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Winter 2002 - Volume XXIV, Number 1

American Folklife Center - The Library of Congress

The American Folklife Center was created in 1976 by the U.S. Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, publication, and training. The Center incorporates the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Music Division of the Library of Congress in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.


Peggy A. Bulger, Director
James Hardin, Acting Assistant
Doris Craig, Administrative Assistant

David A. Taylor, Acting Coordinator

Catherine Hiebert Kerst, Archivist
Nora Yeh, Archivist

Peter T. Bartis, Folklife Specialist
Mary Hufford, Folklife Specialist
Michael Taft, Folklife Specialist
David A. Taylor, Folklife Specialist

Public Events:
Theadocia Austen, Coordinator

Jennifer A. Cutting, Folklife Specialist
Judith A. Gray, Folklife Specialist, Coordinator
Stephanie A. Hall, Automation Specialist
Ann Hoog, Folklife Specialist

Veterans History Project:
Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Director
Timothy Roberts, Administrative Officer
Peter T. Bartis, Program Officer
Sarah Rouse, Program Officer
Janice Ruth, Program Officer
Virginia Sorkin, Program Officer

Administrative Office Fax: 202 707-2076
Reference Service Tel: 202 707-5510
E-mail: [email protected]


Congressional Appointees

James F. Hoy, Chair, Kansas
Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Vice-Chair, Massachusetts
Janet Brown, South Dakota
John Penn Fix III, Washington
Mickey Hart, California
William L. Kinney Jr., South Carolina
Judith McCulloh, Illinois
Charles E. Trimble, Nebraska
Presidential Appointees
Maureen P. Cragin, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs,
Department of Veterans Affairs
Fran Mainella, Director, National Park Service
Sonya E. Medina, Deputy Director of Projects, Office of the First Lady,
The White House
Neal A. McCaleb, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior

Librarian Appointees

Jane Beck, Vermont
Norma Cantú, Texas
Tom Rankin, North Carolina
William H. Wiggins Jr., Indiana

Ex Officio Members
James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress
Lawrence M. Small, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Michael Hammond, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts
Bruce Cole, Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities
Jack Santino, President-Elect, American Folklore Society
Ellen Koskoff, President, Society for Ethnomusicology
Peggy A. Bulger, Director, American Folklife Center


James Hardin, Editor
David A. Taylor, Editorial Advisor
Sheryle Shears,Designer
Peggy Pixley, Production


The American Folklife Center’s Web site provides full texts of many publications, information about AFC projects, multi-media presentations of selected collections, links to Web resources on ethnography, and announcements of upcoming events. The address for the home page is An index of the site contents is available at

The Web site for The Veterans History Project provides an overview of the project, an online “kit” for participants recording oral histories of veterans, and a brief presentation of some examples of video- and audio-recordings of veterans’ stories. The address is

The Folkline Information Service is now a cooperative announcement program of the American Folklore Society and the American Folklife Center. It is available on the American Folklore Society’s server: The service provides timely information on the field of folklore and folklife, including training and professional opportunities, and news items of national interest.

Editor's Notes

Guide to Women’s History and Culture

On the AFC Web site, you will find Tim Lloyd and Hillary Glatt’s 1993 edition of Folklife Resources in the Library of Congress, which provides advice on where, in many different divisions of the Library, a folklore researcher might discover useful material. If the pamphlet offers a taste of the resources, a new guide to Library of Congress collections titled simply American Women spreads a feast. While the volume is aimed at women’s studies specialists, it should be of interest to folklorists and many other cultural specialists, as well as to any researcher who seeks guidance on how to negotiate the complex and sometimes daunting vastness of this institution.

NCTA Connections

We are lucky to have the author of our article on the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Andy Wallace, temporarily on staff at the Folklife Center, helping to revive the Neptune Plaza Concert Series under the new title “Homegrown: the Music of America.” From 1971 to 1975, after Sarah Gertrude Knott retired, Andy was program director of the NCTA. Former AFC assistant to the director Tim Lloyd wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the history of the NCTA, and on a recent visit to the AFC reviewed and discussed the essay with Andy. Current NCTA director Joe Wilson, of course, is a longtime friend of the AFC who has provided crucial support at several points in our history, in particular with congressional relations. How appropriate that the NCTA collections will become part of the national folk archive. The National Folk Festival is an engaging and vital part of the story of our cultural history.

Hail and Farewell: National Digital Library Program Staff Specialists

A reorganization of the Library’s National Digital Library Program has resulted in new positions for American Folklife Center program staff Robin Fanslow and Christa Maher. They have become information technology specialists in the Office of the Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives. The third member of the AFC digital team, Rachel Howard, left the Library last year in order to pursue her interests in Seattle, Washington. Visit the AFC Web site, and select Collections Available Online to sample the wonderful work that Robin, Christa, and Rachel have done over the past few years in making Folk Archive materials more widely available.


Note: Back issues are currently available in text format only, however, many print back issues are still available for free. Request the specific issue (volume and year) and give your name and address in an email to [email protected]

Cover: Florence Owens Thompson, thirty-two-year-old Native American farm worker from Oklahoma, the subject of Dorothea Lange’s famous series of photographs “Migrant Mother,” Nipomo, California,1936. Nearly three hundred images are included in American Women, a new guide to the collections of the Library of Congress. Farm Security Administration photo, Prints and Photographs Division

Back cover:

“The Friendly Four,” an Acadian Band from Mamou, Louisiana, directed by James Grose, performing at the National Folk Festival, probably in 1955. The scenic backdrop was typical for the festival at that time. The American Folklife Center has entered into an agreement with the National Council for the Traditional Arts to acquire its documentation of National Folk Festivals. Story on page 3.


The National Folk Festival: The Sarah Gertrude Knott Years

By Andrew Wallace

The National Folk Festival was the brainchild of Sarah Gertrude Knott (1895-1984), a woman of remarkable magnetism, vision, and dogged determination. She founded the organization in 1933 and remained as program director until 1970. Sarah Knott was born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, in the western part of the state. She grew up in a community that was rich in traditional culture but, by her own admission, never paid any particular attention to it in her youth. She seems to have attended the University of North Carolina for a brief period and then become involved in community drama at Chowan College. At this time she had aspirations to become an actress. Acting didn’t work out for her, but she came under the influence of Frederick Koch and Paul Green of the Carolina Playmakers, who were experimenting with “folk” materials in their productions, and she ended up as state supervisor for Koch’s community drama bureau. Green, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, well-known for his production The Lost Colony, was to exert a powerful influence on Knott and the National Festival during its formative years. He was president of the NFFA for the first twenty years of its existence.

