Joann Aalfs papers
Scope and Contents
Joann Aalf's papers contains records and printed materials of the New Bedford Women's Center (founded circa 1969), of which Aalfs was a member. She kept complete and highly detailed records that provide excellent documentation of the beginnings of this grassroots women's organization, the personal and political dimensions of the problems its members sought to address and remedy, as well as the economic, social and cultural context in which it existed. Subsequent accession includes correspondence, newsletters from the New Bedford Women's Center, photographs, scrapbooks, audiocassettes (many of Mary Daly, with transcripts), research materials, and manuscript drafts. Featured organizations/activities include women's martial arts, the Lesbian Empowerment Project, and the New Bedford Women's Awareness Group and Women's Center. Much of the correspondence is family-related, over multiple generations.
Joanne Aalf's digital files include her computer backups from the 1990s to 2015.
Dates of Materials
- Creation: 1902 - 2015
- Aalfs, Joann (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.
Conditions Governing Use
To the extent that she owns copyright, Aalfs has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Aalfs, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.
Joann Aalfs was born in 1923 in St. Paul, MN to Cecelia Elizabeth Nesler and James Humphrey Wilkinson. She attended the Summit School in St. Paul, graduating in 1941, and earned her undergraduate degree at Bennington College in 1945. She attended Union Theological Seminary in New York and in 1950 married John Linden Aalfs, with whom she had four children: Mary Linden (1951), Mark Stephen (1953), Janet Elizabeth (1956), and Thomas John (1958). Beginning in 1951, Aalfs served with her husband in various Presbyterian ministries, including Salem, NY, Kasur, Pakistan, Auburn NY, and Huntsville, TN. She lived in New Bedford, MA from 1962 until 1980, when she escaped what had been an abusive marriage (with the help of Boston College professor, Mary Daly, some of whose classes she had attended) and divorced her husband. Aalfs took refuge at the Battered Women's Shelter in Springfield, Mass. until moving to Northampton, MA (1981); she moved to Wendell, MA in 1989 and then back to Northampton in 1993. She was active in the New Bedford Women's Center in its early days, but in time its focus on activism for women's health, access to abortions, etc., left her unsatisfied. She wanted to be part of a women's community that focused more on consciousness-raising as a tool toward personal and cultural change. Ultimately Aalfs left the NBWC to help found the New Bedford Women's Awareness Group, which met more or less surreptitiously for several years in the 1970s and early 80s in the local YWCA.
21.479 linear feet (20 containers)
32.64 Gigabytes (digital files)
Language of Materials
The Joann Aalfs papers document the New Bedford Women's Center (founded circa 1969), of which Aalfs was a member. She kept complete and highly detailed records that provide excellent documentation of the beginnings of this grassroots women's organization, the personal and political dimensions of the problems its members sought to address and remedy, as well as the economic, social and cultural context in which it existed. Much of the correspondence is family-related, over multiple generations.
This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was received as a gift from Joann Aalfs in 2003 and 2016 and from Janet Aalfs in 2017.
The contents of all computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.
Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.
Genre / Form
- Cartoons (humorous images)
- Computer media
- Plans (drawings)
- lecture notes
- letters (correspondence)
- Anti-rape movement
- Electronic records
- Families -- United States
- Family -- United States -- 20th century
- Feminists -- United States
- Group relations training -- United States -- 20th century
- Lesbian activists
- Lesbian and queer women
- Lesbian community
- Lesbian feminism
- Sound recordings
- Women's centers
- Women's liberation
- Finding aid to the Joann Aalfs papers
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Madison White
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
- 2018-10-12: Updated to conform to DACS
- 2020-03-26: Description of digital content added
- 2020-04-27: Added accessions 16S-79 and 17S-012, updated dates
Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063