Civilian Conservation Corps, Civilian Climate Corps: The CCC Then and Now

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Rachel Miller-Haughton 

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a program established in 1933 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt to provide jobs for “young, unemployed men during the Great Depression.” As a program, it existed for 9 years and employed about 3 million men across the country, ages 17 to 28, who were US citizens. The men enrolled served 6-month terms, and could serve up to two years. They were required to send a large chunk of the $30 a month they made home to their families 

During the Great Depression, these men were fed, clothed, and housed. They made the equivalent of $500 a month in today’s dollars and worked physically demanding jobs. The money made a huge difference to these men and their families (they were usually unmarried). At the beginning of the CCC program, the program was about creating model manual laborers; by the end of 1942, men enrolled were seen as future soldiers and many enlisted in WWII after finishing their time in the Corps.  

The men in the CCC “made valuable contributions to forest management, flood control, conservation projects, and the development of state and national parks, forests, and historic sites. In return, the men received the benefits of education and training, a small paycheck, and the dignity of honest work.  One such man was Harry L. Hogancamp, whose scrapbook is held in Special Collections & Archives.

A member of CCC Company 3728 in Bancroft, Iowa, Hogancamp was an Iowa native with a camera who documented his bunkmates, peers and officers, and daily work. His certificate of proficiency in “Stump Blasting” is found at the beginning of his scrapbook, along with a cigarette purchase card, both from 1940. What follows are images of trucks of explosives, his friends at work, and portraits of men about camp. Harry’s photos offer us some insight into the realities of President Roosevelt’s favorite New Deal program, according to Jean Edward Smith in her 2007 biography FDR 

Other sources of information about the historic CCC in Special Collections are the Frederick Elliott Biermann Papers (Msc0128) and the Quenton C. Nolte Collection of WWI and CCC Materials (MsC0996). The program has a strong history in Iowa.  

Of course, the realities of the CCC program were far from perfect. It was segregated, and Black men were not allowed into supervisory positions except as educational directors in the all-Black camps; the majority of all CCC camps were led by white men. There was also a separate division for federally recognized tribes: the “Indian Emergency Conservation Work Division” (IECW), also known as CCC-ID (“Indian Division”) [Gower].  

President Joe Biden has reinstated the CCC, but with a different aim, and certainly one that is inclusive. His Civilian Climate Corps borrows the letters of FDR’s CCC and spins it on its head: it is an initiative “to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”  The establishment of this new Corps was part of a brief from January 27, and shows that the new president, like FDR, wants Americans to have opportunities on improving the environment. Although the setup of Biden’s CCC is likely to be different, it is impossible to deny the parallels between the New Deal and the current administration.  

Like its predecessor, this new CCC uses government programs for jobs and training for “public projects aimed at preparing for, mitigating or forestalling some of the worst environmental impacts of global warming.” This project is, so far, not up and running. But it is worth it to look back on the example set by the 1930s CCC and see what to emulate and what to change. With examples from the archives like the scrapbook of Harry Hogancamp, we can see how the values of hard work and concern for the environment carry on and can help to build a better future for America.  

Page from Harry’s scrapbook showing life working for the CCC

 

Further Reading:

Gower, Calvin W. (1972). “The CCC Indian Division: Aid for Depressed Americans, 1933–1942”. Minnesota History. 3–13.

Gower, Calvin W. (1976). “The Struggle of Blacks for Leadership Positions in the Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933-1942.” The Journal of African American History, 61(2), pp. 123-135. 

Heller, C. E. (2010) ‘The U.S. Army, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Leadership for World War II, 1933—1942.” Armed Forces & Society, 36(3), pp. 439–453. doi: 10.1177/0095327X09333944.

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Alexa Starry from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

Alexa Starry

Cookbooks are a wonderful way to share things through time, heritage, and generations – recipes, ideas, home remedies, you name it. They are an incredibly valuable source of information for historical narratives. When you follow a recipe that was handwritten with care by someone before you, you’re keeping a piece of that person alive. Cooking can be a beautiful, shared experience throughout history, and, in that case, cookbooks can be the blueprint for interpretations of these experiences. They can help shed a light upon the past.