By the late 1920s, Knott had moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she founded and directed the city’s dramatic league, designed to meet the recreational needs of the poor and unemployed. Here she found a city rich in ethnic diversity. Using Koch’s and Green’s precepts, she staged productions of a “Theater of Nations” and a “Festival of Nations.” In addition to staging plays, the League hosted neighborhood talent programs. It was here that Knott first recognized the importance of traditional music and dance, noting that audiences seemed to prefer the fiddle tunes and ballads of recent arrivals from the Ozarks, or folk songs and dances of the Greek, Italian, and German immigrants, to the dramatic presentations. Out of this experience, Sarah Gertrude Knott, and those she drew around her, created the National Folk Festival. “I began to think there might be a number of people in other states who would welcome the chance to sing, dance, and play together. Why not a National Folk Festival, bringing together groups from different sections of the country with their folk music, dances, and plays, to see what the story would tell of our people and our country? My part would be small; merely to find and bring together those who had specialized in the various forms of folk expression, and their groups to demonstrate” ( Joe Wilson, “The National Folk Festival, 1934-1936,” 50th National Folk Festival Program Book, pp.12-13).

Knott’s role was by no means a minor one. She was the driving force behind a new organization, formed in 1933 as the National Folk Festival Association (NFFA). The purpose of the NFFA was to stage a national folk festival, bringing traditional musicians, singers, and dancers from across the country to showcase the diversity of American culture. To accomplish this goal she drew on folklorists, historians, journalists, organizers, social reformers, ethnomusicologists, and other specialists–a list that reads like a who’s who of folklorists and cultural activists of the time. Although Sarah Gertrude Knott had no particular cultural expertise herself and no discernable academic training, she knew exactly who did and was able to draw these people into the organization and, in most cases, retain their loyalty and cooperation over many years.

Of this remarkable group none was more important than Major M.J. Pickering, who became the organization’s business manager. Pickering was the general manager of the St. Louis Coliseum at the time and had spent a dozen years in booking and facility management. A lawyer and veteran of World War I, he was fifty-four at the time, with a long career behind him, having, among other things, been manager of Yankee Stadium. Major Pickering kept the organization and festival on track for almost twenty years, handling all the myriad business and logistical details while befriending board members and artists. He retired in 1951 and the NFFA never quite recovered from the loss.

Others included Allan H. Eaton of the American Foundation of the Arts and the Russell Sage Foundation, who advised on material culture during the early years of the festival; Percival Chubb, a leader in the Ethical Culture Movement, who was an early activist in the Festival movement; and Constance Rourke, a cultural critic and historian who brought a group of Michigan lumberjacks to the first festival. Eaton, Chubb, and Rourke, along with Knott, were specifically interested in the social uses of “folklore” to shape American culture.

Folklorists and scholar-collectors from throughout the country were involved in bringing participants to the first National Folk Festival. Vance Randolph, George Pullen Jackson, J. Frank Dobie, Leo B. Regan, May Kennedy McCord, Romaine Loudermilk, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Cecilia Berry, O. B. Jacobson, Helen Hartness Flanders, Arthur L. Campa, and Zora Neale Hurston all did fieldwork and accompanied traditional artists to the festival. Hurston brought singers, dancers, and blues men from Eatonville, Florida, and wrote a play, “De Fiery Chariot,” in which she acted.

The first National Folk Festival was held April 29 to May 2, 1934, in the brand new three-thousand-seat Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. It was acclaimed critically and received national publicity. Just how revolutionary the event was, however, escaped critics at the time, for the format followed a time-honored revue form. Groups were presented on a large stage in short sets, with scenic backdrop, and there were matinee and evening performances. But revolutionary it was, the first multi-cultural festival, and the event that defined this form of presentation. In the words of Joe Wilson, currently the executive director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, “It employed the first field worker (Vance Randolph), invented the workshop, put the first craft demonstrations at festivals (Eaton’s), mixed religious and secular presentations, and used scholars as presenters. But its most radical and enduring innovation was that of putting the arts of many nations, races and languages into the same event on an equal footing. The term Folk Festival had been used before the National Folk Festival was created, but it was used for mono-cultural events. With the National, this term acquired a new and inclusive definition” (“The National Folk Festival,” NCTA Web site).

Although a critical success, the festival did not fare well financially and the guarantors in St. Louis declined to back it again. This was during the Depression and money was scarce. Other cities were interested, however, and the festival moved on to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it was held from May 14 to 18, 1935. This festival was very similar to the first one, with many of the same performers. It featured more traditions from the region, however, establishing a pattern that was to persist up until 1970 and again when the festival took to the road again in the early 1980s–an event that was national in scope but emphasized the cultures of the area where it was presented. From outside the region, folklorist George Korson first brought a group of coal miners from eastern Pennsylvania to this festival, as he was to do at many subsequent festivals.

We in the United States are amazingly rich in the elements from which to weave a culture. We have the best of man’s past upon which to draw brought to us by our native folk and the folk from all parts of the world. In binding these elements into a national fabric of beauty and strength, let us see to it that the fineness of each shows in the completed handiwork.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a letter to Paul Green, President, NFFA, 1938 (Reprinted in National Folk Festival Program, 1940)

In 1936 the festival was held in Dallas, Texas, as part of the state’s centennial celebration. It was an eight-day event, held at the state fairgrounds, with multiple stages and outdoor venues in a format that presaged modern folk festivals. Dallas marked the first appearance of a Cajun band outside Louisiana, and, in fact, there were four at the festival, most notably, one that included the legendary Lawrence Walker. This was also the first festival that Benjamin Botkin attended, marking the beginning of a relationship between the folklorist and the National Council for the Traditional Arts that endured for the rest of his life. In Dallas he participated in a scholarly symposium held in conjunction with the festival, a feature that was to continue up until the early 1970s.

