Opening the Information Vault: Preserving, Digitizing, and Funding the International Women’s History Periodical Archive

I was honored to have as one of my co-panelists at Bryn Mawr College’s “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference the most important feminist archivist of the sixties and seventies as well as the founder of Women’s History Month and so much more: Laura X.

In her talk, which appears here in this guest blog, edited for publication, Laura talks about the rediscovery of International Women’s Day, which then led to the creation of the central archive of the women’s movement from 1968 to 1974, and the founding of both Women’s History Month in 1969 and the Women’s History Library. Previous to 1969, she was a Head Start teacher in New York and a CORE picket captain and then active in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964 as well as the emerging peace and women’s movements.

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Ken, you are my hero for this digitizing of our early movement materials and your Voices from the Underground Series, including our chapter on It Aint Me Babe, the first U.S. national Women’s Liberation newspaper. I am so happy to be involved with the ingathering of feminist and lesbian periodicals for digitizing.

Ken asked me to tell our historical origin pre-story for the International Women’s History Periodical Archive. (Women’s Liberation Movement publications included the note “This publication is on file at the International Women’s History Periodical Archive” and our address, which caused other publications from 40 countries to place themselves on file in our archive as well.)

I’ll start with the strike that was inspired by Russian women in 1917, the discovery of which inspired me to help organize a demonstration in Berkeley for International Women’s Day on March 8, 1969, and to begin to build the idea of Women’s History Month around March 8. Our Women’s History Library, which maintained the International archive of our movement from 1968 to 1974, took a quantum leap forward from the national publicity as a result of that Berkeley demonstration. There had been no such demonstration for IWD in the U.S. since 1947. By the next year, 1970, there were Women’s Liberation events in 30 cities around the world for March 8.

So, to begin: Back in late 1968, I saw the 1929 Soviet film The End of St. Petersburg by Vsevolod Pudovkin. The women’s demonstration in St. Petersburg on February 23, 1917 for “bread, peace and land” is clearly the spark that ignited the strike for the Putilov factory workers. Their strike toppled the rule of the czars within four days of the women’s protest. What is not known, partly due to the confusion of the use of another calendar system by the Eastern church, is that their February 23 was March 8 on the Western calendar; the Bolshevik women who organized the demonstration over the protests of their male comrades were in fact deliberately celebrating International Women’s Day, which had been declared seven years earlier.

Although by 1969 I had considered myself a socialist for thirteen years, had been immersed in Left politics in New York and Berkeley, and had been to the Soviet Union twice to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary in 1967, I still did not learn until late 1968 that International Women’s Day was based on a U.S. event that took place on March 8, 1908. It had been celebrated big time in the Socialist countries around the world, but by 1969 in the USSR it had deteriorated into something like Mother’s Day in the U.S. where women are given flowers, and the day was ignored here.

In November 1968 I called for U.S. celebrations of IWD in a review of The End of St. Petersburg for the UC Berkeley newspaper The Daily Californian. I had just been told by Noel Ignatin, a socialist active in Chicago, about the Russian women inspiring the 1917 strike by demanding an end to World War I as well as bread and land. He also told me that the Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen in 1910 had declared March 8 to be International Working Women’s Day in a motion made by Clara Zetkin, a German Communist, and seconded by Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik (majority) party leader whose triumphant return from exile was made possible by the so-called February Revolution of 1917, the one begun by women on March 8 on the Western calendar. I believe his source was Isaac Deutscher’s The Unfinished Revolution: Russia, 1917-1967.

But what really ignited me was that once again American history had been stolen from us. I had just recently been angry about discovering that May Day, the enormous international socialist event on May 1, commemorated the Haymarket Square massacre of the workers in Chicago who were struggling for an eight-hour day in 1881. Noel told me that the resolution for International Women’s Day in 1910 was to commemorate a demonstration in New York in 1908 of garment workers who were demanding an end to sweatshops and to child labor, and also the right to vote.

The part about the vote intrigued me because women on the Left as late as 1969 were being hooted down and dismissed as bourgeois whenever we demanded our rights as women—indeed as human beings. And Leftist men were perpetuating the myth that no one in the working class wanted any women’s rights, including the right to vote. I had been collecting mimeographed manifestos and letters to the editors of the Leftist press about many such outrages by men in the antiwar and Civil Rights movements for six months or more in order to try to recapture my sanity after having been battered and nearly killed by my own comrade and lover. (He had been a child prodigy violinist and was by then a revolutionary poet. We met demonstrating in Puerto Rico against the U.S. invasion of Santo Domingo. The grief over the loss of that relationship and my fright over how it ended seemed insurmountable until I discovered the rising up of women in all the movements of the sixties.)

In January/February 1969 I was invited to a little party of sociology professors to show the mimeos and pamphlets to Pauline Bart, who was considering teaching a Women’s Studies course, the first at UC Berkeley. As we were being introduced, everyone’s favorite male radical professor, David Matza, whose courage had been demonstrated on the Third World Strike picket lines on campus, overheard us, and before I could speak he told Pauline not to bother teaching such a course, because there was not enough about women to fill a quarter course. That betrayal knocked me into the orbit of the pure fury of those heady days. In three days I pestered friends everywhere and pulled together a list of 1,000 women in world history: politics, the arts and sciences.

I had had the immense privilege of going to girls’ schools and a women’s college. It was only in my last year in college, at UC Berkeley, that I discovered that not everybody knew that women could do everything! I nailed the list to Professor Matza’s door (in homage to Luther) and went in search of a local women’s liberation group through the father of one of its members.

Bill Mandel had a show on the Soviet Union on Pacifica Radio that I started listening to in 1960 in New York, though it originated from Pacifica’s mother station in Berkeley. He regularly read from the Soviet press on International Women’s Day. His daughter, Phyllis, a long-time activist, took me to the Berkeley Women’s Liberation group, which then organized the first street demonstration about International Women’s Day since 1947 in the U.S. Many of us dressed up as women in history from my list. I was a cross between Alexandra Kollontai, the Bolshevik feminist, and Isadora Duncan, the American woman who lived for a time in Russia and transformed the world of dance away from the confines of the ballet.

Liberation News Service picked up the story from a San Francisco paper about our parade in Berkeley and its sources from my list. The publicity from their article caused people from this and many other countries to begin to send me everything imaginable about women in history, including information about their own family members. People also came to visit from around the country, and to volunteer. Ten thousand copies of the list, by now called the HERSTORY SYNOPSIS, were sold within a few short years. Five thousand people have volunteered here.

We put out the only national women’s liberation newsletter from April to December 1969, SPAZM: the Sophia Perovskaya and Andrei Zhelyabov Memorial Society for Peoples’ Freedom through Women’s Liberation. Sophia and Andrei were lovers. She was the 16-year-old daughter of the governor of St. Petersburg and the two of them assassinated the czar in 1881. I was not comfortable about assassinations as a political tactic, having just lived through several in the sixties:  John Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy.

But I liked the part about the comrade-lovers, and the rebellious adolescent daughter of a powerful man. The name was also in the style of rock groups, but the last part of it fully embodied my philosophy for peoples’ freedom, which I still hold today. By January 1970 we had to put SPAZM into newsprint as it was too unwieldy as a zine. Other people wanted to do a paper, too, so It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the U.S. Women’s Liberation Movement, was born. (People from off our backs called me to pick my brain for their name, which ended up being a combination of the quote from the Grimke sisters about getting our brothers off our necks and revulsion at the quote attributed to Stokely Carmichael about the position of women in SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) being prone and silent. Their paper came out only a few weeks later, the first national feminist paper to emerge from the East Coast.)

