This index was a project of mine. Most of what I know about collaborative work I learned from WomanSpirit Magazine, though I only came to realize that later in life. A vital cultural Happening, manifesting as a publication, WomanSpirit was published for ten years by Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove, along with a collective of women to make it all happen, out of Rootworks, women's land in Wolf Creek, Oregon. The whole story of this unusual magazine would justify an extended essay or book and someone ought to write it. Someone who was there.
Arriving in my mailbox (on the other side of the continent) quarterly, at equinoxes and solstices, WomanSpirit accompanied my inner and outer journey through several years of my life -- and I even got over my shyness enough to contribute a small article or two in the last issues. Jean, with the great generosity of spirit she's famous for, kept in touch with me over the years, as she did with many women who had expressed to her a special spiritual connection with WomanSpirit, and I finally did find my way to Rootworks to see the fabled place, and meet Jean in person. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The magazine WomanSpirit was a reflection of the women's community then inventing itself; inclusivity was one of the basic principles in the culture, with the result that famous names are found on its pages side by side with newcomers in an egalitarian mix reflecting the active re-creation of culture. It was an exciting time, and the best part is that it lives on. You won't find it recognized in the mainstream, but it's there in our culture if you know how to see it.
When Jean and Ruth decided ten years of coordinating, producing, and distributing a magazine had been enough, they gracefully brought the project to a close and when Jean suggested that someone might produce an index of the entire run, I volunteered. This was before the Internet as we know it now. So it was all done by mail -- snail mail. In the mid-eighties, few nontechnical types owned their own computers yet, and I had to drive across town to borrow a word processor when it was available. This and other things slowed progress on the Index and it took several years to finish the project. It felt like forever at the time, but I did it. (!) The work included coordinating a wonderful crew of volunteers from several parts of the country (by snail mail, remember) as well as doing a lot of indexing myself, and then reworking any indexing done by others so that it was all as consistent as I could make it.
Through correspondence Jean oversaw the whole project, wrote a beautiful introduction, and I added a Foreword. It had a small print run and is ephemeral, but the Index shows up from time to time in searches when copies become available, and Jean says she occasionally hears from scholars that they find it useful in researching women's history and the history of the feminist movement. Perhaps it's time to digitize it, if nobody has done that yet.
|Linda Long, goddess bless her|
|Another favorite publication - Heresies|
I tried to buy all the feminist magazines, either by mail-order or at Mary Farmer's wonderful Lammas Women's Books and Music shop in Washington, DC, and I devoured and held onto most of the them, lugging them across the country with me to Oregon years later and eventually adding mine to the many that Rootworks donated to the University archives. I suspect most of these titles are very rare now; none could have had large publishing runs at the time. Many of the ones at Rootworks--some possibly the only remaining copies--were received as exchange copies by WomanSpirit and future scholars are fortunate that they were lovingly kept by Jean until this wonderful librarian, Linda Long, came along, to see their value.
Fortunately, this history--which belongs to and honors all women, not just lesbians; in those days, many of us who were woman-identified and separatist found a place in the culture--is now honored and preserved in the Special Collections and University Archives at the University. The collection also houses the Tee Corinne Papers.
And here's something about Rootworks, the home of WomanSpirit, a place now becoming recognized for its historical significance. The land trust is still there, enjoying new life; the women's movement might seem to have skipped a generation of two, but younger woman are now rediscovering the roots of women's spirituality through sustainability and other Earth-centered justice movements. At least I think so, and I hope so.
Thanks to Jean Mountaingrove's pack rat inclinations, and the fact that there was room in The Barn (Natalie Barney) to store boxes of back issues indefinitely, original printings of back issues of WomanSpirit are once more available, while they last, and if you're interested in women's history and culture, this is an artifact worth holding in your hands and exploring anew. Looking at the magazine now, it's part time travel and part rediscovery -- and as inspiring and lovely (and loving) as ever.
The Index itself is sold out now, but as I say, copies sometimes become available. And surely it's time to make it available again. Probably, some special collections own it. Certainly any special collection covering the subject of feminism, or spiritualty, ought to own it.
To bring this story up to date, Jean and WomanSpirit were always lodestars for me. For 25 years, living on the East Coast, I carried a little map to Rootworks in my car, just in case. WomanSpirit certainly helped determine my choice to move back West, to a location in Oregon nearby, after I retired. And in my new life here, I was able finally (25 years later) to meet many of the wonderful writers and artists who had contributed to the magazine, and still live in this part of the country, some on women's land trusts. At one gathering, a birthday party for Jean that happened soon after I moved here, I heard several other women express the same feeling, saying, "This is like meeting rock stars!"
|Jean in 2009|
PS: I finally made it to Rootworks: my camping spot, 2009
|Perched on the edge of the known world - my camping spot at Rootworks, 2009|