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Guide to the Laura Shaw Murra Collection on Feminism
1968?-2018?
 MS 3142

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 04, 2019
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: X., Laura
Title: Laura Shaw Murra collection on feminism
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1968-2018? (bulk 1969-1990s)
Abstract: The collection includes flyers, pamphlets, news articles, posters, and other documents related to the feminist activist Laura Shaw Murra (also known as Laura X) and the three organizations she formed in 1969 and the 1970s: the Women's History Library, Women's History Research Center, and the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape (NCMDR).
Quantity: 2.5 Linear feet in one document box and one oversize folder
Call Phrase: MS 3142

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Biographical / Historical

Laura Shaw Murra, an activist on feminist issues, was born Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr. in St. Louis, Missouri in 1940; she changed her name legally in 1962. In 1969, Murra adopted the pen name Laura X "to symbolize the anonymity of women's history and the concept that women are legally owned by their fathers and husbands" (see chronology in box 1, folder 1). Murra arrived in Berkeley, California, in 1963, eventually graduating from the university there.

A professor's denigrating comments reflecting his perception of the unimportance of women's history and of women in history led Laura X and others to publish a pamphlet about women in world history. That resource, eventually named "Herstory Synopsis," would lead other women to send narratives and documents of their own to Laura X, resulting in an ever-growing accumulation named the Women's History Library. The Library formed the core resource of the Women's History Research Center, an incorporated tax-exempt foundation created at least in part to help financially support the Library. Nevertheless, by 1974 the cost of maintaining a library was too great and the contents were dispersed to the University of Wyoming, Northwestern University, and elsewhere. However, much, perhaps all, of the holdings had been microfilmed in the early 1970s for widespread use and for sale to support the Center, and the microfilm continued to be sold to libraries. The microfilm was available in three topical sets: Women and Health/Mental Health (14 reels), Women and Law (40 reels), and Herstory (90 reels). By 1986 the microfilm was held in over 300 libraries in 14 countries.

Although by the mid-1970s the Library no longer existed, the Women's History Research Center continued, in part to distribute the microfilm and act as a clearinghouse for information. Meanwhile during the mid-1970s, Laura X became increasingly aware of marital rape and the fact that it was not a crime in the United States. In turn, her activism on this matter provided a new focus for the Women's History Research Center. In 1980, Laura X launched a charter membership drive to form the National Clearinghouse on Marital Rape (later retitled to refer to both marital and date rape to take in additional forms of acquaintance rape). From this organizational platform, Laura X and others provided research, education, advocacy, and other forms of activism in an effort to have marital and other forms of acquaintance rape recognized and criminalized on the same basis as rape committed by someone who was unknown to the victim. The Clearinghouse closed in the early 2000s, though Laura X continued her work through a new organization, the Laura X - Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr. World Institute.

(The above note was based on various on-line sources and documents in the collection.)

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Scope and Contents

The collection includes various items representative of the three organizations formed by Laura X/Laura Shaw Murra to advance feminist causes, especially with regard to advocating for the legal recognition of marital and date rape. These three organizations were the Women's History Library, Women's History Research Center, and the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape (NCMDR). The collection holds flyers, publicity pamphlets, two of the thirty issues of the newsletter SPAZM issued by Laura X in 1969, information about the Library's resources and related microfilm product, internship descriptions, news articles on marital rape, chronologies of Laura X's and NCMDR's work, and a memoir of Laura Murra's trip to the Soviet Union (1968?). There are also 15 posters (most are laminated), primarily from the 1990s, mostly highlighting accomplished and historically significant women. Two posters are from a public service campaign with date rape awareness messages.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged primarily by format with topical files followed by a few pins and a medallion and then posters. The posters are arranged chronologically and listed individually.

The topical files were received from the donor in two folders, labeled "rape" and "non-rape." The contents of the "rape" folder appear in the container list labeled as "marital and date rape," though the processing archivist did move some documents into the "non-rape" folder and vice versa. The contents of the "non-rape" folder were sorted by the processing archivist into perceived subject categories and appear in the container list accordingly.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts).
  • Fliers (printed matter)

Subject Organizations

  • National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape
  • Women's History Library
  • Women's History Research Center

Subject Topics

  • Acquaintance rape.
  • Feminism.
  • Libraries and community.
  • Rape in marriage -- Law and legislation.
  • Posters, American

Subject Uniform Title(s)

  • SPAZM

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to qualified researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.) This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Laura Shaw Murra Collection on Feminism, MS 3142, New-York Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Laura Shaw Murra, also known as Laura X, 2019.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by archivist Larry Weimer in September 2019.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Biographical Documents

Scope and Contents

Holds Murra's 1968(?) reflections of, mostly, her trip to the Soviet Union in 1967(?); her curriculum vitae (circa 1988); and a clipping with a color photo of her (1994).

1968?, 1980s, 1994
Box: 1 Folder : 2 SPAZM Newsletters

Scope and Contents

Holds copies of the November 26 and December 7 issues. Also holds a photocopy of Murra's article "Queen Christina" as published in Ann Forfreedom (ed.) "Women Out of History: A Herstory Anthology" (1972), originally printed in the May 1969 issue of SPAZM.

