WomenExplore Archives in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College

In 2007 the Theological Opportunities Program celebrated the archiving of thirty-four years of TOP records and artifacts at the Sophia Smith Collection (SSC) at Smith College in Northampton. The SSC is one of the foremost archives of women's history in the world. It turns out that it is particularly interested in "grass-roots women's religious organizations" – and of course that is TOP! SSC has the papers of Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem, Roman Catholic feminist theologian Mary Daly, Jewish feminist theologian Judith Plaskow, and the records of more than a century of the National YWCA. The historian Mary Ritter Beard has said:

Without documents,
no history,
without history,
no memory,
without memory,
no development among women.

Members of "caravan" delivering the first consignment of WE/TOP archives to Smith College.
So on July 19th we drove our TOP boxes and artifacts to Smith in a nine-car caravan with 23 TOP women to deliver TOP's first archival deposit to the Sophia Smith Collection. We deposited:

(1) a thick notebook of TOP program mailers from TOP's beginnings 34 years ago and ever since,
(2) two notebooks of Joan Yates' photographic portraits of TOP attenders and a few speakers these past several years,
(3) Martha Nielsen's audio tapes of Braun Room sessions, made and preserved over the last seven years,
(4) five TOP-related VCR tapes by Avis Parke,
(5) One notebook of many of the pamphlets made by David Dodson Gray of TOP talks by a few speakers and by many TOP women's existential focuses,
(6) Charlene Brotman's book, The Kid's Book of Awesome Stuff (2004) which was written in relation to her years at TOP,
(7) Ann Wiseman's book of sketches of TOP,
(8) Sylvia Gilman's sketches of speakers from the 1990's on,
(9) Sylvia Slayton's 1988 banner about "TOP as a seed still growing," made for TOP's 15th anniversary,
(10) the 1986 woven construction from the "Weaving Ritual," consisting of construction paper and fabric interwoven, with messages about what each of us wanted to say to our mother and daughter(s),
(11) Lucile Longview's long tablecloth from the 1995 UN Women's conference in Nairobi, Kenya, brought for our use at TOP "wine and cheese" lunches.

We had already sent SSC a copy of our book, Sacred Dimensions of Women's Experience (1988), and our three pamphlets, entitled Weaving Communion Deep within Life's Grace, from our 25th and 30th anniversaries (1998 and 2003) celebrating in 234 pages what TOP has meant to each of us, and written by about 120 contributors.

TOP had a rich 34 year history and we were fortunate to have kept over those years so many different verbal and visual and audio and video and print testaments to TOP's evolving life and issues, and this is appreciated by the Smith archivists. Since the initial deposit more of TOP's and WomenExplore's archives had been added.

Archiving at Smith has given us a new sense of validation and a new sense of TOP's historical significance within women's history and in the religious/theological ferment of the most recent years of feminism. Meanwhile WomenExplore continues on as a vital and vibrant community of women examining the issues that women face in today's world.

Anyone interested in scholarly research into WE/TOP and in delving into our deep and rich history should contact the Sophia Smith Collection directly.

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WomenExplore/T.O.P. Books

In 1988 Elizabeth Dodson Gray edited Sacred Dimensions of Women’s Experience. This book was based upon the 1985 Fall TOP series. It is by 31 women, writing autobiographically, and is about the religious dimensions of those portions of the total human experience which males never experience—and therefore have never named as sacred (for example, women bringing life in childbirth).

Her own first book, Green Paradise Lost (1979), asked why did we ever think we could get away with treating nature so badly. It is now viewed as one of two classic eco-feminist texts.

Her second book, Patriarchy as a Conceptual Trap (1982), condemns what since the Middle Ages Christian theology has called the Great Chain of Being—the cosmic hierarchy which she finds rooted in the patriarchal "ranking of diversity" which begins with men ranking men above women. Ranking diversity is the conceptual trap.

In 1994 she wrote Sunday School Manifesto: In the Image of Her?, contrasting the woman-affirming accounts of Jesus in the gospels with subsequent centuries of woman-denigrating Christian theology and practice. She notes that Christian theology and churches have never repented of this history of denigrating women.

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Donella Meadows Award Presented to Elizabeth and David Dodson Gray

On 3rd June 2010, at the Spring Garden Party honoring their service to TOP, Elizabeth and David Dodson Gray were presented with the Donella Meadows Award by the Club of Rome (USA).
Donella Meadows was a pioneering American environmental scientist, teacher and writer and is best known as lead author of the influential book The Limits to Growth. She was a long-term member of the US Association for the Club of Rome, which instituted "The US Association for the Club of Rome Donella Meadows Award in Sustainable Global Actions" in her memory . This coveted award is given to a highly outstanding individual (or individuals) who created actions in a global framework toward the sustainability goals Donella expressed in her writings.
Both Elizabeth and David were members of Carrol Wilson's team in the Sloan School of Management at MIT working on a multi-year seminar on "Critical Choices for the Future," an anticipation of today’s energy concerns and global climate issues. In 1973 they prepared, with another MIT colleague, the staff work for ten days of Congressional hearings in the 93rd Congress.
For the twenty years from 1975 to 1995 Elizabeth was away two or three times a month lecturing in the U.S. and in Canada on campuses, at regional and national conferences, and in church-related settings, as an outgrowth of this work.
Elizabeth Dodson Gray's first book, Green Paradise Lost, asked why we ever thought we could get away with treating nature so badly. It is now viewed as one of two classic eco-feminist texts.
The presentation was made by Bobbi Gibb who, herself, forged new ground for women by, in 1966, becoming the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon.

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