INTRODUCTION TO THE WOMENS SALON'S ARCHIVE
Inspired by the historic examples of salon women such as, among others, Mme de Rambouillet, Mme Geoffrin, Mme de Stael, Gertrude Stein, and Natalie Clifford Barney, five feminist writers of the seventies, Marilyn Coffey, Erika Duncan, Karen Malpede, Gloria Orenstein, and Carole Rosenthal, decided to create a feminist forum for intellectual discussion and for the presentation of feminist writings that would serve a new generation of women writers in the ways that the salons of the past had served the male intellectuals and writers of their times. For that purpose, the Woman's Salon for Literature was established in New York, and flourished from 1975-1985.
Many of the writers featured in the Woman's Salon have, over the years, become prominent novelists and poets. They included Adrienne Rich, Kate Millett, Barbara Deming, Marge Piercy, Phyllis Chesler, Susan Griffin, Mae Swenson, Robin Morgan, Monique Wittig, Thulani Nkabinde Davis, Toi Derricotte, Cheryl Clarke, Michelle Wallace, Paula Gunn Allen, and Linda Hogan. Salons were held presenting women writers from Toronto's Feminist collective, Fireweed. Jovette Marchessault of Montreal came with actress Pol Pelletier to enact her dramatic text "Les Vaches de Nuit". There were also Salons for Latin American women writers, and for women artists who used words in their creations, as well as a Salon for women in music featuring Roberta Kosse, composer of the oratorio, "The Return of the Great Mother." Salons were created to present the works of women in prison, and to introduce works in progress. The archives also include event information from the French Salon co-created by Gloria Orenstein in Paris, called Le Lieu Dit (1978-1979), the Cerridwen Salon of the Multi-Arts (New York, 1890-1982), and the West Coast Women's Salons, held at the Women's Building and at various bookstores in Los Angeles.
Sections of the archive, particularly the newsletters, publicity statements, and fliers, have been converted into HTML format. It is our hope that by making these resources available on the World Wide Web, we can contribute to the debate about feminism in the United States in the 1970s. Let us know if you find this resource useful for your research.
Sincerely, Gloria Orenstein and Ruth Wallach
(Work on digitizing materials from the Salon archives lasted from September 1998 to September 1999)