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Guide to the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • 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


    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.


    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)