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MC 862

Gabriner, Vicki, 1942- . Papers of Vicki Gabriner, 1970-2014: 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 Alice Jeannette Ward Fund and the Class of 1968 Archival Processing Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 862
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Gabriner, Vicki, 1942-
Title: Papers of Vicki Gabriner, 1970-2014
Date(s): 1970-2014
Quantity: 6.9 linear feet (17 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, writings, and work files of civil rights, peace, feminist and lesbian activist, Vicki Gabriner.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 2015-M146
These papers of Vicki Gabriner were given to the Schlesinger Library by Vicki Gabriner in August 2015.

Processing Information:

Processed: June 2016
By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Vicki Gabriner is held by Vicki Gabriner until her death. At that time copyright transfers to Rochelle Ruthchild until her death, when it will transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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:

Vicki Gabriner Papers, 1970-2014; item description, dates. MC 862, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

SEPARATION RECORD

Donors: Vicki Gabriner
Accession number: 2015-M146
Processed by: Jenny Gotwals
Issues of the following periodicals have been removed and added to the Schlesinger Library periodical collection:
The following items have been removed and added to the NOW Chapter Newsletter Collection (Pr-1):
The following items or issues of the following periodicals have been removed and added to the Schlesinger Library books collection:
Issues of the following periodicals have been transferred to Widener Library:

BIOGRAPHY

A civil rights, peace, feminist and lesbian activist, Vicki Levins Gabriner was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942 to public school teachers Edna and Joseph Levins. She met Robert "Bob" Gabriner while in college at Cornell (B.A., 1963); after graduation they first worked in New York City organizing rent strikes, and worked several summers in Fayette County, Tennessee, teaching in Freedom Schools and working on voter registration and integration. Vicki Gabriner received a graduate degree in education from the University of Wisconsin (M.A., 1966); after divorcing her husband, she moved back to New York City in 1968 to work as a teacher. She then joined Students for a Democratic Society (and subsequently the Weathermen) in 1969, and lived in several cities during the year she worked and lived with others in that group. Gabriner traveled to Cuba in the first months of 1970 with the Second Venceremos Brigade.
In 1970 Gabriner moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where a number of friends from the Venceremos Brigade lived. She came out as a lesbian, and wrote Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale, in 1971. Sleeping Beauty was originally published and distributed by the Sojourner Truth Press, a publishing collective founded by Gabriner and several other women. In 1972 Gabriner helped to found the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance, and played on that organization's softball team in 1974. While living in Atlanta she co-founded Georgians for the ERA; was project director for the Northwest Georgia Girl Scout Council's Education for Parenthood human sexuality training program; and created her own business, ATTHIS, which offered workshops in lesbian sexuality.
In 1973 Gabriner was arrested on the charge of presenting falsified information to a United States Passport Office in Boston in 1970. She was tried and convicted in 1977; but was exonerated upon appeal in 1978. In 1979 Gabriner moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she wrote for Sojourner and Gay Community News. She also served as manager at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts (1988-1990); instructor in women's gynecologic and breast examinations at Tufts and Harvard medical schools; project coordinator for a women's oral history project at the Jewish Women's Archives (1998-1999); civil rights investigator for Delany, Siegel, Zorr and Associates (1990-1999); and executive director of the Sojourner Feminist Institute (1999-2002). She married Rochelle Ruthchild in 2004. In 2009, Gabriner received her Ph.D. in women's history from Union Institute and University, documenting her mother's involvement in Parent Teacher Association activism.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in six series:

