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Identifier: R-MC 007

Susan Cavin Papers


  • 1971-1991

Scope and Content Note

The Susan Cavin papers can be divided into three main groups; first, those items relating to Cavin's activities as a scholar, teacher, and activist in the Rutgers Community. These include drafts of and correspondence relating to her dissertation, entitled An Hystorical and Cross-Cultural Analysis of Sex Ratios, Female Sexuality, and Homo-Sexual Segregation: Versus Hetero-Sexual Integration Patterns in Relation to the Liberation of Women which is available in the stacks of the Alexander library see HQ.C382 1979b. Cavin eventually published the dissertation under the title Lesbian Origins, and the collection contains a set of proofs of this version, covers and publicity materials, as well as other less extensive writings by Cavin, which are arranged in a separate series.

These shorter writings include her poetry pamphlet, Me and Them Sirens Running All Night Long, and articles on lesbian social protest, materials on the Gay and Lesbian Press Association of which Cavin was president from 1984-1985, and materials issuing out of her involvement (as New York organizer) with civil disobedience on the steps of the Supreme Court at a October 13, 1987.

Cavin's involvement with the Women's Studies program is represented in a small series of materials relating directly to her courses, and more importantly, in the Rutgers University Sexual Orientation Survey which developed out of her course "Homosexuality and Society." The survey, carried out in the spring of 1987, was instrumental in alerting the Rutgers community to the pervasive presence of homophobia on the campuses; it was also germane to the formation of the President's Select committee on Gay and Lesbian Concerns (originally called the President's Select Committee on Sexual Orientation), which forms the subject of a further series in the collection.

The activities of the President's Select Committee on Gay and Lesbian Concerns (PSCLGC) are represented here through numerous documents reporting the findings and recommendations of special task forces, press reports, agendas for meetings and various ephemera. These documents date from May 1988 through April 1991. The recommendations of the lesbian task force, the task forces on personnel benefits and services and on student life, and reports of special concerns of people of color etc. are gathered together in folder 28 at the end of this series.

Cavin also collected materials relating to gay, lesbian, and other aspects of political life on and around the campus. Documents relating directly to campus life are collected in one series, while those concerning developments in the wider gay and lesbian community form another. On-campus, the Rutgers University Lesbian and Gay alliance (RULGA) is represented through press releases and leaflets, documents in this series indicate that the activities of RULGA as well as the Rutgers University Sexual Orientation Survey contributed toward the formation of the PSCLGC.

Cavin's collection of newspapers, leaflets and other ephemera provides a small sampling of cultural, political and commercial developments in the gay and lesbian community nationwide from 1978 to 1989.

Finally, the Susan Cavin Papers contain records of Big Apple Dyke News (BAD), a New York lesbian newspaper, financial and circulation materials, artwork, and page layouts for a number of issues. The collection as a whole reflects the range and energy of Cavin's activities especially during her time as student and teacher at Rutgers.


4.0 Cubic Feet (9 manuscript boxes, 1 newspaper box)

Language of Materials



Susan Cavin has been a prolific writer and an outspoken supporter of Gay and Lesbian rights. This collection provides readers with examples of her work including information on her dissertation andwritings demonstrating her support of the Women's Studies Program at Rutgers. The collection also contains papers about Gay and Lesbian organizations and activities that Cavin was involved with at Rutgers University.

<emph render="bold">Biographical Sketch</emph>

Susan Cavin was born in Trion, Georgia, on March 18, 1948. After finishing high school in Trion in May 1966, she attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating with an interdepartmental major in sociology, history, and philosophy in 1970. In 1973 and 1978 she received her MA and PhD, respectively, in sociology from Rutgers University.

