In the late 1960s and 1970s the “Back to the Land Movement” led many Americans to escape urban life and return to a simpler life on the land, establishing communes and collectives throughout the United States. Oregon was beautiful and affordable, and county building codes were permissive. Thousands of people migrated to Oregon, including women who wanted to create separatist land where women could live together safely and respectfully, creating art and ritual that consciously rejected the trappings of a patriarchal society. The women viewed, and continue to view, the land as a safe haven away from male domination and violence. As with all intentional communities, the realities of shared space, shared finances and property, communal governance, and the hardships of a basic rural existence (often lacking electricity and running water) sometimes outweighed the joys of living together in intellectual idealism and creative freedom. Yet for many, the separatist life on the land remained fundamentally joyful, allowing for personal growth and a community among women.
The scope of these experiences is reflected in the collections listed below, captured in incoming and outgoing letters, daily diaries, journals of reflection, house diaries, meeting minutes, newsletters, flyers, financial documents, and photography.
Call number: Coll 722
Size: 1.5 linear feet (1 RSB)
Summary: Papers documenting the care and death of Judith Pauline (JP) Autio of Steppingwoods (lesbian land), miscellaneous newsletters, photographs, and art works by Autio and others
Call number: Coll 429
Size: 0.25 linear ft. (1 container) (30 CD-ROMs)
Summary: The Southern Oregon lesbian land communities oral history collection contains paper and digital transcripts, biographical forms, as well as digital video and audio recording of interviews conducted by Heather Burmeister.
Call number: Coll 652
Size: .5 linear feet (1 container)
Summary: Silver Lee Davis was a member of the lesbian land community in southern Oregon. Collection primarily documents Davis' writing career.
Our collections exist to be used. When students work directly with primary source materials, historic photographs, and documents that are old or unique, they discover an excitement and passion not generated by textbooks.
Primary source documents can inspire, but they also teach about learning to verify sources, tracking down connections, finding evidence from content and from physical clues.