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LLLI Archives Stored at DePaul University

Rebecca Magalhães, Judy Torgus, and Mary Lofton
IL, USA
From: Leaven, Vol. 45 No. 1, 2009, pp. 18-19

In March 2006, LLLI received a proposal from the Special Collections and Archives Department of DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA for housing the organization's official archives. This proposal was presented to LLLI as the result of communication between Mary Lofton, LLLI Public Relations Manager at that time, and Kathryn DeGraff, Head of Special Collections and Archives at DePaul University. The LLLI records and publications represent a significant contribution for use in DePaul classes in women's studies, history, sociology, and other appropriate disciplines. DePaul was interested in the historical aspects of LLLI as a women's organization. In addition, Jule DeJager Ward, a DePaul professor, had written her thesis on La Leche League.

Edna Kelly, a long time LLL Leader from Texas, USA, who works professionally as a librarian, volunteered to facilitate the work involved in making decisions on appropriate materials for the collection and transferring the LLLI materials to DePaul. She traveled to the LLLI Office in Schaumburg, Illinois, USA several times and worked with LLLI staff to identify and sort relevant materials. Understandably, there were duplicate files and assorted extraneous material stored at the LLLI office in Schaumburg, Illinois

As Edna wrote in a March 2006 report:

In depositing their records in DePaul University archives, LLLI would provide a permanent repository for their materials with historical value, providing a means for researchers to access this information for current and future research purposes. LLLI retains copyright of the collection contents, but legal ownership is transferred to DePaul.

Edna continues:

The DePaul University Special Collections and Archives deal with a wide range of issues relating to women, from the records of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, to the women playwrights represented in the Chicago Playwrights collection.

The LLLI historical archives will be a welcome addition.

Edna traveled to Schaumburg and assisted in the collection work, preparing an inventory of the materials in storage. She was pleased to discover two file cabinets with Betty Wagner Spandikow's files from her years as Executive Director. We later learned that DePaul found these of particular interest. The initial files and materials were picked up by DePaul in September 2006.

Edna comments on her work with this project:

I felt privileged to look at our organization's long and rich history. La Leche League has benefited from the energies of amazing women. I'm proud to call myself an LLL Leader.

Included in the original shipment were two copies of every edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, from the 1958 loose-leaf edition to the 2004 seventh revised edition. Later, two copies of the 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition were sent to DePaul. In addition, two copies of every book published by LLLI over the years (50 books in all) as well as two copies of every issue of New Beginnings (LLL News), Leaven, Breastfeeding Abstracts, and Continuum (Alumnae News), were sent to DePaul. In fact, copies of almost all publications produced by LLLI, including conference, seminar, and workshop materials, correspondence relating to the history and development of LLL, and media clippings, including the original Readers' Digest article "They Teach the Joys of Breastfeeding" from May 1963, found their way to DePaul and into the Archives files. Materials also included a scrapbook put together by Texas, USA Leaders who attended the International Conference where Princess Grace of Monaco spoke in 1971, and other historic materials from her visit, including a video of her presentation.

In June 2008, Mary Lofton, Rebecca Magalhães, and Judy Torgus paid a follow-up visit to DePaul University to meet with the Archival Staff and check into the progress of the cataloging of the LLLI Archives. They met with Kathryn DeGraff, Helen Fedchak, and Lizzy Boden to discuss the collection. The DePaul staff members were eager to meet us because they had been hearing and reading about LLLI for many months.

They reported that they had received (in all) 200 boxes from LLLI and have consolidated and culled the material to 150 boxes. They commented that it is very unusual to have so many boxes left, as usually they discard 50 percent of what they receive of a collection. The collection was parceled out to four different staff and student workers. They started by going through Betty Wagner's files, which were very organized and chronological. They read everything and then put it all back together into the appropriate categories. The staff members were amazed and fascinated to learn so much about the growth and development of LLLI.

They described the cataloging process that was followed, so that the material would be accessible for researchers. We discussed possible questions that researchers might have for which the LLLI collection would be useful -- women and gender, childbirth, health professionals, and breastfeeding were some of the suggested areas. However, they said that they do not separate a collection by subject or topic. The collection is a reflection of what LLLI has done through the years.

The following are some comments made
by the DePaul Archival staff about LLLI:

"The complete publication runs were a treasure."

"The LLLI collection has so much relevance."

"The Archival Department regards themselves
as a 'service arm for LLLI.'"

Kathryn emphasized that this is an ongoing effort. They still have some boxes to go through, especially audio and video files. They expect to continue receiving files and current publications to keep the collection up to date. Magazines and newsletters are published histories of LLLI. Judy asked about getting archival materials from the countries that have an LLL history, and we were told this is part of what LLLI is doing worldwide, so yes, these should be collected and sent. As Kathryn said, no collection is ever complete!

After our meeting, Kathryn took us to the climate-controlled room where all the collections are kept and we were able to see the rows and rows of LLLI boxes on shelves, carefully sorted and labeled. It was impressive! Judy Torgus said, "After putting in so many years of work on LLLI publications, it is gratifying to know they are being appreciated and preserved."

The LLLI collection has become part of the resources DePaul University Library provides to its students, faculty, and to researchers seeking access to the materials. Any designated representative of LLLI is invited to schedule a tour of the facilities at DePaul with the Archivist.

Mary Lofton felt that this was a very worthwhile visit. She said, "It was good to get an idea of what has taken place with the LLLI collection, to reconnect with Kathryn, and to let her and DePaul know how much LLLI appreciates the time and effort that are being directed to organizing the LLLI materials."

Rebecca pointed out, "I was pleased to hear the positive comments from the DePaul Archival staff about the growth and influence of LLL over the years."

The materials in the LLLI Archive collection mainly reflect the history of La Leche League International, including publications, historical documents, and Board reports. If LLL Leaders in other countries or specific LLL Areas in the United States have historical information or local publications they are interested in sending to DePaul University, they should contact:

Kathryn DeGraff
Special Collections and Archives
Richardson Library, Rm. 314
DePaul University
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
773.325.2167
kdegraff@depaul.edu

Some who are new to the archival process may hesitate or feel uncertain about what materials to send. Rest assured, DePaul University has the skills to make the appropriate decisions as to what should be kept and what should be discarded.

The DePaul Archives are available to anyone who has an interest in the materials. Check the DePaul Web site at www.depaul.edu for information about policies and procedures.

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