Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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“An Obligation and a Conviction to Work for Women Less Fortunate than I Am”: Joan Dunlop, Women’s Reproductive Rights, and the Work of the Population Council

November 9, 2022

This report details my research trip to the Rockefeller Archive Center in July 2016. My research agenda was to analyse the work of the Population Council, as a case study through which to explore the ways in which American non-governmental actors could negotiate a decolonising, Cold War world. I was interested in how philanthropic organisations work as spaces determined by "values" and how these "values" might both shape and be shaped by encounters with the wider world, especially actors and communities in the Global South. My focus on the Population Council also led me to explore particularly the work of Joan Dunlop, and her role in determining American NGO-led policy towards the role of women in the Global South, particularly focusing on the issue of reproductive rights.

Joan Dunlop Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rockefeller Family; Women

Searching for Female Agency among Documents: Postwar Japanese Female Intellectuals and Their Network

May 11, 2021

Since the late 1980s and 1990s, the research field of the cultural Cold War has flourished and produced numerous works in the United States and in other countries. This development has inspired studies on Japanese culture during and after the occupation in the context of Cold War cultural policies, which, programmed and conducted by various US agencies both public and private, provided the arena of hegemonic negotiation. Representative works include: Fumiko Fujita, Amerika Bunka Gaiko to Nihon: Reisenki no Bunka to Hito no Koryu [U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era] (2015), Takeshi Matsuda, Soft Power and Its Perils: U.S. Cultural Policy in Early Postwar Japan and Permanent Dependency (2007), Yuka Moriguchi Tsuchiya, Military Occupation as Pedagogy: the U.S. Re-education and Reorientation Policy for Occupied Japan, 1945-1952 (2005). This scholarship has treated cultural policies as something functional and instrumental in the reconstruction of post-war Japanese subjectivity. In the field of American literary studies as well, this vantage point has been shared since the 2000s.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.

Charles B. Fahs Papers; John D. Rockefeller 3rd Papers; Rockefeller Family; Rockefeller Foundation

The Initiation and Development of Public Health Nursing in China: Transnational Flow of Nurses, Knowledge, and Culture

November 19, 2019

The initiation of public health nursing in China in 1920s was a result of the transnational flow of people, knowledge and culture. Transnational educational institutions and non-governmental organizations, represented by Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as by individuals, played a dominant role in shaping the initiation and development of public health in China in the 1920s to 1930s. PUMC was the hub to disseminate its founder's vision and model in public health in China through integration of education with empirical initiatives in public health. Nursing education programs of the School of Nursing at PUMC provided expertise, human resources, and leadership in public health in China from the 1920s until the beginning of the 1950s. Throughout this time, as a profession predominated by women, public health nursing served as a good example to demonstrate women's role in the transnational flow of people, knowledge, and culture.

China Medical Board, Inc.; Nursing; Women

International Foundations’ Engagement in the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women and in the Chinese Feminist Movement

November 6, 2019

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW), organized by the United Nations in Beijing in 1995, launched a new era of internationalization for the Chinese feminist movement. The conference facilitated the legitimation of non-state-led organizations and activism that advocated for women's rights, as well as gender and sexual equality. During this time, interactions between domestic feminists and international foundations increased dramatically. After the conference, Chinese feminist advocacy and mobilization expanded beyond the party-state system and gained momentum in the decade following 1995. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) investigated the engagements of the Ford Foundation (FF) in safeguarding women's rights and advocating for gender equality in China, and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) during the FWCW. This essay draws upon the preliminary findings from my archival research, focusing on the FF's activities in China relating to women and gender issues from the late 1970s to late 2000s, for which the FF archival collection at the RAC is available. The RF's sponsorship during the 1995 Conference is also included. I start with a brief introduction of my research project and materials I found helpful, then elaborate on the two foundations' activities in three sections in a diachronic order, highlighting files available at the RAC and their contribution to my dissertation research. This essay provides only a sketch of the FF and RF's engagements in China, as further investigation of the files I collected at the RAC has not yet finished.

Ford Foundation; Gender; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Building a Racial Laboratory in Hawai‘i: Knowledge and Transnationality in the Early Twentieth-Century Pacific

September 12, 2019

In the early 20th century, Hawai'i became a dynamic site of encounters between American settlers and Japanese immigrants. With the rise of the plantation economy, the white plantation oligarchs deployed various means of discipline vis-à-vis Japanese immigrants to ensure the availability of a reliable labor force. The new regime of bodily discipline mobilized a variety of institutions, including the University of Hawai'i and the Rockefeller Foundation. At the center of this emerging dynamic was a group of white home economists who, under the leadership of Carey D. Miller, investigated the immigrants' bodily features, analyzed their dietary practices, and collected data essential to understanding and managing race. My project examines how Japanese immigration provided an impetus for the rise of racial science in Hawai'i, where women and domesticity played a crucial though hitherto unacknowledged role. Historical documents at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) are essential for this investigation, as they illuminate the historical and institutional contexts within which these women operated. The letters, reports, and memoranda preserved at the RAC unveil the origin and development of a "racial laboratory" in Hawai'i, whose formation had much to do with gender, sexual, national, and imperial dynamics proliferating in the Pacific.

Anthropology; Rockefeller Foundation; Transnational

The White Slavery Controversy, Women’s Bodies, and the Making of Public Space in the United States

February 26, 2019

After John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was appointed to serve on the New York White Slavery Grand Jury, he began a long commitment to the cause of prostitution and sex trafficking. This research report outlines initial conclusions based on a review of records in the Rockefeller Archive Center for the ten years after Rockefeller's service on the grand jury. The research report summarizes findings from the archives, previews arguments deriving from the archival documents, and suggests additional future directions for research.

