The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Miss Rural Electrification

Jan Brown, a student at Angelo State College in Texas, was named "Miss Rural Electrification of 1966" at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's (NRECA) annual meeting in Las Vegas. Brown represented the Central Texas Electrical Co-Op at Fredericksburg. The cover story noted that she "proved that beauty and brains go admirably together." If we view pageants not merely as trivial or exploitative, but as civic rituals that produce political subjects, then we can see Brown as the feminine embodiment of the values of the co-op she represented.

According to its website, NRECA was organized in 1942 to overcome shortages of electric construction materials during WWII, get insurance for newly constructed rural electrical cooperatives and "mitigate wholesale power problems." "Rural Electrification: Non-Partisan, Non-Profit, One-Cent Electricity for Rural America," was the Association's monthly publication. Today, NRECA represents "the national interests of cooperative electric utilities and the consumers they serve." They still publish "Rural Electric Magazine" on a monthly basis.

We found this issue in the Grace McDonald papers (BANC MSS 85/139). McDonald, a consumer advocate, helped form the California Farm Research and Legislative Committee and was Executive Secretary of the California Farmer Consumer Information Committee. In addition to lobbying on behalf of farm laborers, McDonald also worked on occupational health and safety issues. Her 1951 novel, "Swing Shift," written under the pseudonym Margaret Graham, told the story of organized and unorganized railroad men, miners and tobacco workers.

--- M. Bryer

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