Through Julia Booker Thompson’s 1898 recipe and travel book, we get a glimpse into the daily life of a woman during the nineteenth century. We know she enjoyed trying new recipes, traveled occasionally, and oftentimes looked through the newspaper for home remedies. The details in the journal point to a woman dedicated to running an efficient household, something expected of many middle- and upper-class women at the time. 

Julia’s recipe collection ranges from sponge cake to pumpkin pie to potato puffs. She includes a recipe for scalloped tomatoes which consists of tomatoes seasoned with sugar, pepper, salt, and butter, then covered with breadcrumbs and baked. There are also recipes for grape juice, orange filling, ice cream, and soda mixtures. She would often leave notes in the margins of these recipes with brief personal reviews such as “fine” and “good.” Though short, these notes are an impression of Julia’s character, her tastes and thoughts. A few of her recipes are credited to a woman named Ella Churchill, and there are also recipes from an “Aunt Florence,” the namesake behind Julia’s entry of “Aunt Florence’s Chicken Pie and Biscuits.” The preservation of cookbooks like this one give us the chance to recreate ideas, such as meals, in the present day. It is a way to vividly reimagine the past in a modern context.

Some of the most interesting things in the book are the home remedies and newspaper clippings tucked inside, including tips on how to remove mildew, a remedy for poison ivy, how to clean silk with a raw potato, a trick to remove ink stains with a “paste of sweet milk and corn meal,” and a cure for Cholera Infantum that calls for boiled strawberry leaves. These remedies not only provide a glimpse into common ailments that might afflict a household during this time, but also a look into how people were applying their knowledge and resources to fight these afflictions. 

Another noteworthy and unique component of the book is that a short portion of it serves as a travel journal. There are notes of a trip to Montreal, followed by a quick journey to St. Paul, as well. It is a look into not only the ordinary home life of Julia Booker Thompson, but also an exciting moment in time for her. 

Though we often associate women of the nineteenth century with the home, this little book shows several facets to Julia Booker Thompson. The recipes and reviews show a woman who cared about the food she cooked, and the names with the recipes show a community of women Julia found herself a part of. Paper clippings show someone interested in furthering her knowledge of best practices for a healthy, clean, and efficient household. And the unique travel log shows a woman not just confined to one space. In fact, her recipe and travel book offers a vivid and sensorial look into the past. It has been over a hundred years since Julia wrote in this book, but we are still able to see details of a life lived, of Julia’s life, live on. 

 

Further Reading:

Driver, Elizabeth. “Cookbooks as primary sources for writing history: a bibliographer’s view.” Food, Culture & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, 2009, p. 257+. Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

“Everyday Life & Women in America: C.1800-1920 / from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, Duke University, & the New York Public Library.” Marlborough, Wiltshire, England: Adam Matthew Publications, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, 2006.

Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wessell, A. “Cookbooks for Making History: As Sources for Historians and As Records of the Past”. M/C Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Aug. 2013.

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Natasha Otteson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

By Natasha Otteson

The University of Iowa Libraries has a number of bookbinding models available for research in its Book Model Collection, found in the Conservation Department located at the Main Library. Often utilized in Special Collections classes, this collection is used to exemplify and demonstrate the various mechanisms of books. One of these models is a reproduction of a 17th century Armenian codex Hayrapet Gospels, and was produced by Shanna Leino (Collection Number: 17a.01).

Though the printing press came to the Western world in the fifteenth century through German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, hand-written manuscripts continued to be produced in Armenia until the First World War in the early twentieth century. This was likely due to either one of two reasons. Creating a manuscript by hand was seen as a holy act, one that paid homage to the monk-scribes before them, or, as in the case with texts of religious significance, multi-colored illustrations and illuminations were of higher quality when done by hand, rather than at the press.

A flap was part of the binding to protect the pages within

There are several qualities that distinguish Armenian bookbinding traditions from others. Armenian codices were bound in either calf or goatskin leather, and the color of the leather would be a shade of brown. The surface of the leather would contain blind tooling (though never in gilt) on both the front and the back covers. Attached to the back cover was a fore-edge flap. This flap was also bound in the same leather as the cover, and it would contain tooling in the same style as that on the front and back covers. The flap was precisely the same size of the fore-edge, and the purpose of this flap was to protect the leaves from damage. The inclusion of this flap created a protective, almost box-like container for the text block. 