There were many other firsts from the Women’s History Library:

  • the anthology Masculine/Feminine in 1969 with all the great manifestos;
  • The Women’s Songbook;
  • Female Artists Past and Present: Films by and/or about Women Internationally, Past and Present;
  • Bibliography on Rape; and
  • Women and Religion Bibliography.

Most lasting are the microfilms of the records of our movement: nearly one million documents now available through the National Women’s History Project in Santa Rosa, California (707-636-2888; nwhp1980@gmail.com).

Besides handling the distribution of our library’s resources, the people at National Women’s History Project have carried on the ideas we had when we founded our library beyond our wildest dreams, including their idea and work making Congress declare March as Women’s History Month. They also have put up the fabulous website for all of the celebrations in 1998 for the 150th anniversary of the Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S.

My archive features documents, media, and other materials collected over the last fifty years. The collection pertains to the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, and a wide array of precursors and overlapping social movements from the second half of the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the women’s movement, including references to my own successful state-by-state campaign to abolish the legal privilege and exemption for marital and date rape. The presence of my materials in the Laura X Social Movements Archives most directly addresses the need to “understand the moral and ethical values of a diverse society and understand that many courses of action are guided by value judgments about the way things ought to be ….”

The important reservoirs of tens of thousands of documents from local, national, and international sources that constitute the Laura X Social Movements Archives have been carefully preserved and maintained for historical research and presentation. The collection is derived from my participation in an extensive array of social movements, including the anti-nuke, peace, Civil Rights, Free Speech, women’s rights, and environmental movements; my life in St. Louis and beyond; the organizations I founded; the materials I produced for my organizing work around the country; materials produced by other organizations that I collected for posterity; and smaller collections donated to me.

The staff and volunteers of the Laura X Institute (see text of informational flyer below) are currently engaged in sorting, cataloging, and assigning “finding aids” to the 580 boxes of materials, in order to keep them vibrant, accessible, and available for researchers, curators, film makers, and other interested parties. Once finished, the Institute’s archive will be a resource for students, professors, historians, film documentarians, museums, exhibitions, high school teachers, activists, and other members of the general public.

Our prior collection, covering up to 1974, was converted to microfilm and the master microfilm donated in 1989 by the Women’s History Research Center (WHRC) to the National Women’s History Project (NWHP). Since 1974 the microfilm copies have been distributed through NWHP and WHRC, now currently through Primary Source Media/Cengage Learning to some 450 libraries in fourteen countries so far.

We recently were displaced after the Missouri legislature removed funding to the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Many programs were cut, including our archives. So it is vital now that we get this project finished. We are experiencing many challenges in maintaining our collection of over 500 boxes. We also have to raise funding to rent our rooms near Harris-Stowe State University and St. Louis University. Museum-quality storage is expensive; HVAC systems, filtration, and proper shelving all come at high costs. Accessibility to our documents also is challenging; right now we can’t afford the price of digitizing all of our work and the equipment needed for it, which is why we are reaching out to other sources of funding. We would like our collection to be fully cataloged first so we can then get the large donation to digitize. Even cataloging our collection is costly and time consuming for only a few individuals.

If our collection were being funded under the Reveal Digital model, they would put it up on their crowd-funding website; once we had the support from libraries, we would go into production. No library pays a lot and yet every library benefits. My archives could be invaluable to courses in women’s history, the environment, the social movements of the sixties and seventies, and many others. The collaboration between libraries and archives is important; as we step into a more digitally focused age, the importance of these documents and publications becomes more apparent for researchers.

We are not trying to recreate history, but learn from it.

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[Following is the text of the flyer from the Laura X World Institute and Archives]

 

                   

Legacy and Learning of Social Justice Movements

JOIN US TO SAVE 47* YEARS OF FEMINIST HISTORY

 MEET THE CHALLENGE: Raise funds, find homes, send your favorite interns, and even swing by St. Louis to be inspired.

BACKGROUND HISTORY

The legendary Women’s History Library, created by pioneer feminist Laura X with a mostly-volunteer staff, gathered nearly a million documents on the changing lives of women from 1968-1974, including the only comprehensive records of our movement, nationally and internationally. The library divided the archives into three collections for microfilm publishing: HERSTORY (90 reels of 821 serial titles: 20,000 issues of journals, newspapers, and newsletters from 40 countries); WOMEN’S HEALTH/MENTAL HEALTH (14 reels) and WOMEN AND LAW (40 reels covering Education, Politics, Employment, Abortion, Family, Rape, Prison, Prostitution, etc).

This historic treasure, described by the American Library Association as “the most comprehensive record of any social protest movement” is now available on microfilm in nearly 500 libraries in 14 countries. These microfilms can be purchased from the National Women’s History Project (707-636-2888), the great group that convinced Congress to make National Women’s History Month official. (The Week was approved in 1981 and the Month was recognized in 1987.)

Once the first stage of the Women’s History Library’s work was accomplished—the preservation of the first part of the woman’s liberation movement until 1974—Laura X, again with volunteers, founded the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape in 1978. Documents and papers from numerous women’s movement groups and individuals continued to flow in despite the Library’s announced 1974 end of collecting, while Laura X accumulated more material from her own work on rape.

The University of Illinois took over many of the Clearinghouse resources in 1985, but Laura X continued until 1993, when she succeeded in making marital and date rape a crime in all 50 states.

THE PROBLEM—Without You

For proper preservation of perishable materials, an apartment was rented for storage where room temperature, humidity, pesticide use, and other factors could be controlled. Laura finally gave up the non-profit in 2000. She has now spent over 41 years trying to stop the flow of materials to her while searching for funding and institutions to take over the materials!

Temporarily the bulk of the materials since 74’ were housed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis but, the legislature of Missouri cut $4 million dollars worth of project and program funding including ours. We moved to a strategic storefront next to Harris-Stowe State University and St. Louis University to be available to researchers and interns.

The papers, approximately 580 boxes, must be sorted still!

THE SOLUTION—With You

You will seek to find repositories for the remainder, with all the energy and brains you can muster!

Your tax-deductible donations and grants for the work of the Institute and archives as well as those for interns and digitizing may be sent to:

Website: lauraxinstitute.org   Email: laurax@sbcglobal.net

*PS. It should be noted that, as a social activist since her student days in the Sixties, thousands of documents from other social movements are also available.

The Laura X – Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr. World Institute is the teaching arm of Laura’s new nonprofit, Laura’s Social Movements Archives, which feature documents and other materials collected by Laura and so many others, over the last fifty years since the Free Speech Movement.

We have moved into a new location and would love any advice on lighting, archival materials, and digitizing equipment to use.

 

 

 

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Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age

Following is my talk at the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference that was held at Bryn Mawr College this past Thursday and Friday, May 21-22. I was honored to be joined by Laura X and Andrée Rathemacher as fellow panelists and Julie Enszer as chair of our panel, which was titled “Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age … Rebroadcasting Our Voices.” Quick bios:

  • Laura X: legendary feminist archivist and founder of both the Women’s History Research Center and the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape as well as, more recently, the Laura X Institute to house her Social Movements Archives from the women’s movement and overlapping social movements
  • Andrée Rathemacher, professor and head of acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, and long-time advocate of open access and scholarly communication reform
  • Julie Enszer, visiting scholar in the Department of Women’s Studies at University of Maryland and editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal

Upcoming guest blog posts will be the presentations of Laura and Andrée.

