Ways to Share Our Feminist History: Stories, Videos, Artifacts, Documents
Many of us are thinking about how to preserve and share information on our feminist contributions. If we have not given it much thought, we should be doing so. All this valuable history should not be left to our descendants to toss--or figure out! What are our options? Our presenters will help us learn what, where, and how we should share information on our lives, especially our contributions to fight for women’s rights and empowerment.
Should the bulk of our documents go to feminist archives such as Schlesinger, Duke, or Smith? Should some stories and summaries go to other entities such as oral history collections, or collections of our peer groups (e.g., women judges or spouses of U.S. foreign service officers), or to our local historical collections? What are feminist organizations like NOW and CWI doing to archive our history? Are oral histories usually accompanied by written summaries and digital links? To increase accessibility, should we submit our information to multiple history collections and repositories with especially easy public access like Wikipedia? Do some history collections only accept originals? Should we be making electronic copies of our key documents to send to other places or preserve for our families?
Two of our past CWI Board members, Dr. Bernice “Bunny” Sandler and Tina Hobson have inspired this meeting topic by reminding us of the importance of documenting and sharing our feminist history. At our January 22, 2019 meeting celebrating Bunny’s life and legacy, we learned about her stellar example in preserving her feminist history. She archived many of her documents at the Schlesinger Library. She also helped update her and Title IX's Wikipedia page, and created her own professional web page, which Marty Langelan and Amanda Berard will update and preserve. CWI Board member, Loretto Gubernatis is also assembling multiple videos of Bunny that she produced over the years, including Bunny's induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Tina Hobson, as our first presenter, is currently exploring options to preserve her valuable documents, such as material she saved from being the first Federal Women's Program Director. Since these are federal documents, should they go to the National Archives or other places? Tina is also helping to make the contributions of her late husband, Julius Hobson, accessible. Most of his papers have already been donated to the DC historical collection at the Martin Luther King Library, but she is now working with colleagues to select a writer to complete his biography. Julius has a Wikipedia page, which she plans to review and correct. She will share insights on how we might encourage experienced women leaders to develop their own Wikipedia pages and to share their valuable information with collections which will make them accessible to historians and the public. Tina has arranged for Elsa Little, an independent consultant in financial management for non-profits to provide additional information on sharing their legacies
Mary Jean Collins serves on the Board of the Veteran Feminists of America, (VFA), an organization founded over 20 years ago to preserve the history of second wave feminism, as well as co-chair of VFA’s Pioneer History Project, which gathers oral histories and accompanying written documentation on second wave feminists (1965-82). She will tell us how VFA is preserving feminist history through their website https://VeteranFeministsofAmerica.org and their partnership with the New York Historical Society’s Center for Women’s History https://www.nyhistory.org/womens-history which is both a museum and library that partners with Columbia University and others to develop women’s history curricula, on-line courses, and exhibits. Mary Jean is also in the VFA interview and document collection as well as in Wikipedia and in the NOW archives in the Schlesinger library.
Mary Jean was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Alverno College, a Catholic women's college, where she graduated with a BA in history. One of her history professors, Sister Joel Read, was a founder of NOW. They started the Milwaukee Chapter of NOW in 1967 and from there, feminism changed her life. Mary Jean moved to Chicago in 1968, became President of Chicago NOW, then Midwest Regional Director, organizing chapters in 13 states. She served on NOW's national board, directed national Task Forces and worked on various campaigns including ERA ratification. In 1982, she was elected Program Vice-President for NOW, which brought her to DC. She went on to serve as the Deputy Director for Catholics for a Free Choice and finished her work life with 15 years at People for the American Way serving as Vice-President, Field, and Political Director.
Mary Jean will explain the purpose of the VFA Oral history project and the options for participating. She will review and provide handouts on the requirements, permissions, and process of getting the interviews done and posted. There are minimal requirements – active participation in the feminist movement of 1965-1982 -- and various ways of accomplishing the video or audio interview, such as using a smart phone with a friend as interviewer. The oral interviews are linked to additional materials and published on the interviewee’s "VFA page." VFA is utilizing Facebook and Instagram to distribute new additions to the collection which has resulted in an extended reach of the materials. Mary Jean is anxious to discuss reactions and thoughts about how to reach more potential interviewees and people who want to know more about feminists and the movement. She will also mention the large numbers of collections which VFA is linking to and how feminists can record their history using Wikipedia and other easily accessible collections such as the HistoryMakers to be covered by our next speaker.
Amy Tate Billingsley is a civic leader originally from Chicago. She received advanced degrees in counseling psychology and marketing and management from Ohio State University and the University of Baltimore, respectively, and worked at Harvard’s Center for Research in the Study of Personality. She also worked with her husband, Andrew Billingsley, on publications such as Black Families in White America, participated in campaigns of well-known Democrats and served in the Clinton Administration in the White House Public Liaison Office, the White House’s Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and as Special Assistant to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. While First Lady of Morgan State, she was one of the founders of the Black Women’s Agenda. Amy will share insights from her role as regional Coordinator of the largest African American Video Oral History Collection -- HistoryMakers www.theHistoryMakers.org. This collection is also available at the Library of Congress. The public can do limited searches on the website, but need to subscribe for full access.
To Everyone: During our self-introductions, attendees will let us know if they are already in any historical archives -- (in addition to the CWI website) -- or if they have started to check out some possibilities. After the presentations, attendees will have a chance to discuss their good and bad experiences with sharing feminist history. Please also invite other experts to join us and bring guidance/handouts to help us learn how we all can wisely include our feminist experiences and contributions to the annals of history.
CWI meetings are free and open to the public. We will bring some light lunch refreshments.
Next CWI meeting, Noon Tue. April 23, 2019. "Financial Literacy"
Check www.womensclearinghouse.org for meeting cancellations. The 11 Dupont Circle entrance is on New Hampshire Ave., across from the Dupont Plaza Hotel. Metro stop: Dupont; south exit.