[00:01:01] Hello, everybody. I'm Richard Watts, the director of Center for Research on Vermont. And today we have a special guest on our Research Live Wednesdays.
[00:01:13] Rachel is an archivist.
[00:01:16] At the state where to talk about archiving and history and some of the projects underway right now. But welcome, Rachel, to Sarah V.T. Research Live Wednesday.
[00:01:30] Thanks so much, Richard. It's a pleasure to be with you.
[00:01:34] So, first of all, in this middle of this pandemic, you and your family are doing OK wherever you are.
[00:01:42] Absolutely, yes. And I hope the same for yours. Yeah, we've been one of the lucky ones here. Winesburg.
[00:01:50] You know, one nice country road and have a job. And I see you have some books behind you, so you have plenty of reading.
[00:02:03] Yeah, that's actually not to digress, but that's my, um, my I call my flapper novel collection for a while.
[00:02:10] I would buy popular fiction from the 1920s all over the place, and it grew quickly because they were often very cheap. So at some point it might that's a future research project to kind of get in. You get into the mindset of 1920s women who are reading these novels.
[00:02:35] Do they have if there are certain. I don't know, thread, narrative thread that they generally fall follow or.
[00:02:43] There's a lot I mean. I mean, just the titles are amazing. Slandered. Money, love. Big Hunt. Come to my house, Wildheart.
[00:02:56] You know, I could you know, maybe we should talk about that. To heck with the state archives.
[00:03:01] Wow. Well, I found my bookshelf behind me. But I have a collection of Conan the Barbarian.
[00:03:08] Oh, do you. Excellent. Yeah. I'll show you. Well done.
[00:03:14] Have you done any scholarly research on Conan? Not much.
[00:03:18] It's all John Roth, what they call magazine Pulp Fiction. It was written in the 20s.
[00:03:26] Yeah. I mean, the you can see this, but so. That's a nice cover way, your. Yeah, this poor woman. What's her story?
[00:03:37] So if you are here today to talk about your happiness first rate for a minute about this amazing resource in Vermont, I don't know if people are aware, but the state archives say, I don't know, maybe it's 30 or 40 years that it's been in this progression into this development of this place where state records are kept. And tell us about the state archives.
[00:04:05] Sure. Well, it's the official. We're now the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, also known as for Sara. And we are pretty young. We we were only formed in two thousand eight.
[00:04:20] And we think the National Archives was in the 1930s in many state archives were shortly after that. We were late to the game. It doesn't mean that the records of state government were not being preserved. It's just that they were in two different jurisdictions. The office of the Secretary of State had the state archives responsibilities so that that department is within the secretary of state's office and we are still under the secretary of state. But the Department of Buildings and General Services had the public records division and they did a lot of microfilming work with state agencies, kind of more on the more active records of of state government. So the two were merged in 2008. And we so we just a couple of years ago celebrated our 10th anniversary with a really nice event. And our wonderful former state archivist, Gregory Sanford, came back to help us mark the occasion.
[00:05:16] So, yeah, we're pretty young and it used to be a lovely building.
[00:05:20] And if you ever did research at Redstone when that was where the state archives, where Richard Redstone, beautiful, beautiful old mansion or something on the bed.
[00:05:31] I mean, totally inappropriate for record storage or for, I think, workspace.
[00:05:38] But it sounds like it was a wonderful, wonderful building. But we're now in basically a glorified warehouse because priority is is not so much on the people comfort as it is on being able to provide appropriate storage conditions for the records. And we operate the state records center, which is where records that are still in the custody of state agencies are stored. So we cannot and this is a point of confusion often with researchers. We do not have the right to provide access to those records. They have to get permission from the from the agency who still owns them. But we also have the state archives in there. We have a number of bolts with with really strong, stringent climate control. With those materials are kept the stuff in the state records center, much of that is scheduled and after a number of years will be Welby's will be destroyed. They're not considered records of permanent and enduring value. And it's only those records that eventually make their way to the state archives through a transfer process. And it's estimated that about three percent, two or three percent of records created in the course of doing business as a state will be preserved for the long term.
[00:07:00] You know, in three, you say three percent.
[00:07:03] But I haven't been in that building and seen those boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes.
[00:07:09] It's pretty stunning.
[00:07:10] And then there's a room in the back that's the more older staff that has to be climate controlled.
[00:07:17] Yeah. So when you when you took the tour with those wonderful students from UVM, we you got to see the state's record center with the kind of, you know, just stories high.
