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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

However rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

Although SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — we typically prefer to receive interviews in the format in which they were recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer uncompressed digital files, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

Learn more:

Passin, Herbert

Herbert Passin Collection

1944-1955
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 565

A distinguished scholar of contemporary Japan, Herbert Passin was born in Chicago on Dec. 16, 1916. After completing a doctorate in anthropology in 1941, Passin was inducted into the Army and sent to the Army’s Japanese language school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for training. Assigned to duty in Tokyo in December 1945, he became chief of the Public Opinion and Sociological Research Division under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. During his tour of duty, Passin coordinated a series of sociological studies of Japanese village life to help guide U.S. Occupation policy, particularly as it dealt with land and labor reform.

The Passin Collection contains reports and notes of sociological surveys of two Japanese villages, Yuzurihara and Yawatano, conducted by U.S. Occupation authorities in 1946 and 1947, along with a wartime report by Arthur Meadow of “Japanese character structure based on Japanese film plots and thematic apperception tests on Japanese Americans,” and a post-war letter from the novelist Takami Jun.

Gift of James and Sibylle Fraser, Oct. 2007
Subjects
  • Japan--History--Allied occupation, 1945-1952
  • Japan--Sociology--Occupation
Contributors
  • Passin, Herbert
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Patagonia

Patagonian Rebellion Collection

1921-1965
1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 353

In 1921-1922, Chilean workers on sheep ranches in Patagonia rebelled violently against their conditions, egged on by anarchist agitators. Under pressure from Conservatives to act decisively, the Radical government in Buenos Aires ordered the 10th Cavalry Regiment under Hector Benigno Varela to quell the disturbance, which they did with a heavy hand.

The Patagonian Rebellion Collection consists of typescripts and photocopies of materials relating to the suppression of the workers’ revolt of 1921-1922. The most significant items include the official diaries and reports of cavalry officers sent to quell the uprising, but the collection also includes correspondence after the fact, news clippings documenting public reaction, and photocopies of photographs depicting the principle individuals involved and the damage wrought. .

Gift of Robert Potash, 1988
Language(s): Spanish
Subjects
  • Argentina--History
  • Argentina--History--Revolution
  • Varela, Hector B.
Contributors
  • Anello, Alfredo
  • Campos, Pedro E
  • Ibarra, Pedro Vinas
Types of material
  • Diaries

Patton, Carol

Carol Patton Papers

1956-2009.
7 boxes 10.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 672

Born in Allentown, Pa., on Jan. 19, 1938, Carol Lazo Patton became an ardent activist in the antifluoridation movement, and one of its great supporters. After studying at the Allentown Hospital School, Patton became a registered nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York city. Both professionally and personally concerned about health issues and the environment, Patton became involved in the antifluoridation movement by the mid-1970s, and became a major supporter of the Fluoride Action Network and other antifluoridation groups, playing a particularly important role in the struggle in her home states of Florida and Pennsylvania. Patton died on March 17, 2009, at her home in Jupiter, Florida.

The Patton Papers contain a record of over 35 years of antifluoridation activism, including valuable correspondence between Patton and other antifluoridation activists, publications and correspondence on fluoride toxicity and public policy, legal challenges to fluoridation, and materials issued by antifluoridation groups. Of particular significance is approximately 1.5 linear feet of material on the early antifluoridation fight in Virginia that Patton, probably associated with Landon B. Lane, apparently acquired as a result of her own work in that state.

Gift of Kathy Douglass, July 2010
Subjects
  • Antifluoridation movement--Pennsylvania
  • Drinking water--Law and legislation--United States
  • Drinking water--Law and legislation--Virginia
  • Fluoride Action Network
  • Fluorides--Environmental aspects
  • Fluorides--Toxicology
Contributors
  • Lane, Landon B
  • Patton, Carol

Peckham, Alford S.

Alford S. Peckham Collection

1940s-1990s
6 boxes 9 linear feet
Call no.: MS 707
Image of New England agricultural event
New England agricultural event

Born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1919, Alford S. Peckham attended Rhode Island College, graduating in 1941, before serving in the U.S. Army 1st Division until receiving a medical discharge. For twenty-one years he worked as the manager of public relations for the United Farmers of New England, a cooperative of dairy farmers. His interest and expertise in agricultural history continued even after he left the cooperative for the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston; he was appointed the Massachusetts state agricultural historian in July 1989 and amassed his own collection of historical resources in the hopes of developing a Massachusetts Agricultural History Society. Peckham died on December 20, 2005 in Newport, Rhode Island, his home since his retirement in 1984.

Consisting chiefly of subject files, the Alford S. Peckham Collection covers topics ranging from agricultural history and fairs to dairy farmers and animal rights. Also included are photographs of agricultural events around New England, such as the Massachusetts Dairy Festival (1958), the American Dairy Princess (1961), and the Big E (1950s).

