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Identifier: MC 1400

Contemporary Women Artists Files


  • 1971-2015

Scope and Content Note

The Contemporary Women Artists Files (CWAF), an active collection, documents American women artists active since the early 1970s. It is currently approximately 21 cubic feet in size. New materials are added, and this finding aid updated, on a regular basis. Media represented include paper, photographic prints and slides, videocassettes, CD's and DVDs.

The CWAF consists of background materials related to over 1500 artists. A large number of these artists submitted materials to the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series but were not selected to exhibit. Materials include correspondence, resumes, artist statements, slides, clippings, and exhibition announcements, checklists and catalogs. The files were established in 1994 with the intention of documenting contemporary women artists on a large scale; materials submitted prior to 1994 were transferred from the Operational records of the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series retrospectively. Most of the material dates from 1980 to the present, although some goes back as far as the early 1970s.

Most of the material in the CWAF is in paper media, including a number of bound exhibition catalogs. Clippings on newsprint have been or are currently being photocopied and the originals discarded. Photographic materials consist mostly of 35mm color slides, with black-and-white and color prints, color transparencies, and black-and-white and color negatives found in less significant numbers. Videocassettes, CDs, and DVDs exist in small numbers. All materials are stored in folders, and the various media are filed together, as they were originally, to preserve the relationships between materials and the integrity of the documentation of each individual artist. The Contemporary Women Artists Files are housed in filing cabinets.


21 Cubic Feet (21 records center cartons)

Language of Materials



Access to materials available by appointment. Additional permission may be required for photocopying. Some folders may be restricted due to the inclusion of sensitive information about living individuals.


The Contemporary Women Artists Files contain various materials on over 2200 women artists active in the United States.

Administrative History of the Contemporary Women Artists Files

The Mabel Smith Douglass Library and Douglass College at Rutgers have been at the nexus of contemporary women's art since the beginning of the 1970s. This came as the result of the founding of the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series at the Douglass Library in 1971. Many individuals involved with the Series received unsolicited mailings from artists and art venues that over time accumulated in the library. The Contemporary Women Artists Files (CWAF) was established to organize and make these materials available to library users. The CWAF presently contains information on over 2200 women artists and continues to grow each day.

In 1994, Ferris Olin, curator of the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, established the Contemporary Women Artists Archive to organize and preserve any documentation supplied by women artists about themselves or by exhibition venues. Many of the artists had, through the open submissions policy of the Women Artists Series, sent materials for consideration, but were not selected for exhibition in the series. Yet, their documents were held as a record of their careers. Artist materials of this kind collected prior to 1994 were retroactively transferred to the Contemporary Women Artists Archive. In addition, exhibition announcements received from other artists or galleries were collected and maintained in individual artist files.

In 2006, the Contemporary Women Artists Archive was renamed the Contemporary Women Artists Files, so as to more accurately reflect its contents.

Related Collections

Related collections in Miriam Schapiro Archives on Women Artists, Rutgers University Libraries include the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Collection, the Lippard Women's Art Registry, the records of the Heresies Collective, Inc., the records of the New York Feminist Art Institute, and the records of the Women's Caucus for Art.

Inventory to the Contemporary Women Artists Files, 1971-2015 MC 1400
Edited Full Draft
William Hemmig, Katie Klein, and Jesse Traquair
October 2004 / Revised June 2006, May 2010, July 2012, August 2013, October 2014, and March 2015
Language of description note
Finding aid is written inEnglish.

Revision Statements

  • July 2012: New additions to collection added in.