[00:07:29] I mean, you can use a forklift to get to the upper reaches of boxes. But we kind of walked through the those that kind of temporary holding facility and then back into the into the areas that had the archival records, the ones that we will keep, that we have the charge of keeping forever.
[00:07:48] So what's the role is to walk down here for a minute? We're down. If you're not, I'm in charge of bringing the bread out of the oven.
[00:07:57] All right. I love that you're baking bread. It's only in Vermont.
[00:08:02] Richard, what is the day to day job of a state archives? What do you actually do? Oh, let me get something straight right now. I am not the state archivist.
[00:08:16] Unremarkable is our fabulous state archivist here in Vermont.
[00:08:19] She's also our public records information officer. And she does everything from advise, the main office of the secretary of state, assist legislators who are trying to figure out precedent or what. What have we done in the past on this particular issue? A legislative researcher working with agencies on trying to get them lined up to work with our records management professionals on developing schedules and implementing them. She's also our public face. So she's she's done a ton of work in the last year or so.
[00:09:02] And one of the things she did was for which I'm eternally grateful is brought. I'd been working down in Massachusetts as a roving archivist for their state historical records advisory board. And Tanya asked the office of Secretary of State for a small amount of funding to start me as a part time temporary person to get this program to provide historical records program off the ground. And Jim Kondo said, sure. And he's been incredibly supportive ever since. So in May 2017, the HRP started up. And, you know, the first thing I did was, was write a grant to try to make it a bigger program. And we were successful. We wrote a grant to the National Historical Records and Publication Commission, also known as the NHP RRC, which is the grant arm of the National Archives. And they have, you know, a tiny pot of money to give out every year. But some of that money is dedicated to state historical records, advisory boards. So the Vermont board worked with me to develop a proposal to make the what was then a coordinator position, a full time gig. And we were we were successful and we've been successful in getting a getting that re upped.
[00:10:22] So the the main mission of the Vermont Historical Records program is really to try to improve public access to and engagement with historical records and to encourage and facilitate collaborative efforts among historical records repositories in Vermont. And people.
[00:10:46] Slight detour, Rachel, but back to your career trajectory. I believe there's sometimes the best jobs are the ones you create.
[00:10:58] Absolutely. Yeah. And I, I, I've worked at work for over a dozen years.
[00:11:06] I was, you know, a a member of the gig economy. I was I had done an apprenticeship in organic agriculture and was working part time on a school farm, milking Jersey cows and making cheese and working with high school students, trying to persuade them of the value of work. And I was an adjunct professor for Simone's library, school teaching archives and preservation courses. And I was working as a consultant, sometimes traveling around the country to give workshops and trainings on archival topics. So there was it was kind of a wonderful often, or at least I was aspiring to kind of a really nice mix and balance of different types of work, but engage different different parts of me.
[00:11:52] And I absolutely agree, if you can kind of fashioning your own your own job is is incredibly rewarding. And that's one of the things that has made this position so fantastic for me, is that Tom has given me a long lead and a lot of trust, and he's allowed me to develop it and follow opportunities as they arise.
[00:12:12] So that's basically what I've been doing as vegetables for partnerships come up. I'll I I'll I'll run with him and see where they go.
[00:12:23] So tell us now a little bit about the Vermont Historical Records project that City Hall, the records program, are done now.
[00:12:35] Yeah, it's there's multiple components in the way that we most.
[00:12:41] The primary way of engaging with historical records repositories is through the roving archivist program.
[00:12:47] So pre coded, that meant I would hop in my antique Volvo and go all over the state to meet with people at historical societies or museums or the town clerk's office and and listen and figure out how I could best help them move forward with making their records more accessible and making sure that there are going to persist over time. So. That's incredibly wonderful work, a very rewarding part of the job. And we've been making the transition, starting to do some of that remotely. And looking forward to being able to using appropriate protocols, actually start doing some work state visits again later this summer. So offering technical assistance is a big part of this project.
[00:13:39] And is there thinking now in it used to be that we took everything to some central place. But is there more thinking now about keeping records in the places where they records?
[00:13:52] Were created like the historical society, where you actually even and sometimes in people's houses or what's that?
[00:14:02] Yeah, there's a whole kind of area of theory within archives post Custodio theory, this idea that we as archivists do not have to physically have control of the materials or bring them to a centralized place. And you'd see kind of the proliferation and support by professional archivists for community archives is another part of that of really recognizing the value of keeping records with the people who created them and have primary need of being able to use them. And to also make sure be careful that we're not, you know, being being boring old colonists and kind of accumulating stuff that is by rights.
