Associated Archives: The Miriam and Walter Schneir Collection

Scope and Content


Invitation to an Inquest

The Walter and Miriam Schneir collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, printed material, audio, research material, and other material.

Manuscripts by the Schneirs in the collection include Invitation to an Inquest, by Walter and Miriam Schneir (Doubleday, 1965); Telling It Like It Was: The Chicago Riots, edited by Walter Schneir (Signet, 1969); "The Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg," screenplay by Walter and Miriam Schneir (1970); Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, by Miriam Schneir (Random House, 1972); the entry on the Rosenbergs for the Encyclopedia of the American Left; and various articles, speeches, and other items. Also present in the collection is a draft of Morton Sobell's book On Doing Time, edited by the Schneirs (1971); "Give Us This Day," a collection of poems by Helen Sobell (1964); two plays about the Rosenbergs by Donald Freed; and additional manuscripts by others.

Correspondence in the collection dates from 1963 to 1992 and is mostly professional in nature. Included are letters regarding Morton Sobell's memoir On Doing Time; Donald Freed's play "Inquest"; letters regarding the "open classroom" concept; and other correspondence.

Printed material in the collection includes several articles by Walter Schneir (1957-1968) published in The Reporter, The Nation, and Liberation; an article titled "The Joy of Learning" (1971) by Walter and Miriam Schneir, published in The New York Times Magazine; other newspaper and magazine articles by the Schneirs; reviews and playbills regarding Donald Freed's play "Inquest" (1970), based in part on Invitation to an Inquest; items regarding the riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (1968); reviews and other material regarding the Schneir's writings; programs; publicity material; and various other items, including press releases, clippings, brochures, booklets, flyers, posters, and newsletters.

Audio recordings in the collection include numerous audio cassettes, dating from 1983 to 1998, on a wide variety of topics. Included are taped interviews with William Kunstler, Michael Meeropol, Miriam Schneir, Walter Schneir, Morton Sobell, and many others.

Research material in the collection is extensive, and mostly pertains to the Rosenberg case. It consists of various documents which the Sheirs have arranged by topic. Besides the Rosenbergs, other topics include Russia, Vietnam, the VENONA project, General William Westmoreland, and education. The material includes court transcripts, correspondence, printed material, manuscript drafts, photographs, legal documents, government documents, and other items.

Other items in the collection include a vase made by Morton Sobell at Lewisburg Penitentiary (ca. 1967-1968); legal material; professional material; a VHS tape of the Discovery Channel program "The Rosenberg File"; and two notebooks.

Biography


Activist and author Walter Daniel Schneir (1927 - 2009) was born in Brooklyn, New York. His wife Miriam (1922- ), also an author, was born in Queens New York in 1933. The Schneirs are mostly known for co-authoring Invitation to an Inquest (Doubleday, 1965), a book which exposed suspected injustices in the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both of whom had been executed for conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States in August 1953.

Walter Schneir graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism and was the editor of MD Medical News Magazine, while also writing for a number of publications. Of particular note are the articles he wrote on the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Miriam Schneir attended Antioch College and Queens College before teaching in the New York City school system. The two often wrote as a team, including the book Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case, written more than 30 years after their first book about the Rosenbergs.

In the late 1950s, both Schneirs were active in the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE). Walter , a medical writer at the time, began a series of articles on strontium-90, a dangerous radioactive byproduct of nuclear testing. He began speaking at schools and other forums about the concurrent environmental dangers and health risks of nuclear testing, and together with Miriam formed the Queens County Committee for Sane Nuclear Testing. Walter was the chairman and Miriam took an active role in the organization. In addition, the Schneirs were also active in the movement against the Vietnam War.

After the Schneirs had spent nearly five years researching and writing Invitation to an Inquest, Doubleday bought the book. After it became a huge success, Walter went on a national speaking tour with Helen Sobell, whose husband Morton was in jail for collaborating with the Rosenbergs. In 1983, a book by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Martin argued that the Rosenbergs were undoubtedly guilty. This sparked a whole new round of interest about the case, and the Schneirs were once again in the spotlight, even appearing on television in a debate moderated by Ted Koppel.

In the late 1960s, Miriam began to study the history of women, especially the suffrage movement, and became an important author and collector of works on feminism. She began writing numerous articles for Ms. magazine, and wrote a series of books on feminism: Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (1971); Feminism in our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present (Vintage, 1994); The Vintage Book of Feminism: The Essential Writings of the Contemporary Women's Movement (Vintage, 1995); and The Vintage Book of Historical Feminism (Vintage, 1996).

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