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Joan E. Biren Papers, 1944-2011 (ongoing)
145 boxes (circa 70 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 587

Abstract:
Filmmaker; Photographer; Lesbian activist. Papers document Biren's professional and personal life. Major topics include photography, film, lesbianism, Judaism, feminism, lesbian and gay rights, political movements, and anti-nuclear movements. Biren was an avid collector of lesbian and social justice materials, and the Papers are rich in images, clippings, and other materials collected during events such as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Justice. Materials related to Biren's filmmaking include extensive raw footage, research materials, and transcripts of interviews, conference panels, and events. Notable correspondents include Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, Tee Corrine, Barbara Smith, and John D'Emilio. [NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online yet but will be soon. Check back again in a few weeks, or contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like a copy sent to you.]

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Portions of this collection have not been fully processed and therefore some portions may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

TJoan Biren retains copyright to her published and unpublished works. Copyright to works by others may be owned by them, their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights for permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Permission must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Joan E. Biren (b.1944) grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1966, and pursued graduate training in political science at Oxford University and communications at American University. Biren joined the women's liberation movement in Washington D.C. in 1969. Coming to feminism with her New Left political science background, Biren was particularly involved in the formation of feminist theory. Biren and others (including Rita Mae Brown and Charlotte Bunch) formed a lesbian-separatist collective, the Furies, in 1971. Though the collective was short-lived, it had, through its publications, a significant impact on the strategies of the women's movement. Biren taught herself photography because "I needed to see images of lesbians." She is best known for her photographic portraits, some of the earliest documents of late 20th-century lesbian life. Realizing the need for affirming images and self- expression outside of traditional patriarchal language, her work has appeared in off our backs, The Washington Blade, Gay Community News, and on countless LP album and book covers. Biren published two ground-breaking collections of her photography: "Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians" (1979) and "Making A Way: Lesbians Out Front" (1987). In the 1990s, Beginning in 1979 Biren toured the country presenting her slide show "Lesbian Images in Photography, 1850 to the present" to women's groups. Other shows followed and gradually Biren moved from still photography to filmmaking. She documented the 1987 and 1993 gay and lesbian marches on Washington in For Love and For Life and A Simple Matter of Justice and in 2003, an award-winning film on lesbian pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, "No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon."

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Joan E. Biren Papers document her professional and personal life. They include correspondence, notes, photographs, press releases, reports, fliers and publicity materials, journal and newspaper articles, newsletters, audiovisual materials, transcripts of interviews, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1975 to 2003. Major topics found throughout the papers include photography, film, lesbianism, Judaism, feminism, lesbian and gay rights, political movements, and anti-nuclear movements. Biren was an avid collector of lesbian and social justice materials, and the Papers are rich in images, clippings, and other materials collected during events such as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Justice. Materials related to Biren's filmmaking include extensive raw footage, research materials, and transcripts of interviews, conference panels, and events. Notable correspondents include Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, Tee Corrine, Barbara Smith, and John D'Emilio.

[NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online yet but will be soon. Check back again in a few weeks, or contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like a copy sent to you.]


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

Access to audiovisual materials may first require production of research copies.

Portions of this collection have not been fully processed and therefore some portions may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

TJoan Biren retains copyright to her published and unpublished works. Copyright to works by others may be owned by them, their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights for permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Permission must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Joan E. Biren Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Additional Formats

Some audiovisual recordings have been converted to digital format for research use.

A slideshow produced by Joan Biren entitled: "Look To the Women for Courage: Stories From the Seneca Encampment for Peace and Justice" is available to view online.

Audio interviews with subjects of Joan Biren's book Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians (1979) can be heard online (Smith campus access only).

History of the Collection

The Joan E. Biren Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Joan E. Biren beginning in 2007.

Accruals:

Periodic additions to collection are expected and may not be reflected in this record.

Processing Information

Preliminary processing done by Maida Goodwin, 2010


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English


Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Adam, Margie
  • Antinuclear movement -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Artists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Biren, Joan E.
  • Breast Cancer -- Lesbians
  • Christian, Meg
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Collectivism -- United States
  • Deming, Barbara, 1917
  • Demonstrations -- United States -- Photographs
  • Documentary films -- United States -- Production and direction
  • Female friendship -- United States -- History
  • Feminism -- History --Sources
  • Feminism -- Periodicals
  • Feminism -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
  • Feminism and art -- History -- Sources
  • Feminist spirituality -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Feminists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Gay college students -- United States -- History
  • Gay liberation movement -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Gay rights -- History -- Sources
  • Gays -- Periodicals
  • Gays in motion pictures
  • Gender identity -- United States
  • Goddess religion -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Hammer, Barbara
  • Helaine Victoria Press -- History -- Sources
  • Hispanic American women -- Biography -- Sources
  • Homophobia in sports -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Indian women -- Biography -- Sources
  • International Women's Day -- History
  • Jackson, James E., 1914-
  • Jewish lesbians -- Biography -- Sources
  • Jewish women -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Lesbian activists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Lesbian artists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Lesbian communities -- United States -- History
  • Lesbian feminism--History--Sources
  • Lesbian physicians
  • Lesbianism -- Periodicals
  • Lesbianism -- Religious aspects
  • Lesbianism -- United States -- History
  • Lesbians -- Periodicals
  • Lesbians -- Photographs
  • Lesbians -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Lesbians in motion pictures
  • National Abortion Rights Action League -- History
  • National Endowment for the Arts -- History -- Sources
  • National Organization for Women -- History
  • National Women's Health Network (U.S.)
  • Near, Holly
  • Nuclear disarmament -- History -- Sources
  • Olivia Records
  • Peace movements -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Peace movements -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Photography of women -- History -- Sources
  • Pornography -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Pratt, Minnie Bruce
  • Voices of Feminism Oral History Project
  • Women -- Periodicals
  • Women -- Photographs
  • Women -- Religious life -- United States -- History
  • Women and peace -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Women and religion -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Women artists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Women in mass media -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Women photographers -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Women's periodicals, American -- History -- 20th century
  • Women's periodicals, American -- History -- Sources
  • Women's rights -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Women's studies -- History -- 20th century -- Sources

Contributors
  • J.E.B.

Genre terms
  • Oral history


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