Final Day

As far as an internship is concerned, my time at the Archives was a little bit different. I was more so researching topics to gain an understanding of how Gender and Women’s Studies can related to the field as well as using what I’ve learned and apply it to what I’ve been reading. I’m sure since this is the first time anyone has been an intern at the Archives that the future will hold more possibilities involving continuing in making a guide to certain documents that would be of interest to GWS students.

I enjoyed my time and would strongly recommend that anyone interested in researching and archiving to involve themselves in the Archives because it does require discipline and analysis of text, which could translate to doing work in college and beyond.


Awareness Week ’78

The Women’s League eventually changed its name into the Association for Women’s Students. They held an event called Awareness Week throughout that  focused on male and female relations on campus.

Warren Farrell, a prominent fixture in the women’s movement held a consciousness-raising weekend where the objective was to improve female/male and same sex communication. One activity that was available included diary writing, where participants could record their insights and fears relating to the observation of power relationships between men and women. I’ll post some pics below!

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Women’s League at Western

There were a ton of documents dedicated to the Women’s League (I’m talking boxes). I took a couple of weeks to look through it all and I feel as if I barely scratched the surface. The League originated in 1914, and the members were every woman on Western’s campus. The freshmen were given handbooks, possibly to ease the transition from home to school and make them feel welcome. There were a lot of rules, even a guide on what is appropriate to wear to certain campus events. It may be because of the time period that there were rules on how to dress, and that there were strict curfew rules.

It’s cool to see that this organization welcomed the freshmen ladies as soon as they stepped on campus. The smaller size of the college probably made the process easier. There are a few organizations on campus dedicated to groups of women coming together for fellowship, but it would be nice to possibly have a similar group on campus in the future offering some sort of initiation for women students from the GWS department.

How archival research relates to the present.

It’s my second official week with my internship at the WMU Archives and Regional History. It’s a bit deceiving at first, it just looks like a smaller version of Waldo Library. After taking a tour, the size was shocking. There is a back section with factory sized shelves full of boxes and file cabinets. I’ve been getting into the daily lives of women in Kalamazoo. On my first day I read a book with the minutes of the Ladies’ Library Association of Kalamazoo from the 1800s! It was all handwritten (in cursive), and it was awesome to see such an everyday item from so long ago.

Today I’m working with microfilm (I had a difficult time working the machine at first). I’m currently looking through some Kalamazoo newspapers from the 1960s-80s.

Sensitive Topics

One of the most controversial subjects discussed in this country is that of abortion. Although I came to think that most people were pretty liberal on the subject, a lot of the newspaper articles I’ve read say otherwise. I also had to remind myself that I was reading newspapers from the late 70s, not too long after Roe v. Wade. They make for an interesting read.

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Article Pt. 2

Black Feminism

Focus News was a publication based in Kalamazoo that was made with the Black community in mind. Topics such as Black owned businesses, student life at WMU, and other subjects such as abortion were discussed.

I came across some cartoon strips and articles that I found interesting, with this first one I’m posting about standards of beauty. Black women’s features have been mocked for years, often being seen as too much. Big hair, lips, and darker skin is being heralded as enviable traits now, but among non-black races. It was interesting to come across this as it was published in the seventies and how relevant it is today when Kylie Jenner is given credit for her drawn on lips and we see hairstyles popular among Black women on white models in magazines and on the runway.

Cartoon strip

Goals for this (short) semester

I’ve been looking at other colleges and their Gender and Women’s Studies collections on their library pages to see what I can produce in terms of a “guide” to the WMU Archives. As a GWS major I have done so much research for my classes, but a lot of that research was mostly done with an academic mindset and not really thinking about how public activism may have affected the lives of everyday women. Or what women in a local setting have been doing to empower other women. Published authors that most feminist theory revolves around: Lorde, De Beauvoir, and Friedan just to name a few. These and other feminist theorists have helped shape the way we look at and analyze feminism from certain perspectives, but from the library websites I’ve looked at, including WMU’s you’re mostly getting the formal, academic standpoint of feminism, which is what we need for our discussions on theory. But what about the private lives of women? What were they reading in newspapers, and how were they presented in yearbooks, and what sort of personal obstacles did a young woman face in her college years? These are some questions I’m looking to answer while I am interning at the WMU Archives. Being here is different than other internships because it’s almost like an independent study. I’m interacting with text instead of people.

I also have to remember that today’s definition of feminism that includes intersectionality is far different than in the past. I’m reminded when I look at a WMU yearbook from the 1800s that I definitely won’t be seeing any people of color *laughs* but that is part of the history of our country unfortunately.

The notes that I take on the extensive amount of documents I will encounter during my time here will hopefully give the next GWS student a slightly easier time looking through historical records as they relate to feminist research