Category Archives: Bingham Center

Would You Buy a Comic Book from this Woman?

Post contributed by Sagan Thacker, recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville BA in History. Read more in their senior thesis, “‘Something to Offend Everyone’: Situating Feminist Comics of the 1970s and ‘80s in the Second-Wave Feminist Movement,” forthcoming in the University of North Carolina at Asheville Journal of Undergraduate Research and available to read here.

“Would You Buy a Comic Book from This Woman?” by Barb Behm, in Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.

In January 2020, I traveled from Western North Carolina to the Sallie Bingham Center to study feminist newspapers in two of the Bingham Center’s incredible collections: the Women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements (LGBT) Periodicals and Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals collections. I was looking for material about feminist underground comics of the 1970s and ‘80s—books such as Wimmen’s Comix and Tits and Clits. I wanted to determine what feminists of the time period thought about the comics, and whether they viewed them as serious literature or just mindless entertainment.

I soon found several articles that turned popular notions of comics on their heads. Most notable was a February 1976 article from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, newspaper Amazon: A Feminist Journal. Written by Barb Behm about the now obscure Pricella Pumps/Star Buckwheat Comic Book by Barba Kutzner (1976), the article cogently praised the book’s relatability and satire of American society and its metaphorical significance for all women. Behm touted Kutzner’s protagonist as both a character with which women could heartily identify and a way to break free from the oppressive system and celebrate non-normativity.

This source was instrumental in showing that feminist underground comics, far from being tangential and lowbrow parts of the second-wave feminist movement, were instead an important part of the intellectual discourse within feminism. By finding a critic who enthusiastically engaged with the work on a level beyond its perceived lowbrow status, it became clear that some feminists viewed comics as a valid and direct medium to write and engage with feminism on a level that would not be widespread until the zine revolution of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. This reframing of comics’ literary history deepens our understanding of second-wave feminism and gives a more nuanced portrait of its discursive diversity.

Cover by Barba Kutzner, Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.

 

October 6: Readings and Conversation with Sallie Bingham

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET
Online via zoom: Registration required to receive Zoom link.
Contact: Kelly Wooten, kelly.wooten@duke.edu or Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture  is honored to host a virtual reading and discussion with Sallie Bingham, author of two new books: The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke and Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader.

In The Silver Swan, Sallie Bingham chronicles one of the great underexplored lives of the twentieth century. Bingham is especially interested in dissecting the stereotypes that have defined Duke’s story while also confronting the disturbing questions related to her legacy. According to Gloria Steinem, “Sallie Bingham rescues Doris Duke from this gendered prison and shows us just how brave, rebellious, and creative this unique woman really was, and how her generosity benefits us to this day.”

Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader is a collection that captures the spirit of the author’s illustrious writing career via short stories, a novella, and a play. From the complex stories of artistic influence and the exhilaration and fright of solitude, to the incendiary rage of a betrayed young wife who sacrifices everything for revenge, to the struggles for independence of the three women who surrounded Ezra Pound like subservient stars, these fictions seize the reader’s attention while slashing stereotypes.

The Rubenstein Library holds a range of collections documenting the lives of Sallie Bingham and Doris Duke.

Looking Back, Moving Forward with Southerners on New Ground

Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Online via Zoom: Registration required to receive Zoom link
Contact: Kelly Wooten, kelly.wooten@duke.edu or Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu

Please join the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a panel discussion grounded in the history of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) that will explore how activist archives inform intersectional struggles for social justice. Mandy Carter (SONG co-founder), Wesley Hogan (historian), Lisa Levenstein (historian), and Mab Segrest (SONG co-founder) will reflect on the importance and contemporary relevance of SONG’s organizing in the 1990s and beyond.

Wesley Hogan’s On the Freedom Side and Lisa Levenstein’s They Didn’t See Us Coming both incorporate research using the SONG Records and the papers of two SONG co-founders, Mandy Carter and Mab Segrest, from the Rubenstein Library.

Co-sponsored by the Duke Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and the Center for Documentary Studies.

From the Collections

Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center.

