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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-

David Ledbetter Nanney Papers
1948-2008
13 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 592
Image of Tracy M. Sonneborn
Tracy M. Sonneborn

The experimental ciliatologist David L. Nanney spent much of his career studying the protozoan Tetrahymena. Under Tracy M. Sonneborn at Indiana University, he completed a dissertation in 1951 on the mating habits of Paramecium, but soon after joining the faculty at the University of Michigan, he turned his attention to Tetrahymena. During his subsequent career in Ann Arbor (1951-1959) and at the University of Illinois (1959-1991), Nanney made a series of fundamental contributions to the cytology, genetics, developmental biology, and evolution of ciliates, influencing the work of other biologists such as Joe Frankel, Janina Kaczanowska, Linda Hufnagel, and Nicola Ricci. Since his retirement in 1991, Nanney has remained in Urbana.

The Nanney Papers include a dense run of professional correspondence with ciliatologists, geneticists, students and colleagues regarding his pioneering research on ciliates and other professional matters. Of particular note is an extensive correspondence with Sonneborn, accompanied by several biographical essays written after Sonneborn’s death, and a large body of correspondence of the controversial reorganization of the biological sciences departments at the University of Illinois in the 1970s. The collection also includes a selection of Nanney’s writings and a handful of photographs.

Subjects
  • Developmental biology
  • Evolution (Biology)
  • Protozoans--Genetics
  • Tetrahymena--Genetics
  • University of Illinois--Faculty
Contributors
  • Allen, Sally
  • Bleyman, Lea K
  • Corliss, John O
  • Frankel, Joseph, 1935-
  • Kaczanowski, Andrzej
  • McKoy, J. Wynne
  • Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-
  • Nyberg, Dennis Wayne, 1944-
  • Orias, Eduardo
  • Ricci, Nicola
  • Siegel, Richard
  • Sonneborn, T. M. (Tracy Morton), 1905-

New Victoria Publishers

New Victoria Publishers Records
1974-2009
6 boxes (11 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 883
Image of From the top down: Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay Lamperti, Petey Becker, Bonnie Arnold, and ReBecca Béguin (ca. 1976)
From the top down: Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay Lamperti, Petey Becker, Bonnie Arnold, and ReBecca Béguin (ca. 1976)

Founded in 1975 in Lebanon, NH, by Beth Dingman, Claudia McKay (Lamperti), Katie Cahill, Nina Swaim, and Shelby Grantham, New Victoria Printers became one of two all-female print shops in New England at the time. Believing strongly that “the power of the press belongs to those who own it,” they began to solicit work from non-profit and politically-oriented groups. Like its namesake Victoria Press, an 1860s women run print shop in London owned by Emily Faithful, an early advocate of women’s rights, New Victoria was also committed to feminist principles. The shop offered work and training in printing, machine work, and other traditionally male dominated fields; initially focused on printing materials from the women’s movement; and was organized as a collectively owned and democratically run organization.

Additionally, the shop functioned as a de facto women’s center and lesbian hub for Lebanon and the surrounding area, often overlapping with the lesbian social club Amelia Earhart’s Underground Flying Society, (a.k.a. the Amelia’s). The print shop was a place of education, community, creativity, and activism, and soon publishing opportunities, as the group founded New Victoria Publishers in 1976 to publish works from their community. The print shop closed in 1985, with Dingman and McKay taking over the running of the non-profit publishing company out of their home in Norwich, VT, with an emphasis on lesbian fiction in addition to other women-focused works. An early bestseller, Stoner McTavish by Sarah Dreher, put them on the map, with the company publishing over a hundred books by and about lesbians, winning three Lambda Literary Awards and several other honors.

The New Victoria Publishers Records consist of photographs, newsletters, and cards put out by the collective, materials printed by the press, marketing and promotional materials, author correspondence, graphics and cover art, book reviews, financial and legal records, histories of the organization, news clippings, and an almost full run of the books published by the company. The collection is particularly rich in documenting the work and production of a women owned business within the feminist press movement as well as the lesbian publishing industry.

