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Annette Kar Baxter papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00258

Scope and Contents

The Annette Kar Baxter Papers consist of 30 linear feet, dating from 1905 to 1984, and primarily document her professional and public life. Types of material include correspondence, memoranda, speeches, publications, articles, photographs, address books, agendas, organization files, bibliographies, lecture notes, research material, manuscripts, minutes, newsletters, notes, and journal and newspaper articles.

Baxter's papers provide a rich and detailed view of the life of an academic--at both the departmental and college-wide level- and a woman who combined career and motherhood. Baxter filled her days with committee meetings, student recommendations, and inter-departmental disputes; she even entertained her students in her home on a regular basis. She found time to research and write and speak on a wide range of topics, even as she made an effort to spend summers away from the city with her family. At the forefront of emerging American and women's studies, her correspondence, writing, teaching, and subject files reveal the thrills and frustrations that come with advancing new disciplines, while advocating traditional, single-sex educational programs.

While the bulk of the papers date from 1943 to 1983, and focus on Baxter's academic career, the collection also contains material related to her home life. James Baxter's writings, correspondence, and alumni activities are fairly well represented in SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS and correspondence with the rest of the family can be found in SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE.

Although the series designations flow naturally from the types of materials within the collection, significant portions needed to be rearranged because a specific order was not discernable. As the chair of two departments, Baxter often had numerous copies of materials. She also kept home and work files for important work-related matters that needed to be sorted through and integrated. Correspondence files were scattered throughout the collection, and sometimes were arranged chronologically, sometimes segregated between personal and professional, and sometimes not arranged at all. Other areas of the collection, however, such as her class notes while a student and her research notes for writing projects remain very near her original order. For example, in her unfinished book, Foreign Views of American Women, one can see which items she decided to discard and why. Also, while her class files were purged of social security numbers and grades, these files remain in much the same arrangement as she kept them, by class and year.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1850 - 1988


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection, with the following exceptions: Family correspondence is closed until 2025; some items in the biographical series are closed until 2025; correspondence with Darline Levy and Ann Fagan is closed until 2035. A small amount of Barnard College material is closed as well, some until 2012, and the rest until 2032 or 2057 (as noted in container listing).

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Adrienne Baxter has assigned the copyright in Annette Baxter's 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 Baxter, 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 / Historical

Annette Kar Baxter was born on 12 November 1926 in New York, New York. She attended New York University for one year before transferring to Barnard College. In 1947 she received an A.B. from Barnard, and began working full-time as an editorial assistant at Random House, a position that she began on a part time basis her senior year. In the fall she returned to school, earning an A.M. from Smith College in 1948 and another A.M. from Radcliffe College in 1949. She worked as an assistant curator for the collection of regional history at Cornell University from 1949 to 1951. She enrolled in the Ph.D. program in American Civilization at Brown University, where she was a Carnegie Teaching Fellow for the academic year 1951-52. She then began her life-long career at Barnard, working at first as a lecturer and then as an associate in the history department. She served as the executive secretary for the University Seminar on American Civilization at Columbia from 1953-59, and served as the secretary for the American Studies Bibliography Project of the American Studies Association from 1953-56. In 1955, she married psychiatrist James E. Baxter. Her first child, Justin McDonald, was born in 1959, and her daughter, Adrienne Marshall, was born in 1962.

She received her Ph.D. from Brown in 1958 and was promoted to the status of lecturer in the History Department at Barnard. Two years later she became an associate in History. In 1966 she was appointed as an assistant professor of history and was quickly promoted to associate professor status. She reached full professorship in 1971, and in 1975 had the honor of being one of a handful of women to be awarded an endowed chair, named for Adolph and Effie Ochs.

Annette Baxter was a pioneer in the field of women's studies, teaching one of the earliest women's history classes to undergraduates in 1966. Her course served as a model for many future classes at other institutions. She remained involved in a wide variety of activities at Barnard throughout her career, including serving as an advisor to the class of 1962, membership on the Board of Trustees, regularly participating in the Seven College Conference, advising the Thursday Noon Meetings, and playing a vital role in the creation and expansion of the Women's Center at Barnard. She was acting chair of the American Studies Program in 1960-61 and 1963-64, and was made permanent chair of the department in 1967; she also served as chair of the history department from 1974 to 1983.

In addition to her career at Barnard, Baxter involved herself in many other organizations. She served on the Board of Trustees for Conference in Theology for College and University Faculty, Kirkland College (Clinton, New York) and Middlesex School (Concord, Massachusetts). She was a consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, National Council of Women, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. She served on committees for the American Association of University Women, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Studies Association, and many others. She participated in panels and gave speeches on the value of women's history and women's education. Baxter published numerous book reviews and articles, and edited several series on women's autobiographies and women's studies. Her books include To Be a Woman in America, 1850-1930; Inwood House, 1839-1980; and a biography, Henry Miller, Expatriate, as well as four books in progress when she died in 1983. She has been called "one of the nation's foremost authorities on the history of women."

Throughout her career, Annette Baxter remained dedicated to the cause of women's education, women's studies, and women's rights. She fought to keep Barnard independent from Columbia. In 1979-80, "the politics and problems of the Barnard History Department in its struggle for survival in Columbia University" consumed much of her energy. In the prime of her career, Annette Baxter died in a fire that also killed her husband, at their summer home on 18 September 1983. She was fifty-six years old.


29.772 linear feet (73 containers)


Professor of American Studies and Women's Studies. The papers include personal and professional correspondence; writings and notes; and teaching materials; research and organization files focusing primarily on her years as a professor at Barnard College and her administrative responsibilities there. Her papers reveal the thrills and frustrations that come with advancing new disciplines, American Studies and Women's Studies, while advocating traditional, single-sex educational programs. Significant correspondents include Marilyn Bender, Karen Blair, Bill Chafe, Jill Conway, Paula Fass, Estelle Freedman, Lynn Gordon, Jacqueline Hall, Eva Hansl, Iola Haverstick, Elizabeth Janeway, Linda Kerber, Lillian Schlissel, Ann Firor Scott, Barbara Sicherman, Catherine Stimson, and Barbara Welter, and Paulette Williams (Ntozake Shange).


This collection is organized into seven series:


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Adrienne Baxter donated her mother's papers to the Sophia Smith Collection from 1984 to 1989.

Processing Information

Processed by Kara M. McClurken, 2005.

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. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Annette Kar Baxter papers
Finding Aid
Kara M. McClurken
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-10-12: mnsss184 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:12-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-12-03: Box 70 added to description and extent updated
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063