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Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00519

Scope and Contents

The Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite Papers consist of 16 linear ft. dating from 1917 to 2003. Types of materials include diaries, photographs, legal and financial documents, reports, case studies, articles, newspaper clippings, charts and statistics, notes, newsletters, printed materials, brochures, pamphlets, and memorabilia.

The bulk of the papers date from the early 1950s through the late 1990s and focus on Satterthwaite's career as an obstetrician/gynecologist and internationally-known expert in maternal child health and family planning. Major topics found in these papers include the development of modern methods of birth control, notably the Pill, the IUD, Depo-Provera, and permanent sterilization for both men and women; infant and maternal morbidity and mortality in developing countries, particularly as related to pregnancy, childbirth, and multiple, unplanned pregnancies; the prevention and treatment of diarrhea, especially among children; and population control as a global priority. Satterthwaite concluded early in her career that family planning and maternal and child health were critical to world economic and political stability, and her efforts to address these issues are well-documented throughout the collection.

While Satterthwaite's letters to her husband are intimate and personal, her correspondence to family and friends is intended for a broader audience. It offers rich insight into daily life in foreign countries, including observations about local cultures, as well as the particulars of Satterthwaite's daily life. The correspondence of Satterthwaite's brother, Robert, who lived and worked for many years in Central and South America, is also of interest.

The diaries provide a detailed and intelligent account of Satterthwaite's many years of practice as a doctor, medical advisor, program director, and consultant to various world health organizations. They cover the time period beginning with her appointment as Resident Medical Advisor to the Population Council in Thailand in1966, through completion of her term of employment as Program Adviser to the Bangladesh Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception in 1990. The remaining diaries, dating from mid-1990 to 1994, tend towards brevity and are generally concerned with the more mundane aspects of post-retirement daily life. This series also contains Satterthwaite's published articles, speeches and unpublished essays, as well as sermons by Rev. G. Arthur Canaday.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1917-2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-2003


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Adaline P. Satterthwaite's unpublished works; 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 Adaline P. Satterthwaite, 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

Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite was born on 6 February 1917 in Berkeley, California to Jessie Larimore and John Lewis Pendleton. She graduated magna cum laude from Pomona College in 1937 with a B.S. in chemistry, and earned her M.D. degree in obstetrics and gynecology in 1942 from the University of California at San Francisco. She met her future husband, William Satterthwaite, also a doctor, in 1944 while working in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the couple had one son, David. In 1947 Satterthwaite and her family traveled to China as medical missionaries where she was involved in Barefoot Doctors, a UNICEF program that trained villagers to administer basic medical care to their communities. She continued her work in China following the death of William Satterthwaite in 1949, returning to the U.S. in 1951. From 1952 to 1967 she again lived in Puerto Rico, working as resident physician at Ryder Memorial Hospital, and it was during this time that she was struck by the plight of women who had more children than they could support. She subsequently became involved in running some of the first clinical trials for oral contraceptives, and her data was instrumental in the FDA decision to approve the Pill in 1960. Satterthwaite also conducted pioneering research developing the intrauterine device (IUD). As she became more expert in the realm of maternal child health and international family planning, Satterthwaite was employed by various organizations, including the Ford Foundation, the Population Council of the Rockefeller Foundation, and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities under whose auspices she lived and worked in Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, and Venezuela. In the early 1980s she shifted from full-time work to short-term consulting projects in such countries as Mauritius, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, and Nepal.

In the late 1980s, upon retiring and relocating to Langhorne, Pennsylvania to be near her son and his family, Satterthwaite became an active volunteer in numerous organizations. She served on the board of directors of the Institute for Development Training, the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood of Bucks County, the Newtown Friends School, and the Bucks County YWCA. She was also involved with the American Public Health Association, the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Meals on Wheels, and the Middletown Society of Friends. She used her fluency in Spanish to translate for patients at local hospitals, and as a tutor for the Latino Leadership Alliance of Bucks County. In 2002 Satterthwaite received the Bucks County Women's History Award for her contributions to the community. Her professional awards included the National Council for International Health Award, the Women's Health Award of the American Medical Women's Association, and the Margaret Sanger Award of Planned Parenthood of Bucks County. Satterthwaite published widely in professional journals throughout her career. She died in 2005.


15.772 linear feet (33 containers)

.001 Gigabytes (1 floppy disk)


Physician; Birth control advocate. The papers include extensive correspondence, diaries, medical records and reports, photographs, writings, and subject files pertaining to Satterthwaite's career as a physican, birth control pioneer, and internationally renowned expert in family planning. The collection is rich in materials documenting Satterthwaite's work in family planning in Puerto Rico, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and China.


This collection is organized into five series:

  2. II. CORRESPONDENCE (1923-2001)
  3. III. WRITINGS (1958-2000)
  5. V. SUBJECT FILES (1956-2000)

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection includes content that was received from the donor in digital form and is not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2005 by her son, David Satterthwaite.

Processing Information

Processed by Burd Schlessinger, 2011

Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite papers
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Burd Schlessinger.
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 (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:19-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2022-06-01: Migrated content from floppy disk to preservation storage; added description to finding aid

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063