For over twenty years, the Rubenstein Library has offered travel grants for researchers. The first grant began with the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s Mary Lily Research Travel Grant program and grew to include the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture; John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; History of Medicine Collections; Human Rights Archive; and most recently, the Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History.

As archivists, we have long understood that research, scholarship, writing, and creative processes take time. The outcomes from the people and projects we support often come to fruition years in the future. Thankfully, we stay in touch with many of our grant recipients long after they visit the Rubenstein Library, and are thrilled to celebrate their publications and projects once they are out in the world. Here are a few selections we’d like to highlight:

Anesthesia Mask, 4”x5” printed plexi glass plate, 2016-2018. History of Medicine Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, c. 20th c.

Lindsey Beal, Mellon Faculty Fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, received a History of Medicine travel grant in March 2016. Beal’s photographic work, Parturition, features History of Medicine Collections instruments and artifacts with a focus on obstetric and gynecological tools.

Little Cold Warriors: American Childhood in the 1950s by Victoria Grieve, Associate Professor of History at Utah State University, was published by the Oxford University Press in 2018. Dr. Grieve visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2016 as a Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education Fellow through the Hartman Center to use the Outdoor Advertising Association of America archives, the Garrett Orr papers, and the J. Walter Thompson Co. Writings and Speeches Collection.

Her Neighbor’s Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage by Lauren Jae Gutterman, professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, was published in 2019 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Dr. Gutterman received a Mary Lily Research Travel Grant from the Bingham Center in 2013. Her research focused on the Minnie Bruce Pratt papers, as well as the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance’s archives and the papers of prominent feminist thinkers Robin Morgan and Kate Millett. Dr. Gutterman is also co-host of the podcast Sexing History.

Marjorie Lorch, Professor of Neurolinguistics, Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, University of London, visited the Rubenstein Library in February 2018 as a History of Medicine Collections grant recipient, utilizing the Henry Charles Bastian papers for her research. Her article, “The long view of language localization” was published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy in May 2019. She also co-authored an article with R. Whurr, “The laryngoscope and nineteenth-century British understanding of laryngeal movements,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, also published in May 2019.

Rachel R. Miller successfully defended her dissertation “The Girls’ Room: Bedroom Culture and the Ephemeral Archive in the 1990s” to complete her Ph.D. in English at the Ohio State University on May 18, 2020. She received a Mary Lily Research Grant to use the Bingham Center’s zine collections in 2018. Since her defense was held via videoconference, Dr. Miller noted on Twitter, “I’ve been working for four years on a project about how teenage girls’ bedrooms are archival spaces, so I guess it’s only appropriate that I’ll be defending my project from my bedroom.”

Erik A. Moore, postdoctoral associate at the University of Oklahoma’s Humanities Forum, visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2017 as a Human Rights Archive grant recipient. His article “Rights or Wishes? Conflicting Views over Human Rights and America’s Involvement in the Nicaraguan Contra War” was published in the journal Diplomacy & Statecraft (v. 29, no. 4) in October 2018. Dr. Moore used the Washington Office on Latin America records in his research.

Wangui Muigai, Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies and History at Brandeis University, is a historian of medicine and science. She received a Franklin Grant in 2015 for research on infant mortality and race from slavery to the Great Migration. Dr. Muigai  was awarded the Nursing Clio inaugural prize for best journal article for “‘Something Wasn’t Clean’: Black Midwifery, Birth, and Postwar Medical Education in All My Babies” in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (v. 93, no. 1,) in 2019, which cites an interview from the Behind the Veil oral history collection.

John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights by Brandon K. Winford, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2019. . Dr. Winford is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and went on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was awarded a Franklin Research Center grant in 2015-2016. While visiting the Rubenstein Library, Dr. Winford consulted the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company archive, the C.C. Spaulding papers, the Asa and Elna Spaulding papers, and the Rencher Nicholas Harris papers. In February 2020, Dr. Winford returned to Duke to give a talk about the book and his research at the Duke University Law School.

Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America by Wendy Woloson, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers-Camden, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in September 2020. Dr. Woloson visited the Rubenstein Library as a Hartman Center grant recipient in 2017 and used the Advertising Ephemera Collection and the Arlie Slabaugh Collection of Direct Mail Literature.

 

Tracing “Miss Violet”

Contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

This past fall the Sallie Bingham Center received a reference question from Dr. Elizabeth Harmon, American Women’s History Initiative Digital Curator at the Smithsonian Institution Archives about Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge. Dr. Harmon wanted to know more about Dandridge’s involvement with the women’s suffrage movement since Dandridge was employed as a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1900s. In her research, she had not come across many other women employed at the Smithsonian who had also been active in the campaign for women’s right to vote. Within the Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers which comprise 64 boxes of correspondence, journals, sketches, photographs, and poems spanning across generations are archival materials relating to Violet’s life and her experiences with the suffrage movement and as a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Maryland around the same time.

Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge was born March 15, 1878, at her family home of “Rosebrake” in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to parents Danske Bedinger Dandridge and Adam Stephen Dandridge. Violet grew up at Rosebrake with two younger siblings, Stephen Hawks and Dorothea Spotswood, until moving to D.C. at the age of 18 in 1896 to begin studying art. She returned to Rosebrake in 1897 after her younger brother unexpectedly died while attending the University of Virginia. Dorothea Spotswood also died at a young age from an unspecified illness in 1907.

Portrait of Serena Katherine “Miss Violet" Dandridge. She is standing wearing a tweet suit.
Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge

By 1903, Violet had moved back to Washington, D.C. and began drawing marine and fauna wildlife for publication at the National Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1914, her parents committed her to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest psychiatric hospitals in Maryland, for bouts of “nervousness” and possibly an eating disorder. The superintendent of the hospital stated that they resorted to force feeding Violet as she did not “retain food well” and her weight was a concern. However, in a letter to her family two weeks later, Violet noted that the staff were “kind and helpful” and the food was “delicious,” but she was just too anxious to finish her meals because she was worried about her mother, Danske, who also had a history of mental illness and particularly struggled after the deaths of Violet’s two younger siblings. Danske passed away from suicide during one of Violet’s stays at the hospital, but the nature of her death was concealed from Violet by doctors and family members out of concern for her well-being.

Violet was involved in the movement for women’s suffrage, and by 1915, she was regularly making donations, attending local meetings, and subscribing to suffragist newspapers and magazines. Violet most likely became involved in women’s suffrage before her time at the hospital, as the superintendent in February of 1914 claimed that Violet “wishe[d] to die on account of man’s injustice to woman.” Violet also had a deep love and appreciation for the environment, being arrested twice when she was 52 years old for interfering with a company’s plan to cut down local trees. She found inspiration for her poems and her art in nature, particularly trees. Sometime after being released from the hospital, Violet moved back to her family home to raise sheep and live with her cousin, Nina Mitchell, both never marrying.

During the 1940s, Mary Katharine Kern, a graduate student at Duke University, contacted Violet to learn more about Danske Dandridge for her thesis on poets of the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. The acknowledgments of her thesis and correspondence from the curator at the time indicate that the library acquired the Dandridge Family Papers from Violet as a purchase. The library also acquired Violet’s cousin Nina Mitchell’s papers, which also hold traces of Violet’s story.  Violet died on November 7, 1956, at age 78 after returning to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for further treatment related to mental illness.

In the fall semester of 2019, we shared the letters sent from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital as primary evidence of early twentieth century treatment of women with mental illness with students in Seth LeJacq’s Writing 101 course on Women and Western Medicine. These letters provided a poignant complement to this course’s analysis of texts like Charlotte Perkins Gilman book The Yellow Wall-paper. Violet’s papers are a unique portrait of women’s involvement in science and politics as well as personal experiences with mental illness in the early 1900s.

Sources:
Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Announcing our 2020-2021 Travel Grant Recipients

1946 magazine advertisement for american airlinesThe Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020-2021 travel grants. Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researches through a competitive application process. We extend a warm congratulations to this year’s awardees. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

Please note that due to widespread travel restrictions, the dates for completing travel during this grant cycle have been extended through December 2021.

