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WomenArts records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00589

Scope and Contents

The WomenArts records consist of grant applications, funding proposals, financial information, reports, and publicity materials for the parent organization, as well as for projects and artists that WomenArts funded. The records focus on organizations and individual artists, primarily women and organizations run by women, located in Western Massachusetts, including the Chrysalis Theatre, the Enchanted Forest Theatre, the Sleeveless Theatre, and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts; and local playwrights and actors, including Deborah Lubar and Andrea Hairston among others. The WomenArts Records provide good documentation of how local artists and arts organizations sought funding from public and private sources.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1991-2006


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, WomenArts will retain copyright on all materials created by Martha Richards or other staff members as part of their WomenArts work. Martha Richards and other artists will retain their own copyrights in any independently created works. 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 those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by WomenArts, 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.

Biographical Note

WomenArts is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to helping women artists get the resources they need to do their creative work and to increase the visibility of women artists in all art forms. WomenArts seeks to challenge gender and other stereotypes by supporting the creation and appreciation of art that reflects the full diversity and complexity of women's lives, and to advocate for women artists to be paid fairly and to have more opportunities to make a living from their creative work.

Originally called the Fund for Women Artists (FWA), WomenArts was founded in 1994 by Martha Richards, who was then the Executive Director of Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College and the Managing Director of StageWest, a regional theatre in Springfield, Massachusetts. FWA was based in Northampton, Massachusetts from 1994 to 2007 and moved to San Francisco, California in August 2007. It was renamed WomenArts in 2011. Martha Richards has continued to serve as the Executive Director since its founding.

WomensArts has created many projects and programs in service of their mission to increase artist visibility and access to resources. One of their largest and longest running projects was the creation of their website that provides free networking, fundraising, and advocacy services to over 500,000 visitors a year. This includes a newsletter about funding sources, guides for building skills in fundraising and publicity, lists of festivals and theatre companies that often employ women artists, and a directory of women artists to encourage networking. WomensArts also maintains a blog and Facebook page which advertises the works of women artists, as well as opportunities for artists.

Another longtime project of WomenArts has been Support Women Artists Now (SWAN) Day. The event was founded in 2007 by Martha Richards and Jan Lisa Huttner, the Editor-in-Chief of FF2 Media and the creative force behind WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now). The idea for SWAN Day grew out of a desire to create a large-scale event to raise the visibility of women artists and to connect women artists and audience members. Through their networks, mailing lists, and press releases, Huttner and Richards asked women worldwide to create events that would showcase women artists and their work. To help artists organize their SWAN Day events, Richards developed a variety of free tools which she published on the WomenArts website including fundraising and publicity advice, downloadable logos and posters, sample fundraising letters, and press releases. She also created an online SWAN Calendar so that everyone could create free listings of their events.

There were approximately 150 events in a dozen countries that first year, and thousands of women artists around the world have created SWAN events over the years. Since 2010 was the 75th Anniversary of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), WomenArts honored women artists of the WPA as part of SWAN Day 2010. Martha Richards helped produce Paula Kimper’s opera about Sojourner Truth for SWAN Day 2012 and she produced Mary Watkins’ opera, Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story in 2014. WomenArts coordinated SWAN Day from its creation in 2008 until 2018. In June 2018, WomenArts chose the Statera Foundation to lead SWAN Day 2019.

In 2011, WomenArts created the Harmony Project, with the initial goal to explore the factors that encourage and inhibit partnerships between women artists and women’s organizations, and to identify ways to build more partnerships between women artists and women’s organizations who share the same goals. Out of this research, three additional projects were created in 2012 to encourage partnerships with women artists in San Francisco.

The first project, "Our Daily Bread", paired dancer Amara Tabor-Smith with immigrant seniors and youth. Dancers interviewed seniors about the eating traditions in their home countries, and then created dance/theatre pieces with the young people as a way of teaching them about food and nutrition within their cultural contexts. In the second project, "A Place of Her Own", Asian women created art in response to the question, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?” WomenArts worked with AAWAA on a new social service initiative where they are using the "A Place of Her Own" methodology as a healing exercise for Asian American trauma survivors. The final project, Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story was a full-length opera by Mary Watkins, produced by WomenArts in a limited run by the Oakland Opera Theatre in November 2009.

Bibliography WomenArts. (2020). WomenArts website.


7.812 linear feet (8 containers)

Language of Materials



WomenArts is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to helping women artists get the resources they need to do their creative work. The WomenArts records consist of grant applications, funding proposals, financial information, reports, and publicity materials for the parent organization, as well as for projects and artists that WomenArts funded.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession #08S-60 was received from Martha Richards on 2007-07-25.

Finding aid to the WomenArts records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2017-07-26T17:48:24-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-12-19: Finding aid updated to current standards and published
  • 2020-03-19: Added boxes 1-8

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063