The spine of the codex was composed of thin, vertical fillets intended to aid in opening. Armenian books were bound in the Coptic style, where the quires of the text block were sewn together through the folds. Armenian bookbinders would employ the use of “grecquage”, a technique that inserted V-shaped notches into the quires. This would allow the sewing needle to pass through the notches with ease, as well as the support cords to be recessed within the spine of the codex. Endbands were utilized to protect the structural integrity of the spine, and a chevron design was often used. [insert “Blog Image 3.jpg” photo]

Close up of the endbands

The size of the boards used in the binding are the same size as the text block of the codex. Compared to other books of this time period, the boards used are relatively thin, usually between 2-5mm thick. In a typical codex the grain of the wood runs vertically, but in most Armenian books, the wood grain of the board runs horizontally. Lastly, instead of paper, parchment, or vellum, like most other books of this era, Armenian books utilize a cloth covering on the inside of the front and back boards, usually linen. Together, these characteristics make early Armenian books a fascinating study in bookbinding techniques.

 

 

For further reading on Armenian binding practices, see:

1. Kouymjian, Dickran. Armenian bookbinding from manuscript to printed book (Sixteenth to nineteenth century). In: Gazette du livre médiéval, n°49. Automne 2006. pp. 1-14; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/galim.2006.1715.

2. Merian, Sylvie M. “The Structure of Armenian Bookbinding and Its Relation to Near-Eastern Bookmaking Traditions”. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1993.

To learn more about the Book Model Collection, or to schedule a time to view it, please check out the Conservation Department’s website or contact Head of Conservation, Giselle Simon (giselle-simon@uiowa.edu). 

Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Breanna Himschoot  from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

 Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

By Breanna Himschoot

Under its bright lavender marbled binding, this handwritten American cookbook (American cookbook, ca. 1850, US32 in the Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts Collection at the University of Iowa) holds a world of community and relationships, even though the two writers of the book are unknown to us. Given the context of its recipes and handwriting, we believe this book to have been written by two women in America, in the years following 1851. Though the first page contains penned illustrations fit for a cover page, this book has no self-prescribed title or mention of the names of the women who wrote it. Yet, we can learn about these women through their interactions with the book itself.

In the hand of the first writer, the text is formatted consistently throughout, with numbered pages that leave extra room to fill in before a roughly alphabetic index relating page number to recipe. This neat and practical formatting, paired with her recipe for Harvey’s Fish Sauce (page 17) copied from Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery (1851), suggests that the first writer has at least some familiarity with printed books, and cookbooks especially. She also uses the pages of this cookbook to comment on her own recipes, noting her preference of one pea soup over another and adding tips based on her experience using the recipes she records.

Both hands on one page with citation, page 39

Our second writer is much less neat and is unafraid to scribble through, and write over her own writing. She begins filling in her new recipes in any space she can find before she reaches the previously unfilled pages (page 50). Though our first writer did occasionally attribute her recipes to others (Mrs. Downe’s raisin wine on page 35 and Mr. Pendrill’s rec’t when a barrel of beer turns sour on page 46 for example), our second writer is much more likely to attribute her recipes to named people. Over the course of her writing, she names the sources of at least 59 of her recipes, with a Mrs. Saward (often abbreviated to Mrs. S) having a notable number of contributions. Mrs. Saward is the citation for almost every recipe from pages 98-104, 23 in total. Could our unnamed writer have been visiting her and consulting her favorite recipes together, perhaps copying them from Mrs. S’s own cookbook? Was she a friend, mentor, or relative? These names, especially when looking at how they appear in the text, give us a sense of the community that this unnamed second writer lived in, and allow us to speculate on her interactions in this community.

Though we cannot be sure of the second writer’s relationship to the first, we can see in these pages an engagement with the recipes that the first writer recorded. From correcting her spelling of “spinach” (page 43), striking through recipes in the index, and pasting over the recipe for Hunter’s pudding with a recipe for Plum pudding instead (6), we see this text being used, updated, and commented on. Beyond its written engagements, the staining on certain pages point to this book having an active life the kitchen rather than remaining a pristine set of records. Though we may never know these women’s names, perhaps by spending time among their notes and the pages they stained, we can learn more about the community they lived in and the recipes they valued.

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

 

Theophano, Janet. 2002. Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote. New York: Palgrave.

Djuna Barnes’ Ladies Almanack: An almanac like no other

The following is written by Curator of Books and Maps Eric Ensley

March is women’s history month, and it feels appropriate to turn towards the work of a great writer from the early twentieth century, Djuna Barnes.