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants):

Dena Aufseeser, Faculty, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, “Family Labor, Care, and Deservingness in the US.”

Elvis Bakaitis, Adjunct Reference Librarian, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “The Queer Legacy of Dyke Zines.”

Emily Larned, Faculty, Art and Art History, University of Connecticut, “The Efemmera Reissue Project.”

Sarah Heying, Ph.D. candidate, University of Mississippi, “An Examination of the Relationship Between Reproductive Politics and Southern Lesbian Literature Since 1970.”

Susana Sepulveda, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Arizona, “Travesando Chicana Punk”, an examination of Chicana punk identity formations through the production of cultural texts.

Tiana Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas at Austin, “No Freedom Without All of Us: Recovering the Lasting Legacy of the Third World Women’s Alliance.”

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture:

Brandon Render, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Color-Blind University: Race and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century.”

Erin Runions, Faculty, Department of Religious Studies, Pomona College, “Religious Instruction of Slaves on Fallen Angels and Hell in the Antebellum Period.”

Katherine Burns, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Edinburgh, “‘Keep this Unwritten History:’ Mapping African American Family Histories in ‘Information Wanted’ Advertisements, 1880-1902.”

Leonne Hudson, Faculty, Department of History, Kent State University, “Black American in Mourning: Their Reactions to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”

Matthew Gordon, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Georgia, “American Memory and Martin Luther King, 1968-1983.”

Michael LeMahieu, Faculty, Department of English, “Post ‘54: The Reconstruction of Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown v. Board.”

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History:

Amanda Stafford, Ph.D. candidate, School of History, University of Leeds, “The Radical Press and the New Left in Georgia, 1968-1976.”

Caitlyn Parker, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies Department, Purdue University, “Lesbians Politically Organizing Against the Carceral State from 1970-2000.”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History:

Andrew Wasserman, Independent Scholar, “The Public Art of Public Relations: Creating the New American City.”

Austin Porter, Faculty, Department of Art History and American Studies, Kenyon College, “Bankrolling Bombs: How Advertisers Helped Finance World War II.”

Elizabeth Zanoni, Faculty, Department of History, Old Dominion University, “Flight Fuel: A History of Airline Cuisine, 1945-1990.”

Hossain Shahriar, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Business Administration, School of Economics & Management, Lund University, “Gender Transgressive Advertising: A Multi-Sited Exploration of Fluid Gender Constructions in Market-Mediated Representations.”

Jesse Ritner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Making Snow: Weather, Technology, and the Rise of the American Ski Industry, 1900-Present.”

Joseph Larnerd, Faculty, Department of Art History, Drexel University, “Undercut: Rich Cut Glass in Working-Class Life in the Gilded Age.”

Katherine Parkin, Faculty, Department of History and Anthropology, Monmouth University, “Asian Automakers in the United States, 1970-1990.”

Meg Jones, Faculty, Communication, Culture & Technology, Georgetown University, “Cookies: The Story of Digital Consent, Consumer Privacy, and Transatlantic Computing.”

Ricardo Neuner, Ph.D. candidate, University of Konstanz, “Inside the American Consumer: The Psychology of Buying in Behavioral Research, 1950-1980.”

Stanley Fonseca, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Southern California, “Cruising: Capitalism, Sexuality, and Environment in Cruise Ship Tourism, 1930-2000.”

History of Medicine Collections:

Jackson Davidow, Theory and History of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, “Picturing a Pandemic: South African AIDS Cultural Activism in a Global Context.”

Lisa Pruitt, Faculty, Department of History, Middle Tennessee State University, “Crippled: A History of Childhood Disability in America, 1860-1980.”

Morgan McCullough, Ph.D. candidate, Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, William and Mary, “Material Bodies: Race, Gender, and Women in the Early American South.”

Human Rights Archive:

Andrew Seber, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago, “Neither Factory nor Farm: The Fallout of Late-Industrial Animal Agriculture in America, 1970-2000.”

