Monday, May 12, 2014

Manuscript Monday--"in a perfectly nude condition"


The vice president of the Berkeley League of Women Voters wrote this outraged letter in 1928, describing a risqué performance at San Francisco's Curran Theater in hilarious detail: "One feature is a group of girls who sing and dance in a perfectly nude condition excepting for a veil draped around the hips and tied in front. The veil is not even brought under between the legs and when the girls dance & kick they show everything almost as if the veil were not there." 

Clara B. Sikes letter: Berkeley, Calif., to Alice Burr, 1928 July 2, League of Women Voters of San Francisco records, MS 1270, California Historical Society.
The Executive Secretary's response is a classic example of administrative evasion: there is no committee of the League to take up questions of censorship; the Board of Directors will not meet until August and everyone is out of town; the President and Chairman of the Federation of Women's Clubs are out of town, too; so tell your friends to complain to the Police Department. Interesting, however, is how the Executive Secretary frames the problem, as a question of censorship and not obscenity (although the letter was later filed under the heading "delinquency").

Executive secretary letter to Clara B. Sikes, 1928 July 10, League of Women Voters of San Francisco records, MS 1270, California Historical Society.
Archivist Jaime Henderson is now processing the records of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and California. The League addressed many of the important issues of their day, including suffrage, education, criminal justice, and the plight of migrant laborers. Once processed, there records will provide an invaluable resource for historians of the women's movement (and its inter-generational conflicts), politics, social reform, and urban development in California.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
msilva@calhist.org
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