The 1937 festival was a four-day event held in Chicago. The festival then settled in for a five-year stay in Washington, D.C. (1938-42), sponsored by the Washington Post. These festivals were notable in several respects. Now-legendary artists appeared at them–W. C. Handy, Pearl S. Nye, Sailor Dad Hunt, Horton Barker, Captain Richard Maitland, Hobart Smith, and Bill Hensley, to name a few. And they were held in Constitution Hall, owned and operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and rigidly segregated. It was during this period, in 1939, that Marion Anderson was denied the stage, and yet the National Folk Festival presented black and white performers on that stage each year and got away with it. How Knott and Pickering managed this is unclear to this day, but they seem to have simply ignored the prohibition and the DAR never called their bluff. Eleanor Roosevelt, who relinquished her membership in the DAR over the Anderson affair, attended several of these festivals.

Leota Ware was a child when she came to the 1936 National in Dallas with the Kiowa Indian Dancers, who had first appeared at the festival in Chattanooga in 1935. “All these people of different colors and different talk were sitting in the dining hall having supper when we got there,” she recalls. “Texas and Oklahoma were segregated then and I’d not seen black and white people and Indians eating together. It made a big impression on me and I talked about it when I got home. I told my grandmother and she said ‘Heaven will be like that.’” Tom and Stony Ware, direct descendants of Leota, brought a group of Kiowas to the 55th National Folk Festival in Chattanooga, sixty years after the family’s first appearance at the festival.
The festival then hit the road again for a few years, with sojourns in New York, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, before settling in for a nine-year stay back in St. Louis (1947-55). Oklahoma City and Nashville followed, and then the festival returned to Washington, D.C., in 1960, and established what Miss Knott hoped would be a permanent home. But times had changed, and the organization was experiencing real difficulties. Since Major Pickering’s departure in 1951 finances had become precarious. The folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s , exemplified by the Newport Folk Festival, had caught the public’s attention with a very different approach to folk culture than the National Folk Festival now had. The National Festival was increasingly dominated by recreational dance troupes, often performing to recorded music. The festival had never paid artists for their performances. Sponsoring groups were expected to cover their expenses. As the years wore on, it became more and more difficult to attract stellar traditional singers and instrumentalists. Many of the folklorists who had been involved in the early years had died or gone on to other things. The new generation of folklorists were either academically inclined, and eschewed festivals altogether, or joined forces with Newport’s Ralph Rinzler, and become involved in festival fieldwork that was to lead shortly to the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife, begun in 1967.

The National Folk Festival struggled through the 1960s, never staying in one place for more than a year. Sarah Gertrude Knott continued as program director, while a series of business managers failed to stem the downward spiral. Financially and programmatically, the organization was in trouble. Knott was now in her seventies, and though still in good health, increasingly unable to meet the demands of the crisis. The situation was looking increasingly bleak, when, in 1970, an opportunity presented itself to put the organization on firm financial footing on a long-term basis. Before this could come about, however, certain fundamental changes would have to take place. These changes would revitalize the organization and the festival, and prepare it to thrive during the next thirty years.

Next time in Folklife Center News: Andrew Wallace on “The National Folk Festival: the 1970s to the Present.”


I am greatly indebted to the following folks for their work on the history of the NCTA. Joe Wilson has researched and written extensively on the subject, notably an article in the 50th NFF Program Book. Timothy Lloyd wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the history of the National Folk Festival, and has shared it with me. Michael Ann Williams at Western Kentucky University has written a biography of Sarah Gertrude Knott, based on Knott’s papers in the archive there.

Andrew Wallace is a folklorist and musician who served as program director of the NFFA from 1971 to 1975, and as associate director of the NCTA, 1988-97.


The 15th Annual National Folk Festival, St. Louis, Missouri, 1949. Photographer unknown

Sarah Gertrude Knott. NCTA Collection

Folklorist George Pullen Jackson (right), with members of the Old Harp Singers, a group that used the shape-note hymnal The Sacred Harp, published 1844. They performed at the first five National Folk Festivals, 1934-38. Photo courtesy of the Southern Historical Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“The Sausage Hunters Parade,” a pre-Lent German mumming custom being re-enacted by a Rhineland, Missouri, troupe at the 1948 National Folk Festival in St. Louis. Photographer unknown

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Agnes Meyer, wife of Washington Post publisher Eugene B. Meyer, at the 9th National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. Photographer unknown

Program for the 22nd National Folk Festival, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Archive of Folk Culture

Folklife Center director Peggy Bulger and National Council for the Traditional Arts director Joe Wilson in the NCTA archives. The two organizations have agreed to transfer the NCTA collections to the American Folklife Center. Photo by James Hardin

Sound engineer Dudley Connell at the National Council for the Traditional Arts, where he is duplicating and formatting the NCTA Collection for transfer to the Library. Photo by James Hardin


NCTA Collection Comes to the American Folklife Center

Under an innovative arrangement worked out between the Library of Congress and the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA), based in Silver Spring, Maryland, one of the greatest collections of traditional music in America will be housed in the Archive of Folk Culture at the American Folklife Center. The vast collection, comprising over 4,700 hours of performance material, is being preserved and duplicated in several formats and will come to the Center in increments, over a four-year period, beginning this year.

The NCTA, founded in 1933 as the National Folk Festival Association, is the nation’s oldest multi-cultural arts presenting organization. Over the past sixty-eight years it has produced the National Folk Festival, numerous regional festivals, and groundbreaking tours of traditional artists that have traveled throughout the country, as well as numerous special events, including USIA overseas tours and radio and television broadcasts.

Periodically, over the past ten years, officials from the AFC and the NCTA have discussed how this vast collection of material might be transferred to the Library of Congress. The trick was to find a way to do this while still allowing the NCTA to use the material on a daily basis. Producing recordings from its archive has been an integral part of the organization’s work over the past two decades, and very much an ongoing activity. The solution was for the Library to provide the NCTA with the materials and equipment needed to make the Library’s preservation and reference copies, using state-of -the art technology. The NCTA will retain digital and analog copies of all audio material, while the Library will get the originals, plus analog, DAT and indexed CDRs of all recordings. In addition two copies of all video/film material will be produced for the Archive. Along with recorded material, with complete logs, the Library will obtain associated programs, catalogs, brochures and manuscript material relating to the collection. The duplication work, under the direction of sound engineer Dudley Connell, is now in progress at NCTA

The American Folklife Center anticipates receiving one-fourth of the NCTA collection and associated logs in the fall of this year. The remainder of the collection will be copied and delivered in similar amounts over the next three years. Following final processing by the AFC’s archivists, the collection will be made available to the public.