Eugene (Charlie) Fanning, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park, “Empire of The Everglades: A Global History of Agribusiness, Labor, and the Land in 20th Century South Florida.”

Jennifer Leigh, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, New York University, “Public Health vs. Pro-gun Politics: The Role of Racism in the Silencing of Research on Gun Violence, 1970-1996.”

Richard Branscomb, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University, “Defending the Self, Preserving Community: Gun Rights, Paramilitarization, and the Radical Right, 1990-2005.”

You’re Invited to a Woman Suffrage Party!

Would you like to help us commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment? As we are working from home to prepare for the upcoming suffrage exhibit, that will hopefully be installed this summer in the Rubenstein Library, we would love for you to help us in your sewing rooms, craft rooms, or dining room tables. Although the RL holds various tapestries, banners, sashes, and other art objects created during the suffrage movement, these original items are very susceptible to light damage. In order to publicize the exhibition in the cases outside the Biddle Rare Book Room, we would love to incorporate YOUR versions – faithful reproductions or your own take – of suffrage banners, pins, sashes, or any kind of suffrage memorabilia! Items can reference the American women’s suffrage movement or other suffrage and voting rights struggles.

Enter your items in our friendly competition. Prizes will be awarded, and winning items will be on display with recognition in the Sperling exhibition case (and returned to creators when the exhibit is finished).

Due date: June 15, 2020

How to submit: Please send images along with a brief description of your completed item to Bingham Center-Exhibitions intern, Jess Epsten (jess.epsten@duke.edu).

Judging: Submissions will be considered by jury consisting of members of the suffrage exhibit group, Meg Brown, Yoon Kim, Laura Micham, Jess Epsten, and Genna Miller (faculty member).

Prizes: A variety of prizes to be determined.

black and white photograph showing a white woman with a large swath of fabric with stars on it drapped over her lap.
Alice Paul sewing stars on Suffrage Flag (ca. 1912-1920).

Be a part of History! Artistic expression of political ideals, such as sewing banners, pennants, sashes and other items and incorporating phrases like “Votes for Women,” was a widespread and powerful strategy for suffragists and part of the long tradition of artistic expression in social justice movements. Equal suffrage leagues even held competitions for poster designs to support the movement. There are great sources of historical objects on the internet for inspiration-feel free to copy one, or create your own!

About the exhibit: Commemorating the ratification of the 19th amendment, “Beyond Supply & Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage” will highlight a range of materials from the Rubenstein Library selected by the 38 undergraduate students in the Fall, 2019 course Women in the Economy. Students in the course were tasked with going beyond simple tools of “supply and demand” to examine original, archival materials from the past one hundred years to curate an exhibit examining the complexities and strategies of the American suffrage movement.

Links for Inspiration!

Some online exhibits:

Some project ideas and supplies:

Array of buttons promoting women's suffrageQuestions?  Please contact
Meg Brown (meg.brown@duke.edu)
Jess Epsten (jess.epsten@duke.edu)
or
Laura Micham (laura.m@duke.edu)

 

In Search of Their Anti-Racist Lineage

Contributed by Amanda Mixon, PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine. Read more in their recent article: Amanda Mixon (2019): “Not in my name”: the anti-racist praxis of Mab Segrest & Minnie Bruce Pratt, Journal of Lesbian Studies, DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2019.1678964

With the assistance of a Mary Lily Travel Grant, I visited the Sallie Bingham Center in the summer of 2018 to carry out research for my dissertation, which analyzes how a group of white southern lesbian writers theorize whiteness and practice anti-racist activism. The project is as much invested in tracing friendships and influences as it is in elaborating a single individual’s political thought. Therefore, when perusing the papers of Dorothy Allison (1949-), Minnie Bruce Pratt (1946-), and Mab Segrest (1949-), I was especially interested in how the holdings might give voice to these women’s relationships with each other and the two other figures in my study, Rita Mae Brown (1944-) and Lillian Smith (1897-1966).[i]

Conference brochure featuring a portrait of Lillian Smith on the cover.
“‘Listening to Sounds Larger Than Our Own Heartbeat’: A Conference on Lillian Smith” brochure listing talks by both Mab Segrest and Minnie Bruce Pratt, held at Georgetown University, October 7-9, 1994. From the Mab Segrest Papers, Box 63.

