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Guide to the Catherine Nicholson Papers, 1897-2005 and undated, bulk 1974-2005

Abstract

Lesbian feminist writer and magazine publisher, resident of Durham (Durham Co.), N.C.; co-founder of SINISTER WISDOM, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal.

The Catherine Nicholson papers contain materials dating from 1897 to 2005, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1974 to 2005. Materials in the collection primarily document Nicholson's directing and theatre related activities, her work on Sinister Wisdom, and her membership in the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC). The collection comprises correspondence; personal and professional writings and supporting materials; photographic materials; publicity about theatre and of plays directed by Nicholson; audio recordings; and ephemera. Included are play scripts written by Catherine Nicholson and other playwrights, and scripts with directorial annotations by Nicholson.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Catherine Nicholson papers 1897-2005 and undated, bulk 1974-2005
Creator
Nicholson, Catherine.
Language of Material
English
Extent
15.2 Linear Feet, 10,528 Items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

The Catherine Nicholson papers contain materials dating from 1897 to 2005, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1974 to 2005. Materials in the collection primarily document Nicholson's directing and theatre related activities, her work on Sinister Wisdom, and her membership in the group Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC). The collection comprises correspondence with family and friends; personal and professional writings; poetry; notes; clippings; photographic materials, including black and white and color photographs, color slides, and a cabinet card; audio cassettes; vinyl records; press kits and playbills; reviews about theatre and of plays directed by Nicholson; and ephemera. Included are play scripts written by Catherine Nicholson and other playwrights, and scripts with directorial annotations by Nicholson. The collection contains correspondence, artwork, journals, and receipts related to the publishing of Sinister Wisdom. In addition, the collection houses Nicholson's collection of audiocassettes and long-playing vinyl records, with the majority of albums related to women's music; many of these were published by Olivia Records. Printed materials have been removed and added to the Women and LGBT Rights Periodicals Collection. Use copies of audio recordings will need to be created before items can be accessed by researchers. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.

Addition (2010-0068) (28 items, .1 lin. ft.; dated 1984-1985 and undated) comprises letters and cards addressed to Harriet Ellenberger, primarily from Susan Thompson.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Also, audio recordings in this collection are not immediately accessible, because they require further processing before use.

Please note that all or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Materials are arranged alphabetically, followed by audio and oversized materials. Plays are listed by title, and other writings are listed by author. Printed materials have been removed and added to the Women and LGBT Rights Periodicals Collection.

[Original recordings are closed to research. Use copies need to be created before content can be accessed.]

AIDS/HIV, 1991 and undated
Box 1
Albright genealogy, undated
Box 1
American Theatre Association Women's Program Convention, 1983
Box 1
Angels of Power, Sandra Shotlander, 1988
Box 1
Ashes, Ashes We All Fall Down, Martha Boesing, 1982
Box 1
At the Foot of the Mountain, 11 (1), 1985 Fall
Box 1
The Attic, Patricia Green, 1988
Box 1
August Odyssey, short story, 1958
Box 1
Baby books, 1914; 1922

The earlier baby book belonged to Nicholson's older sister Edna, who died during Nicholson's childhood.

Box 1
Because the Dawn, Amy Goldstein, 1987
Box 1
Beginnings of stories, 1950s; 1975
Box 1
Between the Acts notes, undated
Box 1
Broadcloth, 1984
Box 1
Buttons, undated
Box 1
Buttons for Desert, Judith Katz, 1982
Box 1
Case, Sue Ellen, undated
Box 1
Cherry, Wynn, Hearing Me Into Speech, undated

Nicholson's comments on Cherry's article about lesbian feminist publishing in North Carolina. Article discusses Sinister Wisdom and Nicholson.

