From the Collection

The ephemera collection of the Barnard Center for Research on Women contains hundreds of rare, difficult-to-find feminist materials dating back to the early Second Wave of American women’s movements. This public archive of fliers, reports, newsletters, pamphlets, and conference programs provides an exciting glimpse into one of the most vibrant moments in the history of activism. Beginning in the spring of 2006, the Center will present Internet exhibits to make these valuable materials more widely available. Each semester, our student research assistants will curate an exhibition of the most interesting documents, organizing them around a theme of enduring importance: from women’s prison activism to reproductive health to immigration rights to political revolution.

In the summer of 2010, BCRW began the process of creating an online database recording the full contents of the ephemeral collection. While this project is underway, we will be pausing our From the Collection exhibit series. We plan to resume the exhibits when the database launches.

Spring 2010
Gender and Sexuality in Higher Education
Curated by Anna Steffens '10

College campuses provide fertile ground for discussions of gender and sexuality, and the BCRW archive reflects the importance of these ongoing discussions over the past 40 years. With a particular emphasis on women's education, this exhibit includes editorials, articles, reports, and pamphlets from both inside and outside of the classroom. Reflecting diverse issues including sexual harassment, coming out, and the development of women's studies, the following documents demonstrate how sexuality and gender have played key roles in shaping life on campuses and in classrooms across the nation.

Spring 2009
Lesbian Activism from 1970s to the Present
Curated by Chanel Ward '08 and Anna Steffens '10

In the early 1970s, lesbian activism became a powerful social force as women drew strength from both the gay rights and feminist movements. Throughout the next four decades, lesbian and queer activists tackled a broad range of issues: sexual identity and sex itself, pop culture, race, class, violence, and many others. From early activists who advocated complete lesbian separatism to modern queer organizers who work in partnership with multiple identity groups, the "lesbian activist" movement has generated a huge variety of social formations and political ideologies. This exhibit, drawing from BCRW's extensive collection of LGBT-related materials, showcases just a few documents from this long history of struggle and social change. The following articles, photographs, zines, and pamphlets shed light on the many transformations and incarnations of lesbian activism over the past 40 years.

Fall 2008
Women in the Workforce
Curated by Suzanna Denison '09

Women have always contributed to the workforce in formal and informal ways, but their labor has not always been recognized. Karl Marx stated that "[women's] labor appears to be a personal service outside of capital." From the social issues concerning sexual harassment to the policy reforms surrounding the wage gap, this exhibit showcases a variety of materials from the BCRW collection that relate to women's participation in the workforce. These documents chronologically span three decades, starting in the early 1970s with documents from MIT's significant conference "Women in Science and Technology," which sparked a discussion of women in higher education and skilled professions, to materials that showcase 1990s women-run, women-owned businesses.

Spring 2008
Women and Militarism
Curated by Lucy Trainor '07

Women's movements and anti-militarism movements have a long history of collaboration in the U.S. and worldwide. This exhibit from the BCRW collection highlights some of the linkages between women's activism and protest against war and militarism from a wide range of contexts—from anti-nuclear activism in the United Kingdom, to movements for peace and human rights in El Salvador, to freedom from U.S. imperialism in Japan and many more global efforts to draw attention to and organize around anti-war and antimilitarism causes. From these documents, which provide a glimpse into over 20 years of activism, from 1972-1995, we can see that movements directed by women—which don't necessarily always define themselves as "feminist" movements—have often been at the forefront of broader citizen-led actions for peace and justice.

Fall 2007
Women and Religion
Curated by Katherine Smith '07

The incorporation of women into various religious groups in the United States has gained speed in the past quarter century. As this exhibit demonstrates, for example, a feminist voice has gained influence within various denominations of Christianity and Judaism. Women's activism in their religious lives has developed into the movement for women's ordination, an expansion and reevaluation of women's roles in Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed Judaism, and the incorporation of feminist ideals and analytic interpretations of religious texts into church institutions. The documents included here—organizational newsletters, pamphlets, informational studies, journals, and resolutions—reveal diverse approaches to women's involvement in these religious communities, as well as the influence of religion and spirituality in asserting women's rights throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Fall 2006
Feminism and Sexual Health
Curated by Laurie Sugatan '06

A major theme of feminism is a woman's right to her own body, particularly to make decisions about her own health and wellbeing. Access to information is integral to a woman's ability to make important decisions regarding her health. The following documents, which date from 1970-1999, demonstrate how women's organizations have worked to distribute much-needed information about women's sexual health. Information that was otherwise unavailable or inadequate became accessible in resource guides, newsletters and pamphlets written for (and by) diverse groups of women. Addressing such issues as safe sex, teenage pregnancy, lesbians and AIDS, advancements in reproductive technologies, contraceptives, and reproductive health, these publications have empowered women to make well-informed decisions about their own bodies.

Spring 2006
Women’s Prison Activism
Curated by Lucy Trainor '07

With the number of individuals in prison rising at unprecedented rates, it's clear that the current law enforcement policies in the U.S. need to be reexamined and reevaluated. Incarcerated women are a segment of this population who have remained even more invisible than their male counterparts. Few have bothered to ask who these women are, how they end up in prison, and what type of support they need to resume their lives after their sentences are served. What happens to the children and families of incarcerated mothers? How have women been disproportionally targeted in the "War on Drugs?" What types of alternatives to incarceration will benefit communities? The documents shown here, reflecting almost 30 years of advocating for incarcerated women, are the work of the organizations and individuals who dared to challenge the current system by asking these questions and many more.