Guide to the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective Collection

Jenny George
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
657 Mission Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, California 94105
Phone: (415) 777-5455
Fax: (415) 777-5576
Email: info@glbthistory.org
URL: http://www.glbthistory.org/
© 2008
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective Collection

Collection number: 1999-44

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

San Francisco, California
Processed by:
Jenny George
Date Completed:
May 2008
Encoded by:
Heather Cummins
© 2008 The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Guide to the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective Collection
Dates: 1976-1999
Collection number: 1999-44
Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Collection Size: 6 linear feet 11 boxes, 1 oversize folder
Repository: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
San Francisco, California 94105
Abstract: The Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective collection is composed of scripts, "Extra Pieces" (writing not included in scripts), newsletters, flyers, administrative files, photographs, and various audio-visual materials that reflect the activities of this women's theater group that began in 1976, and were still active when they donated the collection in 1999. Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective performed to promote feminist education and addressed such topics as women's roles in society, lesbianism, motherhood, and religion.
Physical location: Stored at the Archives of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society of San Francisco, California
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

Access

Collection open for research.

Publication Rights

Mothertongue retains copyright on all scripts, GLBTHS holds copyright on the balance of the collection.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Name of Series], Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective Collection, 1999-44, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

Acquisition Information

Ida VSW Red and Corinne Sue Wick donated the Mothertongue collection to the GLBTHS in July of 1999.

Biography / Administrative History

The Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective began out of the Women's Speaker's Bureau (now the Women's Speaker's Network). Lani Silver of the WSB spoke at a WSB-sponsored Women and Violence Conference in the fall of 1976; four other women performed a reader's theatre script at the event. Here, the women met and shared material; after the conference they began to develop other scripts to perform independently at women's coffee houses. The goals of the group (originally called Mothertongue Reader's Theatre) were feminist education and consciousness-raising. The group addressed such topics as sex roles, body image, lesbianism, motherhood, and spirituality. Over the next decade, the theater group grew, taking on public speaking engagements and performing at benefits. Despite the growing size of the collective (75 members by the mid-eighties), the group still remained non-hierarchical, developing scripts collectively and administrating through consensus. Disagreements were worked out through conflict resolution; the group was consistently committed to equality between members as opposed to hierarchical rank. A complete history of Mothertongue is included in the collection: "Me, You, Them," by Judy Sanders, is a 200 page text documenting the collective from its inception in 1976 through the late eighties, when the text was written (file 5/4). It includes detailed history and political goals of the group, as well as extensive interviews with group members. Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective was still meeting and performing when the founding members donated this collection in 1999.

Scope and Content of Collection

The Mothertongue collection has 2 main parts. The first section in boxes 1 through 4 is comprised of original scripts; the scripts are compilations of short pieces, poems, monologues, and dialogues written both by women in the collective and by non-members in the community. The scripts document the personal lives and concerns of the writers, especially as relating to 1970s feminist politics; many pieces are deeply emotional, reflecting anger and personal pain, while others are humorous or erotic. Most scripts contain handwritten production notes. The scripts are filed in alphabetical order, with the date of production noted. Also included are "Extra Pieces," drafts of writing not included in any script. These pieces are organized alphabetically by the first word of the piece, although they are not alphabetized within each letter.
The remainder of the collection is comprised of the Mothertongue administrative files, flyers and newsletters, photographs of shows, and videotapes. The administrative files include contracts and funding sources, records of specific performance venues, and correspondence relating to the group. The correspondence section contains mostly business letters, but also letters from the community responding to Mothertongue's politics; the files contain both positive feedback and disapproval over lesbian content performed in public places. Also of interest in the administrative files is the detailed record of a conflict resolution meeting in 1990; as part of its commitment to non-hierarchy, the group hired a professional mediator to resolve a dispute between members. Because Ida VSW RED had already organized the collection before donating it to GLHS, the collection remains in nearly the same order as when donated; file headings and titles have been kept.
The collection also contains one oversize box of posters and paper props, as well as five display boards decorated with a collage of photographs, programs, and colorful flyers documenting the group's production history. There is one t-shirt with Mothertongue logo in the t-shirt collection.