Barnes is well known to students of gender and sexuality, particularly for her literary work that broached the topic of homosexuality in ways that ran afoul of censorship laws in the United States in the early half of the 20th century. Born in New York in 1892, she spent most of the 1920s in Paris, where she befriended author James Joyce and enjoyed some success as an author herself, though her now-celebrated novel Nightwood did poorly at the time.

Title page with crossed out printer’s name

UI Libraries Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a first edition copy of Barnes 1928 roman à clef, Ladies Almanack. The first edition had a run of 1,050 copies, which it appears the author and her friends handed out on the streets of Paris. They even smuggled it into the United States, where the book’s overt description of lesbian relationships defied decency laws. Even the book’s printer, Edward Titus, blocked out his name on the novel’s title page, either to protect himself from the possibility of legal reprisal for the previous reason, or in fear of legal reprisal by members of the elite lesbian circle surrounding Natalie Clifford Barney that the book obliquely describes.

The novel is told through the genre of an almanac, with careful attention to time and seasons and their relationship to the female body. The illustrations, all created by Barnes herself, are meant to resemble the woodblock prints of early almanacs. Likewise, the illustrations often depict the labors of the month, tying them to a long tradition of guidance books showing the appropriate actions at a given moment—such a use of illustrations goes back to books of hours and their miniatures of the labors of the month.  Author Lindsay Starck, in the summer 2019 issue of Modern Fiction Studies, argued that this attention to the rhythms of the year serves to highlight early twentieth-century sexologists arguing that homosexuals were out of step with the appropriate rhythms of nature.

Illustration by Barnes

Barnes and her work did not enjoy widespread success during her lifetime or enter the mainstream of literary conversation —this is in large part due to the repression of her work and bigotry against her due to her homosexuality. The first edition of Ladies Almanack has an important story to tell in its reminding us that book history often takes center stage in the history of censorship and repression. I hope as you look at this book you’ll imagine Barnes surreptitiously and illegally carrying this little volume with its covered printing statement, full of “dangerous” ideas, across the border into the United States.

Sitting Around the Library Table with Laura Michelson

Join us as we sit down and discuss around the library table. We will light a fire in the fireplace and share stories from our favorite collection. Grab your favorite piece of classic literature or bring a new story you are writing as we share with you all the life of an English Romantic and his collector.

Exhibit poster designed by Zoe Webb

This is what former Olson Graduate Research Assistant, and current Project Curator for Grinnell College, Laura Michelson captures in her exhibit, Around the Library Table, featured now in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“Luther Brewer featured his collection with friends in December 1920 and he was about 100 years away from the important years in Leigh Hunt’s life,” Michelson said. “It is important that 100 years from that we are focusing on their lives again and the impact they have had.”

Special Collections is home to the Luther Brewer-Leigh Hunt collection, which documents Romantic-era Hunt’s writings and life, his literary friends, and Brewer’s collecting of these material. This collection is challenging to search  because it resides in multiple locations and has had many different organization systems placed upon it over the years. These challenges, however, is what opened Michelson’s curiosity into the collection.

Before she became Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Michelson worked as a graduate student employee with Special Collections. One of her projects was to update the manuscript inventory of the Brewer-Hunt collection, and this got her immersed into the collection and its history.

“Lindsay Moen gave me that project, and this project is what impacted my work and my interests now,” Michelson said.

When Michelson became the Olson Graduate Research Assistant, her research didn’t stop with her graduate student position. She continued to research and make sense of the Brewer-Hunt collection she was growing to love, and she wanted to share that love with rest of the library through an exhibit.

“I wanted more people to be excited about the collection, too,” Michelson shared. “It [the collection] is exceptional for what is has and because the framing of it is around a lesser-known name, a lot of people don’t know we have this English-Romantics collection at Iowa.”

Piece of Leigh Hunt’s fireplace featured in Laura Michelson’s exhibit.

A piece in the exhibit Michelson is particularly excited about is a piece of Hunt’s fireplace. The piece comes from one of Hunt’s houses and his London last address. Michelson states that Hunt wrote about his fireplace, mentioning that in the sunlight he could see the flecks of gold in the fireplace that he has never seen before. Now, you can see the flecks of gold in the same fireplace Hunt stood in front of.