SCOPE AND CONTENT

These papers of Vicki Gabriner document her radical political activism and life as a Jewish lesbian feminist, primarily in Atlanta, Georgia. The collection contains correspondence, notes, minutes, printed material and ephemera such as flyers and handouts, Gabriner's FBI and other surveillance files, and legal documents. The material dates primarily from the 1970s, except for files on Gabriner's work with the Jewish Women's Archives and a few other Jewish projects in Massachusetts, which date from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Files from Gabriner's work for the Northwest Georgia Girl Scout Council include prescriptive printed material written in the early 1970s for adolescent and younger girls. ATTHIS files include correspondence with lesbians attending workshops, as well as writing and artwork created during the workshops. Georgians for the ERA files include correspondence with other activists, and document Gabriner's activism surrounding NOW's boycott of states (such as Georgia) that hadn't ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale material includes correspondence with feminist and gay bookstores, as well as letters from readers who were overjoyed the book existed. Material throughout the collection documents lesbian feminist life and politics in Atlanta. There is very little personal material. Series I contains an oral history that discusses her early life as well as later political activism. Letters to Gabriner from her mother appear throughout the correspondence about her trial, and letters from close friends are also included with trial material.
Folder titles in the inventory are Gabriner's original titles. Titles created by the archivist appear in brackets.
Series I, PERSONAL, 1978-2014 (1.1-1.4, OD.1), includes biographical material; particularly an oral history covering Gabriner's political activism and personal relationships; correspondence with author James T. Sears about gay life in the South in the 1970s, and a chart of Gabriner's emotional state during the 1970s.
Series II, UNITED STATES VS. VICKI GABRINER, 1970-1980 (#1.5-7.9, SD.1), includes correspondence, legal documents, publicity and fundraising appeals, and government agency surveillance files on Gabriner that relate to the United States government's criminal case against Gabriner. Vicki Gabriner was indicted in 1973 for presenting falsified information to a United States Passport Office in Boston in 1970 (as part of an attempt to obtain a fake passport for a fellow Weatherman member). She was tried and convicted in 1977, but won a subsequent appeal, largely due to the fact that most of the government's evidence against her had been illegally obtained under COINTELPRO. Gabriner hired lawyers to represent her (particularly useful since the case was tried in Massachusetts and she was living in Atlanta), but handled some evidence collection, and all of the publicity and fundraising, herself during the course of the lawsuit, trial, and appeal. Gabriner raised funds to pay for her legal representation under the name "Vicki Gabriner Defense Fund" and also "Boston Conspiracy Defense Fund." Files on fundraising for her appeal include addresses of possible donors, letters with friends and sympathetic individuals with similar politics. Gabriner's files relating to the trial show the different messages she used when raising funds from different political groups, the ways she tied her own political and legal situation to that of other political prisoners, and her networks of friends and associates in the women's liberation movement, the new left, gay liberation, etc. Correspondence and other material reveal Gabriner and her friends' feelings about the overlap between lesbian and gay politics and left politics; several articles also address this topic (#1.7). Some legal documents include transcripts of illegally recorded phone conversations between Gabriner and a number of other suspected Weathermen members between 1968 and 1970. One legal document contains a detailed log of Gabriner's whereabouts in 1969 to 1970 and her Weathermen work in Chicago, Boston, New York, and trip to Cuba in early 1970. In addition to Gabriner's FBI file, the series contains a detailed index Gabriner made herself (#2.5-2.6); Gabriner uses the term "FOIA file" for surveillance files conducted by any government agency that she received after following a Freedom of Information Act request. Susan Saxe's Boston trial for the killing of a police officer was held right before Gabriner's trial; Gabriner was involved in the Susan Saxe Defense Committee, and letters with Susan Saxe, while in prison, can be found throughout the series. While the series is primarily trial materials, it also includes Gabriner's subject files on related radical political topics (grand jury abuse, women political prisoners, etc.) as well as a folder with interviews of Gabriner by students about her experience in the Weatherman (#7.8). The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series III, WRITINGS, 1971-1979 (#7.10-9.12, F+D.1), includes correspondence, financial documents, publicity, requests from customers, etc., related to Gabriner's writing, mainly her book Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale. Gabriner wrote the text for Sleeping Beauty, and solicited the work of friends to illustrate and do calligraphy for the book. The first (1971) and second (1972) editions were printed and distributed by Sojourner Truth Press, a women's publishing collective in which Gabriner was a member. Sojourner Truth Press folded in 1973, and Gabriner kept distributing the book herself until she ran out of copies, sometime around 1975. A few years later she tried again to find a publisher/distributor, and succeeded in having the book printed by Whole Woman Press starting in 1978. Material in this series documents the laborious work of self-publishing and promoting even the smallest book: Sleeping Beauty sold for between 50 cents and $2. Folders include bills and receipts, accounts of which orders had been filled, correspondence with bookstores where Sleeping Beuaty was on consignment, etc. In addition, the material documents the early days of lesbian publishing, and highlights the dearth of other books about lesbian love available for purchase. Folders containing "requests" for Sleeping Beauty (#9.4-9.9) include brief order forms but also letters of thanks from readers across the United States starved for such literature. Requests came from feminist and gay bookstores, individual women, incarcerated women, women's groups, women's centers, libraries, etc. Files related to publicity contain fliers and correspondence with a number of feminist and gay and lesbian magazines, catalogs, bookstores, and other publications. Most of the series is about Gabriner's Sleeping Beauty; a few folders on other writing projects (primarily related to Susan B. Anthony) are also included. