UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Preserving records bearing on the experience of women in North America : The women’s archives movement and its significance for appraisal for acquisition Earnshaw, Gabrielle Lili


This thesis is an historical study of efforts which have taken place in English speaking North America to preserve records bearing on women's experience. It has been found that efforts have centered on two positions: separation from traditional archives and reform of traditional archives. Approaches have varied and changed according to the political ideology of the women's movement at different historical moments. In the 1930s, efforts were made to develop separate "Women's Archives" to complement the records held by traditional archives. In the 1960s and 1970s, some feminists, primarily radical and lesbian feminists aimed at the establishment of independent women-centered archives that were separate from traditional archives and were operated according to feminist principles. Other efforts by liberal feminists have concentrated on the reform of traditional archives through the development of preferential acquisition policies for records bearing on women's experience. In the 1980s and 1990s, while earlier efforts continued, challenges of racism and classism have been made to traditional archives and the women's archives movement by women of color and other minorities. Most recently, feminist scholars have argued for the integration of women's history with that of men. This has influenced a growing trend towards integration of women's records with those of traditional archives. The women's archives movement suggests that appraisal for acquisition in traditional archives has discriminated against the records created by women. Although archival theory and methodology of appraisal for acquisition are not inherently biased, in practice acquisition of private records takes place in a haphazard manner according to the value system of the ruling political ideology. Because of structural and societal discrimination women have not been part of this ruling elite and interest in the preservation of their records has been minimal. To ensure the preservation of women's records archivists must develop national, systematic and comprehensive acquisition strategies which acquire records from all spheres of human activity, improve intellectual access to women's records, and recognize and respect efforts which have taken place outside of traditional archives. The role of the archivist must be expanded to provide consultation and outreach for creators of records bearing on women's experience and the women-centered archives which preserve them.

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