1969
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Women's Liberation Programs

Scope and Contents

Holds 3 documents: April 25 newsletter listing Women's Liberation Workshops, June 15 list headed with relevant programs on KQED-TV and including other events and resources, and a flyer for an open house on November 1 at Berkeley Women's Liberation's new office.

1969
Box: 1 Folder : 4-5 Women's History Research Resources (2 folders)

Scope and Contents

Essay "Male Supremacy" by Lynn O'Connor, issued by "The Women's Page" publication in San Francisco (circa 1971), song lyrics, and book "Female Artists, Past and Present" published by the Women's History Research Center (1974).

circa 1971, 1974
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Women's History Research Center: Background and Collections

Scope and Contents

Lists of periodicals held and not held by the Center's Library (1971), descriptions of the Women's History Library (with a hand-drawn map of the Library's lay-out) and collections, and American Library Association resolution (1972) recognizing the Center's community contributions. Also a self-published booklet "Laura X Social Movements Archives" (2018?) with a history of the Library/Archives and its dispersal, with photographs of collection highlights.

1971-1979, 2018?
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Publicity, Fundraising, Microfilm Sales

Scope and Contents

Flyers and brochures for sales of the Library's microfilm sets, general financial support, and for donations of additional materials documenting women's lives. Also a flyer (circa 2012) for benefit concerts in connection with the Laura X Institute.

circa 1981-circa 2012
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Women's History Research Center Internships/Volunteers

Scope and Contents

Position descriptions

1980s?
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Other Resources

Scope and Contents

Holds a copy of page 64) from the book by Eleanor Flexner "The Women's Rights Movement in the United States (1968); essay "A Perspective on 'The Crucible'" by Melissa Hillman (1995); publicity flyers for three items (book, movie, theatre) concerning women; and the program for the 23rd National Conference on Women & the Law (1998).

1968, 1990s-2005
Box: 1 Folder : 10-12 Marital and Date Rape (3 folders)

Scope and Contents

Holds publicity and other flyers concerning the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape (NCMDR) and its programs (including a 2.5 hour program presented by Laura X), a chronology of NCMDR and Laura X's activism from 1968-1998, photocopies of news articles and other reference material on the topic, and descriptions of internship positions at the NCMDR.

1970s-1990s
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Pins and Medallion

Scope and Contents

Holds a set of four pins with quotations from Gloria Steinem in connection with her book "Gloria: A Life" and two pins and one medallion from the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation.

undated
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Some Rapists Use Loaded Weapons. Others Use Loaded Victims." Minnesota Department of Human Services

Scope and Contents

Additional text on theme "any time a woman is unable to give her consent to sex--drunk or not--it's rape" and "No means no."

1992
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Blasted. Blitzed. ... No Matter What State You're In, Rape is Against the Law." Minnesota Department of Human Services

Scope and Contents

Much other text on theme of "Forcing a woman to have sex is rape, even if you're drunk" and "No means no."

1992
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Ella J. Baker, Civil Rights Organizer"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Photograph: Charmian Reading. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Septima P. Clark, Taught Literacy as Key to Empowerment"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Photograph: Brian Lanker. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: The Delany Sisters...Dental Surgeon...Teacher...Co-authors 'Having Our Say'"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Photograph: Brian Douglas. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Ruby Dee, Actress, Author"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Artwork: Quimetta Perle. Charmian Reading. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Fannie Lou Hamer, Mississippi Freedom Fighter"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Photograph: Charmian Reading. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Mae C. Jemison, Astronaut, Physician"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Artwork: Tomie Arai. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: African Americans Who Made a Difference: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Editor, Anti-Lynching Crusader"

Scope and Contents

1199 Bread and Roses Project. Artwork: Emma Amos. Poster design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Curated: Nina Felshin. Printed: Philmark Lithographics.

1994
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Women of Hope: Latinas Abriendo Camino. Adriana Ocampo, Planetary Geologist, NASA, Columbian."

Scope and Contents

Photograph of Ocampo by Idaljiza Liz-Lepiorz. Produced by 1199's Bread and Roses Cultural Project. Design: Goodman/Orlick Design Inc. Printing: by Philmark Lithographers.

1995
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Asian American Women of Hope: Maya Lin"

Scope and Contents

Photographs by Cheung Ching-Ming. Produced by 1199's Bread and Roses Cultural Project Inc. Printing: Fort Orange Press.

1997
Folder: OS-Medium Poster for Frida Kahlo 34 cents postage stamp. United States Postal Service
2000
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "6.25.03. In commemoration of signing the Exclusive Right to Negotiate agreement with the Port of San Francisco for Pier 26." International Museum of Women.

Scope and Contents

Images from "Women of the World: a Global Collection of Art" curated by C. DeMonte. Pier 26 concept design and poster by EHDD Architecture.

2003
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Where Once We Walked." Jewish Genealogy Month

Scope and Contents

Created by Caroline Guillot. Distributed by Avotaynu Inc.

2003
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "Lysistrata Project."

Scope and Contents

"A world-wide theatrical act of dissent/Stop the war in Iraq"

2003 March 3
Folder: OS-Medium Poster: "The Dream Lives On: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968"

Scope and Contents

Photographed at UC Berkeley, May 17, 1967, by Helen Nestor.

undated

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