About

Welcome to the Society of American Archivists’ Women ARchivists Section (WArS) blog! WArS monitors the status of women in the archival profession and promotes the participation of women in all phases of SAA’s activities and the profession as a whole. WArS engages with its membership by providing a forum for the discussion of issues related to leadership, professional advancement, family and work-life balance, and equity in the workplace. Additionally, WArS seeks to highlight the past and present accomplishments of women archivists, recognizing the importance of the history of the women who have shaped and were shaped by the archival profession. 

Women Archivists Roundtable

History of the Women Archivists Section

Although many women have played pivotal roles in shaping the Society of American Archivists since its founding in 1936, it was not until the 1970s that the status of women in the archival profession and SAA received much attention.[1] In 1972, SAA established the ad hoc Committee on the Status of Women in the Archival Profession, which sought to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions and identify barriers to professional advancement. Despite their growing numbers in the profession, few women had occupied positions as SAA officers or council members.[2] Likewise, archival scholarship lacked women’s voices.[3] A committee was thus needed to better understand the extent of these disparities and evaluate the status of women in the profession.

At the same time that the Committee formed, the ad hoc Women’s Caucus was created as “an issue-raising group” which also published The SAA Women’s Caucus Newsletter.[4] The forming of these two groups signaled a commitment to exploring and addressing important issues for women in the archives profession. In order to assess the status of women archivists, the Committee conducted two surveys — one of individual archivists and the other of directors and heads of repositories. The surveys uncovered disparities between men and women in education, salary, and work responsibilities — women with comparable levels of education and experience attained fewer administrative positions than their male counterparts.[5] Despite an increasing awareness of women’s obstacles to development and advancement in SAA and the archival profession, the surveys indicated that much work still needed to be done.

The Committee eventually evolved into the Women’s Professional Archival Issues Roundtable (WPAIR), which organized in 1998. Two years later, WPAIR’s membership voted to change the name to the Women Archivists Roundtable (WAR) at the Annual Meeting in Denver.[6] In 2017, all SAA affinity groups became sections, and thus the Women Archivists Roundtable became the Women ARchivists Section (WArS), a nod to the past with respect to the present, and looking to the future of this group and our profession in 2017 and beyond.

Despite these transitions, WArS has continued to examine the status of women in the profession; in 2000 and 2001, WArS developed and conducted a survey in order to shed light on the issues women archivists felt were important to their development and advancement in the profession. The survey revealed that most women worked in the academic sector, had completed undergraduate and graduate coursework, were strongly involved in SAA, and attended the Annual Meeting. Additionally, 42% of the respondents indicated that their repository provided some support for conference attendance. While 87.2% held full-time positions with benefits, more than half expressed the desire to work part-time. WArS recently completed another survey at the 2012 Annual Meeting, which identified key issues and priorities its membership felt was important for the roundtable to address.

In her oral history interview and memoir, Margaret Cross Norton, the first State Archivist of Illinois, recalled, “I was the only woman archivist in the country for many years.” The number of women in archival profession has grown considerably since Norton’s time, and indeed, more recent surveys indicate the gradual feminization of the profession.[7] WArS continues to remember this past as it addresses the challenges women archivists face, while celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of women in SAA and the larger profession.

References

[1] Pacifico, Michele F. “Founding Mothers: Women in the Society of American Archivist, 1936-1972.” The American Archivist 50 (1987): 370.

[2] Deutrich, Mabel E. “Women in Archives: Ms. versus Mr. Archivist.” The American Archivist 50 (1973): 173.

[3] Crawford, Miriam I. “Women in Archives: A Program for Action.” The American Archivist 50 (1973): 226; Deutrich, Mabel E. “Women in Archives: A Summary Report of the Committee of the Status of Women in the Archival Profession.” The American Archivist 38 (1975): 45.

[4] Pacifico, Michele F. “Founding Mothers: Women in the Society of American Archivist, 1936-1972.” The American Archivist 50 (1987): 389.

[5] Deutrich, Mabel E. “Women in Archives: A Summary Report of the Committee of the Status of Women in the Archival Profession.” The American Archivist 38 (1975): 43-46.

[6] 2000 Women Archivists Roundtable Minutes, Denver, accessed October 17, 2013, http://www2.archivists.org/groups/women-archivists-roundtable/2000-women-archivists-roundtable-minutes-denver.

[7] Yakel, Elizabeth. “The Future of the Past: A Survey of Graduates of Master’s-Level Archival Education Programs in the United States.” The American Archivist 63 (2000): 302, 309-310.

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*This site is intended to facilitate discussion and provide information and resources. SAA is not responsible for the views and opinions expressed on this site.

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