Box 1
Cliff, Michelle, Passing: The Fear of Difference and the Denial of Wholeness, undated
Box 1
Clippings about friends, 1957-1995 and undated
Box 1
College essays, 1951-1955
Box 1
The Constant Journey, Monique Wittig, undated
Box 1
Correspondence, 1941-1959 (2 folders)
Box 1
Correspondence, 1961-2005 and undated (18 folders)
Box 2
Correspondence, Alice and Bates, 1963-1972 and undated
Box 3
Curb, Rosemary, 1984-1986 and undated
Box 3
Directing notebook, 1950
Box 3
Dissertation, The Chorus as a Ritual Element in Greek Tragedy, 1961
Box 3
Diversity for Durham, 1994
Box 3
Dreams, 1975-1984 and undated
Box 3
Dress Suits to Hire, Holly Hughes, undated
Box 3
Durham lesbian writings, 1994-1995 and undated
Box 3
Ellenberger, Harriet, 1984-1985 and undated
Box 3
Event booklets, 1982; 1990
Box 3
Event fliers and reviews, 1959-2002 and undated
Box 3
Feminist drama articles, 1988-1989 and undated
Box 3
Feminist and lesbian theatre and drama, 1981-1991 and undated
Box 3
Flight of the Mind writing workshop, undated
Box 3
Flora MacDonald College, Ralph Page, 1916
Box 3
Flora MacDonald College reunion, 1992
Box 3
Flora MacDonald writings and poem, 1973 and undated
Box 3
Flora MacDonald College yearbook, 1942
Box 4
Florence, Alice Childress, 1949
Box 4
The Franny Chicago Play, Judith Katz, 1973
Box 4
Gantt, Harvey, 1990
Box 4
Gay and lesbian theatre, local, 1991-1995 and undated
Box 4
Goddard College theatre, 1982-1984
Box 4
Goodnight, Desdemona clippings and reviews, 1991
Box 4
Goodnight, Desdemona notebook, 1991 (2 folders)
Box 4
Harris, Bertha, 1972 and undated
Box 4
Harris, Lois, 1986
Box 4
Heyward, Carter, 1979-1980
Box 4
Hicks Lynn, Full Circle Farm, 1992
Box 4
Hoagland, Sarah, 1993 and undated
Box 4
Hopkins, Lea, Womyn I Have Known You, 1978
Box 4
How I Learned to Drive, 1997
Box 4
Important clippings, 1992-1993 and undated
Box 4
International Tribune testimony script, undated
Box 5
Isadora Duncan lecture, undated
Box 5
Isadora Duncan notes, undated
Box 5
Journal entries, 1989-1990
Box 5
Justice, Willa poems, 1987-1991
Box 5
Kendall, 1986-1987
Box 5
Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, 1983
Box 5
Langa, Helen, Reading the Fine Print: Art and Social Justice in the 1930s, 2000 January 07
Box 5
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, 1980
Box 5
Lee, Anne, 1981 and undated
Box 5
The Lesbian Anti-Rape Packet, 1976 August
Box 5
Lesbian Clippings, 1992 and undated
Box 5
Lesbian Contradictions, 30, 1990 Spring
Box 5
Lesbian Health Center, undated
Box 5
Lesbian history, 1978; 1993
Box 5
Lesbian publications, organizations, etcetera, 1992 and undated
Box 5
Lesbian publishing, 1976; 1990 and undated
Box 5
Lesbian theatre articles, 1990 and undated
Box 5
Lesbian Writer's Conference, 1976
Box 5
Lesbians in academics questionnaire, 1994
Box 5
The Libretto of the Opera of Marie Laveau, Aishah Rahman, circa 1981
Box 5
Libraries and education, undated
Box 5
Local gay and lesbian activism, 1992-1994 and undated
Box 5
Love Song for an Amazon, Martha Boesing, undated
Box 5
Machinal, Sophie Treadwell, 1928
Box 6
The Madwoman of Chaillot, undated
Box 6
Maiden Rock, 1978-1979
Box 6
Margins, 23, 1975 August
Box 6
Mariani, Paul, The Sign, undated
Box 6
Material for poetry, 1989-1992
Box 6
Matt and Millie, undated
Box 6
Matt and Millie discarded scenes, undated
Box 6
Matt and Millie older version, undated
Box 6
Matt and Millie, 1994
Box 6
Matt and Millie play notes, 1981-1988
Box 6
McDaniel, Judith poem, undated
Box 6
Miscellaneous notes, 1981-1986 and undated
Box 6
Miscellaneous writings by others, undated
Box 6
Morgan, Ramona funeral, 1997 October 19
Box 6
Morton, Nelle, 1977-1985
Box 7
Murray, Gilbert, Jane Ellen Harrison: An Address, 1928
Box 7
Narratives conference, 1991
Box 7
National Lesbian Conference, 1989-1991
Box 7
National Women's Studies Association, 1979
Box 7
Nicholson, Mike, 1932-1966 and undated

Papers belonging to Nicholson's father or related to his death. Includes a condolence telegram from North Carolina Representative Charles Raper Jonas.

