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British Association for American Studies


Archival Report from Sabina Peck, BAAS Postgraduate Travel Grant recipient


Archival Report from Sabina Peck, BAAS Postgraduate Travel Grant recipient

[vc_row margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”13660″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.2)” min_height=”270″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][dt_quote]I’m very grateful to have been awarded a BAAS Postgraduate travel grant which has enabled me to research the 1977 National Women’s Conference, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights and interview six women who were active in work around reproductive rights during the 1970s and 80s, writes Sabina Beck.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]I spent just under six weeks in the USA, visiting the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Archives in Washington DC., and the Tamiment and Columbia Libraries in New York City. In addition, I held a number of oral history interviews with former feminist activists, in interviews that ranged from 45 minutes to over two hours. This has felt like the most interesting and dynamic research that I did!

I was in Madison, Wisconsin for just under two weeks, primarily visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]While there, I looked at a number of collections, including the Marlene Gerber Fried papers, the National Women’s Conference Committee papers, the Sarah Harder Papers, the Sharon Lieberman papers and the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights/Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice records. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights papers have proved most valuable so far, and I was lucky to gain access to them, as they are restricted.

I was in Washington DC for a little over a week, and visited the National Archives in Maryland. I accessed a significant number of official state reports for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, which will be a case study in my thesis. In addition, I was able to listen to and copy a lot of oral history ‘vox pops’ taken during the conference.

In New York, I visited two archives – the Tamiment at NYU, and Columbia. I spent the majority of my time at the Tamiment accessing the Leslie Cagan papers and the Karen Stamm papers. At Columbia I accessed the Bella Abzug papers. However, a combination of factors meant that I did not manage to get through all of the material that was available. It would be worth making a short trip to New York on my next research trip to look at the materials that I didn’t get to.

While in the USA I also interviewed six women who were active in work around reproductive rights during the 1970s and 80s. Almost all of them had links with at least one of the events that I’m using as case studies, and they all at least had links with organizations or groups that were central to those events. I interviewed Frances Kissling, Sarah Schulman, Meredith Tax, Margie Fine, Karen Stamm and Marilyn Katz. These interviews were incredibly interesting and valuable, and have opened up avenues which may lead to further interviews with other networks of activists – which could have the potential to be a fascinating project of its own accord.

I’m very grateful to have been awarded a BAAS travel grant; without one, this trip would have had to be considerably shorter and less enjoyable. It has undoubtedly allowed me to have a more effective and fruitful research trip, which will be complemented and built upon by a further trip in Autumn 2016.

Sabina Peck is a PhD student at the University of Leeds.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]