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Finding Aid for the Josephine Fowler papers, 1883-2005
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Josephine Fowler papers
    Date (inclusive): 1883-2005
    Collection number: 1801
    Creator: Fowler, Josephine, 1957-2006
    Extent: 51 boxes (25.5 linear ft.)
    Abstract: Josephine Fowler was a scholar, writer, and activist who researched early activity of the Communist Party in the United States, particularly by Asian immigrants and Asian Americans, as well as gay and lesbian activism. The collection consists of copied primary research materials, typed and handwritten notes, scholarly articles, transparencies, and correspondence related to Fowler's research, teaching, and writing.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research, except for box 51. Access to oral history transcripts in box 51 is restricted. Access must be approved by interviewee. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Josephine Fowler Estate, 2007.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Audra Eagle, with assistance from Kelley Wolfe Bachli, 2008, in the Center For Primary Research and Training (CFPRT).

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Josephine Fowler papers (Collection 1801). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 6118349 


    Josephine Fowler was born on February 7, 1957 in San Francisco, California to parents Joseph William Fowler and Nevi Unti Isaura Fowler. With her two sisters, she spent her early years surrounded by an extended family of Italian American relatives on her mother's side and by New England and English Canadian grandparents on her father's side. At the age of five, her family left San Francisco and lived in many cities across North America, including Chicago, Detroit and New York, until settling in Toronto, Canada in 1967. There, Josephine attended the Toronto French School, becoming fluent in French, proficient in Russian, and earning the Governor General's Award.
    After completing a Bachelor of Arts with honors in English and French from Oberlin College in 1979, Fowler went on to graduate with an MFA in writing from Columbia University in 1985. Her interest in the human experience led her to travel to Europe and Africa, including a trip to Senegal where she lived with the Bassari tribe to research child development. Fowler's writing was often focused on families and personal relationships and earned her residencies with the Ragdale Foundation in 1985 and the Yaddo artists' community in 1988. Fowler taught English as a second language to adult learners at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. During her five years as a teacher, she was readmitted to Columbia University, where she earned a Master of Science in Historical Preservation in 1993 with a focus on the influence of physical space on social and political interactions in the historical context.
    In 1995, Fowler entered the University of Minnesota's American Studies Program, where she became increasingly focused on the Asian immigrant experience and on marginalized groups, particularly as this played out in labor organizing, social activism and communist movements in the United States and across the Pacific. Her own involvement in the lesbian and gay community led her to interview leftists and activists from the San Francisco Bay area, including her parents. She became the fiction editor for Evergreen Chronicles, a journal of gay and lesbian literature published in Minneapolis, from 1995-1999, as well as the coordinator of the University of Minnesota's Lesbian Area Research Program at the Center for Advanced Feminist Studies from 1994-1995. In 1996, Fowler was diagnosed with breast cancer but continued her study at the University of Minnesota.
    Fowler's research interests shifted from San Francisco Bay Area leftists to a comparative history of gay men and lesbians and Asian Americans in the Communist Party in the Bay Area in the 1940s and 1950s. She later expanded her research in order to understand the early development of the Communist Party in the United States. Her interest in the history of Communism earned her a research fellowship in Moscow with the Center of the Study of Russia and the Soviet Union (part of Praxis International) in 1999. While living in Moscow for six months, Fowler was one of the first American scholars given permission to access the Communist International records at the Russian State Archives on Socio-Political History. Upon her return, Fowler created the first version of her dissertation in the form of a historical play entitled "La Famiglia: a domestic drama in three acts," but decided to write an entirely new dissertation.
    In 2002, Fowler was an instructor at Metropolitan State University and the University of Minnesota, while continuing work on her dissertation. She presented a paper at the 2003 meeting of the American Historical Association entitled "To Speak 'on behalf of the Asiatic races and exploited workers': Identity Formation of Japanese and Chinese Immigrant Communists in the American Communist Movement, 1920-1933." After working as an instructor at the Center for Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University in Spring 2003, Fowler defended her dissertation entitled "To be Red and 'Oriental': The Experiences of Japanese and Chinese Immigrant Communists in the American and International Communist Movements, 1919-1933," was nominated for the University of Minnesota's "Best Dissertation Award" and received her doctorate in American Studies.
    For the 2003-2004 academic year, Fowler worked as a Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, and published the fifth chapter of her dissertation in the Fall 2004 issue of International Labor and Working-Class History. In 2003, Fowler's breast cancer returned and she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to work on turning her dissertation into a book. Fowler died at home on July 23, 2006, just weeks after completing the book for publication. The University of Minnesota American Studies Program established the Josie Fowler Peace and Justice Prize in her honor in 2007. Her book, entitled Japanese and Chinese Activists: Organizing in American and International Communist Movements, 1919-1933, was published by Rutgers University Press on July 15, 2007. An essay by Fowler entitled "Filling the rice bowls of China: staging humanitarian relief during the Sino-Japanese War" was published in a collection by Sucheng Chan and Madeline Yuan-yin Hsu entitled Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture in 2008.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of copied primary research materials, typed and handwritten notes, scholarly articles, transparencies, and correspondence related to Fowler's research, teaching, and writing. Topics referenced and researched include lesbian and gay history, Asian and Asian American history, labor and trade union history, radicalism, leftists in the San Francisco Bay area, Orientalism, transnationalism, nationalism, ethnicity and race studies, surveillance documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the history of the Communist Party, Communist International (Comintern), the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat (PPTUS), the All-America Anti-Imperialist League, the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labor Defense (ILD), the International Workers Order (IWO), the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) and Trade Union Unity League (TUUL), the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern), as well as a number of publications and individuals involved in the formation of the Communist Party. Fowler was a thorough researcher, regularly taking extensive notes and transcribing original documents in the many archives she visited throughout her career. Fowler often referenced the original archival source in her notes, including the delo, fond, series, or collection within a repository. Fowler typically printed her notes and correspondence on the verso of existing documents, including correspondence and unpublished manuscripts. The collection also includes consent forms and transcripts for a series of oral history interviews with Bay Area leftists performed by Fowler.

    Organization and Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in two series:
    1. Research
    2. Teaching
    Within the Research series, the original chronological arrangement of topics and alphabetical arrangement by surname of files regarding individuals were maintained during processing. Files in the Teaching series were maintained as originally arranged but placed at the end of the collection.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    COLLECTION CONTAINS DIGITAL MATERIALS: Special equipment or further processing may be required for viewing. To access digital materials you must notify the reference desk in advance of your visit.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Fowler, Josephine --Archives.
    Communist Party of the United States of America --History --Sources.
    Women historians --United States --Archival resources.
    Women scholars --United States --Archival resources.
    Japanese Americans --Politics and government --20th century --Sources.
    Chinese Americans --Politics and government --20th century --Sources.
    Immigrants --United States --Political activity --Sources.
    Liberalism --Sources.
    Gay liberation movement --United States --History --Sources.