Exhibition tells story of Carol McEldowney’s anti-war activism and role in Women’s and Gay Liberation movements

This display of diaries, writings, photographs, and ephemera on the 5th floor of the Healey Library reveals the accomplishments and insights of activist and self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

This display of diaries, writings, photographs, and ephemera on the 5th floor of the Healey Library reveals the accomplishments and insights of activist and self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston is excited to unveil several new exhibitions in the Walter Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library, all of which highlight materials from the department’s extensive archival holdings. I will describe these new exhibitions in a series of news posts over the next week.

The first exhibition I’d like to highlight, in one of the gallery’s upright display cases, is entitled “‘A PERSONAL MANIFESTO … OF SORTS’: The Diaries of Carol McEldowney” and explores the life of activist, writer, and women’s self-defense educator Carol McEldowney.

Although she died in 1973 at the young age of 30, “the spunky Carol McEldowney,” as she was described by Todd Gitlin in his book The Sixties, was outstanding in her accomplishments. In 1967, McEldowney was one of only two women in a small contingent from the U.S. to travel to Vietnam where she studied Vietnamese society and the consequences of war.

Pages from McEldowney's Hanoi journal.

Pages from McEldowney’s Hanoi journal.

The diary that McEldowney kept during this trip was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2007. Elizabeth R. Mock, who co-edited McEldowney’s Hanoi Journal for publication, held several positions in the Healey Library at UMass Boston from 1973 until her retirement in 2010. From 1981 to 2010, Mock was the University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections, having established the archival program for the library. The book is available through the Healey Library here or through the UMass Press here.

In 1971, McEldowney moved to Boston where she immersed herself in the emerging Women’s Movement, playing a central role in the establishment of a Women’s Center in Cambridge. During this time she came out as a lesbian and immersed herself in the Gay Liberation Movement.

McEldowney (center, in tank top) in a martial arts or self-defense class.

McEldowney (center, in tank top) in a martial arts or self-defense class.

From 1971 until the end of her life, McEldowney studied martial arts and taught practical self-defense classes to women and children, becoming one of the founders of the movement to use self-defense for rape prevention. An original contributor to Our Bodies, Ourselves, a source book on women’s health, McEldowney participated in one of the first women’s martial arts exhibitions in the country during International Women’s Day, in 1973, in Boston.

The Carol McEldowney collections in University Archives and Special Collections includes McEldowney’s personal papers relating to her activism, as well as several diaries and journals. The papers range in date from 1960 to 1973.

This exhibition uses selections from the McEldowney’s various diaries and journals – as well as photographs, ephemera, and other writings – to tell the story of a woman at the forefront of anti-war activism and the emerging Women’s and Gay Liberation movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Visit the display in the Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library at UMass Boston. The exhibition will run through the spring of 2016.

View the finding aid for the Carol McEldowney collections in University Archives and Special Collections here.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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In the Archives: The Papers of an Antiwar Activist

Perrin, Richard. G.I. Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam. Trafford Publishing, 2001.

Perrin, Richard. G.I. Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam. Trafford Publishing, 2001.

Massachusetts native Richard Perrin enlisted in the United States Army in 1967. Soon after his enlistment, he became an antiwar activist, and was particularly opposed to the Vietnam War. Perrin and several others in the Army began distributing antiwar leaflets and the publication The Bond. Perrin’s antiwar activities eventually resulted in a court-martial for a minor pass infraction. In September 1967, Perrin deserted the Army, traveling by train from Heidelberg to Paris. While in Paris, Perrin connected with other deserters and formed Resistance Inside the Army (RITA). This Wikipedia entry offers a brief summary of RITA’s history and activities. RITA published a newsletter, ACT, which is considered the first underground GI paper. ACT had a mailing list of about ten thousand and had a worldwide circulation. In Perrin’s own words, “it turned on a lot of guys and opened up a lot of avenues.”

"Cloak and dagger: U.S. deserters at Paris press conference." Newsweek. February 26, 1968.

“Cloak and dagger: U.S. deserters at Paris press conference.” Newsweek. February 26, 1968.

In 1969, Perrin left France for Regina, Saskatchewan, where he taught a university seminar on the US Army and founded the Regina Committee of American Deserters, which provided housing and other assistance to military deserters. In 1975, Perrin was granted amnesty in the United States. In 2001, he published his autobiography, G.I Resister: The Story of How One American Soldier and His Family Fought the War in Vietnam.

Regina Committee of American Deserters (RCAD) stamps

Regina Committee of American Deserters (RCAD) stamps

Richard Perrin donated his papers to University Archives and Special Collections via the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston in July 2001. A large portion of his papers comprises correspondence between Perrin and his family members, documenting his life after he graduated from high school, his experiences in the Army after enlistment, and his desertion to Paris in the fall of 1967. The collection also contains a newspaper-clipping scrapbook of Perrin’s activities which was assembled over the years by his mother, Betty Perrin; information on amnesty rights and specific amnesty organizations; information on the Regina Committee of American Deserters; and a copy of Perrin’s book.

Campaign flyer for U.S. House of Representatives election. [1998]

Campaign flyer for U.S. House of Representatives election. [1998]

One folder that may be of particular interest in light of the current US presidential race is a subject file on Bernie Sanders, who was mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s and a member of the US House of Representatives from 1991-2007. The file spans 1975-1998 and includes correspondence between Perrin and Sanders, press coverage, and campaign items.

View the finding aid for the Richard Perrin papers here.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact library.archives@umb.edu or 617-287-5469.

aam_c_0To celebrate Archives Month, I will be posting highlights from our collections throughout October. I hope that this will turn into a regular series. To learn more about Archives Month, visit the Society of American Archivists website.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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