Lucy Stone, Angela Davis, Betty Friedan, June Jordan, Julia Child, Mildred Jefferson. All of their lives and stories are captured in the rich collections housed in Harvard’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.
And thanks to ongoing efforts to diversify and broaden the library’s holdings, new names are regularly added to their number: such as poet, writer, and former Radcliffe Fellow Marilyn Chin; ordained minister, Harvard Divinity School graduate, founder of the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence and the first all-female Asian Lion dance troupe in Boston Cheng Imm Tan; and an immigrant from China who earned a master’s degree in English literature from Radcliffe in 1938 and went on to host a popular U.S. radio show, Pin Pin T’an Liu.
Take Liu’s collection, with material in both English and Chinese such as immigration documents, recipes, personal photos, and more. The recently acquired archive highlights the library’s decades-long work of honoring the efforts and achievements of women, as well as its commitment to continually seeking out the material records of an ever-wider range of female changemakers, along with those whose quieter lives and everyday experiences comprise the diverse tapestry of American history.
“If we are going to tell complex stories about diversity and its value and move toward genuine inclusion, then we need to have the archives which support that work,” said Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library Jane Kamensky.
Over the last several years library staff have been discussing how to make its collections “more representative of the experience of women in the United States and therefore more accurate and important,” added Kamensky. Those conversations drove the creation of advisory and working groups that will help build connections to and relationships with communities that have been less represented in the archives in the past. A new working group, centered on women’s roles in the making of modern conservatism, will begin meeting under Kamensky’s direction next month.