“The piece of the fireplace is interesting to have because it grounds Leigh Hunt as a relatable person, and it is touching to have that piece in our reading room,” Michelson stated.

One day, Michelson would love to see the fireplace reconstructed and as a focal point in the reading room so we all can sit around the fireplace with Hunt again.

Besides the fireplace, Michelson loves the handwritten works from the authors like John Keats. These items add a different level to reading the published-typed versions because viewers can see the corrections and thought process behind these works, Michelson commented.

However, one of her favorite items didn’t come from the stacks. It came from her colleague, peer, and more importantly, her friend. Zoe Webb, former graduate student worker at Special Collections, designed the poster for the exhibit. Webb has listened to Michelson talk for many hours about Hunt and his friends, and she was able to bring these people to life as characters on the poster. The interpretation in the poster helps illustrate the exhibit’s story of the relationship between Leigh Hunt and Luther Brewer.

The exhibit is in the reading room through April 2021. If you are not able to view it in person, there will be an online exhibit coming this spring. Eager to look at the exhibit and can’t make it to campus? Listen to Michelson’s Bibliophiles lecture on her research into the Leigh Hunt collection and Luther Brewer.

 

Ida Bogue’s Handmade Adventure

The following was written by Curator of Books and Maps Eric Ensley

Hand drawn map from The Loiterers

As the snow begins to melt away in Iowa City, happily we begin to think of nature and adventures along the hills and riverbanks of the countryside. This desire for spring is felt all the more as we live through times of loss and global catastrophe. I suggest that it is this same yearning for bucolic settings that drove English author and artist Ida Bogue to make our newest edition to the collection, The Loiterers, at the height of World War II.

19th century service card from Hong Kong found in the pages of the book

I should first say that no words I can write can quite do this manuscript justice—it is a stunning work of art, from its over 800 handwritten pages, 30 handmade watercolors, and the decorative binding made by Bogue herself. The book tells the story of two young boys who go on adventures through the English countryside and meet a cast of characters, many of whom are illustrated in the watercolors. Also included are a number of objects pertinent to the story tucked into the binding, including a leaf and several nineteenth-century washing service cards from Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Bogue may have intended the book as a gift for her young nephews, no doubt suffering through the war. It’s difficult to say, however, as Bogue was a reclusive figure, having never reached authorial fame, having no children of her own, or any sustained relationships as far as can be see. In her lifetime she apparently wrote six different manuscripts stories like this. One, a fairy story called Child-Hazel, is still owned by the family and appeared on an episode of Antiques Roadshow in the early 2000s. It is likely that Bogue’s family also has another one of these manuscripts stories as well. A third story was sent by Bogue as a gift for the young princesses Margaret and Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. The other three were assumed lost—though our manuscript is believed to be one of these three.

“Remember Me” written at the beginning of the story

Bogue’s life is difficult to research, and she no doubt did not achieve the acclaim she deserved in her lifetime. One of the pages of her book is inscribed with a haunting command: “Remember Me.”

Though it comes too late, we invite you to witness Bogue’s masterful art and remember her among the numerous women whose art has gone unwitnessed and undiscussed.

We hope to have this work digitized so that all may enjoy Bogue’s craft and will notify our readers when we do. If you have any information that might aid in reaching the family of Ida Bogue, please contact the curator of rare books, Eric Ensley: eric-ensley@uiowa.edu

Discovering the hectographic world of Mae Strelkov

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant, Rich Dana

In the 1970s, a remarkable woman from Argentina was an underground art sensation.

While researching the forgotten art of hectographic printing, I discovered the work of Mae Strelkov, a little-known visionary artist from Argentina. This discovery was the sort of experience that illustrates precisely why those of us who frequent special collections libraries love them so much; when I followed the finding aid (M. Horvat Science Fiction Fanzines Collection, MsC0791) and opened the folder, the contents were not just a reproduction or a digital scan of some of her creations, but a nearly-complete collection of her hand-made zines, including post-marked, hand-made envelops and personal notes. 

