of a Political Life: Harman Papers in the SSC
-- for research purposes or simple curiosity -- in the myriad
details of operation of the modern United States Congress
will have at their disposal an extensive compendium of materials
to peruse thanks to the donation by U.S. Representative Jane
Lakes Harman ’66 of her papers to the college’s
Sophia Smith Collection (SSC).
Harman, who will
deliver the commencement address during this year’s
exercises on Sunday, May 21, recently donated an array of
documents from her first three terms in Congress -- some 270
boxes worth of papers. And that’s only the first installment.
Harman papers are a gold mine to students, particularly government
majors,” says Karen Kukil, reference archivist in the
SSC, who is organizing the papers and curating an exhibition.
“They will be able to see firsthand how Congress works,
particularly the 103rd through the 105th congresses,”
those in which Harman first served, from 1992 to 1998, representing
her Southern California district.
glean, for example, the multi-step process of the path of
a bill from its introduction through to ratification, Kukil
explains, or gather details about governmental actions during
the Clinton presidency.
in future political careers might pore through the Harman
papers for inspiration, says Kukil. “You can see how
she kept building on her various experiences. One of the most
interesting things about these papers is that you’re
able to trace what it takes to become a Congresswoman. Jane
Harman is a role model for students who are interested in
Kukil is curating
an exhibition, of selections
from the papers, which will open on Saturday, May 20, at 4
p.m., in the Sophia Smith Collection, Alumnae Gymnasium. Harman
will give brief remarks at 4:30 p.m. The exhibition borrows
its name from an article on Harman in the 2005 Smith Alumnae
Quarterly by Karin Fischer ’96.
will include some 75 items, such as photographs from Harman’s
youth and her political life, published papers, Congressional
writings, speech scripts, letters, and other documents. Photos
in the exhibition of Harman with President Jimmy Carter, Chinese
President Jiang Zemin, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, South
African President Nelson Mandela, and other world leaders
illustrate the breadth of her political service and the prominence
to which the Congresswoman has risen. By contrast, photos
of Harman visiting public schools and interacting with citizens
from her district underscore her commitment to remaining close
to her constituency.
Part of the exhibition
will also be displayed in the Morgan Gallery in the Neilson
Jane Harman began
her political life in the early 1970s as a legislative director
to U.S. Senator John Tunney, a California Democrat. In 1977,
she was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet in the Carter
administration. Harman practiced law until she was elected
to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992.
Harman left office
in 1998 to run for governor of California (unsuccessfully),
and was re-elected to Congress in 2000. She has since become
a leading Congressional expert on terrorism and security issues,
and is the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence. Harman received an honorary degree
from Smith in 1994.
papers include a vast array of correspondence, reports and
research, articles, photographs, videos and audiotapes. The
collection is arranged in nine categories: biographical materials,
professional activities, political activities, legislative
files, constituent services, media activities, office administration,
photographs, and audiovisual materials.
One area of particular
strength in the papers is Harman’s consistent and tireless
support of women’s rights, says Kukil, including bills
she introduced supporting abortion rights. Other issues of
focus in the papers include defense and intelligence, public
education, energy conservation and progressive environmental
policies, space sciences, and tax law.
donation is the most extensive catalog of political papers
in the Sophia Smith Collection, says Sherrill Redmon, director
of the SSC. It is likely to remain so as Harman continues
adding the papers that document her distinguished career.