Subjects
  • Collective labor agreements – Printing industry
  • Feminist literature – Publishing
  • Lesbian authors
  • Lesbians' writings -- Publishing
  • Women printers – New England
  • Women publishers – New England
Contributors
  • Beth Dingman
  • Claudia McKay
  • New Victoria Printers
  • New Victoria Publishers
Types of material
  • Photographs

New WORLD Theater

New WORLD Theater Records
1979-2010
41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
Image of Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002
Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002

New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color, with the goal of fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced many dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory, and they have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. New WORLD Theater has contributed significantly to national conversations on cultural equity. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition, New WORLD Theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.

The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.

Subjects
  • African Americans--Drama
  • American drama--Minority authors
  • Asian Americans--Drama
  • Ethnic groups--United States--Drama
  • Hispanic Americans--Drama
  • Minorities--United States--Drama
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection
1932-1934
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 074
Image of Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan, Mar. 1934
Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan, Mar. 1934

In the late 1920s, the sociologist and prisoner reformer Howard Belding Gill proposed building a “model community prison” at Norfolk, Mass., that would represent a radical new approach to dealing with crime and punishment. Integrating social work and sociological theory into the workings of the prison system, Gill reasoned that it would be possible to diagnose and treat the root problems that led to crime and redirect inmates toward constructive behaviors. Built by inmates themselves, the prison opened in 1932, but with opponents decrying the experiment as a “country club” that coddled prisoners, Gill was forced from the superintendency within just two years.

The collection consists of several drafts of a manuscript by a supporter of Gill’s, Thomas O’Connor, that was intended for publication in The Survey magazine, along with associated correspondence and photographs. Although The Survey’s editor, Arthur Kellogg, was sympathetic enough to pass through several drafts and seek opinions widely, the manuscript appears to have been rejected so as not to cause the governor undue political problems.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Norfolk
  • Prison reformers--Massachusetts
  • Prisons--Massachusetts--Norfolk
Contributors
  • Gill, Howard B. (Howard Belding)
  • Kellogg, Arthur
  • O'Connor, Thomas
  • Parsons, Herbert Collins, 1862-1941
  • Wilkins, Raymond S.
Types of material
  • Photographs

Northampton Cutlery Company

Northampton Cutlery Company Records
1869-1987
113 boxes (55.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 058

The Northampton Cutlery Company was among the major firms in a region known for high quality cutlery manufacture. Incorporated in 1871 with Judge Samuel L. Hinckley, its largest stockholder, as its first President, the company was located along the Mill River in Northampton, Massachusetts, where operations continued until its closing in 1987.

Records document company operations and technology used in the cutlery manufacturing process, as well as details about employment of immigrant and working class families in the region. Includes administrative, legal, and financial records; correspondence; personnel and labor relations files; and production schedules and specifications.

Subjects
  • Cutlery trade--Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Northampton Cutlery Company

Patterson, Charles H.

Charles H. Patterson Papers
1930-1958
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 089
Image of Charles H. Patterson.<br />Photo by Frank A. Waugh, 1926
Charles H. Patterson.
Photo by Frank A. Waugh, 1926

For many years, Charles H. Patterson served as head of the Department of Language and Literature at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Born in Smithsonville, Ont., in 1863, Patterson received both a BA (1887) and MA (1893) from Tufts University before launching his teaching career. He joined the faculty at MAC as an assistant professor of English, in 1916, after 13 years at West Virginia University. A former professional actor, he taught courses in modern literature, with a particular interest in drama, and served as department chair for nearly a decade before his sudden death in 1933.

The Patterson Papers contain a small selection of correspondence and notes on English composition and literature as taught at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is a draft of Patterson’s unpublished book, The Amazing Boucicault.

Subjects
  • Boucicault, Dion, 1820-1890
  • Drama--Study and teaching
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Department of English
Contributors
  • Patterson, Charles H

People for Economic Survival

People for Economic Survival Records
1974-1977
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 535

Established in October 1974, People for Economic Survival (PES) was a Socialist group based in Northampton, Massachusetts, first organized with the short-term goal of pressuring local banks to sell food stamps. The group’s vision for the longer term, however, was to stimulate change that would result in the replacement of an economy based on corporate profit with one based on people’s needs. After two and half years of community activity, including working for lower utility rates and against cutbacks in welfare, human services, and unemployment benefits, PES disbanded.

