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Women's Music Archives/History


Special hello to those who've been involved in creating women's music and culture over these past four decades.

Let's think long and hard about the fact that in a few decades, those of us who invented and fought for and breathed life into this marvelous lesbian-feminist "women's music" culture will be dead and gone.

Researchers will want to know about us, about our lives and times - of this there is no doubt. Let's make it easy for them to find us. And let's stay together forever somewhere… one permanent ethereal women's music festival that never ends.

With that in mind… Many of us are now "of a certain age" and thinking about how to preserve our women's music historical material. Many of us have collections of unique, priceless memorabilia that should not be lost or tossed when we pass away or downsize into assisted living facilities.

The media and male history books - even gay - have done all they can time and time again to minimize our contributions to changing the course of American history. Let's be proactive now, while we still can, and give one final gift to future generations of progressives, creatives, lesbians, feminists, filmmakers, and other researchers.

A group of us "women's music lifers," including familiar names Boden Sandstrom, Cathy Roma, Judith Casselberry, Bonnie Morris, June Millington, Holly Near, and Toni Armstrong Jr., have been researching options for the past few years.

In our countless conversations it's become clear that it'll be best if the archival materials are housed together - or at least in close proximity. Other criteria that we consider important:

  • The archivists are already committed to preserving feminist and lesbian materials - they will understand and value what we send.

  • The library is able to accept large collections that already exist.

  • The library has the capacity to store audio, video, photos, and other memorabilia, as well as personal letters, papers, and books.

  • The library has the capability to digitize audio and video materials, and the willingness to create non-homophobic study guides.

  • The library is likely to be here 100+ years from now, and already has climate control and other professional elements in place.

  • The library is not located in a hurricane zone or area of probable seismic activity.

  • The public has easy access to our archival materials for research purposes. Think how great it will be for documentary filmmakers not to have to criss-cross the country digging for images and info - think how great it will be for anyone who wants to find us to be able to!

By the way, we consulted with Desiree Yael Vester of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and that library unfortunately does not have the capacity to take on the size of what we collectively will be depositing.

Based on these criteria, and direct conversations with various libraries, we would like to recommend that our community bank as much of our archival material as possible at either Sophia Smith or Schlesinger - see details below. It is a plus that they are both reasonably close to the Lesbian Herstory Archives (New York City) and June Millington/Ann Hackler's Institute for the Musical Arts Archives (Goshen, Massachusetts), and both are willing to work with the Lesbian Herstory Archives in terms of sharing materials where appropriate.


Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

This is the oldest women's history archive in the U.S. If you have media other than papers, we recommend Smith. Collections that are already there (or promised) include:

  • Kim Kimber's massive Women's Music Archives
    (the largest collection of our memorabilia on the planet)

  • Kay Gardner

  • Ronnie Gilbert

  • Margie Adam

  • HOT WIRE: The Journal of Women's Music and Culture

  • Toni Armstrong Jr. photo files

  • JEB/Joan E. Biren photo files

  • Sister Singers women's choral network

  • MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir

  • Radical Harmonies (documentary film)

  • Catherine Roma

  • Linda Shear

  • Jennifer Abod

  • Boden Sandstrom and WomanSound

  • Casse Culver

  • Tam Martin

  • Jane Fonda

  • Gloria Steinem

  • Ms. Magazine

  • Clara Barton's Civil War Memorabilia

  • Planned Parenthood

  • Margaret Sanger

  • Radical Lesbians

  • Suffragists

  • Sappho Was a Right on Woman


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Collections that are already there (or promised) include:

  • Holly Near

  • Alix Dobkin

  • Bonnie Morris

  • June Jordan

  • Adrienne Rich

  • Susan B. Anthony

  • Betty Friedan

  • Andrea Dworkin

  • Judy Chicago

  • Charlotte Bunch

  • National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL)

  • National Organization for Women (NOW)

  • Rock vs. Sexism

  • Sophie Drinker

  • Women's Equity Action League

  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective

If you would like to discuss these ideas further, contact:
Toni Armstrong Jr.:
Boden Sandstrom: