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MC 598

Dobkin, Alix. Papers of Alix Dobkin, 1973-2004 (inclusive), 1979-1995 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1950 and the Radcliffe College Class of 1956.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 598
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Dobkin, Alix
Title: Papers of Alix Dobkin, 1973-2004 (inclusive), 1979-1995 (bulk)
Date(s): 1973-2004
Date(s): 1979-1995
Quantity: 10.94 linear feet (17 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio box, 6 oversize boxes, 1 folio folder, 4 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 17 photograph folders, 2 slide folders, 6 objects, and electronic records)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Papers of lesbian singer, songwriter, and activist Alix Dobkin include fan mail, business correspondence, t-shirts, and material about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 2000-M124, 2003-M77, 2004-M101, 2005-M184
The papers of Alix Dobkin were given to the Schlesinger Library by Alix Dobkin between 2000 and 2005.

Processing Information:

Processed: April 2009
By: Jenny Gotwals

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form for access to folders #9.12-12.6 until 80 years from the date of the folder.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Alix Dobkin is held by Alix Dobkin, and will descend to her daughter upon her death. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Alix Dobkin Papers, 1973-2004; item description, dates. MC 598, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Audiotape collection of Alix Dobkin, 1975-1995 (T-350).

SEPARATION RECORD

Donors: Alix Dobkin
Accession number: 2000-M124
Processed by: Jenny Gotwals
The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection (pending review by curator):

