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Meadow Muska papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00797

Content Description

Vintage photographic prints mounted to boards, photographic negatives and contact sheets, photographic color slides and contact sheets which especially well portray lesbian culture in the 1970s; collection also includes women in the building trades publications, vintage photographic prints, and a toothpick Conestoga wagon. Meadow explained that she grew up in an abusive home and that she would find ways to mentally escape her environment. The toothpick Conestoga wagon was an example of this from her early life.

Dates of Materials

  • 1971-2018


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use with the following restrictions on access: At the direction of the donor, all digitized images are closed until donor provides specific access restrictions. Slides and negatives are restricted (Boxes 1-3) until all embargoes have passed. Prints, publications and artifacts (Boxes 4-6) are available for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Carolyn "Meadow" Muska has retained copyright until her death in her works donated to Smith College. Upon her death, copyright passes to her wife, Bridget Doak. Upon Doak's death, copyright passes to Smith College. 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 those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by [donor], 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 / Historical

Photographer Carolyn “Meadow” Muska especially well documented the alternative lesbian culture in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the biographical statement provided by Muska (see box 4 for full statement): she

"was born October 26 1952 to Bill and Martha Muska in Minnesota. Her father had an electrical contracting company and was an engineer and her mother was a housewife. Her grandmother and grandfather (Jessie and Harold Lee) provided care for her as a child -- they were both exceptionally brilliant and nurturing people. Her grandmother was a state speech champion in Michigan, and her grandfather studied to be a doctor, but during the influenza epidemic chose to be an attorney instead.

In order to get out of the house, Meadow started summer school at age 15 at the University of Minnesota and excelled academically. By age 17, Meadow was at college full-time at Morehead State College. She graduated summa cum laude from Ohio University with a BFA in photography and was highly driven to accomplish. She wanted to use photography as a venue to express herself.

At age 20, Meadow came out as a lesbian with a woman from south Chicago whom she met while looking for Amazon Bookstore in a condemned house in south Minneapolis.

After graduating from Ohio University, summa cum laude, Meadow got into a van with six other women for a solstice celebration in the mountains of New Mexico. She hitchhiked and lived on the streets of San Francisco for a number of months. She became involved with the Moonies and escaped safely back to Minnesota. She converted an old mail truck to live in and drove away for the spring.

She returned to the solstice celebration in 1975 -- she brought her camera and photographed what she saw. At community events, Meadow felt committed to making photography a process by which images were created together. This was a way of creating trust and connection.

Meadow drove to WomenSpirit near Eugene, Oregon in July of 1975. For money, Meadow emptied semi trucks at Starflower.

In the upstairs bathroom at Gertrude’s Cafe, Meadow showed women how to develop negatives and produce prints.

Meadow struggled to find a job -- without enough money to pay for a typewriter rental and paper and correction tape, she couldn’t produce a resume.

In Albany, Oregon Meadow got a job as a staff photojournalist at the Albany Democrat-Herald. The police reported that she was poor and sleeping in her truck. She found a place to rent a room. She wasn’t an easy fit for the paper. At this time, local police and the FBI were infiltrating feminist and LGBT groups; Meadow believes that she was fired, in part, because of her identity as a lesbian. Meadow was devastated. She could not find another job when other newspapers learned that she was a lesbian and had been fired.

Her grandmother and grandfather had died, and with poor career prospects at the age of 22, Meadow only had the option to re-train and support herself. She went to Dunwoody Trade School where she was the first woman to graduate both years of training in electrical and construction. She graduated second in her class.

Meadow started Women in the Trades in 1978 with a group of other women in Minnesota.

She was hired by IBM as a customer engineer and was given a branch award for simplifying their problem determination system. She was with IBM for three and a half years and then bought a small trailer and went to Tucson, Arizona for the winter.

She worked as a metal framing carpenter. After finally getting a call, she joined the St. Paul electrician’s union. She sued her union for discrimination and retaliation and won.

She re-started Women in the Trades in 1989 as an effort to improve the status of women in trade unions. This was a nonstop fight until she suffered a brain injury in 1991. She edited a resource guide for entering the trades in Minnesota. This information was often deliberately withheld from women and people of color, and it was an enormous effort to bring these resources together.

When it became possible, Meadow became a master electrician. She competed to become the master on record for three wastewater treatment plants and specialized in instrumentation. She finished her career at the St. Paul School District, where she enjoyed serving educators and students as an electrician. She retired with an injury -- she had torn the flexi carpiornor on her right arm (which her doctors disbelieved and misdiagnosed) in 2006.

Meadow met her wife, Bridget Doak, in 2008 at their Unitarian church. They were married in 2013 when five people on the Supreme Court decided they were human. They spend their retirement travelling, enjoying one another’s company, and attempting to pass the baton to people of conscience who perform acts of courage and kindness."


6.854 linear feet (7 containers)

35.1 Gigabytes (8,239 digital files)

Language of Materials



Photographer Carolyn “Meadow” Muska especially well documented the alternative lesbian culture in the 1970s and 1980s. She was born October 26, 1952 in Minnesota where she has spent much of her life, also employed in the building trades. The collection includes vintage photographic prints, slides and contact sheets as well as women in the building trades publications.


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.

Other Finding Aids

Muska kept lecture notes during her time as the only woman student at the Dunwoody Electrical Institute that documented the sexist and racist remarks that instructors and students would make. These are available at the Minnesota Historical Society.

A file list of digital photos is linked to this record (see "Digitized photos" in box 3).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Meadow Muska, 2018.

Processing Information

Original order maintained and folder titles copied verbatim. The contents of computer discs 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.


Finding aid to the Meadow Muska papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063