Nation’s Oldest Women’s History Archive to Turn
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, the nation’s oldest women’s history archive, will not mark its 65th quietly.
On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29, the collection will celebrate the power of women’s voices by—among other things—airing oral accounts of women typically overlooked in popular depictions of feminism as a white, middle-class movement.
Those oral histories are the culmination of the four-year initiative, called “Voices of Feminism” and supported by the Ford Foundation. A panel discussion about the project will kick off the two-day celebration at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. Then, at 9 p.m., the Sophia Smith Collection will open the exhibit in the Alumnae Gymnasium.
The following day, Saturday, Sept. 29, will include a talk about the future of feminism by Smith alumna Gloria Steinem ’56 at 4 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium. Steinem, editor, journalist and political activist for women’s equality, donated her personal papers to the collection and regularly performs research there. [To view Steinem's talk online, visit http://media.smith.edu/media/ssc/steinem.mov]
Saturday will also feature two panel discussions. The first, at 9:30 a.m., will spotlight the newly opened YWCA archives and, the second, at 1:30 p.m., will feature two new oral history projects. Both of those discussions will be held in the Weinstein Auditorium.
To date, the Voices of Feminism archive includes 50 oral histories with labor, peace and anti-racism activists, artists and writers; lesbian rights advocates; grassroots, anti-violence and anti-poverty organizers; and women of color reproductive justice leaders.
The interviews average about six hours and cover both personal life and political work. Most consist of original miniDV tapes, audiotape, compact discs and video or DVD copies and unedited and edited transcripts of the interviews. Several of the women interviewed have also donated their personal papers to the Sophia Smith Collection.
All events are free and open to the public. The full schedule of the two-day party is available online at https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/conference07/conf-schedule07.html
What does 65 look like?
Founded in 1942 by Margaret Storrs Grierson and later named in honor of the founder of the college, the Sophia Smith Collection has grown to 575 collections (9,000 square feet) of primary source material.
The holdings document the historical experience of women in the United States and abroad from the Colonial era to the present. Its strengths include material on birth control and reproductive rights, women’s rights, suffrage, the contemporary women’s movement, U.S. women working abroad, the arts, the professions and middle-class family life in 19th- and 20th-century New England. Many of these collections are rich sources of visual, as well as manuscript and printed material.
Never too old to stop working
The Sophia Smith Collection is now embarking on another venture: producing a documentary film on organizers who are women of color. The film is tentatively titled "And So We Speak: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice."
Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. By linking the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, Smith is developing leaders for society’s challenges. Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country, enrolling 2,800 students from nearly every state and 61 other countries.
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