Veterans History Project Enlists Powerful Allies

By Gail Fineberg

American war veterans, including members of Congress, journalists, and a historian have joined a national effort led by the Library to capture and preserve the personal histories of some 19 million veterans and, through these stories, to connect younger and future generations of Americans with their nation’s wartime history. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, has announced a twenty-six-member advisory body, the Five-Star Council, and a number of the members came to the Library on November 8, 2001, to offer their support and guidance to the Veterans History Project, which the Library’s American Folklife Center launched on Veterans Day 2000.

Council members met with the Librarian and Ellen Lovell, director of the Veterans History Project, in the morning and then joined them for a public program, where AARP, a national organization for people fifty years old and older, announced it will give $3 million to the Veterans History Project. AARP president Esther “Tess” Canja not only pledged $1 million a year for three years to the project but also promised that AARP will marshal its 35 million members to find veterans whose stories have yet to be recorded and to “create a well-trained volunteer force to conduct proper oral history interviews with their parents, friends, and even strangers.”

Lovell said the project also is being supported by 108 “official partners,” including veterans’ and military organizations, libraries and archives, museums, oral history programs, universities, and civic organizations. These organizations have agreed to endorse the project, recruit their members as interviewers, and serve as repositories for some of the material. Billington said the Library has embraced the project and its mission to collect the memories, accounts, and documents of war veterans and those on the home front who supported them. “Especially now, at a time when our nation is once again challenged, we have much to learn from those who served,” he said. This collection of recorded oral histories, diaries, letters, maps, and photographs will be preserved at the nation’s library.

At the first meeting of the Five-Star Council, two seasoned veterans on the council encouraged the participation of young people in the project. “What better way to connect them with their history than to have seniors in schools throughout the country to go out into their communities to interview veterans?” asked Julius W. Becton, a retired lieutenant general with forty years of service in the U.S. Army, including duty in Germany, France, and the Pacific during World War II, and in Korea and Vietnam. Becton also emphasized that the Veterans History Project “must collect all their stories”–those of African Americans, Japanese Americans, Native Americans, and women in uniform and on the home front.

Lee A. Archer Jr., who entered flight training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field and became a fighter “Ace” and a lieutenant colonel with twenty-nine years of service with the Air Force, agreed. “The project must be all-inclusive,” he said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm joined the military in 1942 as a truck driver, served in first the Army and then the Air Force for thirty-three years, and retired in 1975 with the highest rank of any woman in the armed services. She emphasized that the project should include women and men in all kinds of noncombat jobs–truck drivers, mechanics, clerks, typists, technicians of all kinds, and including those who flew tankers that refuel jets over the Persian Gulf, and recently over Afghanistan. “It’s difficult to get people to come forward if they feel what they did was not significant,” she said after the program. “A lot of outreach needs to be done.”

Although the Veterans History Project legislation targets veterans of five wars–World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf–Holm said the project should include those in uniform who served in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan. “If that’s not war, it’s pretty darned close,” she said.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi, a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, said his department can reach millions of veterans, including those in VA hospitals (some 60,000 on any given day) and clinics (“4 million vets come to us for care in a year”). Speaking also during the public program, Principi endorsed the project and pledged his department’s support. “I look forward to dedicating the resources of my department” to the project, he said. “Every community in America with a veterans’ organization, or military organization, will gather up their stories and their lessons, and we will preserve them for all time.”

Sen. Ted Stevens, of Alaska, a World War II pilot in the China-Burma-India theater who received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and other medals, recalled receiving and reading the diary of a friend who had driven a troop carrier onto Omaha Beach. “Sixty percent of our World War II veterans are gone, but their widows and families have their diaries and letters. We ought to get those materials,” he said.

During the public program, several council members, including members of Congress, spoke about the project’s importance. Rep. Ron Kind, of Wisconsin, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, together sponsored the bipartisan legislation that President Clinton signed into law on October 27, 2000 (Public Law 106-380) to authorize the Veterans History Project. Representative Kind, principal author of the legislation, said he was inspired three years ago upon hearing for the first time the personal stories of his father, a Korean War veteran, and his uncle, a World War II veteran. “They started talking about their experiences, what they went through, what they saw, what they were involved in,” Kind recalled. He grabbed the family video camera and began recording these stories for his children before the history was lost with the passing of his father’s generation.

“We are losing 1,500 veterans a day, so we are racing against time to preserve this important part of U.S. history, not to glorify war, but rather to capture the reality of the experiences that our veterans and families on the home front had,” Kind said. “I can’t think of any greater tribute to our veterans than the preservation of their memories and the formal collection of this history at a place such as the Library of Congress,” he said.

Hagel, who cosponsored the legislation in the Senate, is a Vietnam combat veteran and former deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration. He said, “In the hands of the nation’s young rests the nation’s destiny. This project is so important for that reason alone, to connect [our history with] our young people, the next generation, the generation that will inherit the challenges of our day.”

Chief congressional sponsors of the legislation, along with Hagel and Kind, were Sen. Max Cleland, of Georgia, an Army captain who lost both legs and his right arm in a grenade explosion in Vietnam in 1969; and Reps. Amo Houghton, of New York, a Marine veteran, and Steny Hoyer, of Maryland. All are members of the Five-Star Council.

Another Veterans History Project supporter and council member is Sen. Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii, who underscored the importance of linking young people to their history. Inouye was a seventeen-year-old Red Cross volunteer in Honolulu on December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Ten years ago, as the nation prepared to observe the 50th anniversary of that day, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy,” less than half of high school seniors polled knew the significance of the date, Inouye said.

“It has been said by wise philosophers that a nation that forgets its past, or disregards its past, is destined for oblivion,” Inouye said. “If we maintain this attitude about history, forgetting the past, then we are in deep trouble.”

After Pearl Harbor, Inouye served with the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team–service that cost him a limb and earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with cluster, and twelve other medals.
Sen. John Warner, of Virginia, another Five-Star Council member, said he had been in the Jefferson Building many times during the twenty-three years he has served in the U.S. Senate, but no day had been or would be more important than this one promoting the Veterans History Project. “Jim Billington, I cannot think of any charge given you by the Congress that takes greater significance than this one,” he told the Librarian.

He reminisced about the military service of his father, “a brilliant surgeon who served in the trenches of World War I and cared for wounded by the hundreds,” and the Red Cross service of his mother. After he returned home, wounded and decorated, his father explained to his young son why he had custody of a German officer’s Luger pistol: “‘I saved the lives of all those in uniform; that was my mission as a doctor.’” “If only I had my father’s memoirs,” Warner said.

