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Identifier: MC 1485

Elsa Honig Fine collection


  • 1949 - 2006
  • Majority of material found within 1973 - 2006

Scope and Contents

This collection contains material and documents primarily related to Elsa Honig Fine's professional work as an art historian, writer, and founder of the Woman's Art Journal.

The bulk of the collection is comprised of material relating Fine's work as editor and founder of the Womean's Art Journal. Editorial correspondence from 1978 to 2006 make up the bulk of the material and document research, writing, and what goes into publishing the Woman's Art Journal from this time. Subscription lists, reviews, photo proofs, and material regarding the publication of Volume 25, No. 1 of the Women's Art Journal. Furthermore, there are a number of items documenting an exhibit held in 1989 and 1990 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Women's Art Journal. This exhibition was called American Women Artsts: The 20th Century, and was shown in Knoxville, Tennessee andd Bayside, New York. Please see the scope and content note for the Women's Art Journal series for more information.

The writings series primarily contains material related to the writing and publishing of Fine's book, Women & Art: A History of Women Painters and Sculptors From the Renaissance to the 20th Century, which was published in 1978. Material included here are drafts of the chapters, photo proofs of images used in the book, research, information on the contract and royalties, and reviews of the book. Also included in this series are other writings by Fine, including her dissertation, Education and the Afro-American Artist, personal correspondence with some hand-drawn cards, and information on and an essay about an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit that was filed by Fine in the 1970s.

This collection also includes material related to conferences that were attended by Fine, lectures given, and honors Fine received. Material includes conference programs, speeches given, and slides presented, indicating and showing some of the professional involvement of Fine in the art world.

Furthermore, this collection contains material related to research conducted by Fine about women artists. This material includes articles, correspondence, and photocopies of two books that were published in the 19th Century about women artists: Women Artists in All Ages and Countries, originally published in 1859, by Elizabeth Ellet, and English Female Artist, originally published in 1876, by Ellen C. Clayton.

Of note, there are a number of catalogs documenting exhibitions of women artists during the 1970s and 1980s. This includes catalogs of solo exhibitions as well as catalogs of group exhibitions, noteably of women's art exhibitons. While not an exhaustive collection of catalogs from this time, it is an interesting documentation of the shows attended or known about by Fine at this time, especially considering the Women's Art Journal was founded during this time. There are catalogs throughout the collection, noteably in the editorial correspondence and Women's Caucus for Art series, not just in the catalog series.

Also included in this collection are material related to the Women's Caucus for Art (WCA). This includes Honor Awards catalogs and information about a monograph created by Fine for the WCA on the practices around teaching about women and art history. The Honor Awards catalogs range from 1979 and continue through 2003. Please note that not all catalogs are represented here. In late 1970s and early 1980s, Fine compiled a compilation of syllabi and articles that "describe the rich variety of active women's studies programs that relate to the field of art and art history." A draft of this compilation, titled Women's Studies and the Arts is included in the Women's Caucus for Art series. Material found here include copyright registration, fliers, correspondence regarding republishing, and a draft of the monograh with syllabi and course outlines. This creates an interesting snapshot of how art history of women artists was being taught around the US at the time.


18.5 Linear Feet (40 Manuscript Boxes, 1 Half-Manuscript Box, 1 Oversize Flat Box)

Language of Materials

In English

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions; advanced notice required to consult collection.


Documents primarily her founding and editorship of the Woman's Art Journal. Includes editorial correspondence with authors, articles, photocopies of 19th century books regarding English female artists and American women artists, awards and honors documentation, and Women in Art material. Contains catalogs, letters to artists, authors, and collectors, public relations material, reviews, videotapes, and photographs from the American Women Artists exhibition. Also documents her research for two books on women artists, Women in Art and the Education and the Afro-American Artist.

Biographical / Historical

Elsa Honig Fine was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. She received a BFA in painting from Syracuse University in 1951. Fine married and had children during the 1950s, but felt a yearning to return to school, earn an advanced degree, and train art teachers. This goal formed due to a lacking Fine found in her children's art teachers at their school. Fine recieved a Masters in Education, with a focus on art education, from Tyler College of Fine Arts, Temple University in 1967. Her focus then shifted from wanting to train art teachers, to art history and she earned a Doctorate of Education, with a focus on curriculum and instruction and minor in art history and history, from the University of Tennessee in 1970. The dissertation she wrote while earning her Doctorate became her first published book, The Afro-American Artist: A Search for Identity.

For several years following, Fine taught at Knoxville College, an HBCU. In the mid-1970s, Fine filed a discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the University of Tennessee when they hired a male professor over Fine, despite the male professor using Fine's book in the course in question. While Fine lost this suit, she was able to find a sense of community and understanding among other women who had had similar experiences.

It was around this time that Fine became particularly interested in the representation of women in art history and the art world. She noticed the lack of documentation on women artists as she was researching. It is from this research that Fine's next book, Women and Art: A History of Women Painters and Sculptors From the Renaissance to the 20th Century, emerged. This book, published in 1978, was part of a growing feminist art movement.

In the late-1970s, two prominent periodicals that focused on women artists ceased publication. The Feminist Art Journal ran from 1972 to 1977, and Womanart ran from 1976-1978. This gap helped inspire the need for a new feminist journal that focused on women artists and art history. Elsa Honig Fine began working on a new publication, and in May 1980, the Women's Art Journal's first issue was published. The goals of this publication include being a space for feminist readings of art history and the contemporary art world, as well as developing scholarly articles about women artists from the past and the present.

The Women's Art Journal is the longest-running feminist art journal. In 1989 and 1990, the American Women Artist Exhibition was held as a celebration of the 10th Anniversary of publication of the journal. The exhibition was shown in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Fine was based, and in Bayside, New York. In 2006, Fine stepped down as editor of the Women's Art Journal. Continuation of publication of the journal was in question, but with community support, the publication lived on with Joan Marter and Margaret Barlow as co-editors. Publication of the Women's Art Journal continues through the present.


This collection is arranged into five series, the first two of which are further arranged into subseries:

  • Women's Art Journal
    • Editorial Correspondence
    • Subscription Lists
    • Reviews and Mailings
    • American Women Artists Exhibition
    • Vol. 25, No. 1
    • Photo Proofs
  • Writings
    • Women and Art
    • Other Writings
  • Conferences, Lectures, & Honors
  • Research Material
  • Catalogs
  • Women's Caucus for Art

Original Order of the material has primarily been maintained, where possible. Please see arrangement notes for each series for more information.

There are catalogs throughout the collection, noteably in the editorial correspondence and Women's Caucus for Art series, as well as in the catalog series. In order to best maintain the original order of the material, the catalogs from elsewhere in the collection remain where they were filed by Fine, instead of consolidated into one series.

Guide to the Elsa Honig Fine collection
Kate Van Riper
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English