I knew that Smith, arguably the most outspoken white southern critic of Jim Crow segregation, had a profound impact on Pratt and Segrest. Her lifelong partnership with Paula Snelling (1899-1985) and searing critiques of white supremacy offered Pratt and Segrest a foundation from which to learn and build. However, when scanning Pratt’s papers, I was surprised to find an unpublished stage play that Segrest wrote about the couple in the late eighties. There, Segrest prioritizes Snelling’s experience, allowing her to criticize Smith for closeting their same-sex relationship. As Segrest told me in person, this centering is an ode to the significant amount of unrecognized work that Snelling contributed to Smith’s career and their collaborative projects. But what I found most compelling was Segrest’s creative license with the couple’s relationship: that is, no primary or secondary sources confirm the dynamic that Segrest depicts. As such, the untitled play is not only an example of how we represent historical figures in order to do them justice, but also an account of what those figures emotionally do for us. In their published nonfiction, both Segrest and Pratt express a yearning for a Smith not bound by the closet’s silence. In the play, Snelling becomes the voice of that desire. She asks: what would it have meant—for Smith’s own career and life, for Snelling, and for the countless women inspired by their work—if Smith had claimed a lesbian identity?

“Scenes from play about Lillian Smith” by Mab Segrest, original pictured here from the Mab Segrest Papers, Box 63. Another copy is located in the Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers, Box 57.

[i] Rita Mae Brown is author of the 1973 lesbian coming of age novel Rubyfruit Jungle. Lillian Smith was a white civil rights activist, known for her 1944 novel Strange Fruit, which featured an interracial couple.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2020-2021 Travel Grant Program

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2020-2021 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!Black and white, undated, but vintage seeming United Airlines ad. The headline reads "Compare these Travel Costs." It has an illustration of a female flight attendant holding a chart showing the cost of travel to various destinations by train in comparison to fare on United Airlines.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2020. Recipients will be announced in March 2020.

A Punk Female Divine

Post contributed by Chiara Amoretti, PhD candidate, University of Bristol, UK

Kathy Ackers astrological chart
Natal Chart found in Box 32, Folder 6 of the Kathy Acker Papers

After the generous award of a Mary Lily Research Grant, I travelled to Duke University this winter to conduct research for my doctoral dissertation, a study on modern and contemporary women writers and the creation of a female divine. My project focuses on three authors, including Kathy Acker, so I was excited to have the opportunity to consult the Kathy Acker Papers housed here at the Rubenstein Library. The collection spans notebooks, drafts, typescripts, annotations, correspondence and much more. My research goal was to find any evidence that Acker engaged with religion and religious discourse or texts, but more importantly how she engaged with it. To better understand her published work’s fragmented use of such suggestions, I wanted to see how Acker had originally worked them into her texts.

In order to do this, I studied the many notebooks containing Acker’s drafts for her novels and other unpublished material. Her drafts amazed me not just for the evidence of relentless work and self-editing that she put her writing through, but especially for the many different uses of heterodox religious language that appear therein. I was particularly struck to find one of her notebooks containing a discussion of her cancer treatment, in an extended metaphor, as a Shamanic initiation rite. This seems to highlight the spiritual significance, for Acker, of her choice of alternative medicine, and a way to reclaim her lived experience in response to her diagnosis.

The archive also illuminated my understanding of Acker’s fascination with para-religious activities and discourses. Her interest in astrology, which her published work hints at, takes on deeper meaning after seeing the natal charts of herself, and other people in her life, that Acker consulted. This shows her attachment to diverse forms of spiritual meaning-making, especially towards the end of her life. My visit to the Acker Papers has been invaluable for my research, showing me many unexpected ways in which Acker devised her own spiritual narrative experimentation.