[00:14:53] We don't necessarily know how best to maintain and provide access to Native American materials are a prime example of this. And there was, you know, at the federal level, legislation passed to help and try to implement repatriation of cultural artifacts that collected repositories had and did not did not understand how to properly care for or provide access to or what even was appropriate within a culture to allow access to. So that's kind of extreme example. But but even in Vermont, I've been trying to get funding where the products I've yet to successfully fund is to provide some support for a T. Q. Community Archives and be able to again, I don't want their archives and I don't want to tell them how to archive things were what they should be archiving. But I want to offer the support of some ideas of how they might provide access within the way they want to or how they might better preserve materials, but to just support them in preserving the record of their own community. And that's a really powerful aspect of archival work. And it's really it's it's come up a lot in the last 10, 15 years.
[00:16:18] So stepping back there, you were there. Why? Why do archiving. Why does it matter?
[00:16:23] Why do we.
[00:16:25] We're trying to we're gonna get to the heavy questions today. My God, why does it matter? It's you know, we trace back to and especially I've never worked in a government archives before. I'm in my you know, my preference had been for historical manuscripts, know family papers, collections or the things that that really get me excited. And yet I recognize the extraordinary value that government records have for documenting evidence of individuals, of your of your very identity.
[00:17:03] If you think about what do you go for to show who you are, it's some kind of card that a government entity has has created for you. So it's incredibly important to safeguard those records and to safeguard the records that document how government has and has not served its citizens and its residents. So there's there it's so I am Tongas won me over to the value of public records and just how key they are to to our democracy.
[00:17:40] Yeah. And if you think about this moment we're in. I mean, it's a separate question, but one of the things you've looked at is the role of women in Vermont. And and how can you talk a little bit about that project?
[00:17:54] Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:17:56] Another aspect of the HRP is to against this idea of civic engagement, of trying to not only offer technical assistance to historical records repositories, but to connect directly with the public or try to as well as the folks who who are affiliated with historical records organizations to encourage them to do their own research, to try to track down the stories that interest them.
[00:18:27] And I took the opportunity of the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to try to feature women who. And this is the way it has. Again, because the records aren't there. It has to be kind of couched this way. Women who might have voted in 1920 because I got so excited, I found these records at the state archives, you know, very simple.
[00:18:52] You're not me. See this? Probably. OK. So it's a tally by county town names and a list of total voters, men who voted in, women who voted.
[00:19:02] And well, that's what I thought it was, and then I was crestfallen to discover it. It's actually the number of women and men that were registered to vote. So the best we can do is know there was an intent to vote. But we don't necessarily know if these women did vote because those records in almost every town don't exist. Jericho, I believe, has a list of the first women to vote in their town. And I think someone in town must have known this is going to be of interest at sometime in the future. But that is always those voting lists otherwise. Again, we're not records that were retained within two stories.
[00:19:49] So now you have stories of the women of the era. The leaders may be in the shed. Forget movement or.
[00:19:57] Yeah. Well, there's a couple of projects there. And the first crowdsourcing project, civic engagement project I got involved with was was handed to me, which was wonderful. And at some Tom DoubleLine over it, SUNY Binghamton has been doing this labor of love for years, an online biographical dictionary of women who are involved in the women's suffrage movement. And they're going to as of July 1st, there should be twenty six hundred crowdsourced biographies available for free on his Web on the Alexander Street website.
[00:20:34] And there are about 80 Vermonters on that list.
[00:20:38] And Melanie Gustafson started a UVM professors, was the first state coordinator for Vermont, and she had a lot of her students write sketches. And then she passed it on to me. And I've gotten another 30 40 final sketches written, not just a wonderful range of people, journalists, students. History enthusiasts, historical society members. There's still 10 women who we could sketch. So if you're at all interested, get in touch with me or get in touch with Richard and I'll hook you up. And it's a lot of fun because these names you're often dealing with things like Mrs. C.J. Clark of teach them like, OK, so are those her initials or are they her husband's initials? So even just uncovered in the name of the woman, no less anything about her, her life and then what her connection was to the movement. And we didn't have a lot of national leaders in Vermont. We did have some of her notable at the state level.
[00:21:48] And one of the things that the Vermont suffered, Centennial Alliance has done, and I'm involved with that group. We got some funding to put together a traveling exhibit for schools that features some of the Vermont women who tried over the course of decades to change the way changed changed the law in Vermont. So there was the first woman that we like to talk about as Clarida Howard Nichols.
