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Maypole celebration at Birdsfoot Farm Williams-Bergen, Eric (photographer) Maypole celebration at Birdsfoot Farm

St. Lawrence University has been awarded a Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) grant to support research on the role of women in the North Country’s “Back to the Land” movement. 

The “Humanities Research for the Public Good” initiative is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. According to the CIC’s call, each research project “must make use of a significant archival, library, or museum collection held by the college or university. The institution must collaborate with a community-based organization to share this research with the public. The projects—which can take many forms—must address a topic of importance and interest to the local community.”

The successful project proposal, which partners SLU and Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY), is titled “Rural Feminism in Action: The Untold Story of Women in the North Country’s Intentional Communities of the 1970s and 80s.” The project’s stated research question is as follows:

“What are the stories and perspectives of the women who helped shape local history through their lives, both within intentional communities and beyond through the strong alliances they forged with local residents?”

As laid out in the grant proposal, two digital collections at SLU will serve as the basis of this project: the “Back to the Land” Collection, which includes journals, photographs, newsletters, ephemera, interviews, and poetry created by back-to-the-landers of the St. Lawrence River Valley and others, and the North Country Women’s Collective” Collection, which features excerpts and other materials from the newsletter produced by The North Country Women’s Collective, a local feminist group who began meeting in 1974. An additional resource will be the collection “Back to the Land: Hippie Houses and Homesteads for the 21st Century, 2008,” based at TAUNY.

SLU’s project leaders include Associate Professor of History Judith DeGroat, Director of Research and Digital Scholarship Eric Williams-Bergen, and Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Government, Dr. Karl Schonberg. Project leaders from TAUNY include Executive Director Jill Breit and Director of Research and Programs Camilla Ammirati.