Panelists (L to R) Andrée Rathemacher, Laura X, and Ken Wachsberger

Panelists (L to R) Andrée Rathemacher, Laura X, and Ken Wachsberger

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When I got the word that my panel had been accepted into the conference I announced on Facebook that I would be speaking on the topic of the feminist and lesbian underground press. A college friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in over forty years, wrote, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

We lived in the dorm together back then. Today I think he’s Tea Party. I got busted after Kent State and emerged from solitary confinement as a committed radical. Not everyone who lived through the sixties experienced the magic of the period. Those of us who did read the underground press.

I’m not surprised today that so many young people have never heard of the underground press. Vietnam was a national embarrassment. We were the bad guys. We got trounced. And then, instead of having a national dialogue so that we could heal as a nation, Vietnam was disappeared from national discourse. Schools and colleges didn’t teach it. Generations grew up having no idea what happened.

So here’s a quick summary: The antiwar movement during the Vietnam years was the broadest, most diverse antiwar movement in the history of our country, no exception. The underground press—the independent, alternative, non-corporate, antiwar, underground press—was the voice of that movement. There were underground papers everywhere. They were all united against the war. But they all spoke to their individual communities. There was the gay press, the lesbian press the feminist press, the black press, Native Americans, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Asian-Americans, GIs, campus, community, high school, psychedelics, socialists, Southern consciousness, prisoners’ rights, rank-and-file workers, senior citizens….

I’m talking today about the women’s papers. Like the others, they were everywhere. In fact, I’m going to make an assertion and then I’m going to tell a story.

The assertion: You can’t fully know women’s history, especially in the sixties and seventies, without studying the feminist and lesbian underground press.

The story: Fifteen years after the war ended, I published my book, Voices from the Underground, a series of histories of different underground papers as written by key people on each of the papers. I included as many different sectors of the antiwar movement as I could because I wanted to create a mosaic of what the antiwar movement looked like. For the feminist press I chose off our backs, the first national feminist paper to emerge from the east coast. A group of radical lesbians broke away from off our backs and became known as The Furies, soon The legendary Furies. Their paper, The Furies, is also in Voices.

The book came out to much critical acclaim, and then it went out of print, in a story for another time but way too soon. Not long after it went out of print, I received a phone call from Susan Brownmiller. I’m sure most of you know who Susan is but for those of you who don’t, Susan was—is—a feminist author and organizer who became famous in the early seventies after publishing her book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, the book that put rape on the map as a feminist issue. At the time of her call she was writing a history of the feminist movement (In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (1999)) and wanted a copy of my book so she could read the off our backs and Furies entries. I didn’t have one—fortunately she found one on her own—but the experience stayed with me: Susan Brownmiller, the famous author, liked my book. I was pretty full of myself.

So another fifteen years later, when I was working on the revised and expanded second edition, which came out as the four-volume Voices from the Underground Series, I contacted her for a testimonial quote, which she graciously gave to me. It appears on the back cover of volume 1; off our backs is one of the stories in that volume. On my next trip to New York, I met her for the first time.

4-volume Voices from the Underground Series

4-volume Voices from the Underground Series

On my way from the subway to her apartment, I was visualizing our greeting: She opened the door to her apartment. She had a warm smile on her face. With outstretched arms, she embraced me and told me what a great book I had created and how much she admired me as an author and editor and a supporter of the feminist cause and how just all-around wonderful I was….

Okay, I admit it, I was in groupie mode. In fact, although I’m sure she said hello, I don’t remember it. What I remember is her opening the door and saying, “You don’t have enough women’s papers.” I was immediately thrown on the defensive. I tried to explain to her that I had off our backs, so I had feminist papers covered, and I had The Furies, so I had lesbian papers covered. And, after all, Voices from the Underground didn’t make any claims to be exhaustive; it was just representative.

But she insisted. She said the women’s papers were everywhere. “You can’t fully know women’s history, especially in the sixties and seventies, without studying the feminist and lesbian underground press.” Those are my words, not hers, but that was the exact message that I took away from her conclusion.

And then she said, “You’ve got to have It Aint Me Babe.” Those were her words. It Aint Me Babe was the first feminist paper to emerge from the west coast. It actually came out a few weeks before off our backs so it gets credit for being the first national feminist underground paper. But to Susan it had another level of significance. Her consciousness-raising group, New York Radical Feminists, used to read and discuss every issue as it came out. During one meeting, they discussed an article that was an interview with a woman who recently had been raped on her way home from a late-night meeting. Her boyfriend’s response had been less than sensitive: He had tried to make a joke out of it. The article was about that experience and what it meant. So Susan’s group discussed the article, and Susan had her light bulb moment that inspired her to write the book that made her famous.

Then she said to me, “You’ve got to contact Laura X.” It was Laura who conducted the interview and wrote the article; I’m honored to be sharing this panel with her today.

So I put “Laura X” in parentheses, did a Google search, and found her. Laura reconnected with other former staff members and they put together an amazing piece, the last history to be accepted into the series. It appears in volume 3 along with the history of The Furies. Susan wrote the foreword.

It was around that time that I was contacted by Jeff Moyer.

Jeff was the former head of the digitizing department at ProQuest. With a partner, he bought out the department and founded IDC, Image Data Conversion. But on his own he also started Reveal Digital because he had an idea for an economic model that would create wondrous keyword-searchable digital collections in a way that was friendly to library budgets and would end up with the collections going into open access, the holy grail for librarians. The first collection he wanted to create was of underground newspapers. He approached me after discovering the first edition of Voices from the Underground at the library of Eastern Michigan University, where I used to teach. He brought me on board as a consultant and not long after that he hired me full time. It Aint Me Babe was the first paper to become part of the collection.

Reveal Digital crowd-funding home page

Reveal Digital crowd-funding home page

What attracted me to the project, besides the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the underground press, was Jeff’s economic model, what he calls “cost recovery = open access.” Basically, we promote upcoming projects to libraries through our crowd-funding website, where we describe each project, explain its significance, lay out the proposed contents as well as the sourcing libraries, and list the line-item expenses. Then we invite libraries to commit to purchasing the collection but we don’t yet invoice them. When we have enough commitments to recover the costs, what we call our “sales threshold,” sales stop and we go into full production, including rights gathering, sourcing from libraries, and scanning and digitizing.

Libraries pay according to a tiered structure but it amounts to about 20% of what they would pay one of the larger digital publishing companies for a comparable project that the company would keep behind a pay wall forever. Those libraries that support us have immediate access to the evolving collection while it is in development. Once it is completed and after a certain period of exclusivity for our supporters, it goes into open access where even those libraries that didn’t support it have access to it. In other words, some libraries pay, every library and their patrons benefit. Meanwhile we’ll be working on other projects with the same model. No library pays for every collection but everyone benefits from every collection.

This is a righteous model that deserves library support. In an earlier life I worked for many years as managing editor of Reference Services Review and Serials Review, two journals that were read widely by, respectively, reference librarians and serials librarians. I read countless articles and heard countless librarian laments about rising costs and decreasing budgets. But I also remembered the community feeling that librarians shared. The focus was always on increasing and facilitating user access. Usually it was the larger libraries that made the big investments and then the benefits would trickle down to the smaller libraries. With Reveal’s tiered structure, everyone can help.

