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.
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.