Alice B. Sheldon, pen name James Tiptree, Jr., papers , 1892-2006

Overview of the Collection

Sheldon, Alice Bradley, 1915-1987
Alice B. Sheldon, pen name James Tiptree, Jr., papers
1892-2006 (inclusive)
bulk (bulk)
61.75 linear feet, (121 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 455
Alice B. Sheldon, pen name James Tiptree, Jr. (1915-1987), was a much acclaimed science fiction author, publishing from 1968 to 1987. She was also briefly a painter, an art reviewer for the Chicago Sun, a chicken farmer, and a CIA analyst. She earned a doctorate in experimental psychology, and corresponded with and reviewed the work of several well-known psychologists. This collection contains correspondence, drawings, manuscripts, and her writing, from childhood to her death, in all of these areas.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary. Correspondence between Sheldon and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Series VI: Science Fiction; Subseries B: Correspondence) is closed.

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See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Alice B. Sheldon's life spanned several divergent careers and interests, culminating in her wide success as a feminist science fiction writer. She adopted the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. when writing for publication, as well as in her public life and her correspondence with other science fiction authors, recognizing male dominance in this genre and also protecting her earlier academic and intelligence work. While she presented herself as male on paper and in her public persona, acclaim and fandom led to discovery of her female identity. Gender and identity were often strong themes in her writing.

Alice Bradley was born in 1915, the only child of Mary Hastings Bradley and Herbert Bradley. Her father was a lawyer and real-estate investor and her mother a writer and lecturer; both were prominent in Chicago society. Alice and her family lived in a Hyde Park apartment with a penthouse and roof garden and spent summers at their cabin on a Wisconsin lake. Her parents took her on lengthy trips across Africa in 1921, 1924, and 1930. She attended a finishing school in Switzerland for two years when she was fourteen, then the Andrebrook Prep School from 1931 to 1933.

Alice met William Davey, the grandson of Cyrus McCormick (an American inventor and businessperson), at her coming out party on Christmas Eve of 1934; they eloped five days later. They moved to California where Alice pursued her painting, and Bill worked on his writing. They both enrolled at Berkeley, and spent some time in New Mexico and Florida, before divorcing in September of 1941. Shortly thereafter, Alice gave up on her painting, and Bill published a barely-disguised novel of their marriage.

Alice enrolled in the WAACs in August 1942; when they were disbanded in July 1943, Alice transferred to the WACs. By December of 1943, she had been assigned to the Air Force Photo Intelligence Unit in Washington D.C. In May 1945, she was sent on assignment in Europe as the only photo interpretation specialist, and only woman, in a group of fifty technical experts added to Huntington ("Ting") Sheldon's command. She worked in London, Paris, Wiesbaden, and other German cities, collecting and interpreting German photo intelligence documents.

Alice and Ting were married in September of 1945 in Paris. They spent the rest of the year assigned to Wiesbaden, Germany. In January of 1946, they returned to the U.S. and were mustered out of the service in April 1946. Their first business venture after separation from the service was the purchase of a chicken hatchery, which they operated from 1948 until they were recruited by the CIA in 1952. Ting stayed with the CIA for 17 years, but Alice left in the summer of 1955.

She attended the American University from January 1957 to June 1959, earning a B.A. summa cum laude. Alice spent the next eight years at George Washington University working on her Ph.D. in experimental psychology, focusing on novelty and visual perception. She received her degree on February 22, 1967, and then taught university psychology classes for one semester.

Alice Sheldon started writing science fiction as a graduate student. She began sending her work out to publishers in 1967, using the pen name James Tiptree, Jr. to protect her reputation as a scientist and academic (the name "Tiptree" was taken from the brand name of Wilkin and Sons Tiptree marmalade). In 1974, she began using the name Raccoona Sheldon to publish science fiction that she felt would not fit the male James Tiptree, Jr. persona. In 1976, her identity was discovered, and made widely public in 1977. Although she carried on active correspondence with many people, had deep biographical interviews published, and wrote fan letters herself, Sheldon avoided her own fandom, and refused to attend any conventions or award ceremonies. In 1980, at age 65, Alice Sheldon confided her identity as a lesbian in a letter to Joanna Russ.

Suffering from deep depression in 1987 and despairing of her husband's grave illness and need for her continual care, Alice Sheldon shot and killed her husband in his sleep, then shot herself.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection is organized into eight series that follow Alice Sheldon's life in approximate chronological order: Family and Personal, Art, Military Service, CIA, Psychology, Science Fiction, Women, and Writing other than science fiction. These series are drawn from Alice's grouping of materials, and many of the folder titles are hers.

