Guide to the Papers of Alison Comish Thorne,
1925-2003

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Thorne, Alison Comish
Title: The Papers of Alison Comish Thorne
Dates: 1925-2003 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 14 boxes (7 linear ft)
Collection Number: USU_COLL MSS 216
Summary: This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Alison Comish Thorne pertainin to her time as a USU professor and equal rights advocate.
Repository: Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives
Manuscript Collection

Merrill-Cazier Library
Utah State University
3000 Old Main Hill
Logan, UT 84322-3000
Phone: 435 797-2663
Fax: 435 797-2880
Email: scweb@usu.edu

Languages: Material in English 
Sponsor: Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Biographical Note

Alison Comish Thorne was born May 9, 1914 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Newel H. and Louise Larson Cornish. Her scholarly pursuits began at the age of sixteen when she entered Brigham Young University where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Economics and Education in 1934. Thorne received a Master's degree in Consumption Economics at Iowa State University in 1935. She then pursued doctoral studies at the University of Chicago during 1935-36, before receiving her Ph.D. in 1938 from Iowa State University in the field of Consumption Economics. Her mentors, Elizabeth Ellis Hoyt and Margaret G. Reid, worked with Thorne to help her become the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in this field from ISU. Thorne married D. Wynne Thorne on August 3, 1937 in Salt Lake City.

After the completion of her graduate work, Thorne filled various instructor positions at Colorado State University, Iowa State University, and finally Utah State University. At USU she was given the title of lecturer from 1964 through the 1980s by both USU's Department of Sociology and the Department of Home Economics and Consumer Education. Due to anti-nepotism laws, Thorne was not allowed to secure a faculty position since her husband was already a faculty member. (Wynne Thorne served as USU's Head of Agronomy, Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Vice President of University Research.) This setback did not keep Thorne from establishing a solid reputation as a scholar. Thorne played a key role in the founding of the Women's Studies Program at USU and served as a chair in the Women's Studies Committee from 1977-1989. In addition, Thorne's devotion to increasing the opportunity for women can be seen in her involvement in the Women's Center, the Committee on the Status of Women, as well as the Women and International Development committee.

Moreover, Thorne gave many early feminist speeches, including “Let the Dishes Wait” (1949) and “Leave the Dishes in the Sink” (1973). These speeches encouraged women to focus more on personal hobbies, interests, education, and family rather than maintaining a “perfect” home. As result of her influential work, Thorne has been the recipient of many awards, such as Utah State University's Distinguished Service Award (1982), Woman of the Year for the Utah Chapter of the American Association of University Women (1967), and Utah Governor's Award for Volunteer Service (1980). She was also the author of numerous articles and books, including Women in the History of Utah's Land-grant College (1985), Visible and Invisible Women in Land-grant Colleges (1986), Vision and Rhetoric in Shakespeare: Looking Through Language (2000), Leave the Dishes in the Sink: Adventures of an Activist in Conservative Utah (2002), and Shakespeare's Romances (2003).

Thorne was active in many organizations during her retirement, such as the Utah State Historical Society, the Utah State Women's History Association, and the National Women's Studies Association. Thorne died in 2005 in Logan, Utah.

Content Description

This thirteen-box collection contains the papers of Alison Comish Thorne and spans the period from 1925 to 2003. The collection contains Thorne's correspondence (1932-2000), professional papers, research papers, unpublished and published writings, autobiographical writings, papers concerning Thorne's involvement in the campaign for ERA, papers concerning USU's Women's Studies Program, Thorne/Comish family papers, and a batch of papers concerning Elizabeth Hoyt (Thorne's mentor at ISU). Thorne's correspondence (amounting to thousands of letters) documents her life as a college student, her feminist and ERA work, her university service, her service in Cache Valley's “Communities Against Poverty” program, as well as additional topics. Of particular interest are Thorne's unpublished writings concerning “Let the Dishes Wait” (1949) and “Leave the Dishes in the Sink” (1973), writings which challenged stereotypical perceptions of a woman's role in society.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

No restrictions on use, except: not available through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Use :  

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the The Papers of Alison Comish Thorne must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.

Preferred Citation :  

Initial Citation: The Papers of Alison Comish Thorne USU_Coll Mss 216, Box [ ]. Special Collections and Archives. Utah State University Merrill-Cazier Library. Logan, Utah.

Following Citations:USU_Coll Mss 216, USUSCA.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The materials in this collection have been organized topically and chronologically reflecting their original order. Researchers should be aware that in addition to the identified boxes of correspondence, many of Thorne's subject files and research files also contain correspondence relative to the file's specific topic.

Acquisition Information :  

Donated in three batches, the first two by Alison Thorne in 1992 and 2002, and then by the family of Alison Thorne in 2005.

Related Materials :  

USU Special Collections also contains a small collection of Thorne's photographs. Those interested in viewing these materials should inquire with Special Collections’ photograph curator. Special Collections also contains the professional papers of Alison's husband, Wynne Thorne catalogued as COLL MSS 299: D. Wynne Thorne Papers.


