Thousands of digitized records reflecting major historical events of the 20th century related to PEN International, a global writers’ organization, are available online beginning this month. [Read more…] about New digital resources launch online for study of human rights
The Ransom Center will digitize the papers of British author Radclyffe Hall and partner, artist Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge, thanks to a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
More than 38,500 images from their papers will be digitized and made available online following the 20-month project. The papers include Hall’s notebooks and drafts for her 1928 novel “The Well of Loneliness,” a landmark work in lesbian literature. Materials related to the censorship of “The Well of Loneliness” demonstrate how the novel made lesbianism visible to a broad public despite the official ban in England.
Teachers, students, and community groups will benefit from having online access to the papers of two early pioneers in the movement to promote awareness, understanding, and protection of LGBTQIA+ rights and freedoms. The materials will serve as an important resource for scholars of 20th-century modernist literature, cultural studies, history, women’s and gender studies, art history, and LGBTQIA+ studies.
The project is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“The richness and depth of this material goes well beyond the subsequent censorship and cultural controversies sparked by “The Well of Loneliness,” and we’re grateful to the Council on Library and Information Resources for recognizing the significance of this project,” said Ransom Center Director Steve Enniss.
The papers document Hall’s career as a writer, Troubridge’s work as a sculptor and translator, and their personal and creative partnership. Their writings, correspondence, and diaries offer insight into a broad range of subjects including gender identity, lesbianism and sexuality; spiritualism and religion; and sociopolitical movements spanning the two world wars.
“Hall and Troubridge are internationally recognized as LGBTQ pioneers, and it is vitally important that audiences around the globe have access to their papers now and in the future,” said Jana Funke, senior lecturer in medical humanities at the University of Exeter. “Making these materials available online will significantly aid the development of new research and scholarship.”
The Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge papers were acquired between 1960 and 1999. Hall’s papers account for about 60 percent of the material and include handwritten notebooks and typescript drafts for 10 novels and 30 short fiction and prose works, correspondence, business papers, photographs, and scrapbooks.
One hundred and thirty-one diaries from 1930 to 1951 form the core of Troubridge’s papers. Among her entries are those after Hall’s death in 1943, written in the form of letters to Hall. Also included are correspondence, drafts of Troubridge’s biography of Hall, literary translations, and photo and clipping albums
The Hall and Troubridge papers will be accessible online in January 2021.
Coming Out of the Archives is a selection of materials curated by students in my spring 2017 Queer Archives class. The materials can be seen in the Ransom Center’s Stories to Tell exhibition that features rotating highlights from the collections. [Editor’s note: the items are no longer on view, as the display cases have rotated] [Read more…] about Coming out of the archives
The English writer Radclyffe Hall (1880–1943) is best known for her lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness (1928). Pronounced obscene after a sensational and scandalous court case, it was banned [Read more…] about The silent novel in Radclyffe Hall’s ground-breaking The Well of Loneliness
Through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a team of archivists and student interns has been working to organize and catalog the papers of attorney Morris Leopold Ernst since September 2009. The collection is now open for research, and a finding aid is available online.
Morris Leopold Ernst (1888–1976), who earned his law degree 100 years ago, may not yet be a household name, but his legal career has had a lasting impact on American society. Ernst dealt primarily with civil liberties cases in a variety of areas, including censorship, obscenity, and first amendment rights. In addition to his busy legal career, he was a prolific writer, authoring more than 30 books and hundreds of articles, essays, and short works on legal topics and other social issues like big business and divorce.
Ernst is probably best known for his work in literary censorship cases. His influential fights include the defense of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, Arthur Schnitzler’s Casanova’s Homecoming, and most famously, James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Though the majority of Ernst’s work took place in the early and mid-twentieth century, as our team of archivists sifted through his papers and processed the collection, we couldn’t help noticing how timely the collection seemed. Over and over again the subjects we read about in Ernst’s archive were echoed by stories in the recent news.
The case United States v. One Book Entitled Ulysses by James Joyce, which Ernst and his colleagues carefully orchestrated, won Ernst much fame and set a precedent for arguing and trying “objectionable” literature. Banned in the United States for more than a decade before Ernst won the case in 1933, Joyce’s masterpiece has had to overcome other more recent hurdles. In 2010 the work was in the news when Apple tried to censor a graphic novel version by Rob Berry and Josh Levitas. Before allowing the Ulysses comic to appear as an electronic book for the iPad, Apple requested that the illustrators remove all nudity from their images. Apple eventually rescinded its demand and allowed the original illustrations to appear.
In the 1930s, Ernst was also a prominent figure in the early birth control movement defending the Birth Control Federation of America and the Clinical Research Bureau, predecessors of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. As these organizations printed and distributed educational materials on reproduction and contraception, they were charged with obscenity. In cases such as United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, Ernst exonerated the movement’s leaders from indecency and in so doing, helped promote women’s rights and the freedom of choice. Contraception and women’s rights have continued to be newsworthy topics.
Ernst was also well known for his work with labor unions, famously defending first amendment rights in Hague, Mayor, et al. v. Committee for Industrial Organization et al. This conflict arose in the 1930s when Jersey City, N.J. mayor Frank Hague tried to suppress many of the Committee for Industrial Organization’s (CIO) activities and decreed by city ordinance that laborers could not assemble in public. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court where the workers’ rights were upheld. Though Ernst won that case in 1939, politicians and labor unions have often been at odds with each other. For example, beginning in February 2011 headlines were populated with reports about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to curtail union bargaining rights. The AFL-CIO represented workers in these disagreements as well.
Ernst published his book Too Big in 1940, one of the many books he wrote. The title is echoed by the phrase “too big to fail,” with which we all are familiar, as it has been frequently used in the media since the market crash in 2008. Monopolies and the danger of big business were of real concern to Ernst, and he wrote about it not only in that volume, but in numerous magazine articles.
Censorship, birth control, labor unions, and monopolies were only a few of Ernst’s many interests. As a tireless worker he involved himself in many other issues, such as reducing postage rates for books and promoting literacy around the world. His papers provide insight into his legal practice and writing career and could also provide a new perspective on issues in contemporary society.
Please click the thumbnails below to view full-size images.