After numerous teaching assistant internships at Rutgers, Cavin moved to Poultney, Vermont, to take up a position as Assistant Professor at Green Mountain College. During her years there, from 1979-1983, she taught courses on "Marriage and the Family," "Introductory Sociology," "Social Theory," and "Women's Studies." As founder and Director of the Green Mountain College Women's Center, she also instituted the college newspaper Lines, and served as its first faculty advisor. In 1981 she was elected chairperson of the faculty and President of the Faculty Senate, and from 1982 to 1983 was voted "Outstanding Teacher of the Year" at Green Mountain College.

In 1983 Cavin moved to the New York area, serving on the board of directors of the Gay Press Association, of which she became president in 1984. It was in 1984 that her renewed association with Rutgers University began, from then until 1991 she held a number of positions as visiting assistant professor and as assistant director of Women's Studies.

Cavin's work as an intellectual and a teacher is inseparable from her identity as a lesbian and her political activism. The present collection indicates this interdependence in that one of Cavin's courses, Homosexuality and Society, formed the springboard for the launch of the Rutgers Sexual Orientation Survey, which in turn influenced the formation of the President's Select Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns, an important tool for change in the Rutgers community.

A prolific writer of articles and papers, Cavin has also published a poetry collection, Me and Them Sirens Running All Night Long. Her doctoral dissertation, An Hystorical and Cross-Cultural Analysis of Sex Ratios, Female Sexuality, and Homo-Sexual Segregation: Versus Hetero-Sexual Integration Patterns in Relation to the Liberation of Women was published in 1985 under the title Lesbian Origins. Notes and letters in the collection document changes and developments in the dissertation due to the influence of members of Cavin's committee, who asked for more empirical data to reinforce the theoretical underpinning of the work.

Cavin intiated the Rutgers Sexual Orientation Survey after a student in her course "Homosexuality and Society" brought a gun into class. Several students also complained of harassment, and at about this period Cavin saw the Yale Sexual Orientation Survey (1986), which served as a model for the work at Rutgers University. The Rutgers survey revealed that homophobia was rife on the campus and led directly the formation of the President's Select Committee on Gay and Lesbian Concerns (PSCGLC), in which Cavin was very active.

Cavin left Rutgers University in 1991 when a new director of Women's Studies was available to fill what had been Cavin's position. Clearly, Susan Cavin worked hard and effectively during her time on the faculty at Rutgers, in raising consciousness across the campus on gay and lesbian issues.

Susan Cavin has for many years edited newspapers serving the New York lesbian community. Tribad ran from 1977 to 1979, while its longer-lived successor, Big Apple Dyke News" (BAD) survived from 1981 to 1988. Cavin is currently (1993) the originator of a third paper, Radical Chick. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner, Laura Zeidenstein, and has a son, Julian Samuel Cavin Zeidenstein who was born on May 12, 1980. Since 1991 Cavin has worked as project director on a National Science Foundation grant, for a project entitled "Women in Science and Engineering" at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Arrangement Note

The papers of Susan Cavin are arranged in 8 series. Series I. is arranged in original order. Series II. is organized chronologically with some undated material placed at the end. Information within series III. is organized with Cavin's documents listed first, and student information following in subsequent folders. Series IV. files are arranged in date order, with two undated items at the end of the series. Series V. is organized in the order documents were created. Material in series VI. is arranged in original order. Series VII. contains two subseries. Tribad and BAD is arranged in original order and Big Apple Dyke (BAD) is arranged alphabetically. And lastly, series VIII., not being organically linked, is arranged in alphabetical order.

  1. I. Rutgers University Sexual Orientation Survey.
  2. II. The President's Select Committee on Gay and Lesbian Concerns (PSCLGC)
  3. III. Women's Studies Program Materials
  4. IV. Rutgers University Lesbian and Gay alliance (RULGA)
  5. V. Dissertation
  6. VI. Other Writings
  7. VII. Tribad and Big Apple Dyke News (BAD)
  8. VIII. Ephemera
Guide to the Papers of Susan Cavin, 1971-1991 R-MC 007
Edited Full Draft
Joy Holland and Christine Otto
February 2008
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

Rutgers University Libraries
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