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Women's Project of New Jersey Records (1984 - 2004)
RepositoryRutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives
Collection IDMC 833
Size14 cubic feet (17 boxes)
Collection Description
The Women's Project of New Jersey, Inc. (WPNJ) was a non-profit corporation organized in October 1984, originally for the purpose of publishing a reference book on representative and extraordinary women in New Jersey's history. As the organization developed and its work progressed, related projects emerged. By the end of 2004, the WPNJ had produced the publication, "Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women" (Scarecrow Press, 1990) and a paperback reprint, a traveling exhibition, a lecture series, a speakers' panel series, two school workbooks, a speakers' bureau, posters, and a web site.

The project began under the auspices of the Mendham Free Public Library. As it expanded a separate organization was formed and incorporated in July 1985. The Project's Board of Trustees was composed of historians, librarians, writers, an educational equity specialist, women's studies specialists, and other professionals. The editorial board grew to include Joan N. Burstyn, editor-in-chief, Delight Wing Dodyk, Carolyn DeSwarte Gifford, and Carmela Ascoleses Karnoutsos, associate editors, Caroline Wheeler Jacobus and Gayle Samuels, managing editors, Patricia Smith Butcher, bibliographic editor, Lois Krieger, copy editor, and Doris Friedensohn, Ferris Olin, and Barbara Rubin, photographic editors.

During the first year of operation, the organization focused on the contents of the publication. Initial activities included defining research methods and scope, and establishing an editorial board. Over 250 researchers and writers were selected, trained, and assigned subjects. The editorial board selected biographical subjects, all born in or before 1923 (the year of the introduction of the first Equal Right Amendment by Alice Paul), "whose lives illustrated the role of women in the more private domains of family, community, and religious life, along with those who made outstanding contributions in the public spheres of science, medicine, letters, sports, government, business, education, the arts and entertainment."

During 1986 and 1987, the researcher/writers composed the biographical essays, which were then edited and re-worked. Researchers and editors located photographs, images, and audio-visual material about the subjects. The project contacted the living subjects, some of whom were interviewed, and asked all to review their biographies before publication.

While the main goal of the WPNJ was the production of the reference book, the information gathered during research allowed for the creation of other educational formats: a traveling exhibition, classroom workbooks, lectures and presentations, an educational poster set, contributions to the New Jersey Women's Heritage Trail, and entries in "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." The WPNJ Board created a web site in 1997 to present biographical and historical materials, documents, images, a time line, and educational tools on New Jersey women, including material not included in the reference volume.

The WPNJ produced a traveling photographic exhibition during 1988 and 1989. It presented five themes: law and politics; the economy (agriculture, business, and industry) community life; arts and letters; sports and physical fitness. Curators for the exhibit were Doris Friedensohn and Barbara Rubin, of Jersey City State College, and Ferris Olin, of Rutgers University. The exhibition preview coincided with the book's debut on March 1, 1990 at the New Jersey State Library. A gala opening was held on March 11th at the Newark Public Library. The exhibition traveled to colleges and universities, schools, museums, libraries, corporations, and conferences throughout the state until June 1994.

The organization's activities quieted for a few years after the publication of "Past and Promise," although articles and presentations about the project continued, and biographical files on the subjects were maintained. In 1997 WPNJ produced an updated paperback edition, published by Syracuse University Press, with a new introduction and a necrology of subjects who had died since 1990. In 1997 the WPNJ launched a web site entitled "New Jersey Women's History." The site includes facts, images, documents, material objects, educators' resources, as well as a topical index, a bibliography, and a listing of related web sites. The administration of the web site was transferred to the Alice Paul Institute in Mt. Laurel, NJ in 2006.
Collection Contents
The collection is arranged in ten series:

I. Administrative Files: constitutions and by-laws, minutes, correspondence, and reports on the project. Included is some correspondence with authors and with living subjects.

II. Financial Records: includes budgets, financial reports, and general material

III. Grant Files: grant-related material, including proposals and reports with summaries of the Project's history and goals

IV. Legal Files: includes agreements and copyright-related files

V. Publicity Files: clippings, articles, and related correspondence

VI. Related Project Files: non-book-related activities of the Project, such as exhibits and posters, work with teachers, public presentations, the Project web site, and participation in the New Jersey Women's Heritage Trail

VII. "Past and Promise" Contents Files: background files on the creation and shaping of the book project, including general bibliography and samples, authors' resumes, training, selection of subjects, and tracking of progress. Included are four files of research material on subjects who were not included in the published volume, arranged alphabetically.

VIII. Biographical Data Files: forms, articles and extracts, copies of documents, notes, correspondence, and drafts of entries. Includes some material on subjects who were not included in the published volume.

IX. Photographs: prints, negatives, slides, and related correspondence, mostly removed from the Biographical Data files. In addition to portraits, the images include artwork, buildings, gravestones, and snapshots taken by researchers.

