Nancy Friday Papers
Collection Scope and Content Summary
Most of the materials in this collection cover Friday's adult, professional life from 1970-2000s. The collection contains hundreds of letters from people all over the world sharing their sexual fantasies spanning from the 70s to the 2000s. Also included are drafts of some of her books, including My Mother/My Self, My Secret Garden, and Jealousy. Friday’s collection also includes professional correspondence with publishing houses, The Dick Clark Show, and other groups for book tours and public appearances. The collection includes early life materials like scrapbooks and yearbooks from her high school and college years, personal photos, and personal correspondence between friends and family. It also includes A/V materials of TV show appearances of Nancy Friday.
The series are inter-related, with sexual fantasies solicited for work in Series 1, drafts of her works which include said sexual fantasies in Series 2, her research notes on sexuality that informed her works in Series 4, her press tour recordings for her works in Series 6, and correspondence with publishing houses fighting against censorship of sexuality to get her work published in Series 7.
Series 1, Sexual Fantasies and Fanmail, 1967-2009, contains sexual fantasy letters and fan mail sent to Nancy Friday from across the world. In the early 70s, Friday created personal ads in magazines and newspapers soliciting sexual fantasies via mail. We have attempted to identify for which Friday work letters were solicited; this is unclear in some cases. Some letters in this series do not include sexual fantasies at all, instead recounting personal life stories from the senders’ lives as well gratitude to Friday for her work’s impact on their lives. Friday used letters she received over many decades, publishing letters she received early in her career in her later works. Some letters in this series contain Friday’s annotations; she also published partial or entire letters in her works. Additionally, Friday used the real first names of respondents in her early works. Some letters included in this series were unpublished or left unopened. General fantasy topics that appear throughout the letters include masturbation, roleplay, orgasms, oral sex, group sex, and bondage-discipline/dominance-submission/sadism-masochism (BDSM). Please also be advised that The Nancy Friday Papers contains a large amount of written material that includes references to sexual assault, incest, pedophilia, transphobia, homophobia, and racist depictions of Black people and people of color, among other challenging topics, which are especially present within this series.
Series 2, Works by Friday, 1970-2008 and undated, includes drafts, fragments, and manuscripts of published works; cassette tape interviews of subjects for her books My Mother/My Self: The Daughter's Search for Identity and My Secret Garden: Women's Sexual Fantasies; drafts of unpublished works; unrealized projects; publisher proofs; galley proofs; published copies of her books in multiple languages; and other materials related to works by Nancy Friday. The unrealized projects include short fictional stories by Friday titled “Nekkid Party,” “The Faithful Girl: 1970,” “Jealousy Kills,” and “May the Blue Door of Happiness Shut on You.” Friday also wrote several book to TV adaptations of her works that were never realized, including a screenplay for My Mother/My Self and a television series based on My Secret Garden. The series includes several other unrealized projects, including a book titled How To Be Annie and an essay about her thoughts after My Secret Garden was published. Published works in this series include essays; screenplays; early drafts of My Secret Garden, Forbidden Flowers, My Mother My/Self, Jealousy; Women on Top; Beyond My Control; and Power of Beauty; and interview transcripts for Jealousy and My Mother/My Self.
Series 3, Personal Life, 1905-2010, contains scrapbooks and yearbooks from Nancy Friday’s childhood, adolescence, and college-aged years. Additionally, it contains copies of the magazine Islands in the Sun, her first editorial job out of college. Series 3 also contains an assortment of photographs of Friday throughout her life and materials related to her wedding to Norman Pearlstein.
Series 4, Research Materials and Notes, 1975-1999 and undated, contains research linked to her published work, magazine and newspaper clippings on health, beauty, and wellness, as well as assorted notes and general research about gender and sexuality.
Series 5, Agendas, Datebooks, and Notebooks, 1973-2010 and undated, contains Friday’s, datebooks, notebooks, agendas.
Series 6, 1978-2002 and undated, contains materials related to publicity and public appearances made by Nancy Friday throughout 1978-2002. It includes lecture notes and recordings, newspaper and magazine clippings, assorted publicity for book tours, book reviews, audio and video recordings of public appearances on TV and radio stations, interviews, and materials related to the TV shows Friday was involved with, specifically her segment on “Tomorrow Show” and as host of “Friday Files”. The books that are highlighted in this collection include: My Secret Garden, My Mother/My Self, Men in Love, Jealousy, Women on Top, and Power of Beauty.