Arrangement

This collection is organized in 11 series:
  • Series 1. Scripts
  • Series 2. Extra Pieces
  • Series 3. Newsletters and Flyers
  • Series 4. Notes
  • Series 5. Administrative Files
  • Series 6. Performance
  • Series 7. Other Political/Theater Groups
  • Series 8. Audio-Visual Items
  • Series 9. Photographs
  • Series 10. Posters (Oversize Materials
  • Series 11. Artifacts

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Lesbian feminism
Lesbian theater
Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Women's Speaker's Network

Related Material

Oral History of Ida VSW Red: 95-041 The San Francisco Women's Building Collection (1995-15)

Collection Contents

Box 1, 2, 3

Series 1. Scripts

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 1/1

Adoption and Surrender 1991

Box/ Folder 1/2

Anger and Still Anger 1977, 1987-1994

Box/ Folder 1/3

Body Image/Body Talk

Box/ Folder 1/4

Breast and Roses 1976

Box/ Folder 1/5

Celebrating Women 1985

Box/ Folder 1/6

Did You Come Or Fake It? 1985

Box/ Folder 1/7

Did You Say 'Mirth'? No! I Said Yashkerkahs! Women's Humor 1991

Box/ Folder 1/8

A Dozen Years Of Mothertongue 1986

Box/ Folder 1/9

Endangered Species

Box/ Folder 1/10

Endangered Voices? Dangerous Lives

Box/ Folder 2/1

Food

Box/ Folder 2/2

Grandma Never Earned A Nickel

Box/ Folder 2/3

Jewish Women and Friends 1992

Box/ Folder 2/4

Lesbian Erotica 1992

Box/ Folder 2/5

Lesbian Erotica 1993

Box/ Folder 2/6

Lesbian Games 1991

Box/ Folder 2/7

Loving Women 1983-1985

Box/ Folder 2/8

Maggie Burke 1996

Box/ Folder 2/9

Mary Flick 1994

Box/ Folder 2/10

Mothers and Daughters 1986

Box/ Folder 2/11

Mothertongue Witches 1977

Box/ Folder 3/1

Passing 1983

Box/ Folder 3/2

Retrospective for 10th Anniversary 1986

Box/ Folder 3/3

Speaking of Aging

Box/ Folder 3/4

Survival 1984-1986

Box/ Folder 3/5

This Tattered Cloth 1986

Box/ Folder 3/6

Transits 1981

Box/ Folder 3/7

Woman Is (early script) 1976

Box/ Folder 3/8

Women and HIV: Eat Rice Have Faith In Women 1990

Box/ Folder 3/9

Women and Work

Box/ Folder 3/10

Women and Men

Box/ Folder 3/11

Women and Peace 1991

Box 4, 5

Series 2. Extra Pieces

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 4/1

Extra Pieces (A-E)

Box/ Folder 4/2

Extra Pieces (F-H)

Box/ Folder 4/3

Extra Pieces (I)

Box/ Folder 4/4

Extra Pieces (J-M)

Box/ Folder 5/1

Extra Pieces (N-T)

Box/ Folder 5/2

Extra Pieces (U-Z)

Box/ Folder 5/3

Journal and Early Scripts

Box/ Folder 5/4

You, Me, Them (Judy Sanders)

Box/ Folder 5/5

MT Feminist Theater Collective: The First Twenty Years An Index by Ida VSW Red 1976-1996 1996

Box/ Folder 5/6

Mothertongue Handbook 1993

Box 6

Series 3. Newsletters and Flyers

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 6/1

Newsletters 1978-1983

Box/Folder 6/2

Newsletters 1984-1990

Box/ Folder 6/3

Newsletters 1991-1998

Box/ Folder 6/4

Flyers 1976-1981

Box/ Folder 6/5

Flyers 1982-1988

Box/ Folder 6/6

Flyers 1996-1999

Box 7

Series 4. Notes

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/Folder 7/1

Notes 1976-1979

Box/ Folder 7/2

Notes 1979-1980

Box/ Folder 7/3

Notes 1981-1989

Box/ Folder 7/4

Notes 1990-1991

Box/ Folder 7/5

Notes 1992-1994

Box 7, 8

Series 5. Administrative Files

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 7/6

Correspondence 1988-1996

Box/ Folder 7/8

Letters to MT 1982-1996

Box/ Folder 7/9

Mailing List 1986

Box/ Folder 7/10

National Woman's Mailing List 1986

Box/ Folder 7/11

Survey

Box/ Folder 7/12

Press Releases 1986-1991

Box/ Folder 7/13

Contracts 1986-1991

Box/ Folder 7/14

Copyright

Box/ Folder 7/15

Donations 1987-1991

Box/ Folder 7/16

Stationary (new)