So this is the project and the model. Projects that are looking for funding include

With Independent Voices, the underground press collection, we’re still looking for funding but we are already actively working on it because we wanted to get one live collection out into the public. Our goal was to get over 1,000 titles. We already have more than that including some 120 women’s papers, 130 literary magazines—what were known as “little” magazines back then, 180 campus, community, gay, minority, and other underground and alternative newspapers and magazines from the period, some 900 papers published by and for members of the military in all branches of the service, and even 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement.

So far we’re about 40% of the way to being fully funded. We could include a lot more titles, and we would like to, if we had the funding.

We’re working with a growing team of libraries that are sending us original papers from their collections that we scan and digitize and then return safely to them along with keyword-searchable digital files and metadata of the papers that we scan. For the women’s papers, we’ve worked most closely with Duke and Northwestern.

Our goal is to upload a million pages of exact keyword-searchable digital reproductions by the end of January 2017. So far we have uploaded about 250,000 pages. Currently the collection is accessible only to patrons of our supporting libraries, those who have invested in the project. After we reach our sales threshold, we’ll go into open access, which is the vision. However, libraries can make the files that we send them accessible immediately.

So this is where we are now. This is an amazing project—the first of hopefully many—that can be even better with your help. And we have a library-friendly model that achieves the holy grail of open access in a way that is friendly to library budgets. We’re looking for friendly libraries that believe in the community of libraries to help us make it come true. Let’s talk.

Preserving Women’s Voices from the Civil Rights and Vietnam Eras

If you plan to attend the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference at Bryn Mawr College this Thursday and Friday, May 21-22, please plan to attend the panel “Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age … Rebroadcasting Our Voices,” which will be held Friday from 1:30 to 3. I will be talking about the underground press digital project that I have been working on for the past four years. Fellow panelists include Julie Enszer, Andrée Rathemacher, and the legendary feminist archivist Laura X.

Overview of Panel

This panel is about the work that Reveal Digital has been doing for the past four years to digitize important feminist and lesbian archives as a way to preserve women’s history and make it accessible to the current and future generations of activists. It’s no secret among academics that young scholars today look first and primarily to the Internet for sources of information and may be totally unaware of the vast treasures that await them in the back shelves of special collections libraries. Digitizing these treasures is a first step toward making them accessible.

But digitizing alone isn’t enough to ensure accessibility, especially if the resulting digital collections are priced beyond the reaches of academic libraries, which are the primary purchasers of these collections. This is the predicament that libraries face under the traditional economic model employed by traditional publishing companies, which offer digital collections at prices so high that only a small number of libraries can purchase them ever and therefore only their clients have access to them ever. In addition, researchers increasingly want the ability to text-mine digitized content, which requires access to the entire full-text corpus of digitized collections, something that is typically unavailable under the traditional publication model due to intellectual property concerns.

Meanwhile, library budgets strain to keep up with rising prices for print and digital collections.

Reveal Digital has entered this arena with a unique new economic model called “cost recovery = open access.” Briefly, what we promise is to sell any one collection only until we have earned back enough money to recoup our expenses and salaries and then, after a brief period of exclusivity for those libraries that buy into it, we make that product open access, which means it will be freely available to anyone through simple Internet searching and the full-text content will be available for text mining.

The work described above to digitize women’s papers is part of a larger project—that we call Independent Voices—to digitize a million pages of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties by the end of January 2017. Our motivations are two-fold: to preserve the most important writings of our generation, which are now hidden in dark shelves of special collections libraries and beginning to yellow and crumble with age; and to make them available to current and future generations of scholars and activists.

We originally aimed to include a thousand publications in the collection but we already have surpassed that number. In addition to the approximately 120 feminist and lesbian papers included so far (see list below following bios), we also have some 130 literary magazines, 600 military underground papers, and 190 campus, community, high school, gay, minority, prisoners’ rights, and other underground and alternative papers. We even have 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement.

With each paper, we are creating an exact keyword-searchable digital reproduction of every page. So far we’ve uploaded over 250,000 pages. Our goal is to digitize and upload at least three-quarters of a million pages by the end of January 2017 and to go into open access soon after that.

This work couldn’t be done without the immense help of a growing team of sourcing libraries that loan us original copies of these papers from their collections after we clear permission from the intellectual property rights holders. Libraries that are on board already include Duke, Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Georgia State University, University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin), University of Buffalo, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Washington, New York University, Bowling Green State University, University of Kansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Sequoyah National Research Center), William Way LGBT Center, University of California-San Diego (UCSD), and University of Illinois, Chicago Public Library, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, University of Connecticut, and California Historical Society. It is not uncommon that for some titles no single library owns a complete run. In those cases, we patch together complete runs from our sourcing libraries that have partial collections. This ability to create aggregate collections is another advantage of digitizing.

Our sourcing libraries receive from us keyword-searchable digital files and the metadata of all titles that they share with us, to do with as they wish, including making them searchable through their websites. We reimburse them for all shipping and handling costs.

Independent Voices is the first collection to be funded through Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access model. Beyond the Independent Voices project, we are working with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) to create a SNCC Digital Archive, with Highlander Folk School to digitize their papers from its founding through the Civil Rights era, and with Liberation News Service, the AP-UPI of the underground press, to create a collection that includes their photos and news packets. Other projects are in the conceptual stage.

In the tradition of Kickstarter, Reveal Digital has created a crowd-funding website at http://revealdigital.com/ . There, we introduce every new project that is under consideration, lay out the individual costs to create the site, reduce the total cost to a per-library cost based on a tiered pricing structure (approximately 20 percent of what libraries would pay a typical digitizing company for a similar collection), and ask for non-binding commitments of support. Once the total of commitments reaches the cost-recovery threshold, we begin the permission-clearance phase.

Libraries that fund any one collection receive early access to that collection, free MARC records, COUNTER compliant usage metrics, and full support for mass text downloading, as well as initial consideration for ideas to make their own collections more widely available through the cost recovery = open access economic model, without giving up ownership of the resulting digital files.

Libraries have a long tradition of working together for the greater good of the broader library community. In that same tradition, no library is expected to support every Reveal Digital project but every library will have access to every project once they become open access. Thus, libraries supporting this unique new approach to funding the digitization of special collections ensure that access to important cultural material is free and available to all.

You can learn more at http://voices.revealdigital.com/voices. Because we aren’t yet open access, you can only view the papers on that site if you have access to one of our supporting libraries. However, you can still review a sample of our work at our demo site, http://demo.revealdigital.com/voices.

Panel of presenters:      

  • Julie R. Enszer: Chair/Comment
  •  Ken Wachsberger will introduce and explain the cost recovery = open access economic model—how it works, why it is needed, why it is important for libraries to support it— for digitizing library and other special collections with a focus on the Independent Voices collection of feminist and lesbian papers. He will introduce some of the upcoming projects and the crowd-funding site.
  • Laura X is known far and wide for her extensive archives that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s and early 1970s. This material has been cataloged and microfilmed but is not keyword-searchable. Subsequent materials from Laura’s archives have not yet even been cataloged and are not easily accessible despite their immense value to researchers. Laura will talk about the challenges she has had in maintaining her collection, storing the 600 hardcopy boxes, raising funds to have her collection cataloged and then digitized, and how Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access economic model could bring her that funding.
  •  Andrée Rathemacher, acquisitions librarian at the University of Rhode Island, advocates for the University Libraries’ support of several collaborative open access initiatives including Reveal Digital. She will talk about her commitment to open access as well as the reasons why it is crucial that libraries channel their resources to support and facilitate open access to scholarship and unique primary source materials.