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series IV, SEXUALITY WORK AND RELATED, 1973-1981 (#9.13-13.7, F+D.2), includes correspondence, publicity, resources, and organizing files for Gabriner's sexuality-related work in Atlanta, primarily as an organizer of lesbian sexuality workshops, and as Project Director of the Northwest Georgia Girl Scouts Council's Education for Parenthood project. The Education for Parenthood project ran from 1973 to 1976, and Gabriner was hired to run small groups and workshops with Girl Scout troops, as well as to train other facilitators. Education was focused on general sexuality information, as well as some discussion of relationships. Files contain pamphlets and other printed material focused on teen sexuality, as well as educational material focused on how to teach adolescents about sexual topics and preparation for parenthood. Gabriner and her friend Tamsie Cooper ran workshops on lesbian sexuality between 1976 and 1978 under the business name ATTHIS; they held these at conferences, for established groups, etc. Gabriner ran a few workshops on her own (#13.5-13.6), but most were done under ATTHIS. ATTHIS files include financial information, publicity and outreach, evaluation forms and letters from participants, most of whom were extremely grateful for the opportunity to focus specifically on lesbian sexuality. ATTHIS workshop folders include schedules, notes on how things went, handouts, evaluations, names of participants, publicity fliers, etc. A number of general subject files that could not be clearly identified as belonging to one of these ventures can be found throughout the series, which is arranged alphabetically.
Series V, FEMINIST ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISM, 1970-1978 (#13.8-16.9, F+D.3), includes articles, meeting minutes, organizing files, correspondence, and publicity related to Gabriner's work with the group Georgians for the ERA and her lesbian feminist political activism in Atlanta more generally. Gabriner was involved in the founding of Georgians for the ERA, and worked to gain the state's passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her notes and minutes from meetings reveal allegiances between groups and organizing tactics considered and rejected. When the National Organization for Women organized a travel boycott of states that had yet to pass the amendment, Georgians for the ERA disagreed with the boycott, and tried to articulate other stances that were more palatable. For example, before the 1978 Conference on Women and the Law, Gabriner canvassed local restaurants and businesses to create a list of "ERA supporting" options for conference goers. There is a lot of overlap of material in all folders in this series about the Equal Rights Amendment. Several files on International Women's Year and the National Women's Confernce in Houston in 1977 track Gabriner's work to ensure there would be lesbian delegates at the conference and represented in the program. Other material also documents Gabriner's political work linking the gay and women's liberation movements: she made sure that the Equal Rights Amendment was discussed at the Southeast Gay Conference, for example. The series is arranged alphabetically.
Series VI, JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS, 1996-2011 (#16.10-17.9), includes background information, correspondence, and organizing files for several projects Gabriner worked on with Jewish organizations in Massachusetts. Women Whose Lives Span the Century was an oral history project, undertaken in conjunction with the Jewish Women's Archive, in which Gabriner and others identified and interviewed Jewish women born in the first decades of the 20th century. Several files are from the Jewish Women's Archive annual Women Who Dared event celebrating accomplishments of Jewish women in the community. Gabriner attended several of these events, and was herself honored in 2000. Gabriner was hired to organize the annual fundraising auction for the Boston Workman's Circle; several files document her work. the series is arranged alphabetically.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Atlanta (Ga.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Business records
Civil rights workers--United States
Equal rights amendments--United States
Feminists--Georgia
Feminists--Massachusetts
Fliers
International Women's Year, 1975
Jewish lesbians--United States
Jewish women -- United States
Legal documents
Lesbian business enterprises--United States
Lesbian couples--Georgia
Lesbians--Georgia
Lesbians--Massachusetts
Lesbians--Georgia--Sexual behavior
Lesbians' writings, American
Posters
Publishers and publishing
Sex instruction for girls--Georgia
Underground press publications--United States
Women--Health and hygiene--Georgia
Women--Sexual behavior
Women and peace--United States
Women and socialism--United States
Women political activists--United States
Women-owned business enterprises--United States
Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance
Cagan, Leslie
Gertner, Nancy, 1946-
Girl Scouts of the United States of America
Gittings, Barbara, 1932-2007
Jewish Women's Archive (Brookline, Mass.)
Saxe, Susan
Venceremos Brigade
Weather Underground Organization

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