Healey Library's New Website

The library has a new website! The new URL is http://www.umb.edu/library. Starting Friday, August 26 access to the library's old website will automatically redirect you to the new site. If you experience any problems or wish to provide feedback, please contact library.support@umb.edu.

McEldowney, Carol : Papers, 1960-1973


5 document cases


The Papers of Carol McEldowney were donated to the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston by Wini Breines in March of 2001.


While a student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in the early sixties, Carol Cohen McEldowney, was an active member of the VOICE Political Party. This was the University of Michigan chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Founded in 1960, SDS was a radical student group that organized students at college campuses for an entire decade. They promoted education and direct action in response to the issues of civil rights, economic injustices, the war in Vietnam and student's rights.

In 1964, McEldowney was elected chair of VOICE. In 1961, she was the co-chair of the Tennessee Campaign. In Tennessee's Fayette and Haywood Counties, white residents refused to sell goods and services (including medical care) to blacks that had registered to vote. Many African-Americans lost their jobs and over four hundred tenant farmers were evicted from their land. Tent cities were erected in both counties. As part of the Tennessee Campaign, students at the University of Michigan collected money, food and supplies to help the displaced residents of Haywood and Fayette Counties. McEldowney and four other students traveled to Brownsville, Tennessee, to deliver the supplies. Two of the students were arrested and they were told to leave the county.

McEldowney moved to Cleveland in the fall of 1964 to work on the Economic Research and Action Program (ERAP). ERAP, a project of SDS, was established by a grant from the United Automobile Workers and supported by labor unions, church groups and individuals. They organized economic conferences and worked on projects to organize poor people in a dozen cities and parts of Appalachia. In 1965, McEldowney, helped prepare for the Cleveland Community Conference, which sought to bring together poor people and relief clients who were beginning to form groups to improve their economic situations.

In 1967, she was among the first Americans to visit North Vietnam as part of a contingent of activists. She documented her experiences during this month long visit in her Hanoi Journal (see Collection 87: Carol McEldowney's Hanoi Journal, 1967).  She spent the next year speaking about what she had seen there. In 1969, she moved to Boston and became active in Bread & Roses, a socialist women's organization. In 1970, she was active in a GI coffeehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, where she was arrested for passing out antiwar leaflets in the community and a nearby military base. That same year, she began studying karate, and later teaching self-defense classes as a means of rape prevention. She co-wrote the chapter on self-defense in the first edition of Our Bodies Ourselves. She died in 1973 at the age of 30 in an automobile accident.

Scope and Content

This collection includes Carol McEldowney's personal papers relating to her activism. The papers range in date from 1960-1973, but the bulk of the collection is from 1961-1965 the period when she was involved with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The correspondences do not cover SDS as they are written after McEldowney left that organization.

The collection is divided into three series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Publications of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
  3. Miscellaneous Publications

Since the original order could not be established, folders were arranged by series and then chronologically.

Series I. Correspondence, 1961, 1969-1973, 4 folders.
Correspondences include typed and handwritten letters to McEldowney, arranged by correspondent.  The early date refers to letters regarding disciplinary action against McEldowney at the University of Michigan. The other letters are personal, though subjects include activism.

Series II. Publications of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), 1960-1967, 33 folders.
This series contains general publications of SDS and it subgroups Economic Research and Action Program (ERAP), Peace Research and Education Project (PREP), Political Education Project (PEP) and the VOICE Political Party (University of Michigan chapter of SDS) (1961-1964) and including publications and correspondence regarding the SDS National Conventions 1962-1966. Among these publications are newsletters, memos, correspondence, reports, position papers, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and flyers.

Series III. Miscellaneous Publications, 1958-1967, 6 folders.

These miscellaneous items relate to McEldowney's activist interests predominately the struggle for Civil Rights in the South. Includes pamphlets, flyers, newsletters, and newspaper clippings. Contains folders devoted to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s campaign on voter registration and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.