The Papers of Alison Comish Thorne, 1925-2003

Overview of the Collection

Thorne, Alison Comish
The Papers of Alison Comish Thorne
1925-2003 (inclusive)
14 boxes, (7 linear ft)
Collection Number
This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Alison Comish Thorne pertaining to her time as a USU professor and equal rights advocate.
Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division
Special Collections & Archives
Merrill-Cazier Library
Utah State University
Logan, UT
Telephone: 4357978248
Fax: 4357972880
Access Restrictions

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

Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Alison Comish Thorne was born May 9, 1914 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Newel H. and Louise Larson Comish. 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 DescriptionReturn to Top

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 CollectionReturn to Top

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 InformationReturn to Top


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.

Preservation Note

Box 1, Folder 14 contains a compact disc.

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 CollectionReturn to Top

Biographical Papers, Thesis and Dissertation, Writings, and OtherReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 1

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Vita and biographical information
1 2
Autobiographical notes
1 3
Thorne's grade transcripts from BYU
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"
1 8
Thorne's MA thesis, "Credit Facilities Extended by the US Government for Home Ownership and Modernization"
1 9
Publications and writings of Thorne
1 10
"Women Mentoring Women in Economics in the 1930s," Thorne
1 11
"A Quick History of Agronomy Wives," Throne
1 12
Cache Valley Migrant Council
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

Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1932-1938Return to Top

Container(s): Box 2

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
2 1
Outgoing correspondence
2 2
Outgoing correspondence
2 3
Outgoing correspondence
2 4
Outgoing correspondence
2 5
Outgoing correspondence
2 6
Outgoing correspondence

Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1939-1976 Return to Top

Container(s): Box 3

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
3 1
Outgoing correspondence
3 2
Outgoing correspondence
3 3
Outgoing correspondence
3 4
Outgoing correspondence
3 5
Outgoing correspondence
3 6
Outgoing correspondence
3 7
Outgoing correspondence
3 8
Outgoing correspondence
3 9
Outgoing correspondence
3 10
Outgoing correspondence
3 11
Outgoing correspondence
3 12
Outgoing correspondence

Thorne's Outgoing Correspondence, 1977-1999 Return to Top

Container(s): Box 4

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
4 1
Outgoing correspondence
4 2
Outgoing correspondence
4 3
Outgoing correspondence
4 4
Outgoing correspondence
4 5
Outgoing correspondence
4 6
Outgoing correspondence
4 7
Outgoing correspondence

Thorne's Incoming Correspondence, 1935-1999 Return to Top

Container(s): Box 5

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
5 1
Incoming correspondence, A-M
5 2
Incoming correspondence, N-Z.
5 3
Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth
5 4
Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth
5 5
Incoming correspondence, Hoyt, Elizabeth
5 6
Incoming correspondence, McKay, Gunn
5 7
Incoming correspondence, Thorne, Wynne
5 8
Incoming correspondence, Thorne, Wynne
5 9
Incoming correspondence, unidentified senders

Autobiographical notes and papers used for Thorne's autobiographyReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 6

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

Autobiographical notes and papers used for Thorne's autobiographyReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 7

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

Thorne's Writings and ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) PapersReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 8

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
8 1
"Let the Dishes Wait," by Thorne
8 2
"Leave the Dishes in the Sink," by Thorne
8 3
"Leave the Dishes in the Sink," speech by Thorne
8 4
ERA in Utah file
8 5
ERA meeting in Houston file
8 6
"Hands Across the Valley" meeting papers

Thorne's Papers Concerning the CAP (communities against poverty) War on Poverty Program in Cache Valley Return to Top

Container(s): Box 9

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)

Thorne's Papers Concerning the CAP War on Poverty Program in Cache Valley, 1960-1979Return to Top

Container(s): Box 10

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

Thorne's Subject FilesReturn to Top

Container(s): Box 11

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

Thorne Family Papers, 1941-1960 Return to Top

Container(s): Box 12

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

Papers of Elizabeth Hoyt given to Thorne. Return to Top

Container(s): Box 13

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
13 1
Draft of "Consumers' Demand," by Hoyt, circa
13 2
Hoyt's notes, writings, syllabi, and additional papers
13 3
Publications and writings by Hoyt
13 4
Publications and writings used by Hoyt for her research

Subject Files, Misc. Notes and Letters. Return to Top

Container(s): Box 14

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

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Equal rights amendments--Utah.
  • Feminism--Utah.
  • Mormons--Utah--History
  • Women's studies--Utah.

Personal Names

  • Thorne, Alison Comish

Corporate Names

  • Utah State University--Faculty.
  • Utah State University--History.