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Howard Madison Parshley Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00064

Scope and Contents

Collection contains biographical information, articles, correspondence, photographs, published works, notes and translations. Notable correspondents include Adelaide Cromwell and Margaret Sanger.


  • 1913 - 1991


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

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; 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 Smith College, 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

Howard Madison Parshley was a professor at Smith from 1917 until 1952, and the chairman of the Zoology Department for many years. His early specialization in entomology broadened to include studies of genetics, reproduction and human sexuality. At Smith he taught classes in general zoology, genetics/reproduction and entomology. His publications included books, reviews and more than 300 articles in scientific as well as nonscientific journals. His books include Science and Good Behavior, The Science of Human Reproduction, and A Survey of Biology. Parshley was recognized as an international authority on the Hemiptera-Heteroptera and was editor of the General Catalogue of the Hemiptera. Parshley wrote the screenplay and co-starred with Clarence Darrow, the well-known evolutionist of the Scopes trial, in the documentary film, "The Mystery of Life," which was filmed and released in 1931. His fellow faculty called him a "pioneer in the application of the scientific outlook to the behavior of man." A talented musician and music-lover, for decades he played the double bass in the Smith College Orchestra, in the Pioneer Valley Symphony and in the professional Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Born to a pianist and a Baptist minister in Hallowell, Maine in 1884, Parshley grew up in eastern New York. With a strong classical education from the Boston Latin School (1901-1905) he went on to study at Harvard University, achieving an A.B. (1909), an A.M. (1910) and an Sc.D (1917). Concurrent with these studies Parshley also attended the New England Conservatory of Music. He married Nancy Fredricson in 1910. From 1911 to 1914 he taught zoology at the University of Maine in Orono. The Parshley's son, Thomas Fredricson Parshley was born in 1912 and their daughter, Elsa Parshley Brown, Smith '35 was born in 1914.

In 1917, Parshley accepted a position at Smith as assistant professor of zoology. He soon became professor and later chairman of the Department. He began translating into English what is now called "The Feminist Bible," Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking and controversial Le Deuxieme Sexe, in November 1949. During his work, he suffered a minor heart attack in 1952. Shortly after the publication of his translation of The Second Sex, and the completion of his translation of a French zoology book on mammals, Parshley died of a second heart attack on May 19, 1953. Parshley's translation of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex is still in print and widely used by Women's Studies programs throughout the English-speaking world.

[Biographical note prepared in cooperation with Elsa Parshley Brown]


1.104 linear feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



Professor, zoology, translator, The Second Sex. Contains, biographical information, articles, correspondence, photographs, published works, notes and translations. Notable correspondents include Adelaide Cromwell and Margaret Sanger.


This collection is organized into four series:
  1. I. Biographical
  2. II. Photographs
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Publications

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Second Sex manuscript and related materials were donated by Professor Parshley's daughter, Elsa Parshley Brown, Smith class of 1935. All other materials are from various sources at Smith College.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.
Finding aid to the Howard Madison Parshley Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by manosca.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca64 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-12: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063