Box 7
North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Political Action Agenda, 1992
Box 7
Northwestern University, 1956-1957
Box 7
Notebooks, 1983; 1987; 1993 and undated (3 folders)
Box 7
Notes on writing, 1979 and undated
Box 7
Oedipus play, undated
Box 7
Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, 1989-2004 (folders 1-2 of 3)
Box 7
Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, 1989-2004 (folder 3 of 3)
Box 8
Ageism, 1989-1990
Box 8
Aging, 1987-1993 and undated
Box 8
Facilitator's handbook, Confronting Ageism, 1992
Box 8
Healey, Shevy, 1991-1995
Box 8
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Durham conference, 1993
Box 8
Summer gathering, 1998
Box 8
University of Georgia leisure study, 1995
Box 8
West Coast celebration, 1989-1990
Box 8
Older Women's League (OWL), local, 1993-1994
Box 8
An Oral Herstory of Lesbianism, 1979
Box 8
Our Own Place grant application and Newsletter, 1992
Box 8
Passages conference, 1993
Box 8
Photographic materials, 1897-2002 and undated

Photographs document Nicholson's life from childhood through 2002, including friends and relatives, animals, art, promotional theatre images, and her trips across the globe to Greece, England, Switzerland, and France. Travel pictures typically appear on color slides.

Box 9
Pinball, Allison Lyssa, 1983 August 07
Box 10
Playbill, 1986; 1989
Box 10
Play plots, undated
Box 10
Poems, early versions, 1974 and undated
Box 10
Portia Faces Life and Stands Up For Herself, for North Carolina AAUW Convention, 1975
Box 10
Progressive causes, 1991
Box 10
Psychology, 1976 and undated
Box 10
Queer theory articles, undated
Box 10
Rado, Maria, The Embrace, undated
Box 10
Rainbow Triangle Oral History Project, undated
Box 10
Randolph-Macon Woman's College theatre, 1957-1966 (2 folders)
Box 10
Retirement, North Carolina, 1989-1991 and undated
Box 10
Rich, Adrienne, Particularity, 1982 August
Box 10
Robinson, Margaret, Stroke, 1996
Box 10
Rounds and canons songbook, 1976
Box 10
Roomers of the House, Mary Moran, undated
Box 10
Sanskrit, v.5, no.2, 1974
Box 10
Scenes from the Twentieth Century Stage: Black Theatre in Photographs, 1983
Box 10
The Search for Emily, Brian Marsh, 1988
Box 10
Sears, James T., Generations, 1995-2000
Box 10
Segrest, Mab, Into the Twenty-first Century: The Dangers of Right-Wing Feminism, 1990 October 06
Box 10
She is Still Burning e-journal, 2000-2001

Feminist web journal published by Harriet Ellenberger from 2000 to 2003.

Box 10
Shewolf's Directory of Wimmin's Lands and Lesbian Communities, 1994-1995
Box 10
About reviews, 1976-1977
Box 11
Ads/Listings, 1976-1980 (4 folders)
Box 11
Age and aging, 1978 and undated
Box 11
Anthology, 1981
Box 11
Artwork and layout, 1970s (2 folders)
Box 11
Book of procedures, 1980-1981
Box 11
Bookstore correspondence of possible interest, 1976-1980
Box 11
Boundary notes, undated
Box 12
Comments from subscribers, 1977-1980 (3 folders)
Box 12
Content ideas, 1976-1979 and undated
Box 12
Correspondence/subscriptions, 1976
Box 12
Flyers and forms, samples, 1976-1979 and undated
Box 12
Humanism, 1970s
Box 12
Joan Corbin's copies of The Ladder, 1977
Box 12
Journal, 1976; 1979-1980 (2 folders)
Box 12
Origins, 1975-1992
Box 13
Photographs, 1970s
Box 13
Post office information, 1978-1980 and undated
Box 13
Receipts, 1977-1979
Box 13
Reviews, 1977-1980
Box 13
Submission forms without correspondence, 1979-1980
Box 13
Surviving Female, 1973; 1979 and undated
Box 13
Turnover, 1979-1981
Box 13
Women in Distribution, 1977-1981
Box 13
Sister Heathenspinster's Almanac and Lunation Calendar, 1976
Box 13
Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale, 1971
Box 13
Songbook for Seneca Falls Wimmin's Peace Encampment, circa 1983
Box 13
Stansbury, Lucy drawings, undated
Box 13
Tarot, 1986
Box 13
Theatre curricular, 1980s
Box 13
Thoughts on theatre, undated
Box 13
Tribes: A Play of Dreams, Judith Katz, 1980
Box 13
Twenty-two Short Plays from the Little Theatre of the Green Goose, undated
Box 14
Tyrel, Hailey, I'm Sorry, But I Must Decline (from an interview with C. Nicholson), undated
Box 14
Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage, Aishah Rahman, 1977
Box 14
University of North Carolina-Charlotte course, Surviving Female, 1976
Box 14
University of North Carolina-Charlotte theatre, 1967-1971
Box 14
War Torn photocopies, undated
Box 14
Wetzel, Kathryn, Erotic Story #1, 1982
Box 14
What Difference Does Difference Make? conference, 1992 May 29-31
Box 14
Women as artists, 1974-1975; 1994 and undated
Box 14
Women in cinema, 1975; 1990-1997
Box 14
Women in print, 1976-1977 and undated
Box 14
Women in Theatre festival, Boston, 1986-1987
Box 14
Women's Action Agenda, 1991
Box 14
The Women's Experimental Theatre, 1980-1981
Box 14
Women's Wisdom Corporation, 1974-1978
Box 14
Audio Cassettes, 1970s-1995 and undated