Bios:

Julie R Enszer is a poet and Visiting Assistant Scholar, Department of Women’s Studies, at University of Maryland. Her scholarship is at the intersection of U.S. history and literature with particular attention to twentieth century U.S. feminist and lesbian histories, literatures, and cultures. By examining lesbian print culture with the tools of history and literary studies, she reconsiders histories of the Women’s Liberation Movement and gay liberation. Her book manuscript, A Fine Bind: Lesbian-Feminist Publishing from 1969 through 2009, tells stories of a dozen lesbian-feminist publishers to consider the meaning of the theoretical and political formations of lesbian-feminism, separatism, and cultural feminism. Enszer is the author of two collections of poetry, Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010). She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011). Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx.

Ken Wachsberger is an internationally known author, editor, and speaker as well as a renowned expert on the Vietnam era underground and alternative press. Ken is a book contract advisor with the National Writers Union and a frequent lecturer on the topics of contracts and copyright. He is the former editor or managing editor of several peer-reviewed publications from Pierian Press and MCB University Press. During his tenure as Contracts and Copyright Manager with Reveal Digital, Ken has led the drive to identify and obtain permission for over 1,200 underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties to be part of Reveal’s Independent Voices digital project, including some 120 feminist and lesbian papers.

Laura X began collecting first political materials in 1964 as part of her activist archivist work during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and then primarily literature on women and women’s health and legal issues starting in 1968. Two years later she founded the Women’s History Research Center, which maintained the International Women’s History Archive, an internationally recognized collection of periodicals, pamphlets, songs, leaflets, and other materials that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s until July 1974. Laura published SPAZM, the only national women’s liberation newsletter from April through December 1969; and was an original member of It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the Women’s Liberation Movement. She founded the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape in 1978 and the next year led the successful campaign to criminalize marital rape in California. She served as consultant coordinator to campaigns that by 1993 successfully eradicated exemptions from prosecution for marital, date, and cohabitation rape in the remaining 44 states (there were five before California). Last year she founded the Laura X Institute http://www.lauraxinstitute.org/ to house her Social Movements Archives from the women’s movement and overlapping social movements, which she has never stopped collecting.

Andrée J. Rathemacher is Professor and Head of Acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, where she manages the materials budget of approximately $4 million. An advocate of open access and scholarly communication reform, she chaired the University’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Open Access in 2012-2013 and played an instrumental role in the passage of an open access policy by the University of Rhode Island faculty. She currently serves as the Faculty Senate Designate for the URI Open Access Policy. In 2013-2014 she initiated the creation of the URI Open Access Fund and is the fund administrator. She advocates for the University Libraries’ support of collaborative open access initiatives such as SCOAP3, Knowledge Unlatched, Reveal Digital, and the Open Library of Humanities. She is currently Co-Chair of the ACRL New England Chapter Scholarly Communications Special Interest Group.

Feminist and Lesbian Papers Already in the Digital Collection

13th Moon, Aegis; Ain’t I a Woman (Iowa City); Amazon; Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian Feminist Arts Journal; And Aint I a Woman (Seattle); Aphra; B.A.D. (Big Apple Dyke) News; BattleActs; Big Mama Rag; Black Belt Woman: The Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense; Black Maria; Black Woman’s Voice; Branching Out; Bread & Roses; Chrysalis, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives; Conditions; Connexions: An International Women’s Quarterly; Country Women; CWLU News: Newsletter of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (and three papers associated with CWLU: Womankind, Blazing Star, and Secret Storm); Dayton Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Distaff; Dyke, A Quarterly; Dykes & Gorgons; Echo of Sappho, Everywoman; The Eye; Female Studies Series; Feminary; Feminist Alliance Against Rape; Feminist Art Journal, Feminist Bookstore News/Feminist Bookstore Newsletter; Feminist Voice; Feminist Women’s Health Center Newsletter; From the Ground Up: A Seattle Feminist Newspaper; The Furies; Heresies: A Feminist Journal on Arts and Politics; Her-self; HOT WIRE: The Journal of Women’s Music and Culture; Houston Breakthrough: Where Women Are News; Hysteria; IKON; It Aint Me Babe; Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, Killer Dyke; KNOW; The Ladder; Lady Unique Inclination of the Night; Lavender Vision; Lavender Woman; Lesbian Connection; The Lesbian Insider/Inside Her/Inciter; Lesbian News; Lesbian Tide; Lilith; Marin Women’s Newsletter/News Journal; The Matriarchist; Matrices; Media Report to Women; Meeting Ground; Mom’s Apple Pie; Motive (feminist issue, lesbian issue); National Communication Network for the Elimination of Violence against Women, New Directions for Women; New Women’s Times; New York Radical Feminists Newsletter; Newsreport; No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation; Notes from the [First/Second/Third]Year; off our backs; On Our Backs; Paid My Dues, Pandora, Quest/a feminist quarterly; Radical Chick; The Second Page, Second Wave: A Magazine for the New Feminism; Sinister Wisdom; Sojourner; SPAZM; The Spokeswoman; Tell-a-Woman; Tooth and Nail; Tribad; Triple Jeopardy; Union W.A.G.E., Up From Under, Voices of the Women’s Liberation Movement; WomaNews; Woman’s World; WomanSpirit; Women: A Journal of Liberation; Women and Art; Women and Their Bodies/Our Bodies Ourselves; Women in Print Newsletter; Women Organizing; Women’s News…For a Change; The Women’s Page; and Women’s Press. Also to be included is the groundbreaking paper “a kind of memo” (later published in Liberation as “Sex and Caste”), written by Mary King and Casey Hayden.

Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age

I’m pleased to report that my proposal to speak at the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference at Bryn Mawr College on May 21-22 to talk about my underground press digital project has been accepted. The project, at its projected completion date at the end of January 2017, will include some one million pages—exact keyword-searchable digital reproductions—of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties, of which the women’s papers are one major part.

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So far we have on board some 150 women’s papers, 130 literary magazines, 900 GI underground papers representing every branch of the military, and some 170 papers representing the campus, community, high school, minority, gay, prisoners’ rights, new age, and other independent voices from the period. We even have 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. Joining me on my panel will be

  • legendary feminist activist and archivist Laura X, who was a contributor to the history of It Aint Me Babe, one of the histories in my Voices from the Underground Series and now one of the papers on board the digital collection;
  • Andrée J. Rathemacher, professor and head of acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, as well as a long-time advocate for open access; and
  • Julie Enszer, long-time feminist and lesbian scholar and activist as well as editor of Sinister Wisdom, another of the papers on board the digital collection.

