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McEldowney, Carol : Journals and Papers, 1969-1973


1 and 1/2 document case


Carol McEldowney's journals and papers was donated to the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston Library by Katherine D. Roberts on February 19, 1999.


Carol Cohen McEldowney, by Jesse Diamond

Although she died, in 1973, at the young age of 30, "the spunky Carol McEldowney," as she was called by Todd Gitlin in his book The Sixties, (Bantam Books, 1987, page 232), was outstanding in her accomplishments. During the decade that preceded her death, she worked diligently in the "New Left," as a community organizer for Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP), working with welfare mothers in Cleveland, and for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Her increased understanding of poverty, the link between the underclass and those who go to war, catalyzed her growing involvement in the Antiwar Movement. In 1967, she was one of only two women in a small contingent from the United States to travel to Vietnam. The purpose of this trip was to study Vietnamese society and the consequences of this war upon it, in order to further the goals of those fighting "back home," (in the U.S.), to end the war. [SEE her Hanoi Journal, Collection 87]

In 1971, she moved to Boston. Here, she immersed herself in the incipient and growing Women's Movement, playing a central role in identifying the need for a community Women's Center; she was instrumental in that goal being reached. During this time she came out, proclaiming herself a lesbian. As with all of the human rights causes she had previously been an essential part of, she struggled courageously, this time in the Gay Liberation Movement, for the right to self determination regarding sexual orientation.

From 1971 until the end of her life, she vigorously 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 and safety education. She was an original contributor to Our Bodies; Ourselves, coediting the chapter on self defense. This source book on women's health, has since been adopted as a curriculum text in many high schools and colleges nationwide. She also demonstrated her commitment to women's safety by participating at one of the first women's martial arts exhibitions in the country during International Women's Day, in 1973, in Boston.

Scope and Content

The collection is divided into three series: I. Journals, consisting of three titles journals on specific aspects of Carol McEldowney's life; II. Papers, containing files of papers documenting her activism in Cleveland and Boston; and III. Photographs and Printed Items, including a small collection of photographs, publications and memorial items. Descriptions of each item or file in the collection follow the folder titles in the inventory.


I. Journals, ff. 1-10 folders:

    1-4. A Personal Manifesto, 1969-1971, tps with mss. notes, 267 leaves

In this journal, McEldowney concerns herself with examining the dynamics in her last long term intimate relationship with a male partner. She analyzes the roles and communication differences that occur because of gender. She is struggling to redefine her needs as a woman and individual, despite the inherited social pressures she feels to fulfill those roles which have historically proven detrimental to many women.

    5-7. The Coming Out Journal, 1971-1973, tps, 191 leaves

This journal traverses the final two years of Carol's life. Within it she says, "I am searching for an imagery to describe a new kind of love I believe possible." The love she refers to is for herself, in the alternative lifestyle of a lesbian feminist, and the love she feels for other women. She includes discussions of the building takeover in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to establish a Women's Center, her studies of martial arts, her work as an auto mechanic, the time she spent meditating on "the new woman" in New Hampshire.

    8-9. The Multicolored Journal, 1972, tps, 172 leaves

This journal was written in the form of a long poem the year after she came out as a lesbian. Carol focuses upon a wide range of issues. Included are discussions of her experiences as a lesbian, her antiwar philosophy, and a continues examination of roles in relationships, this time between women.

II. Papers, ff. 11-14.

    10. Welfare organizing, Cleveland, Ohio, 1966-1967, tps. 100 leaves

Primarily contains notes on and summaries of meetings on welfare organizing in Cleveland. There is also some related correspondence.

    11. Summary of Discussion about Cleveland Community Project, 1965-1969, tps. and mss. 48 leaves

McEldowney's notes and correspondence on issues of political organizing in Cleveland's poor white and black communities.

    Notes for ERAP History, 1968, mss. and tps. 63 leaves

McEldowney's notes and correspondence regarding her plan to write a history of the Economic Research and Action Project in Cleveland, Ohio, where she worked with welfare mothers.

    Miscellaneous papers, 1969-1973, tps. and mss. 123 leaves

Includes mss. chapter on self-defense for

Our Bodies, Ourselves, correspondence, and poems. Some of the papers are copies of original pages from the journals.

III. Photographs and Printed Items, ff.15-17

    14. Photographs, 1946-1973, bulk 1971-1973. 9 items

Includes three black and white photographs of Carol McEldowney at a self-defense demonstration, four at a self-defense class, one of Carol on her motorcycle, and a photograph of her at three years old.

    15. Vietnam Anti-War publications, 1966-1968, pr. 4 items

Publications from Students for a Democratic Society, Ramparts Magazine, and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

    16. Memorial, 1973, pr. 2 items

Added to the collection by the donor is the Women's Center Newsletter with Carol's memorial, and a printed copy of a poem by Carol.