Elizabeth Fee papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Elizabeth Fee (December 11, 1946-October 17, 2018) was a professor, historian, Chief of the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division, and major figure in the history of science, medicine, and public health during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Born in Northern Ireland, Fee was the daughter of John Fee (1910-1995), a Methodist missionary, and Deirdre Fee (1915-1984), an artist. John Fee was born in County Longford, Ireland to an Irish Protestant family. In 1923, the family relocated to County Armagh in Northern Ireland, along with many other Protestant families, due to the onset of civil unrest and anti-British sentiment in Ireland. Early in his education, Fee was inspired to become a missionary. He went on his first service mission in the mid-1930s and continued to travel in a professional capacity until 1957.
In 1934, John Fee met Deirdre Carson. Soon after, he was sent to China for three years, during which time their relationship was put on hold. They were engaged in 1939 and married in China later that year. Deirdre Carson Fee joined John on his missions where she taught art and played music wherever they went, which included China, Malaysia, India, Egypt, and throughout Europe and Great Britain.
When Elizabeth Fee was just five weeks old, the Fee family relocated to civil-war era China, where she lost hearing in one ear from an untreated bout of scarlet fever.
From 1950-1953, the Fee family lived in London where John served as Secretary to the Methodist Education Department at the Methodist Missionary Headquarters before they returned to Asia where John served in the Colonial Service Malaya from 1953-1957. 1957 marked the end of John's overseas service. The family returned to Northern Ireland where John continued to work in Methodist parishes until his retirement in 1976.
Elizabeth Fee relocated, along with her parents, a total of 24 times during her father's career. As such, she attended several schools before moving on to higher education. Her education began at the Mount Stewart School in London. She then had a short stint at Methodist College, Belfast, before attending the Uplands School in Penang, Malaya. She returned to Methodist College sporadically between her enrollment in other Northern Ireland schools, including Portadown College in Portadown, The Academy in Omagh, and McArthur Hall in Belfast.
Fee went on to attend Cambridge University where she earned First Class Honors in Biochemistry and in History and Philosophy of Science in 1968. She additionally earned an MA in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University in 1975.
In 1968, Fee went to Princeton University on a Fulbright Scholarship to study with Thomas Kuhn. She went on to earn a masters in History and Philosophy of Science (1971) and a PhD in the History of Philosophy and Science (1978) from Princeton. Her dissertation, "Science and the Woman Question, 1860-1920", centered on an analysis of Victorian periodicals. During her time at Princeton, Fee served as a teaching assistant and was awarded a travel grant in 1971.
Fee met and married her first spouse, Michael Wallace (b. 1942), an American historian, specializing in the history of New York City and public history, professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and co-author of Pulitzer Prize-winning, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, in 1973. Fee and Wallace divorced in 1985.
After Princeton, Fee taught at the State University of New York in Binghamton, focusing on the histories of science and medicine and on human sexuality.
From 1974 to 1995, she worked as a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore. Over the years, she taught health humanities, international health, and health policy. During her tenure at Hopkins, Fee became curious about her institution and ultimately researched and wrote Disease and Discovery: A History of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, 1916-1939 in 1987. Fee continued at Hopkins as a part-time professor of History of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of History and Health Policy following her 1995 move to the National Library of Medicine.
From 1984-1987, Fee travelled extensively under the auspices of the Kellogg Fellowship with the goal of examining the social determinants of health. She went to Peru in 1985, India and Nepal in May 1986, China in June 1986, and Cuba and Haiti in December 1986. She additionally travelled to the USSR in 1987 as a part of the US Delegate to the World Congress of Women in Moscow.
Along with Daniel Fox, Fee co-edited two groundbreaking works on AIDS: AIDS: The Burden of History in 1988 and AIDS: The Making of a Chronic Disease in 1992. Of the books, Fee's friend and colleague wrote the following in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), "In applying her keen analysis of the politics of sexuality to pressing public health issues during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, Liz's writings about the disease and its effects among gay men, straight women, and lesbians helped inform a growing scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) health and well-being" (Birn, 2019).