Looking back over his long career of public service that included Pentagon duty as undersecretary and secretary of the Navy (1969-74), during the Vietnam era, Warner said histories of decisions made then should be saved to assist a nation facing a “conflict of complexities as never before, in terms of geography, in terms of political and military relationships.”

Putting U.S. war casualties from one helicopter crash in Afghanistan into historical perspective, Warner noted that more than 500,000 Americans gave their lives in World Wars I and II, some 37,000 died in Korea, and another 58,000 died in Vietnam. “Those numbers are incomprehensible to this generation, unless you preserve this fascinating history to guide this nation in the future,” Warner said.

Although acts of courage, heroism, and sacrifice are important to record for posterity, another story to be told is how World War II united Americans from all walks of life, said another Five-Star Council member, Sam M. Gibbons, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for thirty-four years. He began his World War II service in 1941 as an infantry officer with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. As part of the 101st Airborne Division, he led parachute infantry forces in the pre-dawn invasion of Normandy, France, the allied invasion of the Netherlands, the Battle of the Bulge, the defense of Bastogne, and in central Europe. He earned the Bronze Star and rank of major.

“World War II was a great builder of America, a great homogenizer of America,” he said. Noting that 12.5 million Americans served in the armed forces and about the same number served on the industrial side, Gibbons said people did their duty, not because they were asked to perform a patriotic act, “but because you thought it was the thing to do. You worked with people, and you learned with them the real principles of brotherhood–what it is to work and to train together and to perform missions together and what it is to follow the leadership,” said Gibbons. “Spilling our guts, as we’re going to do in the [Veterans History Project], and telling the truth about what happened, is a lesson for America.”

Gail Fineberg is the editor of the Library of Congress Gazette.


The Five-Star Council of the Veterans History Project

The Five-Star Council is a group of prominent leaders invited by the Librarian of Congress to advise the Veterans History Project and bring it increased visibility nationwide. Members of the council, listed below, include veterans, elected officials, historians, and journalists.

Everett Alvarez
Former Deputy Administrator of the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs
McLean, Virginia

Steven Ambrose
Historian, Author
Helena, Montana

Lee Archer
Retired Lieutenant Colonel; CEO, Archer
Assets Management
New Rochelle, New York

Julius Becton
Retired Lieutenant General
Springfield, Virginia

Tom Brokaw
Network news anchor
New York, New York

Max Cleland
U.S. Senator
Lithonia, Georgia

Walter Cronkite
Former CBS anchorman
New York, N.Y.

Robert Dole
Former U.S. Senator
Washington, D.C.

Sam Gibbons
Former U.S. Representative
Washington, D.C.

Chuck Hagel
U.S. Senator
Omaha, Nebraska

Jeanne Holm
Retired Major General USAF
Edgewater, Maryland

Dolores Hope (represented by Tony Hope)
USO Tours
Burbank, California

Amo Houghton
U.S. Representative
Corning, New York

Steny Hoyer
U.S. Representative
Mechanicsville, Maryland

Daniel Inouye
U.S. Senator
Honolulu, Hawaii

Francisco F. Ivarra
National Commander, American GI Forum
Denver, Colorado

John Kerry
U.S. Senator
Boston, Massachusetts

Ron Kind
U.S. Representative
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Bob Michel
Former U.S. Representative
Washington, D.C.

Norman Mineta
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C.

William D. Novelli
Executive Director, AARP
Bethesda, Maryland

Anthony J. Principi
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Washington, D.C.

Francis Y. Sogi
Deputy Chairman, National Council of AJA Veterans
New York, New York

Ted Stevens
U.S. Senator
Girdwood, Alaska

John Warner
U.S. Senator
Alexandria, Virginia

Sheila Widnall
Former Secretary of the Air Force
Cambridge, Massachusetts


Rep. Ron Kind, of La Crosse, Wisconsin. A visit home led him to propose the Veterans History Project. Photos by James Hardin

Veterans History Project director Ellen Lovell listens intently as Julius Becton urges that the project be inclusive.

Sen. John Warner of Virginia tells Librarian of Congress James H. Billington that no charge given by Congress to the Library has more significance than the Veterans History Project.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii, shared stories of his wartime experiences.

At a reception following the meeting of the Five-star Council, AARP president Esther “Tess” Canja greets a Library official. The AARP has pledged $3 million to the Veterans History Project.


Living Lore: Celebrating the Legacy of Benjamin A. Botkin

By James Hardin

In Benjamin A. Botkin’s house in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, where he lived for the last thirty years of his life, the rooms were full of books. In some rooms, the books were stacked in piles from floor to ceiling, along with papers, boxes of file cards, and ephemera. And Ben Botkin knew just where everything was. He could identity a book near the bottom of a stack, whether or not its spine was showing, and he would return it there when the book had served its purpose.

So reported Peggy Seeger at a session of remembrances on the second day of “Living Lore: The Legacy of Benjamin A. Botkin,” a two-day celebration of the life and work of the great American folklorist on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, sponsored by the American Folklife Center, the Center for the Book, and the Music Division of the Library of Congress, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and the New York Folklore Society, with support from the Shakespeare Theatre, the National Endowment for the Arts, and U.S. Airways. Again and again, the story of Ben Botkin’s important work came back to books.

Nebraska folklorist Roger Welsch gave the keynote address that opened the program on the morning of November 15. Welsch first encountered Botkin’s work at the Lincoln, Nebraska, city library, where he was shelving books and Botkin’s treasuries and collections occupied a full shelf. “I read them all,” said Welsch. Welsch described the famous differences between Botkin, who had a large and inclusive view of folklore, and Richard Dorson, who insisted on academic standards for the folklore profession and regularly disparaged the more popular manifestations, such as festivals, folksong revivals, “treasury” anthologies, hootenanies, and the like. Through stories of his own family and career, Welsch dramatized his allegiance to Botkin and his uneasy relationship with Dorson. But, he reported, at their last meeting, he and Dorson agreed that there is “room for all of us in folklore and a need for all of us in folklore.”

Following Welsch’s keynote, musician, storyteller, and writer Stephen Wade delivered a tribute to Botkin’s A Treasury of American Folklore, one of many Botkin books that line his shelves at home. All have become worn with use, he said, but “open to any page and they start to talk.” Wade then demonstrated just how “living” the “lore” could be with a virtuoso performance of banjo playing, clogging, storytelling, and old-fashioned American flimflam. He enacted Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence, told a tall tale about the mosquitos in Arkansas, and raced up and down the aisle of the Coolidge Auditorium in the persona of a fast-talking salesman, selling pens for a quarter to eager members of the audience, all the while keeping up his banjo playing and patter.

Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975) was a pioneering folklorist who believed that people are always creating folklore out of their collective experiences. According to historian Jerrold Hirsch, “he attempted to formulate an approach to the study of American folklore that took into account the nation’s different regions, races, and classes, and showed the interrelationship between folk, popular, and high culture. In his work on the interregional Folk-Say anthologies (1929-32), as national folklore editor of the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project (1938-39), as chief editor of the Writers’ Unit of the Library of Congress Project, (1939-41), as head of the Archive of American Folk Song (1942-45), and as the author of numerous folklore treasures, beginning with A Treasury of American Folklore (1944), Botkin continuously sought new ways to achieve his vision for the role of folklore and folklife in American culture. . . . He rejected traditional folklore scholarship’s privileged hierarchies regarding what constituted the object of study–the lore over the folk, the past over the present, the rural over the urban, the agrarian over the industrial, survivals over revivals, older genres over newer emergent forms, oral transmission over technological media, homogeneous groups over heterogeneous ones” (from Jerrold Hirsch, “Benjamin Botkin’s Legacy in the Making,” American Folklife Center Web site at

The first Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in 1967, the creation of the American Folklife Center in 1976, and the creation of a network of public-sector folklorists funded by the National Endowment for the Arts are all legacies of Botkin’s scholarship. He argued that all people create culture, regardless of where or how they live, and he insisted that democracy is strengthened by valuing many different cultural voices. Botkin has been called the father of public-sector folklore, and today folklorists widely accept the idea that folklore is creative expression used to communicate and instill social values, traditions, and goals.

Benjamin Botkin was also a long-time board member for the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and NCTA director Joe Wilson described the early National Folklife Festivals created by Sarah Gertrude Knott, in St. Louis (1934), Chattanooga (1935), Dallas (1936), Chicago (1937), and Washington, D.C. (1938). Botkin “had an expansive, wondrous way that took in everybody,” said Wilson, and the popularity of the festivals convinced many academic deans to establish folklore programs at their institutions. Alan Jabbour, former director of the American Folklife Center, described the cultural climate in New Deal Washington as an “interlocking directorate,” and said how excited Botkin and others were to be working on large cultural projects. Botkin’s editing of the ex-slave narrative project was the first great accomplishment of oral history in America, he said.

“Living Lore” was not a scholarly conference. According to Center events coordinator Thea Austen, it was a celebration of Botkin’s legacy, with performances, interviews, and discussions that embodied the spirit of his work. “We worked closely with Ben Botkin’s children, Dan Botkin and Dorothy Rosenthal,” said Austen. “There had been a scholarly program at the University of Nebraska, where the Benjamin A. Botkin papers have been deposited. We thought that for the Library of Congress program we might find a way to embody Botkin’s ideas about festivals, the folk music revival, and engaging audiences in a participatory way in the cultural process.” In that spirit, Austen assembled public-sector folklorists, musicians, artists, writers, actors, and others whose worked has been touched by Ben Botkin: the United House of Prayer Band played a noontime concert; historian Henry Sapoznik spoke about Yiddish radio in New York City in the 1930s, “Radio and the Transmission of Folk Culture Literacy”; Center for the Book director John Y. Cole, Folklife Center director Peggy Bulger, author Ann Banks, and historian Jerrold Hirsch talked about the Federal Writers’ Project; City Lore executive director Steve Zeitlin showed photographs taken by Martha Cooper of the memorial tributes in New York City that have sprung up to honor people killed in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center; and the band Cherish the Ladies gave an evening concert of traditional Irish music, featuring a new work commissioned by the Music Division’s McKim Fund.

Folklorists David Taylor and Marjorie Hunt acknowledged a personal debt to Ben Botkin, in that both have specialized in the study of occupational culture, an area of interest that is one example of Botkin’s inclusive view of contemporary folk culture. Taylor introduced Ron Brooks, Dean Kalomas, and Pauli Zmolek, three decorative painters who have been working on the renovation of Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, and Hunt interviewed Frank Baiocchi, a master mason who has worked on many Washington, D.C., historic buildings and monuments. New York folklorist Nancy Groce interviewed Ed Gero, Floyd King, and Catherine Weidner, who told stories of their work as actors with the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

At the start of a noontime concert on the second day of the program, musician and former Folk Archive head Joe Hickerson shared personal remembrances of the folksong revival of the 1950s and 1960s. He told how, as a teenager in New Haven and a physics major at Oberlin College, he himself had taken up a guitar and learned to play folksongs through the books and records he discovered. Pete Seeger joined Hickerson on stage, and together they explained how Seeger had composed “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” beginning with words from a Russian folksong, then employing the tune from another song that had been echoing in his head. In 1960, Hickerson heard a Seeger recording of the song and added verses four and five, to make it circular. Later that summer, Hickerson was working at Camp Woodland, a progressive children’s camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where Seeger happened to hear him and his campers singing the extra verses. Seeger adopted them and they have become standard in most renditions, but Seeger commented that he preferred the line in the verse “Where have all the soldiers gone” to read, “When will we ever learn.”

Pete Seeger was then joined by his half brother and sister, Mike Seeger and Peggy Seeger, along with Oscar Brand, and before a full house in the Coolidge Auditorium they made magic. Oscar Brand sang songs representing his Canadian heritage, Mike Seeger played a splendid solo on the jew’s harp, and Peggy Seeger demonstrated that the unaccompanied voice is still one of the loveliest instruments. Pete Seeger spoke a moving tribute to the people who had been killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, and then sang, and taught the audience to sing, a song composed by Tom Paxton memorializing the tragedy–a wonderful moment for the audience, the great American folksinger, banjo strung around his neck, his familiar voice still strong, inviting and cajoling, a living embodiment of his and Ben Botkin’s deep belief in the goodness of people and the power of song and lore.

It was a great day for those of us, of a certain age, who remember the songs and spirit of the times recalled. The final program (with panelists Joanna Cazden, Karl Finger, Joe Hickerson, Joan Studer Levine, and Peter Seeger) consisted of remembrances of Camp Woodland, the progressive educational brainchild of Norman Studer, which provided experiences of folksong, dancing, storytelling, and community interaction for young people from New York City during the forties and fifties. And the day ended, appropriately enough, with a hootenanny, that folksingers invitation to the audience to catch the spirit and join in the celebration of their own traditions.