Primarily contains recordings about Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), British scholar and early feminist who Nicholson became interested in during the 1970s. Also includes: "Are We Really Out of the Closet?" ; recordings of co-op meetings; a recording of Nicholson's aunt Izora; Nelle Morton's 1979 address at the National Mission Conference; Nicholson with Susan Wood-Thompson; Nicholson with Harriet Ellensberger; Ralph presentation; Religion; Adrienne Rich's "Soundings" ; "Shoulder to Shoulder" ; and several unlabeled cassettes.

Box 15
Adam, Margie, Songwriter. Dixon, CA: Pleiades Records, 1976
Box 16
Baez, Joan, Self-titled. New York: Vanguard Stereolab, circa 1960.
Box 16
Baez, Joan, From Every Stage. Hollywood, CA: A and M Records, 1976.
Box 16
Baez, Joan. Joan Baez in Concert Part 2. New York: Vanguard, 1963.
Box 16
Barrett, Sweet Emma. Sweet Emma Barrett and her New Orleans Music. New Orleans: Southland Records, 1963.
Box 16
Be Be K'Roche. Self-titled. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1976.
Box 16
Bishop, Heather. Grandmother's Song. Woodmore, Manitoba: Mother of Pearl Records, 1979.
Box 16
Christian, Meg. Face the Music. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1977.
Box 16
Christian, Meg, I Know You Know. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1974.
Box 16
The Clancy Brothers adn Tommy Makem, The Rising of the Moon. Los Angeles: Tradition Records, 1959.
Box 16
Dickens, Hazel and Alice Gerrard, Won't You Come and Sing For Me? New York: Folkways Records, 1978.
Box 16
Dobkin, Alix, xxAlix. New York: Women's Wax Works, 1980.
Box 16
Dobkin, Alix featuring the Lesbian Power Authority. Living with Lesbians. New York: Women's Wax Works, 1975.
Box 16
Elizabethan and Jacobean Music. New York: Vanguard, 1954.
Box 16
Fitzgerald, Ella and Count Basie. A Classy Pair. Beverly Hills, CA: Pablo Records, 1982.
Box 16
Garland, Judy. Judy at Carnegie Hall. Los Angeles: Capitol Records, 1961.
Box 16
Garland, Judy. The Best of Judy Garland. New York: Decca Records, 1963.
Box 16
Gazette with Pete Seeger. Self-titled. New York: Folkways Records, 1958.
Box 17
Great American Speeches. New York: Caedmon Publishers, 1958.
Box 17
Holiday, Billie, The Original Recordings. New York: Columbia Records, 1973.
Box 17
Lang, K. D., Shadowland. New York: Sire Records, 1988.
Box 17
Lavender Jane. Loves Women. New York: Women's Wax Works, 1973.
Box 17
Lesbian Concentrate: A Lesbianthology of Songs and Poems. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1977.
Box 17
Lillie, Beatrice. An Evening with Beatrice Lillie. London: London Records, 1955.
Box 17
McRae, Carmen. Love Songs. New York: Accord Records, 1982.
Box 17
Minnelli, Liza. Liza With A "Z". New York: Columbia Records, 1972.
Box 17
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Divertimenti for Wind Instruments. New York: The Musical Heritage Society, undated.
Box 17
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Divertimento No. 15 In B Flat for Two Horns and Strings. New York: Nonesuch Records, undated.
Box 17
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Four Piano Concertos. Music Guild Records, undated.
Box 17
Near, Holly. Fire in the Rain. Ukiah, CA: Redwood Records, 1981.
Box 17
Near, Holly. Imagine My Surprise! Ukiah, CA: Redwood Records, 1978.
Box 17
Near, Holly and Ronnie Gilbert. Lifeline. Oakland, CA: Redwood Records, 1983.
Box 17
Near, Holly with Jeff Langley. You Can Know All I Am. Ukiah, CA: Redwood Records, 1976.
Box 17
Parker, Pat and Judy Grahn, Where Would I Be Without You. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1976
Box 18
Previn, Dory, Self-titled. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Records, 1974
Box 18
Previn, Dory, Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign. Los Angeles: United Artists Records, 1972.
Box 18
Russ, Joanna. Joanna Russ Interpreting Her Stories. New York: Alternate World Recordings, 1976.
Box 18
Shear, Linda. A Lesbian Portrait. Northampton, MA: Old Lady Blue Jeans, 1977.
Box 18
Smith, Bessie. Any Woman's Blues. New York: Columbia Records, 1970.
Box 18
Sweet Honey in the Rock. Self-titled. Chicago: Flying Fish Music, 1976.
Box 18
Thomas, Dylan, Dylan Thomas Reading His Complete Recorded Poetry. New York: Caedmon Records, 1963
Box 18
Thomas, Dylan, Selections From the Writings of Dylan Thomas Read By the Poet. New York: Caedmon Records, 1957
Box 18
The Threepenny Opera. New York: MGM Records, 1954.
Box 18
Trull, Teresa. The Ways A Woman Can Be. Los Angeles: Olivia Records, 1977.
Box 18
Tyson, Willie. Self-titled. Madison, TN: Lima Bean Records, 1979.
Box 18
Tyson, Willie. Full Count. Washington, D.C.: Lima Bean Records, 1974.
Box 18
Vaughan, Sarah. Sarah plus 2. New York: Roulette Records, 1962.
Box 18
Vogl, Nancy. Something to Go On. Oakland, CA: Redwood Records, 1984.
Box 18
Photographs and artwork