In the Spring of 1989, Fee was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study and Conference Center. During this residency, Fee and Roy Acheson worked on A History of Education in Public Health: Health that Mocks the Doctors' Rules.
In 1990, she became the editor for the American Journal of Public Health's historical section, "Public Health Then and Now." Along with Ted Brown, Fee turned this section into one of the "most dynamic aspects of the journal" (Birn, 2019). The pair additionally created a new feature, "Voices from the Past."
In 1995, she began working for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), as Senior Historian and Chief of the History of Medicine Division, a position she held for 22 years, until her retirement in 2018. During this time, Fee is credited with restructuring and reinvigorating the department, in addition to managing the day-to-day operations and curating numerous exhibitions, including Against the Odds, An Iconography of Contagion, Dream Anatomy, Emotions and Disease, and Frankenstein. She also wrote for the National Library of Medicine blog, Circulating Now, led many collaborative projects, and organized and attended numerous conferences. She also served as the president of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toastmasters Club.
Fee also worked extensively as a guest curator and consultant on various projects. Some of her notable work includes the New York Public Library's 1994-1995 exhibition, Garbage! The History and Politics of Trash in New York City, Brooklyn Historical Society's 1993-1994 exhibition, AIDS/Brooklyn, and Spark Media's 2004 documentary about Vivien Thomas and narrated by Morgan Freeman titled, Partners of the Heart.
She additionally authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited nearly thirty scholarly books and hundreds of articles relating to the history of medicine and public health. As noted above, one of her main foci was the AIDS epidemic. She also wrote extensively about other public health topics, including the history of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization and Global Health, epidemics, women and health, and social history in medicine. In addition to her own writing projects, Fee served as a reviewer for numerous journals and book publishers.
Fee helped found the Sigerist Circle and the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association. The Sigerist Circle was founded in 1990 by Fee along with a group of other medical and public health historians and activists. The Sigerist Circle's mission was to dedicate resources and attention to issues of class, race and gender in medical history using critical methodologies including Marxism, feminism, and postcolonialism in their analysis. The group was named in honor of the history of medicine scholar and activist, Henry Sigerist. The group held an annual scholarly session, participated in political affairs, and prepared newsletters and a periodic bibliography of useful works. Fee and Ted Brown additionally co-edited Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry E. Sigerist in 1997.
The Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the American Public Health Association, founded in 1994, "is committed to underscoring and analyzing the integral connections between social justice and public health. Both its email list and its sessions at APHA's annual meeting are aimed at working collectively and in dialogue to understand and change how social divisions based on social class, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and age affect the public's health" (Birn, 2019).
Fee was the recipient of the Kellogg and Fulbright Fellowships, National Library of Medicine Regents Award, and the Arthur Viseltear Award. She also worked extensively with the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the early 2000s, Fee was invited by the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization to cochair the history working group of the Joint Learning Initiative, which endeavored to analyze the successes and failures of 20th-century international public health initiatives. As co-chair, Fee organized two meetings titled, "Explorations in Global Health Histories" at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study and Conference Center in March and October of 2003. In a similar vein, she was a founding member of the Global Health Histories initiative of the WHO's Department of Knowledge Management & Sharing. Fee's work with WHO informed her work with Marcos Cueto and Ted Brown on a series of articles and a monograph, The World Health Organization: A History, examining global health and WHO's historic role in it. Fee worked on the book until the end of her life, and it was published posthumously in 2019.
During her time at Johns Hopkins University, Fee met Mary Garofalo, an artist and nurse. Fee and Garofalo were married in Vancouver, Canada in 2005.
Fee died from complications of ALS on October 17, 2018.
Birn, Anne-Emmanuelle, "Elizabeth Fee (1946-2018)," American Journal of Public Health, June 2019.
Elizabeth Fee papers, circa 1920-2018, Ms. Coll. 1471, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania.