[00:22:16] And if you want to know more about her, read Lynne Blackwells book and have one black welcome. Talk to you soon. You are one of our Gersen sit on the Speakers Bureau on the Vermont Separate on RANTZ Web site. But she wrote she wrote the book on Katrina. But she came to national attention in 1852 by speaking at a convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is known for being the first woman to address the legislature of Vermont. And this was was pro suffrage. But she got fed up with Vermont, moved out to Kansas. She's like, you know, could not could not intractable here. Couldn't get much going.
[00:22:57] Yeah. Because remember, despite our today's sense of Vermont as a progressive liberal place, we were one of the later states.
[00:23:06] To actually allow something like, yeah, we finally gained tax paying them and gained municipal suffrage in 1917. And prior to that, there'd been some allowance for OK. You can be elected or appointed town clerk or you can vote in school elections. But the big story in Vermont is sadly how how we were not the thirty sixth state, which was the magic number of states needed to ratify the 19th Amendment. And it was Tennessee. They ended up doing that on August 18th. And there's a wonderful story about about about how that came to pass. But Vermont governor at the time, Percival Clement, refused to call a special session to bring calm to bring the legislature back to vote on ratification. So Vermont didn't get around to ratifying until February 8th, 1921, and that it had been officially certified back on May six, 1920. So but at least we did. There are many states who didn't bother to ratify it until 1970. Oh, yeah, women. Yay. And anyway, you know, I won't go there.
[00:24:26] You show me some of the original letters, I think, or something you had in your archives from. It just really brings it home to see people's handwriting. The you know, the personality comes through.
[00:24:38] Right. That's what gets us excited about those words.
[00:24:41] Oh, absolutely.
[00:24:43] And again, I think one of the things I think I showed you, Richard, was some petitions. And this was one of the strategies that that early on in Vermont the women would do and men as well who were pro suffrage was to to get these reams of paper taped together, glued together of senators who were saying they were they were in favor of suffrage and then submitting those to the legislature and they'd get duly moved. You know, papers would get pushed around, a vote would happen. And then kind of classically the House would either say yes and the Senate would would say no. Or the Senate would say yes. Or the House would say no. And this went on for decades.
[00:25:25] So it was it was a really long haul. And there was a kind of a period, you know, the Vermont Women's Suffrage Association got going in the early eighteen eighties, but they they foundered after just a few years and it was kind of a more urban phase until about 1987. And then they came back to life with a slightly different name, the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association. And Annette Parmalee was was who was also known in the legislature as the Suffragette Hornet, because she was buzzing around these men all the time. She really she recognized that there was a need to this was a public relations campaign as much as anything. And she really drove a strategy of of of pushing it in the press and getting editors behind them and getting out on the road. And they started having their having annual meetings, bringing in big names occasionally from the national movement. Lo and polls. And Dam was was their press secretary kind of at that at the finish line there and was putting putting on a full court press. Everything from writing to the two judges to get them to weigh in on the legal reasons why women should should be allowed to vote to again. But tapping all of her contacts within the newspaper and print industry and sending out postcards and getting men, getting important men to endorse the cause. So it was a long a long battle, but and it's hard not to be like we could have been the 30 second. That was part of the part of the publicity campaign, was the campaign was making Vermont the perfect thirty six. And you have one historical society has some of those postcards and they're they're really lovely, but it did not come to pass.
[00:27:24] OK, so let's go back. Other projects that you're working on related to this, your historical project partnership. You want to talk about severe?
[00:27:34] Yeah, I can talk a little bit about. Again, it's still really vague, but kind of is a spin off from. The biographical sketches project that Tom Dublin is doing. And from my excitement about finding these these lists of of tattling to of people who voted or were registered to vote in the various towns, I worked with Paul Carnahan at Vermont Historical Society and Chris Burns at UVM to create a suffrage in Vermont caudal on the Center for Digital Initiatives at UVM site. So gradually, Chris has been adding the annual reports for the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association. The state tallies the town tallies. I'm showing you are on there. And there's. Some correspondence Paul and I have before Kovik. Paul and I were getting together and scanning correspondence from that family's papers, which are at VHS. And we started kind of at the end. So we're really we were kind of in that that that was able to see that real press to try to get pressure put on the governor to call a special session and on legislatures to come out publicly and say they'd be in favor of suffrage. So those letters are slowly being outed as well. That'll be a great resource right there at UVM. It's available to anyone around the world. So that's been exciting. I've also been and this is kind of more amorphous. I've been working with trying to find out more about when you start with the that their own initiative are researching the women in their town. And a Waterbury is Dorset is a many towns trying to find out more about the women they knew were active in the movement or who had voted and are developing graveyard tours. There's going to be one in Burlington that at least Freeman's been working on. I think, you know, there's there's been a bunch of stuff percolating. So I went into more of a casual, ad hoc way to gather some of these projects together or the results of that research on the Web site that we have. And everyone, if you want to load up that the women who vote in Vermont page at some point, that people I put just a place holder that has some of the news sources that you could use to do some research and you might find it a bit of a rabbit hole. I mean, I, I, I ended up printing out the census for my town. I live in Washington, some not a ton of people. It's about 14 pages of census. And again, I just and partly it was I think this was the beginning of the pandemic and it was deeply soothing to just count people and to come up with the fact that there were one hundred and ninety women of voting age in Washington in 1920 and only twenty six of them actually registered. Which is, I think, about 14 percent. So not not not great numbers, you know, but along the way, you know, kind of finding like, why is this?
