Geneva Douglas Papers

Identifier: 93-35

Scope and Contents

The Geneva Douglas Papers include organizational records, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, audio recordings, and memorabilia.

Because Geneva and Richard Douglas spent May through October at their home in Rockport, Maine, and November through April at their home in Las Vegas, the collection contained some duplicate subscriptions, photocopies of correspondence, and Soroptimist reference materials. Unless annotated, duplicate items were discarded. The papers were reboxed into acid-free containers, and materials were removed from binders and placed in acid-free folders.

Materials relating to Geneva's work with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Study Group consist of two cubic feet of documents dating from 1959 to 1991. A good portion of this material consists of drafts of public information fact sheets, brochures, and press releases written in her capacity as Public Information Officer. Also included among her professional papers are tour notes relating to her work as a Nevada Test Site tour guide, and slideshows she developed and presented to local communities explaining underground nuclear weapons testing and the environmental monitoring program.

The vast majority of materials in this collection relate to Geneva's participation in Soroptimist International between 1976 and 1993. The service group is structured hierarchically, and this structure has been maintained within the collection. Correspondence, committee work, and planning notes are arranged according to organizational level and chronicle Geneva's growing responsibilities within the organization. The arrangement also reflects a chronological pattern: for example, early records document Geneva's local club programs and committees, and later records document her international obligations.

Over 300 color slides relating to Geneva's travels in Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand in 1987 were extracted and are housed in the department's photographic archives. Geneva's scrapbooks also contain many photographs which, due to accompanying explanatory notes, were kept with the rest of the scrapbook materials. Also included in scrapbooks are poems, music and drama programs, notes, cards, class lists, autographs, and memorabilia. The scrapbooks themselves are in fragile condition and were individually wrapped and boxed.

Records relating to Geneva's participation in other volunteer organizations are also present in the collection. Her responsibilities as chairperson of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Volunteerism are detailed through correspondence, minutes, meeting and planning notes, and workshop and conference programs. Records relating to her position as steering committee member and chairperson of the statewide Friends of Nevada Wilderness organization consist of minutes, correspondence, flyers, steering committee notes, and congressional testimony drafts relating to environmental legislation.

Except for two college scrapbooks, the collection contains very little material of a personal nature. Many fellow Soroptimists became close friends, but their correspondence generally focused on club, rather than personal, matters. Only a few letters from her husband and to her mother and brother exist, and financial records consist of a small number of consultation and travel vouchers.

The papers of Geneva Douglas reveal a woman dedicated to her profession and dedicated, perhaps even more, to women's excellence and achievement. In Geneva's case, this meant personal commitment to a service organization with similar goals and purposes and in this sense, her papers reflect the skills and accomplishments of women around the world.


  • 1945-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1978-1990


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Geneva Smith Douglas was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and received her graduate degree in physiology from Mount Holyoke in 1956. From 1956-1959 she worked as a Research Associate at the University of Rochester Atomic Energy Project, studying the metabolism of nuclear fission products. In 1959 she joined the U.S. Public Health Service as a radiation biologist for the Southwestern Radiological Health Laboratory (later renamed the Environmental Monitoring Systems Laboratory) in Las Vegas, Nevada. In her dual role as Public Affairs Director for the U.S. Public Health Service and Public Information Director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she acted as a scientific liaison between the nuclear industry and local communities regarding the effects of the nuclear weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site. In Geneva's eventual capacity as the Program Operations Manager of the Environmental Monitoring Systems Laboratory, she developed an off­site radiation monitoring program and spent much of her time speaking, advising, conducting tours, and writing informational brochures and fact sheets regarding nuclear testing and community safety.

Although Geneva retired from the Environmental Protection Agency in 1985, she continued to advise the scientific community on matters relating to nuclear safety. She participated in and evaluated full-scale field exercises of the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan in Florida (1984) and Illinois (1986) and the VENTEX exercises at the Nevada Test Site (1986-1987). She also acted as a technical liaison and EPA spokesperson following accidental releases of radioactivity from U.S. and Chinese nuclear weapons tests, and advised the emergency response crew during the krypton venting phase of cleanup following the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island. In addition, she prepared and delivered Congressional testimony relating to nuclear testing, radiation exposure, and nuclear waste repositories.

In addition to her busy professional career, Geneva was active at all levels of Soroptimist International, one of the five largest women's service organizations in the world. She was a charter member of Soroptimist International of Greater Las Vegas, and held most club offices, including two terms as club president. In 1980, she was elected to the office of regional governor of the Sierra Nevada Region, which consisted of about 45 clubs in California and Nevada. Between 1982-1984 she served as Environmental Advisor for Soroptimist International of the Americas, a federation of clubs in 20 countries. Geneva attended her first international convention in Istanbul in 1983, as a silent observer, and was appointed member of the Long Range Planning Group for Soroptimist International. Between 1987-1991 she served as the International Programme Liaison and was responsible for coordinating international service programs in the areas of Economic and Social Development, Education, Environment, Health, Human Rights/Status of Women, and International Goodwill and Understanding. As International Program Liaison, she developed a database of club service activities relating to international programs, helped write and revise Soroptimist statements and positions, and created a roster of Soroptimists with special expertise for consulting purposes.

In 1986, Governor Richard Bryan named Geneva Douglas to chair the newly formed "Governor's Advisory Committee on Volunteerism," whose focus was to discover and coordinate volunteer leadership and activities within the State of Nevada. In just a few months, Geneva had coordinated several workshops on volunteer resources and training, and organized the first statewide Conference on Volunteerism, with representatives from business and service organizations and government agencies.

Geneva also served on the steering committee of the Friends of Nevada between 1986-1987. This coalition of environmental groups functioned to lobby the state against bills which would negatively affect Nevada wilderness areas, and to encourage the state to purchase public lands for statewide protection. In her capacity as chairperson, she helped the group organize and focus their efforts on preparing statements and congressional testimony relating to wilderness preservation.


23.6 Linear Feet (25 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Geneva Douglas papers are largely composed of materials related to her participation in Soroptimist International. Smaller portions of the collection come from her professional work at the U.S. Public Health Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Study Group. Other volunteer organizations activities are also present, including Douglas’s role as chairperson of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Volunteerism. Material between 1945-1993.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Professional Career; 2) Soroptimist International; 3) Governor's Advisory Committee on Volunteerism; 4) Friends of Nevada Wilderness; 5) Personal Papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Richard Douglas in 1993.

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P1997-16.

A part of

Nevada women's archives.

Guide to the Papers of Geneva Douglas
Jacquelyn Sundstrand and Jessica Maddox
June 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)