ERA Foremothers Archive
The Virginia Foremothers Project is an oral history and archive of the second wave Women's Movement, mostly in Virginia. These women and men worked intrepidly, against virulent political opposition, but with broad public support, to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and implement the titles of the Civil Rights Act. Their work in electoral politics, in establishing domestic violence shelters and sitting court watch on rape/abuse cases, and their many non-violent direct actions are a huge part of our feminist inheritance and legacy to the future. The Amendment failed, so our work carries on!!!
Opening Statement from the archivist:
These foremothers were normal heroines, women who leveraged their position for the benefit of all women. There were coalitions and schisms, acts of revolutionary brilliance and factional failure. These women woke up and began to build both the very deep bond they call sisterhood, and the new world we inherit from them. They raised their consciousness to become critically aware of their patriarchal legal, social, and cultural world, and to become lovingly aware of the parts of each other that needed rescue and healing and the parts that could rescue and heal others.
This archive is presented so that the world can hear these voices and stories first hand, with as little filter as possible and following the agendas of these feminists themselves. We want to remember for ourselves and share with you the history and personalities of these women and men in as direct a way as we can. Editing is kept to a minimum. We have cut video for watchability and narrative coherence, but have put the highest priority on preserving all the content as originally recorded. We have added time stamps and annotations so that viewers can find the stories they want, to mark important dates, and to help with clarity.
The Virginia NOW Foremothers Project is a project of Virginia NOW. This project was supported by VaNOW and our members. The oral histories and archive are the work of Dr. Simone Roberts, with the help of Paradise Kendra. The project took two years to film, from 2013 to 2015. The archiving process continues on. These oral histories are part of VaNOW's educational outreach, and maybe reused for research and other purposes WITH PERMISSION ONLY. For permission and other inquiries, please email Paradise.
Oral History Videos : Here is our YouTube channel. New videos will be made available as they are edited and annotated.
Books : Books shared in the course of the project, and a handy list of North American feminist bookstores -- all 10 of them.
Documents/Photos : Here we link to the archive of documents shared with the project by various interviewees and of photographs taken by Simone Roberts in the course of collecting the interviews/archive. They include XXXX feminist newsletter XXXX and photos of posters, banners, one very special boot, and other memorabilia.
- Alice Paul Institute - comprised of the childhood home and grounds of the Suffragist and crusader Alice Paul, the institute memorializes her life and work and servers as a leadership institute for young women.
- The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America - houses what you'd expect (records from NOW), but also individual women's papers (June Jordan), the Black Women's Oral History Interviews, a some great work on contemporary feminist pop culture.
- Black Women's Digital Archives at New Model Minority ranges from the scholarly to the popular to the niche.
- National Archives for Black Women's History - must be searched on-site.
- Turning Point Suffragists Memorial: If you want this memorial to exist, donate. The Board organize fundrasiers all year long to create this memorial to the Suffragists who marched, and were tortured, in their pursuit of the right to vote.
- Virginia Women in History from the Library of Virginia houses biographies on important and influential Virginia women.
- Women's History Manuscripts at Virginia Tech, most of this archive must be researched on-site. It is excellent.
Closing Statement from the archivist:
It has been my great honor to conduct these interviews and curate this archive. All the video, each book, each document and photo is a gift from the women of the Congressional Union, Virginia NOW, and women's liberation movement to you, and to me. They are each signs of the trust these women and men gave to me, and for being allowed to hold this history I am forever grateful. This project was even more rewarding to me than building the original iteration of this website. The site serves women now, and this archive preserves the courage and charisma of the women who served women in 1970s and 1980s. They were regular women who learned everything they needed to know as they went along. This included how to run a political campaign in order to defeat a stubborn enemy of women's rights, how to walk 20 miles a day without giving up, and how to sneak kerosene soaked wood into downtown Washington DC to burn in protest in front of Regan's White House. They were strong, wiley, normal women. They are the foremothers of present day Virginia feminists, both in VaNOW and other organizations, and I am pleased to my toes to introduce you to them. This project took a lot of time and energy, and like these foremothers, I had to learn a number new skills along the way in order to bring it to you, and I loved every minute of it. I thank Diana Egozcue and Paradise Kendra for asking me to do this, the members of VaNOW for supporting the project, and my foremothers who were incredibly generous with their memories, their time, and their kindness.
-- Carry on!