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Mary Ryan papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00761

Scope and Contents

Professional academic papers including teaching materials such as syllabi, course readings, department reports, and lecture notes; materials associated with Ryan's multiple publications including research notes, drafts, correspondence with publishers, and royalty statements.


  • 1968-2015


Language of Materials

Collection is written in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections ( at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Ryan] has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, 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 instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Ryan, 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

Mary Ryan was born and raised in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin where she attended the local Catholic schools. In 1967, she earned a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she was active in the Civil Rights and the anti-war movements. She never joined the SDS chapter on campus, in part because of the sexism she saw within that organization. Her senior undergraduate thesis, written at the height of the Vietnam War, was on the history of the peace movement. Originally interested in politics and intending to major in political science, Ryan was encouraged by her history professors at Wisconsin, including the venerable Merle Curti, to consider the field that would become her life's work. She went on to earn her Master's degree at Wisconsin in 1968 and her PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1971. Mary Ryan quickly established herself as one of the leaders of the burgeoning field of women's history and a pioneer in the new field of women's studies. She was very much part of the process of legitimizing both fields. She was a member of the collective that founded "Feminist Studies" in 1972,"the first scholarly journal in women's studies and remains a flagship publication with a record of breaking new ground in the field"( Ryan's award-winning scholarship has been equally instrumental in establishing women's history as a credible field of study. She has published numerous articles and seven books, including the now classic,"Womanhood in America:New Viewpoints"(1975, rev., 1979, 1983);"Cradle of the Middle Class: The Families of Oneida County, New York, 1790-1864"(1982), winner of both the Bancroft and the Berkshire Prize;"Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880"(1990); and,"Mysteries of Sex: Tracing Women and Men through American History"(2006). As one of the narrators in the"Living U.S. Women's Historians Oral History Project"(also held by the Sophia Smith Collection), Ryan gives voice to the struggles that so many women academics faced in the 1970s and 1980s as they fought to establish themselves and their field.


13 linear feet (11 boxes.)


The collection contains professional academic papers and materials associated with publications of Mary Ryan, Women's History and Women's Studies scholar.

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.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has a container list that is available upon request by contacting

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was gifted by Mary Ryan in 2015.

Related Materials

Living U.S. Women's Historians Oral History Project



Finding aid to the Mary Ryan papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Madison White
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-10-18: Updated to conform to DACS
  • 2020-03-20: Added boxes 1-11

Repository Details

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

Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063