The Laura X Institute is the home of Laura’s Social Movements Archives, which features documents, media, and other materials collected by Laura X aka Laura Rand Orthwein, Jr., 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 how the women’s movement established women’s rights as human rights, 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 have been carefully preserved and maintained for historical research and presentation.
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 she collected for posterity?; and smaller collections donated to her (other movements Laura has been involved in are covered in her biography below).
The Institute’s 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, curators, film makers, and other interested parties.
Once finished, the Institute’s 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.
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.
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 for Women and Health/Mental Health 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.
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.