New to the Archives: The Migs Woodside papers

By Julie Golia, Associate Director, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books and Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscri
September 29, 2023
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

The Manuscripts and Archives Division of The New York Public Library recently opened the papers of Migs Woodside, an expert in substance abuse and the founder and President of the Children of Alcoholics Foundation.

Throughout her career, Woodside has been a pioneering advocate for families dealing with the myriad impacts of addiction. Her papers document the ways that she, through her research, writing, and organizational leadership, shaped popular understandings of addiction and substance abuse. Additionally, through her marriage to William S. Woodside, President and CEO of American Can Company, Woodside also influenced the trajectory of the culture and practices of a major American corporation. The records of Woodside’s life shed new light on the gendered labor of a "corporate wife" and her impact on American business and its employees.

Typescript document with blue handwritten edits related to Daytop Village drug rehabilitation center
Daytop Village internal draft with edits by Woodside, circa 1966

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. 

Woodside’s career in the field of substance abuse research and advocacy began at two New York State drug rehabilitation programs, Daytop Village and Phoenix House, in the 1960s; her papers include correspondence, notes, reports, and other documentation of her work at those organizations. Woodside also served as a political consultant, most notably to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, during a time of growing attention to and funding for substance abuse treatment and research by local, state, and federal government. During this time, Woodside authored a number of reports that shaped local and federal policy as relates to drug trafficking and narcotics control, which are also present in the collection.

Program for a play entitled "Just One Step" with a drawing by a child on the cover
Program for “Just One Step,” a play about parental alcoholism, 1980s.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. 

In 1982, Woodside founded the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Inc. (COAF) and served as the President and CEO until 1995. At COAF, Woodside developed groundbreaking educational and training materials for teachers, social workers, medical professionals, and health care specialists about the effects of living with alcoholism. In order to increase public understanding of the impacts of substance abuse, COAF created educational programs about and for those affected by family alcoholism. Particularly noteworthy was “The Images Within: A Child's View of Parental Alcoholism,” a traveling exhibition that featured drawings, stories, poems by young and adult children of alcoholics.

A drawing created by a child depicting a child pouring out the contents of their parent's liquor bottle
Artwork by children of alcoholics, circa 1983.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. 

While Woodside established important substance abuse-related programs and practices in her professional work, in her private life she exerted influence over a very different organization. In 1975, she married William S. Woodside, President and CEO of American Can Company. Over the next decade and a half, Bill Woodside would transition the corporation from a traditional manufacturing company to a global financial services and retail firm. 

During these years, Migs Woodside played an integral role in relations with the company's Board of Directors as well as with affiliate organizations; senior executives, company employees, and their spouses; and customers around the globe. The Woodsides traveled extensively on behalf of the company, and the collection includes photography and documents relating to corporate trips to Venezuela, Mexico, Iran, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Israel, India, London, and other locations, where Woodside arranged, hosted, and attended women's programs and events for executives' wives. The heft of these materials—schedules, seating charts, guest lists, menus, correspondence, personal research, and more—demonstrates the significant labor that went into her role as a corporate wife.

An open photo album featuring two black and white photographs of women walking through a museum.
Photo albums from the 1980s document the Woodsides hosting visitors from American Can’s international subsidiaries.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. 

Drawing on her own experiences in the workforce, Woodside also pushed her husband to take seriously the impact of corporate workloads on families, and encouraged research and policies that would make American Can a more hospitable workplace for women. The collection includes, for example, notes, correspondence, questionnaires, and meeting minutes from American Can’s Task Force on Women and the Workplace, as well as a study on working conditions and salaries of women working at the company.

Image of a Xeroxed black and white newsletter describing American Can Company's Task Force on Women and the Workplace
Newsletter outlining the work of ACC’s Task Force on Women and the Workplace, 1985.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.  

One of the most important impacts that Woodside left on American Can concerned her outspoken advocacy for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As the anti-ERA movement stepped up its campaign against ratification in the 1970s, Woodside pushed the company to use its corporate power in support of the amendment. For example, Woodside regularly wrote to executives of American Can and its subsidiaries urging them not to hold conferences and meetings in states that had not yet ratified the ERA.

Typed stockholders report for American Can Company featuring an entry criticizing Migs Woodside's inveolvment in the company
Some American Can shareholders took umbrage with Migs Woodside’s influence on the company’s pro-ERA stance, according to this circa 1978 shareholder meeting minutes.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. 

The angry responses of anti-ERA leaders are documented in the collection, including a letter from Phyllis Schlafly to William S. Woodside threatening to boycott the company's products. This letter, along with other documents from the collection, is featured in the exhibition “Equal Rights Movement: A Century of Speaking Out,” on view through January 7, 2024 at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

Typed letter on Stop ERA stationary written by Phyllis Schlafly to William S. Woodside criticizing his support for the Equal Rights Amendment and threatening to boycott American Can products.
Letter from Phyllis Schlafly to William S. Woodside, April 10, 1978.

Migs Woodside papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.  

Through the Migs Woodside papers, researchers will glean new insights into a myriad of issues shaping 20th-century culture and politics, from the evolution of advocacy and research related to substance abuse, to the impact of second-wave feminism and the Equal Rights amendment on corporate culture at one of the country’s largest corporations. 

The Manuscripts and Archives Division welcomes all researchers to explore the Migs Woodside papers. Start by reading through the collection guide. If you need help making an appointment, would like to speak to a librarian about your research, or have any questions about our collections, please reach out to the division via