned Parenthood of Eastern Pennsylvania v. Casey). In 1995, Petchesky was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (commonly known as the genius award).

Since her retirement from teaching in 2013, Rosalind Petchesky has worked intensively with the New York City chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, participated in two delegations to Palestine, and co-edited/co-authored the book, A Land With A People: Palestinians and Jews Confront Zionism (2021).


35.167 linear feet (35 containers)

Language of Materials



The collection contains extensive documentation of Rosalind Petchesky's long involvement in reproductive rights and health, sexual rights, women's rights and gender equality, population control, global justice and economic justice, and women's studies and gender studies in academia.


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.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Rosalind Petchesky in 2009 and 2022.

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-0058, Boxes 1-2 renumbered as Boxes 24-25

Finding aid to the Rosalind Petchesky papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Madison White
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
  • 2020-04-05: Added accessions 09S-36 and 09S-58, updated dates

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063