The Elizabeth Fee papers measure 70 linear feet in 70 boxes and date from circa 1920 to 2018, with the bulk of the material dating between 1946 and 2018. The papers largely document Fee's professional life as a public health historian, professor, and Chief of the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division. Nearly three-quarters of this collection is comprised of Fee's professional writings and papers. Her early life and extensive travels as the daughter of a Methodist Missionary is well-documented. There is also research material and born-digital and audiovisual material that reflects all areas of her personal and professional life.
This collection is of value to anyone hoping to learn about Elizabeth Fee's personal and professional lives, her professional activities within her various roles, and/or benefit from her research into numerous topics, including the AIDS epidemic, the history of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization and global health, epidemics, women and health, and social history in medicine. Her research material appears in the research series, but is also present throughout the entire collection. For most projects associated with her work and writings, Fee maintained a corresponding file of research materials (she often referred to research materials as "references" in her folder titles). Furthermore, this collection is of value to anyone seeking information on health, health scholarship, and health policy on a global scale, primarily from the 1980s through 2010s.
When original order existed, it was largely maintained. The personal papers and academic files were mostly loose materials or exceedingly large, unwieldy files, requiring more deliberate physical arrangement. With the exception of some loose papers integrated into relevant files, original order was maintained for the associations, conferences, fellowships, grants, and awards, and professional network subseries. The writings files are arranged alphabetically by title, replacing Fee's often vague and ambiguous folder titles and lack of deliberate organization.
Work files are arranged alphabetically and original order was maintained, though there was a significant amount of loose material to be integrated. Because Fee's work files appeared to be more deliberately cultivated, files of compiled material that mirror Fee's own created files have been kept separate. These files appear one after the other in the inventory. Fee's file simply bears the relevant folder title, and the compiled file's folder title ends with, "compiled."
When Fee's folder titles were ambiguous, but potentially useful to an informed user, or simply unclear to the processor, they were maintained in the inventory within quotation marks, even when not used as the primary title.
Series 1 dates from circa 1920-2018 and comprises Fee's personal papers in 6 boxes. It contains an autograph book, correspondence arranged alphabetically by last name, diaries, ephemera, objects, personal documents, photographs, published material, and Fee's parents' material.
Series 2 dates from 1953-2014 (bulk 1953-1979) and represents Fee's education from primary school through her PhD at Princeton University in one box. There are select documents from the many schools she attended due to her parents' frequent relocations. There is one file of material from her time at Cambridge University and seven files of material from her time at Princeton University, including papers, notebooks, and correspondence.
Series 3 is by far the largest series in the Elizabeth Fee papers, covering her general professional activities, including the associations she was involved with, conferences she participated in, fellowships, grants, and awards she received, her professional network, writings, her work files, and miscellaneous professional material. This series comprises 45 boxes.
Within this series, the many subseries that represent her institutional affiliations are the largest section of the papers, spanning 30 boxes. As many of Fee's projects and positions overlapped, were conducted on a habitual basis, or stopped and restarted periodically over time, these subseries are arranged alphabetically by institution or hiring body. The most significantly represented institutions are the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Johns Hopkins University, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Series 4 represents Fee's research files, dating from 1891 to 2018 (bulk 1980-2018), in 6 boxes. These files are arranged alphabetically both by the titles Fee assigned to her own files (mostly subject files) and by the titles of published material.
Series 5 contains professional files from other individuals and institutions, unrelated to Elizabeth Fee's work.
Series 6 is comprised of born-digital and audiovisual material relating to all areas of Fee's life and work. Born-digital material can be accessed by request in the Kislak Center reading room.
Gift of Mary Garofalo, 2021.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Kelin Baldridge
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use, however, Box 3, folders 12 and 15; box 21, folder 6; box 30, folders 6, 7, 9, and 14; box 35, folder 21; box 37, folder 20; box 46, folder 29; box 49, folder 22 are restricted because they contain personally identifiable information. Student records in box 30, folders 6 through 11 are additionally restricted.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.