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SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00550

Scope and Contents

The Records contain administrative and programatic files, as well as conference and meeting materials.

Files include proposals, founding documents, correspondence, administrative files, reports, strategic and program planning, website files, membership campaigns and dues lists, a membership survey, publications including the Collective Voices newsletter, meeting minutes, Loretta Ross interviews and articles, fundraising files, media kits, principles of unity and mission statements, and legal files. While most of the planning and agenda documents are for National policy, they also include planning for specific communities, including for African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latina, and Middle Eastern/Arab American women.

Specific projects or topics represented in these files include Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, the Quilt Project, the National Women's Studies Association Journal, Reproductive Justice Framework, MentorNet, Electoral Politics, Self-Help Agreements, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, and the "We're Wonderful" project. Also included are the files of various committees, including the Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Policy Committee, Organizing and Mobilizing Committee, and Strategic Communications Committee.

There is also a significant amount of material related to the SisterSong national membership meetings, conferences, and workshops, including background information and audiovisual recordings. Conferences and meetings include the Beijing Conference on Women, Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights National Conference, National Conference "Let's Talk About Sex", Reproductive Health in Women of Color: An Exploratory Symposium, International Women's Health Meeting (IWHM), AMANITARE Conference, Funders' Network on Population-Reproductive Health Community Gathering, International Conference on Population and Development, March for Women's Lives, Women's Global Network For Reproductive Rights, Women's Global Strategies for the 21st Century, and Grassroots Radio Conference. Internal meetings include Management Circle Meetings, Reproductive Justice 101 Training, Staff Self-Help Retreats.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1994 - 2012


Language of Materials

Latina file and "Collectives Voices Vol. 2, Ed. 5" (Box 11) includes materials in Spanish.

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

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to unpublished works of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in these records; 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 the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, 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

The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective is a network of local, regional and national grassroots agencies working for reproductive justice for five primary ethnic populations/indigenous nations in the United States: African American, Arab American/Middle Eastern, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latina, and Native American/Indigenous.

The organization emerged from a series of symposia in New York City and Savannah in 1997-1998 convened by Reena Marcelo, then a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation’s Reproductive Health Program, and Luz Rodriguez, then Executive Director of Latina Roundtable on Health and Reproductive Rights. The purpose of these gatherings was to bring together women of color reproductive health educators, activists, and policymakers to identify the key challenges grassroots organizations were experiencing in reproductive health work. Attendees decided to use the opportunity of these meetings to form a national collective of independent organizations that would help them all to achieve greater impact, and SisterSong was born with Luz Rodriguez as its first leader. The project was initially funded by the Ford Foundation and its mission was to educate women of color and policy makers on reproductive and sexual health and rights, and to work towards the access of health services, information and resources that are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

In its early history, SisterSong expanded to include other organizations led by women of color and to include individual women of color members. Organizational members focused on issues including HIV/AIDS services, midwifery, support for incarcerated women, health screenings, advocacy for abortion and contraception, research, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol treatment, and treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. After several years of work to develop the collective, SisterSong hosted its first national conference in November 2003 at Spelman College in Atlanta with over 600 women of color in attendance.

SisterSong was a volunteer-run network until 2005, when they opened a national office in Atlanta and hired their first staff with funding from the Ford Foundation and the Moriah Fund. The first staff leader was Loretta Ross, who served as National Coordinator from 2005 to 2012. Instead of a board of directors, SisterSong was led by a Management Circle of leaders from each ethnic community in the Collective: Indigenous, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latinx. In 2006 SisterSong incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit. In 2007 the collective officially changed its name to SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and purchased The Motherhouse in Atlanta, the historic first home of the National Black Women’s Health Project, which remains the organization’s headquarters today. SisterSong is strategically sited in the Deep South because they feel that this is where the rights of women of color are most threatened.

In 2012, National Coordinator Loretta Ross decided to return to her roots as a scholar and thought leader working within academia. With Ross’s exit, SisterSong shifted from the Management Circle model to a conventional Board of Directors model and named Monica Raye Simpson, then the organization’s Development Director, as Interim Executive Director in 2012 and Executive Director in 2013.

In 2014, SisterSong selected four strategic priority areas: reproductive justice training; centering black women’s leadership and issues; building Southern synergy; and using arts and culture to reach new audiences and eradicate bigotry.

In 2016, SisterSong opened a second office in North Carolina focused on building a state-based reproductive justice movement there.

Four Strategic Priority Areas

  1. Reproductive justice training to build the capacity of reproductive justice advocates and groups and to bring the framework into mainstream use
  2. Centering black women’s leadership and issues because SisterSong believes that black people are the most maligned in the US
  3. Building Southern synergy to increase reproductive justice collaboration across the region, which SisterSong asserts is critical because the South has powerful opponents of reproductive freedom linking their agenda to Southern culture, while Southern reproductive justice advocates are under-resourced and stretched thin working across large geographical areas
  4. Using arts and culture to reach new audiences and eradicate bigotry within US culture


11.917 linear feet (13 containers)

5.97 Gigabytes


Reproductive rights advocacy and healthcare reform organization. Conference materials, background information, and video recordings from the SisterSong National Membership Meetings.


The collection is divided into two series, one covering the conference and meeting files, and the other covering project and administrative files.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Audiovisual material in this collection has been digitized, but is not available online. 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 access to digital copies.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, starting in 2006.


In 2020, raw footage related to N’Dieye Gray Danavall's 2004 documentary Listen Up! on the March for Women's Lives and to the 2004 Membership Meeting was moved from this collection into its own collection. While the documentary was sponsored by SisterSong, it includes footageofmany other organizations that were involved in the March. Additionally, because it was donated by Danavall and not by SisterSong, archives staff decided it made more sense as a seperate, though related, collection.

Madison White, the processing archivist, also weeded blank av, memoribilia, duplicate materials, and news clippings from the collection in 2020.

Additional Formats

Original video of "March for Women's Lives" has been digitized for research use and is available online (Smith campus only) Playlist available online:

Related Materials

The Sophia Smith Collection also holds the papers of many organizers involved with SisterSong, including: Luz Martinez papers, Loretta Ross papers, Luz Rodriguez papers, and Nkenge Touré papers. Voices of Feminism Oral History Project (see Ross; Rodriquez; Martinez; and Toure) also feautures SisterSong members. Additionally, SisterSong's work is very closely aligned with the Black Women's Health Imperative Records. Lastly, this collection is related to the N'Dieye Gray Danavall film footage, which contains footage of a SisterSong meeting recorded by Danavall and features members of SisterSong in Danavall's Listen Up! documentary footage. SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective records also includes files related to the Listen Up! documentary.

Processing Information

In 2020, student assistant Sky Karp processed the collection. Raw footage related to N’Dieye Gray Danavall's 2004 documentary Listen Up! on the March for Women's Lives and to the 2004 Membership Meeting was moved from this collection into its own collection. The remaining material was divided into two series, rehoused, and described in a finding aid.

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Finding Aid to the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective records
Enhanced Finding Aid (Completed)
Burd Schlessinger and Sky Karp
2009, 2019
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 (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:20-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-03-05: Updated to reflect new processing arrangement
  • 2020-07-01: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063