Series 7, Correspondence, 1950-2010 and undated, contains correspondence between Friday and her editors, agents, contacts, book deals, book touring, family, and friends. It also contains unopened mail both personal and professional.
- Creation: 1950 - 2010
The users of this collection may not publish, photocopy, transcribe, disseminate, or photograph any personally identifiable information (PII) associated with the individuals writing to Friday about sexual fantasies, personal experiences, or other topics for inclusion in her work, including but not limited to: addresses, phone numbers, legal first and last names or initials, photographs or likenesses, birthdays, and employment/educational information. Materials written by minors (those who were under 18 years of age at the time of writing these materials) are restricted until January 1st, 2072. This includes a small portion of the materials in Series 1, Sexual Fantasies and Fanmail. All users of the Nancy Friday collection will need to sign an NDA (latest version: https://archives.barnard.edu/sites/default/files/inline-files/NancyFridayNDA2023.pdf) that ensures they have read and agreed to the restrictions in place with these materials before accessing the collection.
All rights of copyright remain with the estate of Nancy Friday. The donor’s estate grants advanced permission for the Barnard Archives to permit individuals to quote from the materials. Individuals utilizing the materials who wish to publish and/or profit monetarily from the materials must obtain permissions from the donor’s estate. The copyright for all third party materials (such as letters written to Nancy Friday) belongs to the creators of those materials.
The users of this collection should not publish, photocopy, transcribe, disseminate, or photograph any personally identifiable information (PII) associated with the individuals writing to Friday about sexual fantasies, personal experiences, or other topics for inclusion in her work, including but not limited to: addresses, phone numbers, legal first and last names or initials, photographs or likenesses, birthdays, and employment/educational information. We cannot make scans of any materials in series 1, or in boxes 62-63 of series 6 (Tomorrow Show materials); all other series scans will be made at archives staff discretion.
Nancy Friday was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 27th, 1933. She grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and attended Ashley Hall, an all-girl’s high school; she later attended Wellesley College and graduated in 1955. After college, she worked internationally as a reporter and writer, including in Puerto Rico, France, England, and New York.
Citing the lack of literature dedicated to female sexuality, Friday solicited women to write to her detailing their own sexual fantasies in the early 1970s. She compiled these letters and produced her first book, My Secret Garden, in 1973. The sexually explicit work spread quickly by word of mouth and was met by both popular acclaim and harsh criticism; feminists decried the book as patriarchal (Ms. magazine wrote about her: “this woman is not a feminist”) while book critics celebrated the original content but pushed against its anecdotal, non-scientific tone.
Friday produced much of her work during the backdrop of the Feminist Sex Wars during the late 1970s into the 1980s, and faced sizable backlash from both feminists and conservatives alike. Sex-negative feminists at the time rejected her content and accused her of inventing sensational stories and advocating for sexual practices that demeaned women, such as power play in the bedroom or fantasies of sexual aggression. The work she published was shocking in its honest and unabashed confrontation of female sexuality; many people at the time didn’t believe women had sexual fantasies, let alone fantasies dealing with such taboo content.
Throughout her career, Friday gave lectures, book tours, interviews, and hosted TV segments related to human sexuality, including as a recurring guest segment on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. She was also a featured guest on Oprah, The Joan Rivers Show, The Jennie Jones Show, The Phil Donahue Show, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer's show Sexually Speaking. During these appearances, she would give advice related to sexuality and relationships to audience members and callers. She was known for her often contrarian and outspoken opinions that defied societal assumptions around gender and how men and women related to each other. Her work, however, was focused on cisgender, heterosexual couples and often lacked a queer perspective on sex and gender roles. Friday wasn’t the first person to write about women’s sexual fantasies–many queer and trans people, kinky communities, and sex workers had already been writing about women’s sexuality, desires, and fantasies, often in the form of self-published works or through non-mainstream alternative presses. Friday was one of the first straight, white, cis women to write on this topic.
Though herself at times a controversial figure, Friday’s books revolutionized many women’s relationships to fantasy, sex, and masturbation in the 70s and into the 20th century, and helped to usher in a sex-positive era of women writing and speaking about their own bodies and desires. They also helped to catalyze Friday as a leading writer about sexuality throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s; her books often appeared on the New York Times bestsellers list, and My Mother/Myself sold over 6 million copies.