Alice Sheldon's diaries and self-analysis are contained in the Family and Personal series of the collection, along with her correspondence with her parents, Mary and Herbert Bradley, and with family friend Harry Bigelow. Alice's drawings done as a child, unpublished poetry and short stories written through the 1950s are in this series. Also included in this series are a wide range of additional materials such as family photographs, newspaper society columns and photos, and some of Mary Bradley's publications and correspondence about their trips through Africa. Most of Alice's correspondence on feminist issues is scattered through letters to colleagues and friends in the science fiction series, but there is also material in the Family and Personal series and in the Women series.

The Art series contains drawings, illustrations, essays, correspondence about art, and reviews from her work for the Chicago Sun. It also contains her manuscript titled "The Psychology of Value in the Graphic Arts". This is a study of how one physically sees art, and what affects one's perception of a picture or other piece of art.

The Military Service series contains Alice Davey's assignment documents, military handbooks, pamphlets, and related correspondence for her service in the WAACs from August 1942 to July 1943, and for her service in the WACs until 1946. There are also drafts of military reports she wrote. As a WAC, Alice Davey worked on interpretation of aerial reconnaissance photos. She also co-authored training publications on map and aerial photo interpretation. This series of the collection contains her manuscript drafts, publications, aerial photos, and maps. Her last military assignment was intelligence gathering activities in East Germany before the Russian occupation. Her Report on German Air Force Photo Intelligence is in the collection.

The CIA Years series includes additional materials on photo intelligence and photo reconnaissance interpretation. Also included is her draft of an intelligence gathering operations manual, and reports analyzing and forecasting communist activities in Africa and Indonesia.

The Psychology series contains her notes as a student, notes for classes she taught, and her research notes, manuscript drafts for her thesis, and journal articles. Correspondence with Richard Walk, Rudolf Arnheim, and other researchers in the field with whom Alice Sheldon continued professional contact is in this series. There are also extensive notes and drawings related to visual perception.

The Science Fiction series contains Tiptree's science fiction manuscripts and the related correspondence; fan letters, both to her and from her to other writers; correspondence with friends in the field and often, copies of their publications. This group of correspondence with other writers is a rich resource for the researcher on the topics of writing and personal relationships Sheldon developed over the course of her life as a writer. There is also a collection of science fiction magazines, newsletters, fanzines, and journals.

The series title "Women" comes from Sheldon's labeled files. Some of her science fiction correspondence was also sorted by gender. This series contains correspondence, a lecture, manuscripts, and topic notes. The files are sorted alphabetically by type, then by correspondent's name, the title, or the subject.

The "Writing Miscellaneous" series contains correspondence, notes, essays, and documents related to writing and publication but not covered in other categories.

Large documents, newspapers, and maps are stored in the Oversize Miscellaneous series.

The Audio and Video Recordings series contains 14 audio tapes including Alice Sheldon's notes on science fiction stories, audio letters to her mother, and a tape from Ursula Le Guin. A Wiscon 21 convention dramatization of The Man Who Walked Home, an adaptation of The Girl Who Was Plugged, and a copy of The Screwfly Solution are the three video recordings.

The Photograph series contains book jacket and promotional photos of Alice Sheldon, photos of herself and her husband at home, family photos of herself as a child and of her parents, and a few photos of friends.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Africa--Discovery and exploration.
  • American fiction--Women authors
  • American literature--Women authors
  • Fan magazines--Specimens
  • Lesbianism
  • Psychology
  • Science fiction, American--Authorship
  • Science fiction--Women authors
  • Visual perception
  • Women and literature
  • Women and literature--United States
  • Women authors, American
  • Women authors, American--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918--War work
  • World War, 1939-1945--Military intelligence
  • World War, 1939-1945--Participation, Female.
  • World War, 1939-1945--Women

Personal Names

  • Dozois, Gardner R.
  • Dytch, Albert
  • Ellison, Harlan
  • Emshwiller, Carol
  • Gerrold, David, 1944-
  • Kidd, Virginia
  • Knight, Damon, 1922-2002
  • Koppelman, Susan
  • Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-2018
  • Malzberg, Barry N.
  • McIntyre, Vonda N.
  • Platt, Charles
  • Pohl, Frederik
  • Salmonson, Jessica Amanda
  • Siegel, Mark, 1949-2003
  • Silverberg, Robert
  • Smith, Jeffrey D. (Editor)
  • Strete, Craig
  • Tiptree, Jr., James
  • Wilhelm, Kate
  • Wood, Susan

Corporate Names

  • United States. Army. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

Form or Genre Terms

  • Audiocassettes
  • Correspondence
  • DVDs.
  • Interviews
  • Photographs
  • Science fiction