For centuries, Unitarian Universalist historical memory and archival norms erased and defaced the perspectives and experiences of women. Even though women are now the majority of religious professionals, this sea change in demographics has yet to meaningfully impact the historical record. The moment we find ourselves in now is the perfect opportunity to acquire, process, and make accessible the archival materials that document the stories and experiences of women in the 20th century. As that generation of trailblazers retires and their experiences pass from living memory, we must now begin the work of remembering and celebrating their stories.
The Heresies Special Collection at Meadville Lombard is ready to do this work. Heresies is an archive dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the women who have strengthened and grown Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism. This special collection seeks to amend the ways in which archives often have marginalized women’s perspectives and stories. Heresies tells the story of Unitarian Universalist women leaders by preserving the personal papers and organizational records that speak to the experience of Unitarian Universalist women, including those who have historically been underrepresented within our movement, such as women of color; lesbian, bisexual, and queer women; trans women; and disabled women. We will tell this story on their terms.
The first major project undertaken by Heresies is to create over 10,000 digitized pages of archival material that will be accessible through the Meadville Lombard website and the Digital Public Library of America. Through this project, and based upon the high number of access session already tabulated, we estimate researchers from throughout the world will access roughly 2,000 digital objects within Heresies EACH YEAR. Additionally, the physical preservation and arrangement of these archival materials ensures that they will be physically accessible to researchers for decades into the future. During the buildup to this project, we have already received the personal papers of seven women religious leaders and are currently in conversation with an additional 25 women about their papers. We also have acquired the records of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and Unitarian Universalist Women & Religion.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and the financial support of women who have already donated archival material, the Heresies Special Collection has raised $22,000 for this project. To do the justice-making work of saving as many stories and experiences as possible, we need your help. Meadville Lombard Theological School, the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion are asking for your support to raise at least an additional $8,000 for the Heresies project. This money will allow Meadville Lombard to preserve, physically arrange, and digitize the personal papers of women religious leaders and the organizational records of Unitarian Universalist women’s groups. Without your help, the risk is very real that future generations with either forget or, even worse, never even know about the women who changed Unitarian Universalism.
Heresies Special Collection is advised by a committee of Unitarian Universalist religious professionals, lay Unitarian Universalists, and other stakeholders who assist in acquiring archival materials, raising funds to support the collection, and strengthening the connection of Heresies to the larger community of Unitarian Universalist women. This collection tells your story and we would love to hear from you. If you are interested in donating documents that speak to the experience of UU women, please contact Meadville Lombard’s archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help us safeguard and celebrate the history of the women who have strengthened and grown Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism. Your donation will allow Meadville Lombard to preserve, physically arrange, and digitize the personal papers of women religious leaders and the organizational records of Unitarian Universalist women’s groups. Without your help, the risk is very real that future generations will either forget or, even worse, never even know about the women who changed Unitarian Universalism. Thank you for your support!