Archiving feminism: Papers, politics, posterity

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Archivaria, 2014, (77), pp. 25 - 42
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This article explores the process of securing for the National Library of Australia Merle Thornton's personal archive, which documents decades of feminist activism. Thornton, a noted figure in Australia's early second-wave women's movement, is best known as one of the "Bar Room Suffragettes," who in 1965 chained themselves to the front bar of the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane, demanding women's right to drink alongside men in public bars. In reflecting on the process of securing these papers, the author poses a series of questions concerning archives and aging, the folding of personal history into collective memory, and the role of archival source material in determining the conditions of possibility for writing histories of feminist activism. Further, in reflecting on her own role in the project, the author asks whether it is possible to perform the work of "archiving feminism" on radically non-nostalgic terms that challenge the discursive positioning of second-wave activists as a generation whose political legacy is threatened by a contemporary "culture of forgetting." Finally, the article necessarily engages with the tension between the archive as a memory device and the archive's entanglement with anticipation and futurity.
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