Benjamin Botkin was a pioneer. He made connections among diverse fields others failed to notice. He abandoned the path of convention and received wisdom, and was not afraid to alienate the powers-that-be. He inspired the young folklorists of the 1960s who were intent on breaking away from the purely academic study of folk texts. He encouraged the direct involvement of professionally trained folklorists with public policy and programming. He insisted that democracy is enhanced by valuing many cultural voices. Above all, he believed that folklore belongs to the folk. “If giving back to the people what we have taken from them and what rightfully belongs to them, in a form in which they can understand and use, is vulgarization,” he wrote, “then we need more of it” [“WPA and Folklore Research: Bread and Song,” Southern Folklore Quarterly 3 (1939), 10].

Center folklife specialist Michael Taft contributed to this article.


Joe Hickerson and Pete Seeger, on stage in the Coolidge Auditorium reminisce about the composition of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Photos by James Hardin (unless otherwise indicated)

Benjamin A. Botkin. NCTA Collection photo

Nebraska folklorist Roger Welsch offered the keynote address that opened the program.

Musician and storyteller Stephen Wade reads his tribute to the many published works of Ben Botkin.

Ben Botkin’s son, Dan Botkin, at a session on family memories and stories.

Ben Botkin’s daughter, Dorothy Rosenthal.

Shakespeare Theatre Company actor Floyd King shares a humorous bit of theater folklore with the Coolidge Auditorium audience, while Catherine Weidner and Ed Gero, also of the company, listen appreciatively.


Passages from the Works of Benjamin A. Botkin

“ Folklore, in fact, seems to have become the possession of the few who study it rather than the many who make or use it.” A Treasury of American Folklore: Stories, Ballads and Traditions of the People. New York: Crown Publishers, 1944, p. xxi.

“It implies lack of faith in your field or profession not to see its relation to the life around you.” “Delegate’s Report on the 34th Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies.” Journal of American Folklore 65 (1952), 182.

“The key to living lore was the relating of the foreground, lore, to its background in life.” “We Call It Living Lore.” New York Folklore Quarterly 14 (1958), 189.

“In its belief in the public support of art and art for the public, in research not for research’s sake but for use and enjoyment by the many, the WPA is attempting to assimilate folklore to the local and national life . . . the WPA looks upon folklore research not as a private but as a public function, and folklore as public, not private property.” “WPA and Folklore Research: ‘Bread and Song.” Southern Folklore Quarterly 3 (1939), 10.

“I am half-and-half, but ‘pure’ folklore has always interested me less than the ‘impure’ folklore which is mixed with both life and literature.” Letter to Herbert Halpert, 1952, Botkin Papers, University of Nebraska Archives, Lincoln.

“[There is] no essential conflict between [being popular and being scholarly] and they can be combined.” Letter to Herbert Halpert, 1952, Botkin Papers, University of Nebraska Archives, Lincoln.

“If giving back to the people what we have taken from them and what rightfully belongs to them, in a form in which they can understand and use, is vulgarization, then we need more of it.” “WPA and Folklore Research: ‘Bread and Song.” Southern Folklore Quarterly 3 (1939), 10.

“For years American folklorists from the cities have been going into the Kentucky mountains and other remote places to gather folk songs and stories, while all the time folklore was all around them on the sidewalks of America.” Sidewalks of America: Folklore, Legends, Sagas, Traditions, Songs Stories and Sayings of City Folk. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1954, p. vii.

“You gather folklore between shifts or during the lunch hour, from a member of Compressed Air Local No. 147, in the hoghouse or locker rooms of the construction company engaged in building the Queens Mid-town tunnel. Or in the hiring hall of the National Maritime Union, with the windows overlooking the piers, and the ships’ funnels. Or on the picket line.” “We Call It Living Lore.” New York Folklore Quarterly 14 (1958), 189, 191, 193.

“Machinery does not destroy folklore.” A Treasury of American Folklore: Stories, Ballads and Traditions of the People. New York: Crown Publishers, 1944, p. xxii.

“The present revival of [Davy] Crockett is a tall tale, the real hero of which is not so much Davy as TV...For the folklorist the Crockett craze possesses more than passing interest. It not only throws light on the ways of folklore and popular culture, but has produced considerable lore of its own.” TV Crockett” and “Add Crockettiana.” New York Folklore Quarterly 11 (1955), 231-34.

“The phonograph, the radio, the folk song archive, and the folk festival tend to perform the same function in the folksong survival or revival.” A Treasury of American Folklore: Stories, Ballads and Traditions of the People. New York: Crown Publishers, 1944, p. 820.

“Each cultural group has its own traditional songs and song styles. The problem of the folksong revival is not simply to preserve traditional songs and styles but to adapt them to the needs of a new age—an industrial age in an urban, industrialized society. Moderator’s introduction and remarks. “The Folksong Revival: A Symposium.” New York Folklore Quarterly 19 (1963), 84.

“The ultimate aim of applied folklore is the restoration to American life of the sense of community–a sense of thinking, feeling, and acting along similar, though not the same, lines…. Thus applied folklore goes beyond cultural history to cultural strategy, to the end of creating a favorable environment for the liberation of our creative energies and the flourishing of the folk arts.” “Applied Folklore: Creating Understanding Through Folklore.” Southern Folklore Quarterly 17 (1953), 204, 206.

“[This is what the good folklorist] must have before he can hope to understand and reconstruct a culture. He cannot do this by writing from the outside looking in . . . He must live the life of the people he writes about, shake off his own culture, and take on theirs–turn himself inside out culturally. . . . So that when he writes about them he becomes not merely an interpreter but a voice–their voice, which is now his own.” “The Folk and the Individual: Their Creative Reciprocity.” The English Journal 27 (1938), 132.

–selected by Michael Taft


Library Publishes New Guide
for Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States

By Peggy Pearlstein

A photograph of a woman and children in a Civil War camp, by Matthew Brady; images from the iconographic “Migrant Mother” series, by Dorothea Lange; the jacket for “Big Mama Thornton: Mama’s Pride” 1975 record album; a sheet from Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 1896; Hawaiian female landowners listed on a 1930s tax map from Honolulu; and a cartoon from the May 1890 issue of the illustrated weekly humor magazine, Life, depicting how education leads women away from their domestic duties.