Over the course of her career, Friday wrote eight books and one novella: My Secret Garden: Women's Sexual Fantasies (1973), Forbidden Flowers: More Women's Sexual Fantasies (1975), My Mother, My Self: The Daughter's Search for Identity (1977), Men in Love, Men's Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage (1980), Jealousy (1985), Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Sexual Fantasies (1991), The Power of Beauty (1996); republished as Our Looks, Our Lives: Sex, Beauty, Power and the Need to be Seen (1999), Beyond My Control: Forbidden Fantasies in an Uncensored Age (2009), and Lulu: A Novella (2012).
Friday was married twice: first to Bill Manville in 1967 until their divorce in 1986, and then to Norman Pearlstine, former editor of Time, Inc, in 1988 until their divorce in 2005. She had no children. She died at the age of 84 on November 5th, 2017 in New York City.
35.31 Linear Feet (76 Hollinger boxes, 2 paige boxes, 2 oversized boxes, 2 cassette boxes, 2 VHS boxes)
Nancy Friday was an author and pop psychologist active from the early 1970s into the 2000s, whose work dealt with women’s sexuality, gender roles, and family dynamics. She was known for her unabashed discussion of challenging topics, especially taboo sexual fantasies, and her insistence on showcasing women as autonomous sexual beings; Friday often faced backlash for her writing from feminists and conservatives alike. Most of the materials in the Nancy Friday collection cover her adult and professional life from 1970-2000s, including some materials from her early life and adolescence. In addition to the hundreds of letters sent to Friday about people’s sexual fantasies, the collection also includes professional correspondence with publishing houses, book drafts, contracts, and recorded interviews.
Archivists rearranged the collection to allow for easier access, as the materials had no apparent holistic order when donated. The records are arranged in seven series, which are as follows:
Series 1, Sexual Fantasies and Fanmail, 1970-2009: Archivists maintained specific titles that were assigned to the letters by the writers. Other letters had no apparent arrangement, so we arranged them into United States and International letters.
Series 2, Works by Friday, 1970-2008: Whenever possible, archivists arranged series 2 in sections around the relevant unpublished and published works by Nancy Friday.
Series 3, Personal Life, 1905-2010: Archivists arranged series 3 in loose chronological order, beginning with Friday’s early childhood and early family history, then into her adolescence and college years, ending with her adult life and wedding.
Series 4, Research Materials and Notes, 1975-1999 was arranged as received.
Series 5, Agendas, Datebooks, and Notebooks, 1973-2010: Series 5 was arranged chronologically.
Series 6, Publicity, 1978-2002: The publicity materials had no apparent intellectual or chronological arrangement, so archivists organized these to reflect the publication timeline for Friday's books. They are loosely in chronological order.
Series 7, Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1950-2010: All the letters and correspondence had no apparent arrangement when received, so archivists arranged them into two subseries, personal and professional correspondence.
This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donated by Eric Krebs on behalf of Nancy Friday, 2015; transferred to the Barnard Archives in 2018.
Archivists removed a number of sensitive and out of scope materials from this collection: blank cassette tapes were discarded, excess duplicates of books published by Nancy Friday were removed, out of scope resumes and other personnel materials were removed, and nude unsolicited photographs sent to Friday were removed and destroyed.
No accruals are expected.
The initial collection was received, accessioned, rehoused, and inventoried at a box level by Kaya Alim, Tirzah Anderson, and Maat Bates in 2019. Zara Simba, Eve Glazier, and Carson Stachura labeled all the folders from June 2023-July 2023. The finding aid was written and extensive edits, inventorying, and additional processing was performed by Mia Ciallella and Olivia Newsome from December 2022-July 2023.
- Heterosexual men
- Heterosexual women
- Men--Sexual behavior
- Men--Sexual behavior
- Sex in popular culture
- Sexual fantasies
- Teenagers--Sexual behavior
- White feminism
- Women--Sexual behavior
- Women--Sexual behavior
Genre / Form
- Authors, American--20th century--Family relationships
- Bondage (Sexual behavior)
- Female masturbation
- Fetishism (Sexual behavior)
- Group sex
- Letters--Women authors
- Non-monogamous relationships
- Public sex
- Racism against Black people
- Second-wave feminism
- Transgender people
- Women authors
- Women authors, White
- Guide to the Nancy Friday Papers
- Olivia Newsome and Mia Ciallella
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description