Box/ Folder 7/17

Stationary (old)

Box/ Folder 7/18

Permission Form

Box/ Folder 7/19

Money Form

Box/ Folder 7/20

PR 1978, 1990

Box/ Folder 7/21

Funding Sources 1986-1987

Box/ Folder 7/22

Organizational Resources 1987

Box/ Folder 7/23

Women's Building 1990-1996

Box/ Folder 7/24

Gay and Lesbian Historical Society 1990

Box/ Folder 8/1

Policy Circle 1977-1992

Box/ Folder 8/2

Proposals 1971-1992

Box/ Folder 8/3

Reviews and Articles 1986-1992

Box/ Folder 8/4

Brochures 1986-1990

Box/ Folder 8/5

Mediation 1982-1992

Box/ Folder 8/6

History

Box 8

Series 6. Performance

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 8/7

Blocking

Box/ Folder 8/8

Performance Technique 1985

Box/ Folder 8/9

Performance Venues

Box/ Folder 8/10

Benefits 1991

Box/ Folder 8/11

Retrospective 1991

Box/ Folder 8/12

Workshops 1984-1990

Box/ Folder 8/13

Gay Games 1990

Box/ Folder 8/14

Lilith 1984

Box/ Folder 8/15

SF Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day 1990-1992

Box/ Folder 8/16

National Festival of Women's Theater 1993-1994

Box/ Folder 8/17

National Lesbian Conference 1991

Box/ Folder 8/18

Out Write Conference 1990

Box/ Folder 8/19

Theater Bay Area 1988, 1991

Box/ Folder 8/20

West Coast Lesbians Festival 1992

Box/ Folder 8/21

West Coast Women and Theater Conference 1984-1988

Box/ Folder 8/22

West Coast Women's Music and Comedy 1980-1981

Box 9

Series 7. Other Political/Theater Groups

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 9/1

Women Against Imperialism 1991

Box/ Folder 9/2

Wry Crips 1991

Box/ Folder 9/3

Fat Lip 1985, 1991

Box/ Folder 9/4

People's Theater Coalition 1980

Box/ Folder 9/5

Brown Bag 1985

Box/ Folder 9/6

American Theater Association: The Women's Program 1984, 1988

Box/ Folder 9/7

AIDS, Female Circumcision, and African Women

Box/ Folder 9/8

Access

Box/ Folder 9/9

Raging Canaries

Box/ Folder 9/10

Adoption 1987

Box 9

Series 8. Audio-Visual Items

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 9/11

Video: Benefit for Sealed Records/Sealed Lives 1988

Box/ Folder 9/12

Video: History 1988

Box/ Folder 9/13

Video: 20th Anniversary 1996

Box/ Folder 9/14

Video: Virginia's Play 1999

Box/ Folder 9/15

Video: Pot Pourri

Box/ Folder 9/16

Video: Sampler From Four Scripts

Box/ Folder 9/17

Video: Mothertongue on Electric City

Box/ Folder 9/18

Audio: Lesbian Erotica 1993

Box 10

Series 9. Photographs

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 10/1

Performance at Women's Building (color snapshots)

Box/ Folder 10/2

Performance at Women's Building (color snapshots)

Box/ Folder 10/3

Formal Performance at La Pena

Box/ Folder 10/4

Informal Performance at La Pena (color snapshots)

Box/ Folder 10/5

Negatives

Box/ Folder 10/6

Black and White Snapshots

Box/ Folder 10/7

Duplicate Prints

Box 11

Series 10. Posters (Oversize Materials)

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Folder 11/1

Publicity posters, paper cut outs

Box/ Folder 11/2

Five display boards 1982-1996

Box Carton 4

Series 11. Artifacts

Creator: Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective
Box/ Carton 4

One t-shirt