Materials featuring Nicholson or created by friends.

Box 19
Posters, 1970s-1990s
Oversize Folder 1

Addition (2010-0068) (28 items, .1 lin. ft.; dated 1984-1985 and undated) comprises letters and cards addressed to Harriet Ellenberger, primarily from Susan Thompson. Arranged chronologically.

Letters and cards
Box 20

Historical Note

North Carolina native Catherine Nicholson was born in 1922 in Troy, the seat of Montgomery County. She attended Flora Macdonald College to study English and History and received a Master's degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1945. Nicholson continued graduate studies at Northwestern University, earning a Master's degree in Theatre and Oral Interpretation, followed by her Ph.D. in Theatre in 1961. Nicholson spent her career in academia as a professor of drama, teaching and directing plays primarily in North Carolina and Virginia. Nicholson's interests in ancient Greece, Shakespeare, and feminism offered her rich and varied material to mine as a director and as a writer of plays, short stories, and poetry. Nicholson is best known as the co-founder of the lesbian feminist literary journal Sinister Wisdom. From 1976 to 1981, Catherine Nicholson and partner Harriet Ellenberger (also known as Harriet Desmoines) published and edited the journal, before passing control to Adrienne Rich and Michelle Cliff. Through the stewardship of several editors, Sinister Wisdom has continued into the twenty-first century, and as of 2009 is the oldest surviving lesbian literary journal. Nicholson retired to Durham, North Carolina, where she maintained involvement in lesbian activism and continued to direct plays through the 1990s.

Subject Headings

Related Material

  • Rainbow Triangle Oral History Interviews (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)
  • James T. Sears Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)
  • Mab Segrest Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Catherine Nicholson Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Provenance

The Catherine Nicholson Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift from 2005-2007, 2010.

Processing Information

Processed by Lindsay Matson, January 2009

Encoded by Lindsay Matson, January 2009

Accessions 2005-0087, 2006-0098, and 2007-0050 were merged into one collection and are described in this finding aid.

Updated by Alice Poffinberger, August 2010

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.