This is a guest review from Melina Spanoudi (LDC) looking at one of the sixteen resources the Library is trialling in March and April 2019
The Women’s Studies Archive that the UEA has access to until the 4th of April is an incredibly vast collection of primary sources that explore women’s history, making it the ideal place for all who are interested to dig out relevant documents, from manuscripts to periodicals and newspaper articles, that trail the history of women’s rights.
Whether you are a scholar, a student, or an amateur researcher, in today’s political climate, it is imperative to look back in history in order to see the progress that has been made, and the ways still to go. Women’s reproductive rights have been a matter of discussion from their very foundation, but in later years, they seem to have become a topic of re-negotiation- from America to Norway, the right to abortion is being threatened left and right.
Perhaps we need to be reminded of the great individuals and groups who fought for women to have access to fundamental healthcare, in order for us to be propelled to take action to protect the progress that has been made.
Particularly noteworthy is the Grassroots Feminist Organisations collection that covers many aspects of the women’s liberation movement. It includes the sub collection ‘Abortion Action Coalition Records’ which is specifically concerned with women’s struggle to gain reproductive rights.
Some of the manuscripts include public opinion polls from the 1980’s in the United States regarding abortion issues, which demonstrated a pro-choice majority of 83%. There are publications such as pamphlets entitled ‘Free abortion on demand!’. The ‘Abortion Internationally’ pamphlet begins with a transcribed speech by Barbara Roberts, who in 1977 said that ‘No human being’s right to life includes the right of another person’ body, against that person’s will, not his kidney, his cornea, a graft of his skin or a pint of his blood.’
Included is also the sub collection entitled Female ‘Liberation: A Radical Feminist Organization Records, 1968-1974’. In a 1971 journal entitled “The Rights to Choose Abortion”, there can be found essays, art, poetry, and all these things at once. In a poem that is featured in the journal, Marge Piercy writes: ‘What did you ever receive for free/ except a fetus you had to pay to have out?’ In the column on next page, Nancy Williamson outlines that ‘The question of abortion and a woman’s right to obtain one directly threatens the institutions of the family, the church, and the state; in sort, the whole sexist society in which we live.’
Another collection that is made available is Women’s Health/ Mental Health which includes the sub collection, ‘Section Four: Birth Control/ Population Control’ that comprises of documents such as ‘A Report on the Women’s National Abortion Conference’, which was held in Columbia University on July of 1971. The conference reportedly ‘called to launch a national campaign to repeal all abortion laws…[but] ended in an angry split that will have important consequences for the women’s liberation movement.’
These are only a very few documents from a vast and varied collection that is exceptionally worthwhile for those who are interested in reproductive rights from across disciplines.