Following is the proposal that was submitted and accepted:

 Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age … Rebroadcasting Our Voices

Overview of panel: This panel is about the work that Reveal Digital has been doing for the past four years to digitize important feminist and lesbian archives as a way to preserve women’s history and make it accessible to the current and future generations of activists. It’s no secret among academics that young scholars today look first and primarily to the Internet for sources of information and may be totally unaware of the vast treasures that await them in the back shelves of special collections libraries. Digitizing these treasures is a first step toward making them accessible. But digitizing alone isn’t enough to ensure accessibility, especially if the resulting digital collections are priced beyond the reaches of academic libraries, which are the primary purchasers of these collections. This is the predicament that libraries face under the traditional economic model employed by traditional publishing companies, which offer digital collections at prices so high that only a small number of libraries can purchase them ever and therefore only their clients have access to them ever. In addition, researchers increasingly want the ability to text-mine digitized content, which requires access to the entire full-text corpus of digitized collections, something that is typically unavailable under the traditional publication model due to intellectual property concerns. Meanwhile, library budgets strain to keep up with rising prices for print and digital collections. Reveal Digital has entered this arena with a unique new economic model called “cost recovery = open access.” Briefly, what we promise is to sell any one collection only until we have earned back enough money to recoup our expenses and salaries and then, after a brief period of exclusivity for those libraries that buy into it, we make that product open access, which means it will be freely available to anyone through simple Internet searching and the full-text content will be available for text mining. The work described above to digitize women’s papers is part of a larger project—that we call Independent Voices—to digitize a million pages of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties by the end of January 2017. Our motivations are two-fold: to preserve the most important writings of our generation, which are now hidden in dark shelves of special collections libraries and beginning to yellow and crumble with age; and to make them available to current and future generations of scholars and activists. We originally aimed to include a thousand publications in the collection but we already have surpassed that number. In addition to the approximately 150 feminist and lesbian papers included so far (see list below following bios), we also have some 130 literary magazines, 900 military underground papers, and 170 campus, community, high school, gay, minority, prisoners’ rights, and other underground and alternative papers. We even have 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. With each paper, we are creating an exact keyword-searchable digital reproduction of every page. So far we’ve uploaded about 125,000 pages. Our goal is to have digitized and uploaded 450,000 pages by the end of January 2015 and a million pages by the end of January 2017. This work couldn’t be done without the immense help of a growing team of sourcing libraries that loan us original copies of these papers from their collections after we clear permission from the intellectual property rights holders. Libraries that are on board already include Duke, Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Georgia State University, University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin), University of Buffalo, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Washington, New York University, Bowling Green State University, University of Kansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Sequoyah National Research Center), William Way LGBT Center, University of California-San Diego (UCSD), and University of Illinois, Chicago Public Library, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, University of Connecticut, and California Historical Society. It is not uncommon that for some titles no single library owns a complete run. In those cases, we patch together complete runs from our sourcing libraries that have partial collections. This ability to create aggregate collections is another advantage of digitizing. Our sourcing libraries receive from us keyword-searchable digital files and the metadata of all titles that they share with us, to do with as they wish, including making them searchable through their websites. We reimburse them for all shipping and handling costs. Independent Voices is the first collection to be funded through Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access model. Beyond the Independent Voices project, we are working with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) to create a SNCC Digital Archive, with Highlander Folk School to digitize their papers from its founding through the Civil Rights era, and with Liberation News Service, the AP-UPI of the underground press, to create a collection that includes their photos and news packets. Other projects are in the conceptual stage. In the tradition of Kickstarter, Reveal Digital has created a crowd-funding website at http://revealdigital.com/ . There, we introduce every new project that is under consideration, lay out the individual costs to create the site, reduce the total cost to a per-library cost based on a tiered pricing structure (approximately 20 percent of what libraries would pay a typical digitizing company for a similar collection), and ask for non-binding commitments of support. Once the total of commitments reaches the cost-recovery threshold, we begin the permission-clearance phase. Libraries that fund any one collection receive early access to that collection, free MARC records, COUNTER compliant usage metrics, and full support for mass text downloading, as well as initial consideration for ideas to make their own collections more widely available through the cost recovery = open access economic model, without giving up ownership of the resulting digital files. Libraries have a long tradition of working together for the greater good of the broader library community. In that same tradition, no library is expected to support every Reveal Digital project but every library will have access to every project once they become open access. Thus, libraries supporting this unique new approach to funding the digitization of special collections ensure that access to important cultural material is free and available to all. You can learn more at http://voices.revealdigital.com/voices. Because we aren’t yet open access, you can only view the papers on that site if you have access to one of our supporting libraries. However, you can still review a sample of our work at our demo site, http://demo.revealdigital.com/voices. Panel of presenters:      

  •  Julie R. Enszer: Chair/Comment
  •  Ken Wachsberger will introduce and explain the cost recovery = open access economic model—how it works, why it is needed, why it is important for libraries to support it— for digitizing library and other special collections with a focus on the Independent Voices collection of feminist and lesbian papers. He will introduce some of the upcoming projects and the Kickstarter site.
  •  Laura X is known far and wide for her extensive archives that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s and early 1970s. This material has been cataloged and microfilmed but is not keyword-searchable. Subsequent materials from Laura’s archives have not yet even been cataloged and are not easily accessible despite their immense value to researchers. Laura will talk about the challenges she has had in maintaining her collection, storing the 600 hardcopy boxes, raising funds to have her collection cataloged and then digitized, and how Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access economic model could bring her that funding.
  • Andrée Rathemacher, acquisitions librarian at the University of Rhode Island, advocates for the University Libraries’ support of several collaborative open access initiatives including Reveal Digital. She will talk about her commitment to open access as well as the reasons why it is crucial that libraries channel their resources to support and facilitate open access to scholarship and unique primary source materials.

Bios: Julie R Enszer is a poet and Visiting Assistant Scholar, Department of Women’s Studies, at University of Maryland. Her scholarship is at the intersection of U.S. history and literature with particular attention to twentieth century U.S. feminist and lesbian histories, literatures, and cultures. By examining lesbian print culture with the tools of history and literary studies, she reconsiders histories of the Women’s Liberation Movement and gay liberation. Her book manuscript, A Fine Bind: Lesbian-Feminist Publishing from 1969 through 2009, tells stories of a dozen lesbian-feminist publishers to consider the meaning of the theoretical and political formations of lesbian-feminism, separatism, and cultural feminism. Enszer is the author of two collections of poetry, Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010). She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011). Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Ken Wachsberger is an internationally known author, editor, and speaker as well as a renowned expert on the Vietnam era underground and alternative press. Ken is a book contract advisor with the National Writers Union and a frequent lecturer on the topics of contracts and copyright. He is the former editor or managing editor of several peer-reviewed publications from Pierian Press and MCB University Press. During his tenure as Contracts and Copyright Manager with Reveal Digital, Ken has led the drive to identify and obtain permission for over 1,200 underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties to be part of Reveal’s Independent Voices digital project, including some 150 feminist and lesbian papers. Laura X began collecting first political materials in 1964 as part of her activist archivist work during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and then primarily literature on women and women’s health and legal issues starting in 1968. Two years later she founded the Women’s History Research Center, which maintained the International Women’s History Archive, an internationally recognized collection of periodicals, pamphlets, songs, leaflets, and other materials that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s until July 1974. Laura published SPAZM, the only national women’s liberation newsletter from April through December 1969; and was an original member of It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the Women’s Liberation Movement. She founded the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape in 1978 and the next year led the successful campaign to criminalize marital rape in California. She served as consultant coordinator to campaigns that by 1993 successfully eradicated exemptions from prosecution for marital, date, and cohabitation rape in the remaining 44 states (there were five before California). Last year she founded the Laura X Institute http://www.lauraxinstitute.org/ to house her Social Movements Archives from the women’s movement and overlapping social movements, which she has never stopped collecting. Andrée J. Rathemacher is Professor and Head of Acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, where she manages the materials budget of approximately $4 million. An advocate of open access and scholarly communication reform, she chaired the University’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Open Access in 2012-2013 and played an instrumental role in the passage of an open access policy by the University of Rhode Island faculty. She currently serves as the Faculty Senate Designate for the URI Open Access Policy. In 2013-2014 she initiated the creation of the URI Open Access Fund and is the fund administrator. She advocates for the University Libraries’ support of collaborative open access initiatives such as SCOAP3, Knowledge Unlatched, Reveal Digital, and the Open Library of Humanities. She is currently Co-Chair of the ACRL New England Chapter Scholarly Communications Special Interest Group.