[00:30:48] Who are these people who have six children living with them, one of whom is father was born in Italy. And and then you kind of hop over to newspapers, dot com and start looking up names and you find out, oh, yeah, they boarded children at their house for many years. And oh, he also declared bankruptcy. And he was a grownup worker. And very and again, some of this it doesn't necessarily become great historical interpretation or analysis, but it can be an absorbing process just to do research, as I'm sure many of you listening know that. And that's why why he went to do it. So just on the Web site, to give you some ideas of resources you can use both online and again, thinking, thinking, pandemic, early things that are available as well as and hopefully we'll be able to get back into town clerk's offices before too long because it's often going back to the town record books. You can find the lists of women who administered the Freemans oath. I mean, we if I moved to Vermont roads recently, I remember having to be administered the oath. So that's another way of identifying the names of women who had the intent to vote. And then you can kind of look into where they live in town or in one area. Did they have a lot of money where they widows? Were they single over? They married, you know, just again. There's there's different angles you could take, either at the micro level or the macro level. So I invite you to think about what you might do for your town. And please be in touch if you do get into some research or if you have any questions about how you might proceed. I'd love to love to work with you.
[00:32:26] That's great. I feel like in Vermont we have so many people actually think about a care about these, and we have something like a hundred and eighty historical societies.
[00:32:34] Every town just about as.
[00:32:38] And, you know, if we're talking about why it matters, it matters in so many ways. But to understand who we are, we have to understand a little bit about where we came from.
[00:32:48] And one of the things about a lot of Vermont towns, too, is and I mean, I'm on a flatlander. I'm from a way I was actually born in California. Of all things.
[00:32:57] So but I know there are names in the census that I recognize as names that are still in town. So there's a fact there is that continuity through generations. It's also possible for people to tap into. So it's it's powerful stuff. And I've, you know, increasingly. Interested in in the stories of individual lives as being a driver for. For telling stories about the larger our larger situation and where we are now or or where we were then. And it's it's compelling to tick off that, to try to discover the story. Find a good way of telling it and hear them, frankly. So.
[00:33:43] Yeah. Well, thank you, Rachel. Thanks for doing that work. And we will definitely post. Thanks for having us. Center for Research in Vermont.
[00:33:54] Richard and I.
[00:33:58] I'd love for there to be ways that I've worked a little bit with some UVM students, which I which I just find has been great, great fun. I miss not teaching for Simmons'. So if you think of ways in future that the center and the HRP could potentially work together not to horn in on I know you guys, you can VHS are doing backstory or internship program, but if there's things like that. No. Let me know.
[00:34:25] And actually, we increasingly have to think about ways to pare our students with great mentors in you.
[00:34:33] Racial did such a nice job working with Caylee.
[00:34:38] She's a superstar. So it was easy.
[00:34:41] And Caylee worked on that woman suffragette project. I know with you, but she went on winning an award for her paper out of that, so.
[00:34:51] But it's the individual attention that you are willing to give that really makes a difference, too. And you know the future here. We just have to think more more about ways to give our students these individual experiences, because there's just going to be less kind of general gathering and less probably at least in the near future. So in the mind for me in building these relationships is that there are people and organizations who do like mentoring and working with.
[00:35:21] So thank you, friend. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:35:25] All right. So stay tuned, folks. Brianna, we'll come back and tell you about what's next. And thank you again, Rachel.
[00:35:33] My pleasure, Richard. Great to talk with you. From your home in. Hi, Brianna. What's next?
[00:35:49] Hello, everyone. So make sure to tune in next week, June twenty seven at 12:00 to hear Kathy Fox, who's a criminal justice. Sociologists talk about current issues in the United States corrections system. So we hope to see you all there. And thank you for joining us here. Have a great rest.