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“The Archivettes”

Shooting The Archivettes

Directed by Megan Rossman

Paula recounts being gay as a child with racism

“Our history was disappearing as quickly as we were making it.” 

By: Patrick Donovan – Author/Screenwriter

Seattle, WA (The Hollywood Times) 7/20/2019

“This story, like all stories of humanity, is just but one chapter in our book of life. We are storytellers and what LHA does is tell a Lesbian’s Herstory!”

– Pat Donovan

Megan Rossman at the Princess Grace Awards

Megan Rossman is assistant professor and chair of communication at Purchase College and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Rossman’s films have screened at festivals including DOC NYC and Outfest. Her film “Love Letter Rescue Squad” won best student documentary in the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival American Pavilion in 2017.

She recently completed “The Archivettes,” her first feature-length film. The documentary explores the founding and development of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. The project was awarded the prestigious Princess Grace Award. Rossman has also worked as a multimedia journalist at The Washington Post and as the director of video at Teach for America.

In 2011, she won a regional Emmy for her video “Unfinished Business: Earth Day, 40 Years Later.” In 2009, Rossman collaborated on “A Mother’s Risk,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting.

A documentary about the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

From Megan Rossman

With that realization, Deborah Edel and Joan Nestle co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. For more than 40 years, through many of the major milestones in LGBTQ+ history, the all-volunteer organization has literally rescued history from the trash.

Now the co-founders are in their mid-70s, and the group faces a number of challenges: A transfer of leadership. The rise of digital technology. A renewed call to activism in a politically charged moment. “The Archivettes” is a documentary film that explores how this group came together to combat lesbian invisibility and create “a place that says yes.”

Review:

The Archivettes

Looking at all her late partners belongings, Melissa Saks, Ellie’s partner asks, what do I do with everything she owned? The Lesbian Herstory Archives.  It exists for this very reason. So no one is forgotten.

Coordinators Meetings 2017 – 44 years of Resistance for this group…  There is not but one herstory, just like there’s not one community.  It’s in the individual stories, together that we have lesbian herstory.  Nothing’s solid and it’s not a given that Lesbians are safe.  Stop Bigotry, Stop Facism. Stop the hate!

This archive was born out of a political movement.  They are still in a political movement. Deborah Edel – Co-Founder… was an activist with Act Up as was Judith Schwarz another former Archivist shares her story about the bars… the police raids… Keep it quiet, keep it secret, keep it safe!  Concerned that their history was disappearing as soon as they were making it, LHA was was founded and run by Lesbians.

Joan Nestle – Co-Founder shares her story. The archive started in 1974. Collect everything about and by lesbians.  They are a public institution and don’t question anything. “Hello and what can we do for you today?”

Maxine Wolfe – Archivette – the principal’s of the organization spoke to her and they are all volunteer. They have a library space catalog by colored dots.  Originally done in patriarchal order like regular libraries.

Colette Montoya-Sloan – Archivette – cataloging their herstory. She wants to improve upon the past of their ancestors and feels a strong affinity to the word Lesbian.  The love and warmth bursts at the seams… There are subject files, unpublished files, 10,000 books, 1300 periodicals, artwork, slides, 12,000 photographs, short stories, graphics, audio and video tape, musical scores, buttons, clothing, 200 manuscripts of diaries, letters and personal papers and other representations of Lesbian lives and activities. LHA serves different purposes for the women at different parts of their lives. And they realize, generationally, these women are all just “humans” and they don’t have to praise them.

Mabel Hampton was born in 1901 and she was asked, “Mabel, when did you come out?” She replied with, “Come out? I was never in!”

LHA was a home to the most wonderful resilient spirits. A woman said, “You know, I was a young girl when I was taken into the camps. I was 12 or 13 at the time. Someone had given me a Polish translation of The Well of Lonliness…I wanted to live long enough to kiss a woman.  The dream of kissing a woman, gave me life at a time when all the rest we’re saying, it’d destroy our lives.”

Eva Kallisch – Writer – comes to speak a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps recounts: “I was wondering the other day, what my life would’ve been like if I had not grown up and lived through the trauma of the Nazi takeover in 1938. I know we all ask ourselves such questions, about the seeming accident of where we were born. One thing is certain: If I had been born into a middle-class Jewish family, similar to mine in America, I would not have known, at least at such an early age, that life and people can change tragically and that terror and cruelty on a mass scale, that most of us, as children, first learned from history books can break out, under certain conditions, in your own town and on your own street today or tomorrow.”

The history of racism in this country was shared by people and Paula Grant (Archivette) remembers that but she is of a different generation. She’s 72 now. What these women are doing is nothing short of creating a Library of Congress for Lesbian Herstory.  It’s filled with love, devotion, friendship, sharing, caring and a whole bunch of other wonderful adjectives that describe what LHA is and does for Lesbians.

Megan has captured the essence of what it is to be a Lesbian but more importantly, what it is to be “human” or better yet, humans becoming.  Watch this fantastic documentary by Megan Rossman and see for yourself, the sharing, the camaraderie and most importantly, the love of herstory. What is your story?

Photo Credits: Megan Rossman and Getty Images

Production Company: Megan Rossman Multimedia

“The Archivettes” will be showing at TCL C Sunday July 21 4:45pm at the Outfest Film Festival

Megan Rossman, assistant professor and chair of communication at Purchase College is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Rossman’s films have screened at festivals including DOC NYC and Outfest. Her film “Love Letter Rescue Squad” won best student documentary in the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival American Pavilion in 2017. In 2011, she received  a regional Emmy for her video “Unfinished Business: Earth Day, 40 Years Later.” In 09, Rossman collaborated on “A Mother’s Risk,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting

“The Archivettes,” her first feature-length film explores the history of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. The documentary travels the road to the founding, developing, hoping and sweating that was needed to bring us the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians. In 1972 gay and nongays joined to beginning the unending task of telling Lesbian story. Rossman’s  project was awarded the prestigious Princess Grace Award. Rossman has also worked as a multimedia journalist at The Washington Post and as the director of video at Teach for America.