Laura’s Social Movements Archives
Laura’s Social Movements Archives features documents and other materials collected by Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr., aka Laura X, over the last fifty years, pertaining to the women's movement and a wide array of precursors and overlapping social movements from the second half of the 20th century, with special emphasis on the women's movement, including materials from Laura X's successful state by state campaign to abolish the legal privilege for marital and date rape.
The important reservoirs of tens of thousands of documents from local, national and international sources that constitute Laura’s Social Movements Archives makes historical research and presentation possible.
The collection is derived from Laura’s participation in an extensive array of social movements, including the anti-nuke, peace, civil rights, Free Speech, women's rights, and environmental movements; her life in St. Louis and beyond; the organizations she founded; the materials produced by her for her organizing work around the country; materials produced by other organizations which were mailed to her, or which she picked up in her work around the country; and mini-collections donated to her (Other movements Laura has been involved in are covered in the biography below).
Archive staff and volunteers are currently engaged in sorting, cataloging, and assigning “finding aids” to the 580 boxes of materials, in order to keep them vibrant, accessible, and available for researchers and other interested parties.
Once finished, this archive will be a resource for students, professors, historians, film documentarians, museums, exhibitions, high school teachers, activists, and other members of the general public.
A prior collection by Laura X, covering up to 1974, was converted to microfilm and donated by the Women’s History Research Center (WHRC) to the National Women’s History Project and has been distributed through Primary Source Media/Cengage Learning (http://www.gale.cengage.com/psm/) to some 450 libraries and collections in 14 countries. A brief description of this prior project is included below, as an illustrative example, because the material types and topics from the prior microfilm collection provide a good description of the aspects of Laura X's current collection relating to the women's movement:
Laura X Microfilm Collections
Documenting the Pioneers of the Women’s Liberation Movement
Herstory is the microfilm publication of the International Women’s History (Periodical) Archive at the Women’s History Research Center (WHRC) founded by Laura X in the late 1960’s and located in Berkeley, California. Barbara J. Love’s Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975 (p. 502) reports that people from 40 countries sent materials for the central archive. In 1974 The American Library Association praised the 3 collections from the WHRC as the most comprehensive collection on any social protest movement to date. Included are 821 newsletters, journals and newspapers of civic, professional, religious, peace, and political groups with the majority of the material from the crucial years 1968-1974. 90 reels.
Women and Health/Mental Health collection was developed, beginning in 1968, through 1974 by the Topical Research Department of the grassroots International Women’s History Archive at the WHRC. An accompanying guide provides an index with entry points such as women of achievement in medicine and nursing, women’s health, treating depression, abortion, prostitution, pornography, pregnancy, homeless women, sterilization, suicide, and many other topics that the pioneers of the women’s liberation movement felt needed to be explored with a new lens. Primary sources were culled from the alternative press, speeches given at movement conferences, leaflets, and poetry and graphics developed by the rank and file of the movement, as well as clips from more mainstream sources. 14 reels.
Women and Law is a WHRC clipping archive culled from newsletters, newspapers, and journals (mainstream, alternative and women’s movement,) plus leaflets, speeches and research papers in the course of six years beginning in 1968 by activists of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The collection is divided into six sections: Law/General, Politics, Employment, Education, Special Microfilms on Rape, Prison and Prostitution, Black and Third World Women and Law. Seven guides provide entry by subjects such as adoption, affirmative action, divorce, etc., and identify the issues prioritized by the movement in its heyday, which are still in the forefront today. 40 reels.
About Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr. aka Laura X:
A native of St Louis, MO, Laura was educated at Vassar College, Washington University, Bank Street College of Education, the Universities of Vera Cruz and Puerto Rico (to become a pilot Headstart teacher in the Bronx and El Barrio, while being a CORE picket captain in Brooklyn, where she lived), NYU, Gerde’s Folk City, and received a B.A. in social science from the University of California at Berkeley. Laura was responsible for many other first-ever publications from the overall project, the Women's History Library: The anthology Masculine/Feminine in 1969, with all the great manifestos; The Women's Songbook; Female Artists Past and Present; Films by/and/or about Women Internationally, Past and Present; Bibliography on Rape; and Women and Religion Bibliography.
She took the name Laura X, in 1969, to symbolize her rejection of men's legal ownership of women and the anonymity of women's history, because it was stolen from women and girls. She is a veteran of the anti-nuke, peace, civil rights, Free Speech, educational reform, anti-war, women's, anti-Semitism and anti-homophobia movements. She advocates for farm workers, Native Americans, ecology, disability rights, environmental health, and healthy home movements. She began collecting materials in 1964 and has been committed to this effort since then. Women and women's health and legal issues are the primary focus of her work.
In 1978, Laura X founded and directed the research and campaigns of the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape after leading the successful campaign to criminalize marital rape in California in 1979, and she served as a consultant coordinator to campaigns that in 1993 successfully eradicated exemptions from prosecution for marital, date and cohabitation rape in the remaining 44 other states (there were 4 before California).
Laura's Social Movements Archives | 8011 Galleria Parkway | Suite #1921 | St Louis | MO | 63117