Gift of Sean M. Fisher, DCR Archives, June 2011
Subjects
  • Agriculture--Massachusetts--History
  • Agriculture--New England--History
  • Dairy farms--Massachusetts--History
  • Farms--New England--History

Picoult, Jodi, 1966-

Jodi Picoult Papers

1986-2013
53 boxes 40 linear feet
Call no.: MS 791
Image of Jodi Picoult in Botswana, January 2013
Jodi Picoult in Botswana, January 2013

Novelist Jodi Picoult is known for taking on compelling social and ethical issues and weaving them into the works of fiction that have won her a devoted readership. From her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), to her recent bestseller The Storyteller (2013), Picoult has grappled with a range of topics: fractured families, eugenics, school violence, teen suicide, spouse abuse, a child’s legal rights, childhood cancer, gay rights, the death penalty, war criminals, vengeance, justice, faith, the value of life. To Picoult, a passionate researcher, no issue is simple. Through her characters and her stories she engages the complications, considering provocative questions from different angles. Born in 1966, Picoult graduated from Princeton, where she majored in creative writing, and Harvard, where she earned her M.Ed. She and her husband have three grown children and live in Hanover, N.H.

The Jodi Picoult Papers, richly documenting the author’s work process, include research files for Picoult’s novels—correspondence, notes, manuscript pages, and other background material—as well as some drafts, editorial correspondence, clippings, publicity material, early stories, and student material. Also in Special Collections is a comprehensive collection of Picoult’s publications, including the novels in American and foreign-language editions.

Subjects
  • Fiction and reality
  • Fiction--20th century--Stories, plots, etc
  • Fiction--21st century--Stories, plots, etc
Contributors
  • Picoult, Jodi, 1966-

Pictou, Louis, collector

Louis Pictou Mi'kmaq Manuscript

Prior to 1903
1 vol., 140 p. 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 342 bd

The Pictou family were prominent members of the Bear River Band of the Mi’kmaq nation in Nova Scotia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Notably, Chief Benjamin Pictou (1830-1931) lived for over a century, witnessing the evolution of the Mi’kmaq economy from hunting, fishing, and trapping to include guiding and attempts at agriculture, and was listed by the anthropologist Frank G. Speck in 1922 as having a hunting allocation near Sporting Lake, southwest of the Bear River.

An extensive, unidentified manuscript written in Mi’kmaq (Micmac) language, using the “hieroglyphic” (pictographic) writing system. At one time, the manuscript was apparently in the possession of Louis Pictou, an “Indian guide” on the Bear River, who stating that the manuscript was written by his “ancestors.”

Language(s): Mi'kmaq
Subjects
  • Indians of North America--Nova Scotia
  • Micmac Indians--Manuscripts
Contributors
  • Pictou, Louis

Pines Hotel (South Hadley, Mass.)

Pines Hotel (South Hadley, Mass.) Register

1925-1939
1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 498 bd

The Pines in South Hadley, Mass., was a popular meeting place for men to socialize in the 1920s and 1930s. Employees of Bosch Magneto, the West End Sporting Club, and other groups who enjoyed hunting and fishing held special suppers where they consumed their prey with quantities of alcohol, Prohibition or not.

Using a standard hotel register, The Pines recorded a series of meetings of men’s groups in South Hadley, mostly centered around the activities of hunting and fishing. The Bosch Club (apparently employees of Bosch Magneto in Springfield), the Pines Gang, and the West End Sporting Club — with overlapping membership — held an array of events annually, including Coon Suppers, Deer Dinners, and Game Suppers, as well as occasional Chicken Fries, Piano Suppers, Pig Roasts, Dog Roasts, and special events such as member’s weddings. Summaries at the end of the year in 1926 and 1927, replete with bad verse, provide a sense of their socializing.

Acquired from Peter Masi, Mar. 2005
Subjects
  • Fishers--Massachusetts--South Hadley
  • Hunters--Massachusetts--South Hadley
  • Men--Societies and clubs--Massachusetts--South Hadley
  • South Hadley (Mass.)--History

Polish Architecture and Folk Art

Polish Architecture and Folk Art Photograph Collection

1980s
1 box, 234 items 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 279

234 photographs taken by Marian Pokropek and others of a variety of subjects in Poland, including homes, farms, buildings, churches, businesses, wood carvings, ceramics, corn dollies, friezes, metalwork, sculptors, paintings, textiles, ceremonies, and a Jewish graveyard. Many of these images were published in Pokropek’s books.

Subjects
  • Poland--Photographs
Contributors
  • Pokropek, Marian
Types of material
  • Photographs

Pope, Ebenezer

Ebenezer Pope Ledger

1810-1821
1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 167 bd

Blacksmith who was prominent in the town affairs of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Includes debit and credit entries, the method and form of customer payment (cash, services, labor, and goods such as corn, potatoes, wheat, cider brandy, hog, veal, sheep, lambs, and an ox), and an entry noting the building of the Great Barrington and Alford Turnpike in 1812. Also includes documentation of seamstress activity and of African American customers.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • African Americans--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--History--19th century
  • Barter--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--History--19th century
  • Blacksmiths--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--Economic conditions--19th century
  • George, Negro
  • Great Barrington (Mass.)--History--19th century
  • Great Barrington and Alford Turnpike (Mass.)--History
  • Palmer, Anna M
  • Toll roads--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Wages--Men--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--History--19th century
  • Wages--Women--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--History--19th century
  • Wages-in-kind--Massachusetts--Great Barrington--History--19th century
Contributors
  • Pope, Ebenezer
Types of material
  • Account books