Detailed Description of the Collection

Biographical Papers, Thesis and Dissertation, Writings, and Other
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
1 1 Vita and biographical information
1 2 Autobiographical notes
1 3 Thorne's grade transcripts from BYU 1930-1939
1 4 College papers, miscellaneous
1 5 Newspaper clippings about Thorne
1 6 Newspaper clippings kept by Thorne
1 7 Thorne's Ph.D. dissertation; "Evaluations of Consumption in Modern Thought"
ISU.
1938
1 8 Thorne's MA thesis, "Credit Facilities Extended by the US Government for Home Ownership and Modernization"
ISC.
1935
1 9 Publications and writings of Thorne
1 10 "Women Mentoring Women in Economics in the 1930s," Thorne 1994
1 11 "A Quick History of Agronomy Wives," Throne 1990
1 12 Cache Valley Migrant Council 1960-1979
1 13 Summary of Thorne's family correspondence, by Thorne
1 14 CD-Rom with Thorne's correspondence
1 15 Personal papers and notes, miscellaneous

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Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1932-1938
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
2 1 Outgoing correspondence 1932-1933
2 2 Outgoing correspondence 1934
2 3 Outgoing correspondence 1935
2 4 Outgoing correspondence 1936
2 5 Outgoing correspondence 1937
2 6 Outgoing correspondence 1938

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Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1939-1976
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
3 1 Outgoing correspondence 1939
3 2 Outgoing correspondence 1940-1941
3 3 Outgoing correspondence 1942-1944
3 4 Outgoing correspondence 1945-1947
3 5 Outgoing correspondence 1950-1954
3 6 Outgoing correspondence 1957
3 7 Outgoing correspondence 1959-1960
3 8 Outgoing correspondence 1961-1962
3 9 Outgoing correspondence 1963-1965
3 10 Outgoing correspondence 1966-1969
3 11 Outgoing correspondence 1970-1973
3 12 Outgoing correspondence 1974-1976

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Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1977-1999
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
4 1 Outgoing correspondence 1977-1979
4 2 Outgoing correspondence 1980-1982
4 3 Outgoing correspondence 1983-1985
4 4 Outgoing correspondence 1986-1989
4 5 Outgoing correspondence 1990-1993
4 6 Outgoing correspondence 1994-1997
4 7 Outgoing correspondence 1998-1999

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Thorne's Incoming Correspondence, 1935-1999
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
5 1 Incoming correspondence, A-M
5 2 Incoming correspondence, N-Z.
5 3 Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth 1950
5 4 Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth 1969-1971
5 5 Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth 1971-1973
5 6 Incoming correspondence, McKay, Gunn 1971
5 7 Incoming correspondence, Thorne, Wynne 1935-1949
5 8 Incoming correspondence, Thorne, Wynne 1974-1978
5 9 Incoming correspondence, unidentified senders

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Autobiographical notes and papers used for Thorne's autobiography
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
6 1 Ch 1; The 1920s; Growing Up
6 2 Ch 2; The Great Depression and College Years
6 3 Ch 3; Producing Babies and Books
6 4 Ch 4; The Search for Values
6 5 Ch 5; Conformity and Creativity
6 6 Ch 6; Social Justice; The 1960s

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Autobiographical notes and papers used for Thorne's autobiography
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
7 1 Ch 7; Feminist Straws in the Wind; The 1960s
7 2 Ch 8; Activism in the 1970s
7 3 Ch 9; The Women's Movement at USU
7 4 Ch 10; Widening the Reach of the Women's Movement
7 5 Ch 11; The University: Women and History
7 6 Ch 12; Gathering Up Loose Ends
7 7 Appendix, Biography of Wynne Thorne

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Thorne's Writings and ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) Papers
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
8 1 "Let the Dishes Wait," by Thorne 1949
8 2 "Leave the Dishes in the Sink," by Thorne 1973
8 3 "Leave the Dishes in the Sink," speech by Thorne 1992
8 4 ERA in Utah file 1970-1979
8 5 ERA meeting in Houston file 1977
8 6 "Hands Across the Valley" meeting papers 1970-1979

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Thorne's Papers Concerning the CAP (communities against poverty) War on Poverty Program in Cache Valley
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
9 1 CAP War on Poverty, meeting minutes, by-laws, membership records and other (removed from a three-ring binder) 1960-1969

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Thorne's Papers Concerning the CAP War on Poverty Program in Cache Valley, 1960-1979
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
10 1 Files; CAP War on Poverty papers
10 2 Files; CAP War on Poverty papers
10 3 Files; CAP War on Poverty papers
10 4 Files; CAP War on Poverty papers
10 5 Files; CAP War on Poverty papers

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Thorne's Subject Files
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
11 1 International Women's Conference in Salt Lake City papers 1970-1979
11 2 International Assoc. for Feminist Economics papers 1990-2003
11 3 Whittier Community Center (of Logan) files 1990-1999
11 4 Women in International Development papers
11 5 Women and Gender Institute papers 1985
11 6 Unitarian-Universalism papers
11 7 USU Women's Studies Program papers 1990-2003
11 8 USU Women's Studies Program papers,(contains reports and meeting minutes) 1990-2000
11 9 USU Extension Service and Utah Science papers 1970-1979

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Thorne Family Papers, 1941-1960
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
12 1 Correspondence of Kip Thorne 1943-1951
12 2 "A Life of Joy: The Autobiography of New H. Comish" 1959
12 3 "Snowflake Girl," by L.L. Comish 1960

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Papers of Elizabeth Hoyt given to Thorne.
Container(s)
Description
Dates
Box
Folder
13 1 Draft of "Consumers' Demand," by Hoyt, circa 1935
13 2 Hoyt's notes, writings, syllabi, and additional papers 1930-1950.
13 3 Publications and writings by Hoyt
13 4 Publications and writings used by Hoyt for her research 1925-1951

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Subject Files, Misc. Notes and Letters.
Container(s)
Description
Box
Folder
14 1 Mormons for the Equal Rights Amendment
14 2 Women's Movement
14 3 Migrant Workers
14 4 Thorne's friends at Utah State University
14 5 Misc. notes, comments, and letters

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Subjects

    • Personal Names :
    • Thorne, Alison Comish
    • Corporate Names :
    • Utah State University--Faculty.
    • Utah State University--History.
    • Subject Terms :
    • Equal rights amendments--Utah.
    • Feminism--Utah.
    • Mormons--Utah--History
    • Women's studies--Utah.

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