* * *

Feminist and lesbian papers already on board the Independent Voices digital collection: Papers that already are on board for the feminist and lesbian collections include 13th Moon, Aegis; Ain’t I a Woman (Iowa City); Amazon; Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian Feminist Arts Journal; And Aint I a Woman (Seattle); Aphra; B.A.D. (Big Apple Dyke) News; BattleActs; Big Mama Rag; Black Belt Woman: The Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense; Black Maria; Black Woman’s Voice; Branching Out; Bread & Roses; Chrysalis, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives; Conditions; Connexions: An International Women’s Quarterly; Country Women; CWLU News: Newsletter of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (and three papers associated with CWLU: Womankind, Blazing Star, and Secret Storm); Dayton Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Distaff; Dyke, A Quarterly; Dykes & Gorgons; Echo of Sappho, Everywoman; The Eye; Female Studies Series; Feminary; Feminist Alliance Against Rape; Feminist Art Journal, Feminist Bookstore News/Feminist Bookstore Newsletter; Feminist Voice; Feminist Women’s Health Center Newsletter; From the Ground Up: A Seattle Feminist Newspaper; The Furies; Heresies: A Feminist Journal on Arts and Politics; Her-self; HOT WIRE: The Journal of Women’s Music and Culture; Houston Breakthrough: Where Women Are News; Hysteria; IKON; It Aint Me Babe; Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, Killer Dyke; KNOW; The Ladder; Lady Unique Inclination of the Night; Lavender Vision; Lavender Woman; Lesbian Connection; The Lesbian Insider/Inside Her/Inciter; Lesbian News; Lesbian Tide; Lilith; Marin Women’s Newsletter/News Journal; The Matriarchist; Matrices; Media Report to Women; Meeting Ground; Mom’s Apple Pie; Motive (feminist issue, lesbian issue); National Communication Network for the Elimination of Violence against Women, New Directions for Women; New Women’s Times; New York Radical Feminists Newsletter; Newsreport; No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation; Notes from the [First/Second/Third]Year; off our backs; On Our Backs; Paid My Dues, Pandora, Quest/a feminist quarterly; Radical Chick; The Second Page, Second Wave: A Magazine for the New Feminism; Sinister Wisdom; Sojourner; SPAZM; The Spokeswoman; Tell-a-Woman; Tooth and Nail; Tribad; Triple Jeopardy; Union W.A.G.E., Up From Under, Voices of the Women’s Liberation Movement; WomaNews; Woman’s World; WomanSpirit; Women: A Journal of Liberation; Women and Art; Women and Their Bodies/Our Bodies Ourselves; Women in Print Newsletter; Women Organizing; Women’s News…For a Change; The Women’s Page; and Women’s Press. Also to be included is the groundbreaking paper “a kind of memo” (later published in Liberation as “Sex and Caste”), written by Mary King and Casey Hayden.

Creating the Most Extensive Digital Collection of Underground Papers Ever

In my last blog post I told you that in my next blog post I would introduce what is to date the most extensive project ever to digitize underground, alternative, and literary publications from the fifties through the eighties. This is that post.

I also said I would describe the economic model that is making this project possible at about one-fifth the cost to libraries that other digital publishers would charge, and with open access, not perpetual profits, as a result—an absolutely unique concept in the digitizing field. I’ll do that in my next post. If you are a librarian at any institution of higher learning who wants to enhance your collections of digital resources without busting your budget, this model was created with you in mind. You might even own an archive in your collection that you would like to see digitized. If it can fit into this economic model, we need to talk.

And if you are a writer or antiwar activist from the period who wrote for or published one of these publications, especially one that is not already on board the project, we need to talk as well.

I’m a veteran of the Vietnam era underground press and now a historian. My four-volume Voices from the Underground Series is a collection of insider histories of underground papers from the period as written by key folks on each of the papers. Stories represent the gay, Black, Native American, Puerto Rican, military, psychedelic, rank-and-file worker, prisoners’ rights, campus, community, socialist, Southern consciousness, new age, and other antiwar voices of the period.

And also the feminist and lesbian voices. Carol Anne Douglas/Fran Moira’s and Marilyn Webb’s stories about off our backs, the first major national feminist paper to emerge on the east coast, appear in volume 1; the history of It Aint Me Babe, the San Francisco-based national feminist publication that actually preceded off our backs, is told by members of the collective in volume 3, along with Ginny Berson’s history of The Furies, the legendary paper put out by twelve self-proclaimed revolutionary lesbian feminists who were known collectively as the Furies.

For the past four years, I have been part of a team of researchers and digitizing specialists who are working on a project to digitize underground, alternative, and literary publications from the fifties through the eighties. My role has been to come up with names of papers that I want to include in the collection, figure out who I need to contact for permission to scan them, and then contact those folks and obtain permission.

Our goal is to digitize a million pages in four years. Our motivations are two-fold: to preserve the most important writings of our generation, which are now hidden in dark shelves of special collections libraries—where young scholars seldom roam—and are beginning to yellow and crumble with age; and to make them available to current and future generations of activists, who look first—and too often only—to digital resources for their research information. If the readers don’t come to you, you go to the readers.

My fellow veterans of the period understand. And so I have been getting tremendous response from individuals who I contact as they in turn contact other members of their respective papers to obtain consensus agreement and then get back to me with their okays.

To date, I have on board some 120 papers that represent the same voices whose histories I was successful in recording through the Voices from the Underground Series as well as others that I wasn’t successful in getting, including the Asian-American and Chicano voices. I have brought on board also some 200 military underground papers, 80 literary publications, and even 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement.

But it all began with the feminist and lesbian papers, the genre that got this project under way. The following are the women’s papers that now are on board:

Aegis; Ain’t I a Woman (Iowa City); Amazon; Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian Feminist Arts Journal;And Aint I a Woman (Seattle); Aphra; B.A.D. (Big Apple Dyke) News; BattleActs; Big Mama Rag; Black Belt Woman: The Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense; Black Maria; Black Woman’s Voice; Bread & Roses; Common Lives/Lesbian Lives; Conditions; Country Women; CWLU News: Newsletter of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (and three papers associated with CWLU: Womankind, Blazing Star, and Secret Storm); Dandelion; Dayton Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Distaff; Dyke, A Quarterly; Dykes & Gorgons; Everywoman; The Eye; Female Studies Series; Feminary; Feminist Alliance Against Rape; Feminist Bookstore News/Feminist Bookstore Newsletter; Feminist Voice; Feminist Women’s Health Center Newsletter; The Furies; Heresies: A Feminist Journal on Arts and Politics; Her-self; Houston Breakthrough: Where Women Are News; Hysteria; IKON; It Aint Me Babe; Killer Dyke; KNOW; The Ladder; Lavender Vision; Lavender Woman; Lesbian Connection; The Lesbian Insider/Inside Her/Inciter; Lesbian News; Lesbian Tide; Lilith; Marin Women’s Newsletter/News Journal; The Matriarchist; Matrices; Media Report to Women; Meeting Ground; Motive (lesbian issue); New Directions for Women; New Women’s Times; New York Radical Feminists Newsletter;Newsreport; No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation; Notes from the [First/Second/Third]Year; off our backs; On Our Backs; Quest/a feminist quarterly; Radical Chick; The Second Page, Second Wave: A Magazine for the New Feminism; Sinister Wisdom; Sojourner; SPAZM; The Spokeswoman; Tell-a-Woman; Tooth and Nail; Tribad; Triple Jeopardy; Up From Under, Voices of the Women’s Liberation Movement; WomaNews; Woman’s World; WomanSpirit; Women: A Journal of Liberation; Women and Art; Women in Print Newsletter; Women Organizing; Women’s News…For a Change; Women’s Press; and The Women’s Page. Also to be included is the groundbreaking paper “a kind of memo” (later published in Liberation as “Sex and Caste”), written by Mary King and Casey Hayden.