X. Audio-Visual Materials and Artifact (10 items): audiotapes, a videotape, a vinyl recording, and the corporate seal of the Project

Newark-related subjects represented in Series VIII., "Biographical Files" are as follows: Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (Barringer High School graduate, author of the "Nancy Drew" series); Enid Bell Palanchian ( attended the Robert Treat [now Marcus Garvey] School, Newark); Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell (feminist, first woman ordained minister in the U.S., lived in Newark ca. 1857-1858); Maria de Castro Blake (taught classes in English at St. Patrick's, taught at Rutgers-Newark in Continuing Education Division, Puerto Rican community organizer, worked with Newark Board of Education); Catherine Smith Boudinot (first wife of Newark lawyer and NJ Supreme Court Justice Elisha Boudinot); Rachel Bradford Boudinot (second wife of Elisha Boudinot, a founder of the Female Charitable Society of Newark); Dr. Eva Topkins Brodkin (first woman dermatologist in NJ, practiced at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Newark); Mary Beasley Burch (educator, youth organizer, community activist); Esther Edwards Burr (wife of Dr. Aaron Burr, minister of First Presbyterian Church, Newark); Hannah Ogden Caldwell (born in Newark, wife of Rev. James Caldwell of Elizabeth, killed in the Revolutionary War); Gladys St. John Churchman (manager of family firm of funeral directors; Newark civic leader); Emma Coleman (wife of Henry Coleman, proprietor of Coleman Business College(s) based in Newark, ran the school after his death in 1903); Mary Mapes Dodge (novelist); Amanda Minnie Douglas (writer of children's books); Florence Peshine Eagleton (wife of Dr. Wells P. Eagleton, feminist, civic activist); Dr. Emma Cornelia Ward Edwards (physician, public health activist); Grace Baxter Fenderson (daughter of African-American educator James Baxter, teacher, civil rights activist); Dr. Rita Sapiro Finkler (endocrinologist at Beth Israel Hospital); E. Alma Flagg (educator, first African-American woman principal in Newark); Caroline Bamberger Frank Fuld (philanthropist); Florence Lillian Haines (music teacher, suffragist, legislator); Cora Louise Hartshorn (birth control pioneer); Lydia Young Hayes (Executive Director of the NJ Commission for the Blind); Dr. Carye-Belle Henle (NJ's first woman radiologist, worked at several Newark hospitals); Christine Terhune Herrick (Newark-born author and editor); Beatrice Alice Hicks (Newark College of Engineering graduate, electrical engineer); Maria Jeritza (opera singer); Dr. Marie Louise Lefort (Barringer High School graduate, physician for Newark Board of Health); Clara Maass (nurse); Lucille Manners [nee Marie Emily McClinchy] (concert singer and radio star); Dr. E. Mae McCarroll (physician, worked with Newark Department of Health); Rachel E. McDowell (Barringer High School graduate, journalist, first religion editor of the NY Times); Vera Brantley McMillon (Barringer High School, social worker, pioneer in the study of African-American history); Amelia Berndt Moorfield (suffragist, civic leader); Mary Philbrook (lawyer, feminist); Ann Van Wagenen Plume (second wife of Isaac Plume, Revolutionary War patriot); Jennie Precker (attorney, founded all-woman bank); Katherine Schaub (Newark-born watch-dial painter, campaigner for victims of radium poisoning); Dr. Vera Schechtman (first woman doctor at Beth Israel Hospital); Antoinette Quinby Scudder (poet, playwright, supporter of local theater); Cora Peterson Smith (foster mother, Tiffany's employee, musician); Lillie Martin Spencer (artist); Lucy Stone (suffragist, resident of Roseville); Mildred Fairbanks Stone (executive with Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co.); Miriam Van Arsdale Studley (librarian, authority on Newark history); Edythe Lois Sydnor (Central High School graduate, World War II aircraft mechanic, community and political activist); Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune [aka Marion Harland] (author, president of Newark YWCA); Dr. Florence Voorhees (physician, worked at several Newark hospitals); Viola Gertrude Wells ["Miss Rhapsody"] (jazz/blues/gospel singer); Beatrice Winser (Director of the Newark Public Library and the Newark Museum); Constance Oneida Williams [Connie] Woodruff (South Side High School graduate, labor organizer and professor of labor studies, first chair of NJ Advisory Commission on the Status of Women); Marion Thompson Wright (Barringer High School graduate, social worker, authority on history of African-Americans in NJ)

NOTE: For a complete list of biographical files and photograph files in the collection see the online finding-aid (link below).
FormatsAudio materials; Moving images; Photographic materials; Textual materials
SubjectWomen's History
Time Period20th Century
LanguageEnglish
Access policyOpen for research
ProcessedYes
Finding AidYes
Finging Aid URLhttp://www2.scc.rutgers.edu/ead/manuscripts/wpnjf.html