The PES collection consists of flyers, meeting minutes, and a full run of Take It, the group’s newsletter.

Gift of Jan Nettler, 2007
Subjects
  • Food stamps--Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
  • Public welfare--Law and legislation--Massachusetts
  • Socialism--Massachusetts
  • Unemployment--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • People for Economic Survival

Perreault, Alida

Alida Perreault Papers
1906-1957 (Bulk: 1928-1933)
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 808
Image of

Alida Capistrant was the eleventh of twelve children in a large French-Canadian family in South Hadley, Massachusetts, born on July 24, 1914. Her parents both immigrated from Quebec in 1885. On September 30, 1895, they were married in South Hadley. The Capistrant family rented their home until 1912 when they purchased their first house in South Hadley. Alida had an active social life as a teenager and considered attending college or university, but did not pursue any further education until about 1943, when she studied at the Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Two years later she married James Perreault and the couple had two children, a daughter, Marcia (Perreault) Matthieu, and a son, David James Perreault. They lived in South Hadley until 2003, when they moved to Chandler, Arizona, to be near their daughter. Alida Perreault died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on April 7, 2006, and James died in 2008. Both are buried in Saint Rose Cemetery in South Hadley next to Alida’s family.

Alida’s correspondence during her high school years (1928-1932) reveal a young woman with a substantial network of friends and family. The bulk of the collection consists of letters from several friends, including two potential romantic interests. Letters document daily activities, family happenings, and later Alida’s interest in a career as a nurse and her leadership role in the South Hadley Women’s Club.

Gift of Danielle Kovacs, 2014
Subjects
  • Capistrant family--Correspondence
  • Family--Massachusetts--History
  • High school students--Massachusetts
  • South Hadley (Mass.)--History
  • Williston Northampton School (Easthampton, Mass.)
Contributors
  • Fogg, Esther
  • McEwan, William
  • Mitkiewitcz, Freddie A.
Types of material
  • Correspondence
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations

Perry, Cynthia Shepard

Cynthia Shepard Perry Papers
1946-2010
7 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 842
Image of Cynthia Shepard Perry, ca.1986
Cynthia Shepard Perry, ca.1986

An educator, diplomat, and expert on Africa, Cynthia Shepard Perry was the first recipient of a PhD from of the Program in International Education at UMass Amherst (1972). Born in Burnett, Indiana, in 1928, Perry was raising a family when she set a twenty-five year goal of earning doctorate and entering international service. One year after earning a bachelor’s degree at Indiana State University in 1967, she arranged for her first trip to Africa, leading a secretarial training project at the University of Nairobi, and over succeeding decades, her connections to the continent deepened dramatically. On faculty at Texas Southern University (1971-1982), Perry served as Associate Director of the university’s Peace Corps Program, which resulted in her leading educational projects in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Kenya. In demand for the expertise she had gained, she worked as a consultant to the US Information Service in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia and as Staff Development Officer at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. Having become a full professor and Dean of International Affairs, she left TSU in 1982 to take her first diplomatic post as an officer of the Africa Bureau of the US Agency for International Development, followed by successive appointments as Ambassador to Sierra Leone (1986-1989) and Burundi (1989-1993), as Honorary Consul General of Rwanda, and finally an appointment as U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank (1996-2001). Although officially retired, Perry remains active in supporting education and development in Africa from her home in Houston. Among many other awards she has received, Perry was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from UMass for her international work and was recognized by the Salute to Service Award.

A record of a life in international service in Africa, the Perry papers includes materials from Perry’s time as head of the African Development Bank and her two ambassadorial appointments, including speeches, some correspondence, and a handful of publications. The collection also includes a series of awards and plaques, some family photographs, and memorabilia.

Gift of Cynthia Shepard Perry, Oct., 2014
Subjects
  • Africa--Foreign relations--United States
  • Burundi--History
  • Sierra Leone--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--Africa
Types of material
  • Memorabilia
  • Photographs
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