BIOGRAPHY

Lesbian singer, songwriter, and activist, Alix Cecil Dobkin was born in New York City on August 16, 1940, to Bill and Martha Kunstlich Dobkin. She lived in Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, Missouri, before returning to Philadelphia at age 16. There she graduated in 1958 from Germantown High School and in 1962 from the Tyler School of Fine Arts at Temple University, where she studied painting. Dobkin's parents were members of the Communist Party, and she was exposed to folk music at home and at summer camp. Dobkin herself was a member of the Party from 1956 until 1962, several years after her parents had renounced it. After graduating from college, Dobkin went to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she sang folk music in coffeehouses. She traveled the folk music circuit for several years, and married Sam Hood, the manager of the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village, where she had been based. Together they opened the Gaslight South in Miami in 1965 that featured well-known folk singers. The club failed financially and they returned to New York City in 1968. Their daughter Adrian was born in 1970, and the marriage dissolved a year later.
In 1972, Dobkin fell in love with Liza Cowan, a writer who had a radio show on WBAI, and the couple came out publicly as lesbians. Dobkin decided to focus on writing and singing music about and for women; in 1973 she released Lavender Jane Loves Women, the first album specifically made by and for lesbians. That same year Dobkin founded a record label, Women's Wax Works, to produce her own albums. In 1974 Dobkin and Cowan moved to Preston Hollow, New York and in 1978, Dobkin moved to Woodstock, New York, where her daughter and three grandchildren also live.
Dobkin released six albums after Lavender Jane: Living With Lesbians (1976), XXAlix (1980), Never Been Better/(We Are Everywhere) (1985), These Women/Never Been Better (1986), Yahoo Australia (1990), and Love & Politics (1992). She has performed extensively in the United States, usually appearing at universities, house concerts, LGBT centers, and bookstores. Her early performances were exclusively for women and she was an outspoken advocate of women-only space, often a controversial subject. She appeared regularly at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (beginning in 1978) and at conferences, women's, lesbian, and folk festivals where she also gives workshops and readings from her memoir. Dobkin has performed in Hawaii and toured Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany,Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand. In the 1980s, she formed the Party Line Dance Band with lesbian musicians Debbie Fier and River Lightwomoon; the trio covered their favorite popular as well as original tunes and played at parties, festivals, and bars.
In 1979, Liza Cowan's Tomato Publications published Dobkin's songbook with history and commentary, Alix Dobkin's Adventures in Women's Music (More Than Just a Songbook). She has been a frequent contributor to lesbian and women's periodicals, and to several edited collections about lesbians and women's culture. She has lectured at numerous universities, and has been featured, interviewed, and reviewed countless times in both the mainstream and alternative press. Her column, "Minstrel Blood," appeared in Chicago's Outlines and Windy City Times newspapers from 1997-2000, and was also syndicated.
During the 1980s, Dobkin developed a slide show and lecture on "Women Hating, Racism, and Violence in the Top 40" with Denslow Brown which they delivered at college campuses and other venues around the United States. In addition to performing at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, she also worked as a staff member for thirteen years. She served on the board of directors of the Association of Women's Music and Culture from 1990 to 1992, and on the board and Steering Committee of OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) from 2006 to the present. Dobkin moved to Oakland, California in 1995, returning to Woodstock, New York, in 2000, and continues to perform and tour throughout the United States. Her book My Red Blood: A Memoir of Growing Up Communist, Coming Onto the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, and Coming Out in the Feminist Movement, will be published by Alyson Books in October, 2009.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in six series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The papers of Alix Dobkin include business correspondence, fan mail, fliers and programs from concerts, subject files, t-shirts, photographs, and memorabilia. Original folder headings were maintained; headings in square brackets were assigned by the processor. Audiovisual material received with the collection was removed and cataloged separately as the Audiotape collection of Alix Dobkin, 1975-1995 (T-350).
Series I, MUSIC, 1973-2004 (#1.1-9.11, 18.4, E.1), includes promotional material for and correspondence about Dobkin's appearances, files on several of her records, and contracts and financial records. The series is arranged in four subseries.
Subseries A, Recordings, 1980-1992 (#1.1-1.20), includes material related to the production and marketing of several of Dobkin's self-produced records: Never Been Better, Yahoo Australia!, and Love & Politics. Never Been Better was financed primarily by loans and donations from friends and fans. Folders include correspondence relating to publicity and finances, copies of publicity, receipts, fliers, etc. Receipts from the albums' distributor (Ladyslipper) detail Dobkin's earnings from sales. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries B, Concerts, appearances, tours, 1979-2004 (#2.1-8.3), includes correspondence and publicity about events at which Dobkin performed, lectured, or gave workshops. Folders may contain correspondence, contracts, calendars, fliers, information about events ("womyn's crafts fair," etc.) at which concerts took place, press coverage in local women's newsletters, newspapers, etc. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Programs, fliers, etc., 1973-2000 (#8.4-9.1, 18.4, E.1), contains programs and fliers for Dobkin's concerts, translations of some of her song lyrics into German and French, and "rap notes" written for commentary between songs. Also included are labels (with song lists) of mixed tapes of popular music, made for Dobkin by friends. Dobkin's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries D, Lectures and workshops, 1979-2000 (#9.2-9.11), primarily contains material relating to "Project #2," a lecture and slideshow Dobkin created about sexism in Top 40 music lyrics. Slides from this project can be found in Series VI. Descriptions of other workshops given by Dobkin are in Michigan Womyn's Music Festival folders in Series IV (#15.3-16.6). The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series II, CORRESPONDENCE, 1976-2000 (#9.12-13.9, 18.5), includes business correspondence, fan mail, and letters responding to political advocacy. Fan mail often includes photographs, song lyrics, poems, clippings, declarations of love for Dobkin, etc. Business correspondence includes requests for items for fundraising auctions, etc., from women's and lesbian organizations. Two folders titled "Letters for book" include large numbers of letters from the same correspondents, who seem to be friends more than just fans. Letters are primarily incoming but some folders have responses from Dobkin. Fan mail is arranged chronologically, followed by other correspondence.
Series III, WRITINGS, 1979-2000 (#14.1-14.9), includes examples of Dobkin's published writings. "Books - correspondence" (#14.2-14.3) relates to anthologies to which Dobkin contributed articles, songs, recipes, etc., or to books for which she wrote blurbs. Dobkin frequently wrote on controversial topics including sado/masochism in the lesbian community, lesbian separatism, women-only space, and transgender issues. Her "Minstrel Blood" column in Chicago's Outlines newspaper covered many of these topics, as well as her personal history. The series is arranged chronologically.
Series IV, ORGANIZATIONS AND SUBJECT FILES, 1980-2004 (#14.10-18.2), contains material relating to organizations Dobkin was associated with, as well as her subject files on topics of interest to her. Dobkin performed at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival begining in the 1970s; the files here are primarily related to years she also worked as staff at the festival, and contain correspondence from organizers, information for workers, and suggestions from attendees. Dobkin performed sporadically throughout the 1980s and 1990s; she also led workshops on various topics and often worked as an M.C. for line-ups of other performers. Dobkin served as a judge at the Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards (GLAMA) and was on the board of the Association of Women's Music and Culture. Subject files are collections of material relating to mainly lesbian and feminist topics. A "Lesbian Resource Book" (#17.6-17.7) was a binder (now dismantled) of lesbian and feminist information (publications, bookstores, bed and breakfasts, etc.) that Dobkin took with her on tour, in an effort to disseminate information to other lesbians. "Riot grrls" (#18.3) contains publicity on young women's bands in the early 1990s, as well as correspondence with some of the women performers. Dobkin was supportive of these women, often appearing with them or giving advice on self-promotion and recording. The series is arranged alphabetically by organization followed by subject files.
Series V, T-SHIRTS, ca.1975-2001 (#18.3, 19OB.1m-25FB.4m), contains 113 t-shirts, tank tops, and sweatshirts from Dobkin's own albums and tours, festivals and events she performed at or attended, women performers and bands she liked or saw, and other women and lesbian-related topics. Shirt color and text color is noted. They are arranged alphabetically (by sponsoring organization, person, or phrase) followed by shirts which contain only images. Shirts from Dobkin's tours or records are filed under "D."
Series VI, OVERSIZED, PHOTOGRAPHS, AND MEMORABILIA, 1976-1999, n.d. (#FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.4, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1, PD.1-PD.10, Mem.1-Mem.6), includes posters, photographs of Dobkin in concerts, and several pins.
Subseries A, Oversized, 1976-ca.1999 (#FD.1, F+D.1-F+D.4, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1), contains oversized material described in series above, as well as posters for Dobkin's concerts and other events, and several covers from Dobkin's record albums.
Subseries B, Photographs, 1977-1999 (#PD.1-PD.10), includes slides used in her Top 40 slide show, photographs of Dobkin in concert and with fans, and a photo album given to Dobkin on her birthday in 1989. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Subseries C, Memorabilia, 1988-1994, n.d. (#Mem.1-Mem.6), includes several pins, some from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.
Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Audiotapes
Communists--United States
Composers--United States
Concert tours
Electronic records
Fan Mail
Feminism--United States
Feminist music--United States
Fliers
Folk singers--United States
Interviews
Jewish communists--United States
Jewish lesbians--United States
Jewish women
Lesbian Avengers
Lesbian separatism--United States
Lesbianism--United States
Musicians--United States
Posters
Programs
Protest movements--United States
Sexism in music
Singers--United States
T-shirts
Web sites
Women singers--United States
Women-owned business enterprises--United States
Women's music
Women's rights--United States
Cowan, Liza
Dobkin, Alix. Never been better
Dobkin, Alix. Yahoo Australia!
Gardner, K. (Kay)
Michigan Womyn's Music Festival
National Women's Music Festival

sch01217