These striking visual images, among almost three hundred that appear in the new book American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States, edited by Sheridan Harvey, Janice E. Ruth, Barbara Orbach Natanson, Sara Day, and Evelyn Sinclair, draw the reader’s attention to the astonishing array of resources in the Library of Congress dealing with more than four centuries of women’s experiences in this country.

Written by veteran staff specialists, the guide begins with an overview by Sheridan Harvey on using the Library’s collections and a chapter on the general collections. Georgia Higley writes about newspapers and government documents, while Rosemary Fry Plakas and Jacqueline Coleburn follow with a chapter on rare books and special collections. Legal collections are explained by Pamela Barnes Craig, Janice E. Ruth describes materials in the Manuscript Division, and Barbara Orbach Natanson contributes a chapter on prints and photographs. In her chapter, Patricia Molen van Ee illustrates the use of maps in researching American women. Robin Rausch and Nancy J. Seeger compose chapters on music and recorded sound, respectively. Motion pictures and television are covered in the chapter written by Rosemary Hanes with Brian Taves. James Hardin writes on folklife. Peggy K. Pearlstein and Barbara A. Tenenbaum contribute the concluding chapter on foreign-language collections.

Five thematic essays dispersed throughout the volume further illustrate original approaches to research across the Library’s divisions. Leslie W. Gladstone details the unsuccessful ERA ratification struggle; Sheridan Harvey writes about the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington; Patricia Molen van Ee chronicles women moving across the frontier to California; Sara Day describes the evolution of woman as symbol and myth in America; and Robin Rausch tells the story of pianist Marian MacDowell and the creation of the MacDowell Colony for arts, in New Hampshire.

“Law, pulp fiction, music sheets, movies and television, all became part of a search-and-describe mission,” for staff contributors, says editor Evelyn Sinclair. She adds that “the general collections, often considered too vast and various to permit any useful description of them, in this guide offer a sound starting point for anyone in pursuit of information about women’s lives and influences.”

Sheridan Harvey notes that “I discovered that some of the small nineteenth-century items I wrote about as treasures of the general collections might not be collected today, for example, funeral sermons, pamphlets, or brief biographies of unknown women.”

Barbara Orbach Natanson commented that, “I valued the opportunity to explore the Prints and Photographs Division collections and to discuss them with my colleagues, noting pictorial situations in which women were largely invisible, as well as the variety of ways in which they were amazingly visible–as workers, political activists, and shapers of the visual record.”

Nancy Seeger was intrigued to learn more about the history of and women’s involvement in radio. “Beginning in the 1930s,” she says, “women dominated daytime programming as an audience, as personalities heard on the radio, and behind the scenes as writers and directors.”

In the chapter on the American Folklife Center, Jim Hardin notes “the remarkable work of women ethnographers, trooping about the country during the twentieth century with each succeeding recording technology, from wax cylinder to CD, documenting the audio heritage of our multi-cultural nation.”

Legal specialist Pamela Barnes Craig says that researching women in eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century legal sources was not easy. According to Craig, “the term woman (or women) was rarely used; in most instances, women had no legal rights except in their relationships with men, as their wives, widows, or children.”

The final chapter of the guide examines Area Studies Collections–the primary gateway to the Library’s foreign-language materials and culture groups. Editor Sara Day says that, “One of the major difficulties encountered while framing the guide was how to both integrate materials about and discussions of different ethnic groups in the guide, and also explain the role of Area Studies in multi-cultural research.”

Through two case studies, on American Jewish women and Latina women, Peggy K. Pearlstein and Barbara A. Tenenbaum, respectively, demonstrate the interdisciplinary and often overlapping nature of doing research at the Library through the use of multiple language sources in different formats across all of the reading rooms.

For example, copyrighted Yiddish sheet music (Rare Book Division; Music Division; and the Hebraic Section), Yiddish manuscript plays (Hebraic Section), and Yiddish films (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division) document the artistic expression of diva Isa Kremer, physician-writer Ida Badanes, and actress Bessie Thomashefsky, all of whom arrived in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Spanish-language sound recordings, movies, and works of art attest to the achievements of more contemporary Latina women such as Cuban-American salsa goddess Celia Cruz (Recorded Sound Section), and such Mexican-Americans as film star Delores del Rio (Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division) and artist Ester Hernandez (Prints and Photographs Division).

For this latest volume in the Library’s series of resource guides, the Library’s Publishing Office invited experts in the field of American women’s history and culture to form a Scholar’s Advisory Committee. Susan Ware, twentieth-century women’s history scholar at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies of Harvard University headed the Scholar’s Committee. She also wrote the chronological overview of American women’s history that serves to introduce the reader to the guide.

Joining Ware on the Committee were Alice Kessler-Harris, a Columbia University history professor who specializes in labor and women in the work force; Vicki L. Ruiz, professor at University of California at Irvine, who is an expert on Mexican American women; Eileen Boris, a professor at University of California at Santa Barbara, who focuses on women and work; Joanne M. Braxton, College of William and Mary professor and Director of the Middle Passage Project, who is a scholar of poetry and of black women writing autobiography; and Carol F. Karlsen, a University of Michigan historian whose writings have centered on the eighteenth century and witchcraft.

American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women’s History and Culture in the United States is a 456 page softcover book with 298 illustrations, many in color. American Women is available for $35 at major bookstores, through the University Press of New England, and from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (Credit card orders: 202 707-0204).

Peggy Pearlstein is the area specialist, Hebraic Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, at the Library of Congress


Camp of the 31st Pennsylvania Infantry, near Washington, D.C., 1862. Mathew Brady Studio, Civil War Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division

“Notice” in the Cherokee Phoenix (New Echota, Georgia), May 28, 1828. Notices such as this bilingual one, in English and Cherokee, appear in newspapers from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Since husbands were responsible for the debts and contracts of their wives, without this notice William McConnell would have been forced to pay the debts incurred after his wife’s departure. Serial and Government Publications Division.

Henrietta Yurchenco (right), one of the many extraordinary collectors whose fieldwork documentation is included in the Archive of Folk Culture. She is shown here with a member of the Methodist Church that served as a focus of her research among the African American Gullah-speakers of John’s Island, South Carolina. Photo by David Lewiston, American Folklife Center

Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, third Platoon, Company 1, Fort Des Moines, Iowa., about 1942. Photographer unknown, Oveta Culp Hobby Papers, Manuscript Division




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March 7, 2011