Women's Music Archives records and collected music
Scope and Contents
The Women's Music Archives records and collected music consists of materials collected and recorded in order to document "woman-identified, woman-made music, primarily, though not exclusively feminist and lesbian in orientation" that "evolved as a definite entity" from the early 1970s. Materials include bibliographies, biographical sketches, clippings, correspondence, flyers, newsletters, photographs, posters, publicity materials, songbooks, sound recordings, videotapes, and memorabilia.
The bulk of the collection dates from 1975 to 1995 and consists of live and studio-produced sound recordings by women musicians and of women's music festivals, retreats, and conferences. The collection also contains significant paper files documenting the work of individual women musicians; women's music groups and choruses; and the production, distribution, concert booking, and publicity infrastructure for women's music recordings, concerts, festivals, and retreats.
Major topics found throughout these files include the women's music movement, women in music more broadly, and differences and diversity within the feminist and lesbian-feminist movement since the 1970s. Though the impetus for founding the collection was "women's music" as it evolved in the early 1970s, there is also material on women in mainstream popular, classical, folk, jazz, blues, punk, and riot grrrl music, as well as stand-up comedy.
Dates of Materials
- Creation: 1964-2007
- Women's Music Archives (Organization)
- Arvanites, Jane (Person)
- Kimber, Lucia C. (Person)
- Lewis, Kathy (Person)
- Near, Holly (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access:
Recordings of live performances cannot be distributed to researchers and can only be used onsite.
Box 92 is closed and contains reel to reel tapes that were moldy when they came to the archive. They have been aired and quarentined, and once they have been digitized they will be discarded.
Conditions Governing Use
To the extent that they own copyright, the Women's Music Archives, Inc. has assigned to Smith College all intellectual property rights in these materials; 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 the Women's Music Archives, Inc., 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
The Women's Music Archives was a feminist organization that collected recordings, memorabilia, and archival papers of women's music scene and musicians. The collection began during a summer 1975 visit to Maine, when friends introduced Lucia "Kim" Kimber and Kathy Lewis to recordings made by Meg Christian, Alix Dobkin, and The Deadly Nightshade. "We were instantly hooked," wrote Kimber in 1985. Two months later, Kimber and Lewis attended the First Boston Women's Music Festival with a small tape deck on which they recorded the two-day long festival held at Harvard University. "That was a mind boggling experience, not only for the music, but it was the first time that I had ever been in an auditorium with 500 women in one spot…. It was the first time that we ever heard music that was aimed particularly at women's issues, and it was composed by women and performed by women." (Lucia Kimber oral history with Amanda Izzo, 2009) Enthralled with the experience, Kimber and Lewis began attending and recording (with the artists' permission) every women's music concert they could get to. They also began collecting studio recordings, books, catalogs, clippings, flyers, posters, programs, memorabilia, newsletters, and other materials related to women's music, including information on artists, production companies, festivals, and the women's music and comedy concert circuit.
Lewis and Kimber first met Ruth Dworin at the 4th National Women's Music Festival in Champaign-Urbana in 1977. Dworin was also making recordings of festival concerts and owned a women's music production company in Toronto called Womanly Way Productions. After meeting at several more events, the three women decided to establish a formal entity to collect and preserve women's music materials. In the fall of 1978 they created the Women's Music Archives as a non-profit organization based at Kimber's home in Fairfield, Connecticut.
According to the WMA's 1980 Catalog, "The primary function of the Women's Music Archives is to collect and preserve, for herstorical listening and research purposes, all types of materials related to women's music." The bulk of the collection focused on "woman-identified, woman-made music, primarily, though not exclusively feminist and lesbian in orientation" that "evolved as a definite entity" beginning in the early 1970s. As the collection grew, Kimber, Lewis, and Dworin added earlier recordings by women "that spoke to the issues which were of vital concern and interest to women." Their Archives was conceived as a means to preserve part of the flourishing and self-affirming lesbian-feminist culture of the day.
In a 1980 article about the Archives for Sojourner, Kimber wrote: "Women derive strength and comfort from many various sources such as feminist literature, women's support groups, communal living situations, and women's art forms such as painting, sculpture, photography, and music…. It is certain…that women's music provides a kind of strength, support and inspiration which is found nowhere else and most certainly is not found in popular music which bombards us constantly over the airways today."
In addition to the Women's Music Archives, Kimber also participated in the "scene" through deep involvement in the North East Women's Musical Retreat (NEWMR), an organization which produced regional outdoor music festivals on Labor Day weekend from 1981 to 2000.
Eager for the Archives to be preserved beyond the lives of its founders, the WMA Directors decided to place it in the Sophia Smith Collection in 2004.
83.418 linear feet (107 containers)
Language of Materials
The Women's Music Archives records and collected music consists of bibliographies, biographical sketches, clippings, correspondence, flyers, newsletters, photographs, posters, publicity materials, songbooks, sound recordings, videotapes, and memorabilia. The bulk of the collection dates from 1975 to 1995 and consists of live and studio-produced recordings by women musicians and of women's music festivals, retreats, and conferences. There is also a significant amount of papers documenting the work of individual women musicians, women's music groups and choruses; and the production, distribution, concert booking, and publicity infrastructure for women's music recordings, concerts, festivals, and retreats. Included are extensive records of the North East Women's Music Retreat, a 1980s-90s regional festival, and a substantial set of files from Olivia Records, 1973-94.
This collection is organized into nine series.
- Historical Materials
- Artist Files
- Festivals, Retreats and Conferences
- Audiovisual Materials
- Songbooks and Scores
- Reference Materials
- Artifacts and Memorabilia
- Oversize Materials
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Commercially available audiovisual materials are open for unrestricted use, assuming that the archive has the equipment to play them. These recordings are often widely available online. As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of all other audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Lucia B. "Kim" Kimber donated the Women's Music Archives records and collected music to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2004. Further materials were donated by Holly Near in 2007, Jane Arvanites in 2015, and Kathy Lewis in 2018.
In 2019, 3 linear feet (3 record boxes) of duplicate materials were removed.
Existence and Location of Copies
Some original audio recordings have been transferred to digital format for in-house research use.
Processed by Alyssa Pluss, Anna Eisen, and Maida Goodwin, 2009.
In 2019, the collection was revisited by Madison White and two student workers, Madeline Michels and Elisabeth Champion. For the most part the collection was left in the order created by the 2009 processing, though some duplicate materials and memorabilia was removed. All undescribed series, mainly audiovisual materials, were described in detail and the finding aid was updated with these changes.
Genre / Form
- Biographical sketches
- Computer media
- DVD-Video discs
- Phonograph records
- Feminism and music
- Feminist music -- Performances
- Feminist spirituality
- Lesbian and queer women
- Lesbian community
- Lesbian feminism
- Lesbian musicians
- Lesbians -- Songs and music
- Music -- Collectors and collecting
- Musicians -- United States
- Singers -- United States
- Sound recordings
- Women -- Songs and music
- Women composers -- United States
- Women in the music trade
- Women musicians
- Women singers
- Women's liberation
- Women's music
- Women's music -- Performances
- Women's music festivals
- Finding aid to the Women's Music Archives records and collected music
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Finding aid prepared by Alyssa Pluss, Anna Eisen, and Maida Goodwin.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Processing of the Records of the Women's Music Archives was made possible by the generous support of Lucia B. Kimber and the Smith College Program for the Study of Women and Gender
- 2017-07-26: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2017-07-26T17:48:20-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
- 2018-10-04: Update of legacy finding aid and adding additional notes.
- 2019-06-26: Added container inventories for AV and memoribilia
Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063