Lois Gibbs Love Canal Papers, 1951 -- 2010


Title: Lois Gibbs Love Canal Papers
Dates: 1951 -- 2010
Creator: Gibbs, Lois
Call Number: MS063
Size: 37.9 Cubic Feet, 31 record cartons, 1 object box, and 1 oversize box.
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10427/003718
    Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University


The Lois Gibbs Love Canal papers contain materials primarily about the Love Canal disaster and its aftermath. The collection consists of correspondence; newspaper clippings; health studies; published material; presentations; reports; subject files; and a small amount of audiovisual materials. Of particular interest are subject files from the Love Canal Homeowners Association (LCHA), which Gibbs founded with other Love Canal residents, and a set of materials that Gibbs gathered together as a Women's Activist kit to highlight women in activism and inspire others to organize.

This collection largely documents efforts to relocate Love Canal community members; environmental and health studies conducted on the Love Canal site and its residents; clean-up, construction, and other remedial actions taken at Love Canal; the Love Canal Habitability Study; the resettlement of Love Canal; and the activities of the Love Canal Medical Fund (LCMF).

Significant individuals in this collection include David Axelrod, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health; Stephen Lester, Clement Associates, Inc. staff scientist and member of the Love Canal Medical Fund Board of Directors; and Dr. Beverly Paigen, Roswell Park Memorial Institute scientist. Other notable entities include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hooker Chemical Company, New York State Department of Health, Occidental Chemical Corporation, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The bulk of the materials in this collection date from 1978-1982.


This collection is arranged into five series: Subject files; Newspaper clippings; Health studies; Publications and reports; and Awards, audiovisual materials, and ephemera. Received order has largely been maintained by the processing archivists.


Biographical / Historical

Lois Gibbs (born 1951) is an environmental activist who formed the Love Canal Homeowners Association after discovering that her entire neighborhood of Love Canal, Niagara Falls, New York, had been built on a toxic waste dump. The organization succeeded against strong opposition by local, state, and federal government agencies, and Occidental Petroleum, and President Carter issued an Emergency Declaration in October 1980 to get 833 families evacuated and Love Canal cleaned up. Lois Gibbs and the association were instrumental in the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund. In 1980, Gibbs founded the Citizens' Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, later renamed the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and served as its executive director. She has published about Love Canal and was the subject of the TV movie, 'Lois Gibbs: the Love Canal Story.' Gibbs received honorary doctorates from the State University of New York; Cortland College; Haverford College; Green Mountain College; Medaille College; and Tufts University. She has also received numerous awards, including the 1990 Goldman Environmental Prize and the 1998 Heinz Award. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Gibbs sits on numerous Boards and Advisory Committees, and lives in Falls Church, Virginia with her husband, Stephen Lester.

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list.

Use Restrictions

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.

Preferred Citation

Lois Gibbs Love Canal Papers, 1951-2010. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Collection History

Processing Notes

Boxes 1 through 4 of series one were fully processed by Erin Faulder in May 2012 under supervision of Veronica Martzahl, Records Archivist. Materials were removed from MS001 based on a content list found in MS001's documentation folder.

Preliminary processing of the 2017 accessions was done by Leah Edelman, Records and Accessioning Archivist, in 2017. Materials were placed in archival boxes if the original housing was damaged, and loose materials were placed in folders where needed. Received order was maintained. A box-level inventory and series-level description were created and the finding aid was updated at the time of processing. 

Steven Gentry and Sony Prosper, Archives and Reference Assistants, processed boxes 5 through 33 at the folder-level under the direction of Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist, in Summer 2017. Series-level description was updated and a folder-level inventory was created. Received order was largely maintained.


Gift of Stephen Lester 2011-2017; accession numbers 2012.023, 2015.013, and 2017.042.

Custodial History

Boxes 1 through 4 of series one contain legacy files which were transferred to DCA in the 1990s. The remainder of the collection was donated by Stephen Lester in three accessions, 2011-2017.

Subjects and Genre Terms
Related Material
  • Center for Health, Environment, and Justice Records, 1942-2016. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Series Description

  1. Subject files, circa 1951 -- 2007

    This series consists of subject files compiled primarily by Lois Gibbs and Stephen Lester pertaining to the Love Canal disaster and its aftermath. Materials include correspondence; environmental and health data; newsletters; newspaper clippings; press releases; reports, such as soil reports; safety plans; testimonies before different United States legislative subcommittees; and other documents. The bulk of the material is dated from 1978-1982.

    This series documents the activities of Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal Homeowners Association (LCHA), including Gibbs' correspondence with government personnel; construction at the Love Canal site; medical, scientific, and political investigations of both Love Canal and its residents; fundraising efforts to help displaced Love Canal residents; the Love Canal Revitalization Agency; the Love Canal Habitabilty Study; and the resettlement of Love Canal.

    Several folders in this series focus on other organizations, such as the Environmental Support Center, a pro-environmental organization which assisted in the development of grassroots environmentalist groups via the provision of training, resources, and funding; and the Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF), a legal and pro-environmental watchdog organization. Gibbs served on the board of directors for both organizations.

    Significant individuals in this series include government officials and scientists, including David Axelrod, Tom Bartosiewicz, Jimmy Carter, Mario Cuomo, Robert Flacke, William Hennessy, Stephen Lester, Adeline Levine, and Beverly Paigen. Other notable entities include the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hooker Chemical Company, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New York State Department of Health (DOH), and Occidental Chemical Corporation.

    There are a significant number of more recent archival materials about the Love Canal Medical Fund (LCMF) — primarily annual reports, correspondence, financial records, medical benefit plans, meeting minutes, and newsletters — that document the activities of this organization and its board of directors. Most of these materials are closed for 75 years.

  2. Newspaper clippings, 1976 -- 1982

    Newspaper clippings pertain to the Love Canal environmental disaster site and include excerpts from the Niagara Gazette, Buffalo-Courier Express, Buffalo-Courier Express/Niagara Edition, Buffalo Evening News, New York Times, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. This series documents the relocation of Love Canal residents, Love Canal health studies, clean-ups, and the development of the Love Canal Revitalization Agency.

  3. Health studies, circa 1978 -- 2010

    This series consists mainly of studies, correspondence, presentations, and reports. These materials provide information on the various health assessments and studies conducted on the Love Canal Superfund site and local residents. Other materials document the research of Beverly Paigen, the first person to conduct studies on Love Canal residents, the Love Canal Homeowners Association's response to some of the studies, and Love Canal Expert Advisory Committee meetings.

  4. Publications and reports, circa 1978 -- 2010

    This series consists of academic articles, books, booklets, case studies, correspondence, fact packs, guides, handbooks, programs, and technical memoranda. These materials largely document the Environmental Monitoring Program, Love Canal Habitability Study, and reports on the environmental conditions in the Love Canal. Other materials include publications on community organizing, environmental activism, and social justice. One particular useful grouping of materials is the Women's Activist kit in box 31.

    1. 4.1. Women's activism resources, 1978 -- 2010

      Sub-series mainly includes guides, handbooks, booklets on community organizing, environmental justice, and social justice.

    2. 4.2. Other publications, 1979 -- 2004

      Sub-series mainly includes materials on the Environmental Monitoring Program, the Love Canal Habitability Study, and other reports on the environmental condition in Love Canal.

  5. Awards, audiovisual materials, and ephemera, circa 1978 -- 2010

    This series consists of a Gibbs and Collette certificate award, a pen and ink caricature of Lois Gibbs fighting toxic waste, and phonograph records sent to Lois Gibbs by Will Shatter and Steve Carron, musicians who wrote songs about Love Canal.