The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America in Cambridge, Massachusetts, holds the largest collection of papers by important women in the United States. The Library will receive the life’s work of papers and articles by renowned breast cancer surgeon and researcher Dr. Susan Love.
A breast surgeon, Dr. Love is best known for pioneering work fueled by her criticism of the medical establishment’s paternalistic treatment of women. She was an early advocate of cancer surgery that conserves as much breast tissue as possible. She also was among the first to sound the alarm on the risks of routine hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women.
In her personal life, she fought to expand the rights of same-sex couples as parents. In 1993, Dr. Love and Dr. Helen Cooksey made history by gaining approval for the first coparent adoption, which led to gay and lesbian couples to be able to adopt their children. The case was decided by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which until then had not recognized same-sex marriage. This monumental case paved the way for Massachusetts to become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage ten years later.
As Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, Dr. Love built and oversaw an active research program centered on the cause and prevention of breast cancer. In May of 2023, Radiology published results of a Dr. Susan Love Foundation NIH-sponsored study proving the efficacy of handheld ultrasound devices with AI to bring mammography to women in remote and under-resourced communities and countries.
The Love Research Army, which she launched in 2008, creatively accelerated cancer research by partnering volunteers with scientists for clinical trials and cancer research. The Army now has more than 390,000 supporters worldwide. For 13 years she convened the International Symposium of the Human Breast, a meeting she established to bring together world-class researchers, clinicians, and advocates from multiple disciplines in an intimate think-tank environment to stimulate ideas, collaboration, and seed-funding opportunities for breast cancer research.
“Dr. Love’s extraordinary work has changed the lives of untold women, and transformed the field of breast cancer research. The Schlesinger holds many collections documenting individual women’s breast cancer journeys and activism on each other’s behalf. The addition of Dr. Love’s papers is a highly significant addition to our holdings, and will provide scholars with evidence of her role in changing the fields of breast cancer research and patient advocacy” said Jenny Gotwals, Johanna-Maria Fraenkel Curator for Gender and Society at the Schlesinger Library.
The library at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute is home to the nation’s most important collections on feminism, women’s health, and women’s activism. Dr. Love’s papers will be joining those of Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Julia Child, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the US, and many more influential women.
CEO of the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, Christopher Clinton Conway, states “We’re assured that Dr. Love’s work has found the perfect home at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, in the Schlesinger Library’s extensive collection. Her articles and letters will be valuable for researchers across multiple sectors in the future.”
“It is imperative that her work continue,” Dr. Helen Cooksey, Dr. Love’s widow, expressed after Dr. Love’s passing in July of this year. “We’ll be transitioning all her papers to the Library in the coming months.”
Recently the seventh edition of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book was launched, recognized by the New York Times as the “de-facto bible” for those with breast cancer. First published in 1990, the Breast Book has been translated into over 20 languages, including German, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Hebrew.