There are others and I want to bring them on board. That’s why I attended Boston University’s Women’s Liberation Conference. I imagined the opportunity to meet, in person for the first time, women who I had come to know over email because they had already given me permission to include their papers. How right I was. I was honored to meet

  • Dana Dunsmore (No More Fun and Games; Black Belt Woman)
  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (No More Fun and Games)
  • Julie Enszer (Sinister Wisdom)
  • Christine Riddiough (Women Organizing)
  • Barbara Love (The Matriarchist)
  • Barbara Winslow (And Aint I a Woman)
  • Laura X (SPAZM, It Aint Me Babe)
  • Alta (It Aint Me Babe)
  • Carol Hanisch (Meeting Ground)
  • Mary King (co-author of “a kind of memo,” the document that has been credited with kicking off the modern feminist movement)

I also spent time with my friends Jo Freeman (Voices of the Women’s Liberation Movement), Sue Katz (Lavender Vision), Judy Gumbo Albert (Barb on Strike; Berkeley Tribe), and Sally Gabb (Great Speckled Bird). Jo and Sue are long-time friends from the National Writers Union. Judy and Sally’s papers were among the community underground papers that I’ll discuss in my next post.

I hoped to bring new papers on board and did. After many previous futile long-distance efforts to bring Boston’s Sojourner on board, I was fortunate to meet Shane Snowdon and Vicky Gabriner and, voila, Sojourner was added to the list, as was Lesbian Insider/Inciter/Inside Her, thanks to my meeting with Mardi Steinau.

A major figure from the seventies was Carol Downer, who pioneered women’s self-help in Los Angeles through her clinic and many activities that my paper from Lansing, Michigan, Joint Issue, regularly reported on. I was honored to meet her and delighted when she gave me a verbal commitment to include the Feminist Women’s Health Center Newsletter. Another verbal commitment came from Susan Chernilo, from Eugene, Oregon’s Women’s Press.

I gave one of my promotional flyers to a woman who was sitting next to me at one session. She glanced at the text, then exclaimed, “You’re Ken Wachsberger! I was told I needed to meet you.” She turned out to be Susan Smith Richardson, long-time award-winning reporter and now publisher of the Chicago Reporter, an investigative civil rights paper that goes back to 1972 and hopefully will soon be on board the project.

One publication that was not technically a journal but was a major historical document from the seventies and was distributed through the same underground network was the self-help classic Our Bodies Ourselves, produced by the Boston Women’s Health Collective. At the conference I met collective members Joan Ditzion and Miriam Hawley and both of them immediately recognized the importance of the project. This week I welcomed their following publications to the collection:

  • Women and Their Bodies—the pamphlet that started it all in 1970;
  • Our Bodies Ourselves—the pamphlet from 1971 that updated Women and Their Bodies and took, for the first time, the name that became known worldwide; and
  • Proceedings from the 1975 Conference on Women and Health that brought together 2,500 feminist activists, students, and health care providers from the United States and Canada.

Overall the Women’s Liberation Conference at Boston University was a great success. I’m looking to attend other conferences as well and would welcome suggestions.

If you were a member of a feminist or lesbian publication that is not included in the discussion above or know someone who was, please contact me right away at ken@voicesfromtheunderground.com so we can bring your paper on board.

In my next post, I’ll introduce you to some of the other papers that are on board. I’ll also explain our cost recovery = open access economic model that is enabling us to create this collection at about one-fifth the cost that other, commercial digital publishers would charge.

I’ll see you then.

Feminist Author Susan Brownmiller to Write Foreword to Volume 3

I am delighted to announce that Susan Brownmiller has agreed to write a foreword to volume 3 of the four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Susan is one of the pioneer leaders of the second wave of the feminist movement that burst forth in the sixties and seventies and is still changing the world. Her first book, the groundbreaking Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, redefined rape forever as a feminist issue. She has been a supporter of the Voices from the Underground Series since it first came out in its earlier iteration in 1993.

Not long after the first edition went out of print, long before it had reached its sales potential (a story for another time), I received a phone call from Susan. She was at the time in the process of writing her history of the feminist movement, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, and she needed a copy of Voices for her research. She said, “Hi, Ken, this is Susan Brownmiller.” I thought to myself, “Susan Brownmiller!” Honestly I can’t remember if I expressed my surprise out loud. Okay, I admit it, I felt like a groupie because she was an important figure in a movement that I at times followed and at other times led (I’m talking about the general antiwar/countercultural movement, not the feminist movement) but at all times respected highly and loved being a part of. Sadly I wasn’t able to help her—my personal supply of books to sell was already gone. Fortunately Marilyn Webb, whose story of the founding of off our backs, the first major feminist paper to emerge on the east coast, appears in the just-released first volume of the four-volume series, was able to help Susan. Marilyn’s story is footnoted several times in Susan’s book.

I never forgot that incident, so while I was working on this new edition I contacted Susan and asked her for a testimonial quote. Generously, she came through. Her quote appears on the back cover of volume 1, along with quotes from Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, and Chris Atton, professor of media and culture at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University. Here’s what Susan wrote:

What a boon to historians! Ken Wachsberger’s Voices from the Underground is crucial to an understanding of the literary and political history of the 1960s counterculture movement. This valuable resource must stay in print, if only for academics who wish to study the amazing phenomenon of the alternative newspapers, put together by amateurs, that sprang up across the country in those fervent years. Wachsberger’s material, largely in the form of “how we did it” memoirs, is rich in personal histories and anecdotal details that are collected nowhere else.

So when I visited her on my next trip to New York I expected her to tell me how much she loved the book. Instead she said, “You don’t have enough on the feminist press. You need to include It Aint Me Babe.” I tried to explain to her that I already had off our backs and The Furies, the lesbian feminist paper put out by the legendary Furies collective, and that, while the book contained representative writings of the different genres of underground papers, it didn’t pretend to be comprehensive. But she insisted the feminist papers deserved more. She told me to contact Laura X, whose interview with a rape victim in Berkeley had inspired Susan to write Against Our Will.

Laura X is legendary in feminist lore as the premier archivist of the feminist movement. She embraced my invitation and pulled together other key figures from Berkeley’s It Aint Me Babe, the first major feminist underground paper, to tell their story for the first time. The lead author is Bonnie Eisenberg, founder of Babe, but she received critical help from Laura, Trina Robbins, Starr Goode, and Alta. Appendices are by Laura, who writes about her archives, and Trina Robbins, one of the pioneer feminist comix artists, who helped to break through the men’s-only barrier.

The story of It Aint Me Babe appears in volume 3, which will be out next year, so it was only natural for me to invite Susan.

I am truly honored that she accepted my invitation.

And, incidentally, she was right. I needed to include It Aint Me Babe.