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Collection Overview
Name of Creator: Boston Women's Union.
Title:Boston Women's Union records
Date: 1973-1981
Reference Code:M145
Location Code:71/3
Extent:.35 cubic ft.
Scope and Content Abstract: This collection documents the formation of the Boston Area Socialist Feminist Organization, later renamed the Boston Women's Union. The records focus on the Union's attempts to form a system of governance within the organization and to arrive at a consensus about the group's goals and guiding principles. The records include meeting minutes, statements and position papers, proposals and assessments, political song lyrics, workshop materials, and newsletters. The “Minutes” and “Steering Committee Reports and Letters” files document the group's efforts to reconcile varying interpretations of socialist feminist theory within the group. These files illustrate the relations between the Boston Women's Union and other local socialist and feminist groups. Also documented are the group's attempts to address lesbian issues, a concern of the greater women's movement at that time. The “Minutes” files contain meeting notes from the Boston Women's Union and the post–1976 discussion group arranged in one chronological sequence.
Historical Abstract:The Boston Area Socialist Feminist Organization was founded in 1973 to fill a perceived need for an autonomous, socialist, feminist, nonsectarian political group. In 1975, the name of the organization was changed to the Boston Women's Union. The goals of the organization were to facilitate communication and coordination among existing women's groups, establish a visible socialist feminist political presence in Boston, and educate others about socialist feminism. The organization held study groups, hosted a conference, and participated in political demonstrations. Focus groups were formed to address issues such as welfare, reproductive rights, and economic and racial inequalities. While the groups were intended to engage particular political interests of Union members, the focus groups ultimately proved to be divisive. In 1975, the Boston Women's Union had from 80 to 100 active members, but by May 1976, the Union disbanded due to political discord within the group. Though the Boston Women's Union no longer existed, several former members continued to hold frequent meetings and discussion groups. One outcome of these meetings was the formation of RESIST, a foundation that funds grassroots activism.
Language and Scripts:The materials are entirely in English.
System of Arrangement:Arranged in one alphabetical sequence by subject.
Subjects and Contributors:
  • Boston Area Socialist Feminist Organization (Boston, Mass.)
  • Boston Women's Union (Boston, Mass.)
  • Second-wave feminism -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • Lesbian feminism -- Massachusetts -- Boston
  • Women socialists -- Massachusetts -- Boston

Conditions Governing Access: The collection is unrestricted.
Immediate Source of Acquisition: Received from The Women's Center (Cambridge, Mass.) in 2006.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright restrictions may apply.
Finding Aids: Other materials regarding the socialist feminist movement in the Boston area can be found in the Sondra Gayle Stein papers (M93), and the Women's Educational Center records (M47)
Related Archival Materials:

The personal papers of Leslie Cagan, former Boston Women's Union member, can be found at The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.

A microfilmed version of the Boston Women's Union records is located in the Archives Faculty Publications Collection filed under Grassroots Feminist Organizations.

Processor: Finding aid prepared by Cynthia Rufo, April 2008; updated by Anna J. Cook, July 2010.