Maypole celebration at Birdsfoot Farm
St. Lawrence University has been awarded a Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) grant to support research on the role of women in the North Country’s “Back to the Land” movement.
The “Humanities Research for the Public Good” initiative is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. According to the CIC’s call, each research project “must make use of a significant archival, library, or museum collection held by the college or university. The institution must collaborate with a community-based organization to share this research with the public. The projects—which can take many forms—must address a topic of importance and interest to the local community.”
The successful project proposal, which partners SLU and Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY), is titled “Rural Feminism in Action: The Untold Story of Women in the North Country’s Intentional Communities of the 1970s and 80s.” The project’s stated research question is as follows:
“What are the stories and perspectives of the women who helped shape local history through their lives, both within intentional communities and beyond through the strong alliances they forged with local residents?"
Judith DeGroat, project leader and Associate Professor of History, said the rural feminism project is an exciting opportunity for strengthening relations between SLU and the broader community, including with TAUNY, as well as an opportunity to encourage students and faculty to explore the possibilities of digital scholarship at SLU.
“Having students work with TAUNY to identify sources both human and material will enhance student research skills and give them an appreciation for the community in which they are spending an important part of their lives,” DeGroat said.
DeGroat went on to say, “The chance to create a digital collection that can be shared with the wider community is very important: the students will learn how to build one—a skill that they can use in many future circumstances—and we (SLU and TAUNY) will be able to widen the audience for these materials, encourage their use, and, hopefully, help to bring about other similar projects.”
As laid out in the grant proposal, two digital collections at SLU will serve as the basis of this project: the “Back to the Land” Collection, which includes journals, photographs, newsletters, ephemera, interviews, and poetry created by back-to-the-landers of the St. Lawrence River Valley and others, and the “North Country Women’s Collective” Collection, which features excerpts and other materials from the newsletter produced by The North Country Women’s Collective, a local feminist group who began meeting in 1974. An additional resource will be the collection “Back to the Land: Hippie Houses and Homesteads for the 21st Century, 2008,” based at TAUNY.
SLU’s project leaders include DeGroat, Director of Research and Digital Scholarship Eric Williams-Bergen, and Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Government, Dr. Karl Schonberg. Project leaders from TAUNY include Executive Director Jill Breit and Director of Research and Programs Camilla Ammirati.