Women's Music Archives Collection
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Women's Music Archives consists of circa 75 linear feet of materials collected and recorded in order to document "woman-identified, woman-made music, primarily, though not exclusively feminist and lesbian in orientation" that "evolved as a definite entity" from the early 1970s. Materials include bibliographies, biographical sketches, clippings, correspondence, flyers, newsletters, photographs, posters, publicity materials, songbooks, sound recordings, videotapes, and memorabilia.
The bulk of the collection dates from 1975 to 1995 and consists of live and studio-produced sound recordings by women musicians and of women's music festivals, retreats, and conferences. The collection also contains significant paper files documenting the work of individual women musicians; women's music groups and choruses; and the production, distribution, concert booking, and publicity infrastructure for women's music recordings, concerts, festivals, and retreats.
Major topics found throughout these files include the women's music movement, women in music more broadly, and differences and diversity within the feminist and lesbian-feminist movement since the 1970s. Though the impetus for founding the collection was "women's music" as it evolved in the early 1970s, there is also material on women in mainstream popular, classical, folk, jazz, blues, punk, and riot grrrl music, as well as stand-up comedy.
The Festivals, Retreats, and Conferences Series documents the thriving women's music, art, theater, and stand-up comedy "scene" (1974-2000), through advertising, newspaper clippings, and packets given out at the festivals. Also included are correspondence with festival organizers, credentials, and release forms for recording live performances for the Women's Music Archives. Especially extensive files on the North East Women's Music Retreat, a 1980s-90s regional festival for which Kim Kimber was a coordinator, reveal the dedication required to plan and produce these complex events. Through the minutes, memoranda, and correspondence, one can also see the ongoing debates and discord surrounding issues such as meaningful inclusion of disabled women, mothers, and women of color; and how to preserve women-only space -- i.e. policies which dictate who can be on the land during the retreat, ranging from male grounds keepers and other personnel to mothers of boy children. The audiovisual materials include extensive live recordings of festivals, concerts, and retreats.
The Artists Series contains press packages, clippings, and photographs. They document well-known artists such as Margie Adam, Meg Christian, Holly Near, Teresa Trull, and Cris Williamson, as well as numerous lesser-known artists. Most of the minor artists' files mainly consist of applications submitted to the North East Women's Music Retreat and accompanying promotional material. There are many stand-up comedians in these files as well.
The Organizations Series contains correspondence, fliers, brochures, and catalogs produced by business organizations and production companies, as well as other non-profit groups focused on women's music. Included is a substantial set of files from Olivia Records composed of correspondence from artists looking to record with Olivia, promotional materials from 1973 through 1994, information for distributors, and clippings, among other items. Of particular interest are the newsletters and correspondence regarding Sandy Stone, a transwoman who worked for Olivia, and some materials regarding Olivia's 1979 change in organizational structure. Other companies with more substantial files include Redwood Records, Goldenrod, Horizon, and Ladyslipper.
The Audiovisual Material Series primarily consists of compact discs, audiocassettes, and LPs. Many of these are live concert and festival recordings, a portion of which have been reformatted to compact disc and are available for research. Please contact the Sophia Smith Collection for more information.
The Reference Materials Series includes bibliographies and research guides, special issues of newsletters and periodicals, pamphlets, directories, and transcripts of interviews with Meg Christian, Holly Near, Susan Freundlich, Margie Adam, Rosemary Schonfeld, and Janna Runnals.