Bureau of Social Hygiene; Crime and Criminal Justice; Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller RG 2; Rockefeller Family; Social Welfare; Women

Visiting Nurses and the Rockefeller Foundation in Colombia, 1929-1932

January 17, 2019

Colombia and the United States strengthened their trade, scientific and cultural exchanges during the 1920s. In regards to health and medicine issues, the Rockefeller Foundation played a pivotal role between 1919 and 1945, when it conducted scientific research and financed the battle against infectious diseases, above all yellow fever and hookworm. It also encouraged the development of a public health system in Colombia by creating American-inspired institutions and training health professionals.

Medicine and Healthcare; Nursing; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Women and Medicine in Early Twentieth Century India: A Study on the Intervention of the Rockefeller Foundation (with Special Reference to Public Health Nursing)

November 6, 2018

The early twentieth century saw a shift in the perspectives and policies related to medical care in India. In place of hospital care, preventive public health initiatives became more and more important. In this context, health education for individuals including enhancing consciousness for sanitation and hygiene, and protecting maternal and child health received greater attention than before. In the changing international scenario of the early twentieth century, improvements in maternal and infant health became matters of world-wide interest. Increasing imperial rivalries and anxieties about the future health condition of the children of army men, to some extent, prompted certain measures aimed at improving the health of mothers and children through adoption of public health measures. Child welfare movements developed in different parts of the world. In India, health policies of both colonial administrative personnel and administrators in native princely states, efforts of voluntary non-governmental agencies, as well as activities of international philanthropic organisations all played crucial roles in developing these new kinds of public health sensibilities and initiatives. The views expressed by the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the role it played in this respect remain significant.

The Women of Communication Studies and Foundation Funding

October 18, 2018

The Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) at Columbia University was an important location where Paul F. Lazarsfeld and his researchers developed methods for the statistical analysis of audience interpretation of mass media messages. Although several studies exist of Lazarsfeld and the BASR, no attention has been paid to the numerous women who worked there. In fact, the very history of Communication Studies, with a few exceptions, overlooks the important role women's work played in the development of lasting theories of mediated communication, as well as methods for audience research. By 1949, seven women were listed as members of the BASR on the bureau's letterhead: Jeanette Green, Marie Jahoda, Babette Kass, Patricia L. Kendall, Rose Kohn, Louise Moses, and Patricia J. Salter. The work histories of these women show that, during the 1940s and 1950s, female social scientists negotiated the pursuit of careers as social scientists with several important pressures. These pressures included gendered expectations regarding female employment, foreclosure of entrance into tenured academic positions, anti-communism of the early Cold War, and foundation-based funding opportunities for research. This research report outlines some of the work histories of the women conducting audience research in the 1940s vis-a-vis foundation-based funding opportunities.

Mass Communications; Rockefeller Foundation; Social Sciences; Women

The Politics of Norplant: Feminism, Civil Rights, and Social Policy in the 1990s

September 27, 2018

In 1990, feminists and doctors hailed the long-term birth control device, Norplant, as the greatest advancement in birth control technology since the 1960s. By 2002, in response to an avalanche of feminist criticism and over 200 class action lawsuits, Norplant's distributor removed the contraceptive device from the U.S. market. My research, the first historical study of the drug, links the politics of Norplant to the expansion of feminism, the politicization of class action lawsuits, and the rise of neoliberalism in the 1990s.

Population and Reproductive Sciences; Rights; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Understanding Subordinate Healthcare in Colonial Madras: Shift in Women and Rural Healthcare (1918-1932)

April 26, 2018

My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC henceforth) in June 2016 was part of my doctoral research on the history of urban and rural healthcare services in colonial Madras. The collections at the RAC were important for me as I am examining health services ranging from 1880 to the 1930s, thus including a good part of the inter-war period. Once I finished my research at British and Indian archives, on the advice of my advisor, I wanted to follow with a research visit to the RAC.  The goals of my RAC research agenda consisted of two components: first, understanding colonial rule from a different perspective and, second and more importantly, consulting the diaries and personal papers of the officers who visited India, along with their official Rockefeller Foundation (henceforth RF) documentation. While writing the initial drafts of my dissertation, I became interested in understanding the relationships forged between individuals (British, Indian and also American), institutions and exchange of ideas in the single presidency of Madras. The diaries of the RF officers in India, particularly of William S. Carter, along with the records on rural health and nursing, will shape my thesis significantly by playing perfectly the role of 'informed outsiders' in this context. I have also been delighted to identify materials on women's health at the RAC, which has been an under-researched area in the context of colonial south India. All of these kinds of source materials are particularly valuable, given the scarcity of detailed reports and documents of the inter-war medical changes in colonial India.

Agrarian and Rural; Medicine and Healthcare; Rockefeller Foundation; Women

Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller: Muse of the Museum of Modern Art

March 15, 2018

"The role of women in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has been a vital one from the day the idea was first conceived," observed David Rockefeller to a small gathering in a newly dedicated gallery on the recently expanded third floor of New York's MoMA on December 7, 1987. "[And] we are here today to give thanks and praise to [an] amazing and dedicated lady who . . . since she became President of the Museum for a second time in 1972, has probably had a greater impact on the evolution of MoMA both internally and externally than any other one individual."The setting, in fact, was the dedication of a gallery designated for abstract expressionist art in whose honor the space was named, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller. Thirty years after that ceremony, thousands of patrons continue to mill through the delicately lit space, some soothed by the muted cardinal color of an outsized Barnet Newman canvas, others stirred by a Jackson Pollack oeuvre, most unaware of the singular influence of the gallery's namesake on the museum's history itself.

Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Women

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