 

Purple landscape of mountains with tree and owl in foreground
Example of Mae Strelkov’s purple-hued landscapes

Some readers may have never heard of a hectograph. Hectography is a technique for duplicating documents using inks made from aniline dye rather than pigments. The ink is transferred to paper via a rubbery copy pad made of gelatin and glycerine, yielding up to 40 prints before becoming depleted. The hectograph was the precursor to the spirit duplicator, commonly known as a “ditto machine,” remembered for the bright purple text and sweet methyl-ester smell it produced. “Hecto” was used widely by school teachers and churches and in the production of early science fiction fanzines. It fell out of favor as newer copiers became available after WWII, making Mae Strelkov one of a handful of artists still using hectography in the 1970s. 
 
I began to search for more information on Mae Strelkov, and found several articles written by SF fans in the early 1970s. I was also very fortunate to speak with her son, Tony Strelkov, from his home in Argentina via Zoom. Tony explained that his mother was born and raised in China, the child of English missionaries. As a teenager she met his father, Vadim Strelkovwho had fled Russia after the revolution. They married when Mae was 18 and were immediately forced to flee China to escape the Japanese invasion in 1937 

The young refugee couple found a new home in Chile, and then Argentina. In Buenos Aires, Mae worked as a translator and secretary.  In 1960, Vadim was hired to manage an estancia (estate and cattle ranch) in the Cordoba hill-country of Argentina. In these beautiful surroundings, Mae raised their children, wrote and created art. Mae was an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, and despite the isolation of ranch life, or perhaps in response to it, she became an amateur publisher, trading her zines by mail with other fans in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. She became close friends with Donald A. Wolheim, the legendary science fiction publisher and founder of DAW books. Tony described to me the boxes, packed full of science fiction novels and fanzines, that would regularly arrive from her American friend, Wolheim. 

For Mae, printing options were limited for creating her publications. She settled on the hectograph, making her own printing pads (a fan legend that Tony confirmed) by boiling cow bones to extract the gelatin. Because of the limited ink colors available, her idyllic landscapes are rendered in pinks, purples, and blues, giving them a psychedelic quality. Her writings reflect on her missionary parents’ spiritual traditions, those of her childhood home in rural China, and the Andes’ indigenous people. Her landscapes are fantastical, and her accounts of everyday life on the ranch are infused with a mystical quality. Her missives are also full of observations on linguistics. She created symbols for what she considered universal human sounds– a far-out idea at the time, but one that is now widely studied among language scholars. 

In 1973, Susan Wood (Glicksohn), a Canadian literary scholar/feminist/environmentalist (and SF fan) wrote in her fanzine Aspidistra: 

“SF conventions, for me, exist mainly as places to meet other fannish people whom I only know on paper, people whom I have never met, who are my friends. One of those friends is Mae Strelkov…Mae has lived most of her life in Argentina, where she and her husband Vadim share a ranch with children, cattle, crazy goats, pumas—a whole world she’ll create for you with skill and zest. A talented author and an artist too, Mae is equally at home, and equally fascinating, writing about her lively family—or the world’s problems; about linguistics, and the strange pattern of words and symbols she finds repeating themselves through the oriental, western and Amerindian cultures she knows so well—or the antics of her pet skunk; about the Catholic Church, and its effects on the world as she sees it—or your latest fanzine.” 

Picture of Mae's head on an orange background
From “The Mae Strelkov Trip Report,” 1975

 Susan Wood and Ohio fan Joan Bower mounted a successful “fan fund” (commonly used in fandom to subsidize travel for fans who cannot otherwise afford it) to fly Mae from Argentina to the US, where she would attend the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington DC (DISCON II) and DeepSouth Con in AtlantaAccording to Con reports, the grandmotherly 57-year-old Strelkov made a splash with the young American con-goers. She also purchased a Greyhound Bus Ameripass and zig-zagged from coast to coast and back, visiting fans, pen-pals, and distant relatives on an epic solo adventure, all of which she recounted in The Mae Strelkov Trip Report. The 35-page report was mimeograph-printed and distributed by one of her biggest fans, NASA engineer and fanzine publisher Ned Brooks. 

No description of Mae Strelkov’s writing and artwork can fully impart the actual documents’ utter uniqueness and magical quality. Unlike the vast majority of fanzines, Mae’s were produced almost entirely outside of the direct influence of American pop culture and fannish activities. For American SF fans in 1974, she must have appeared much like the character Valentine Michael Smith, a fascinating stranger in a strange land. 
 
Mae Strelkov’s zines, as well as those created by Susan Wood and Ned Brooks,  all available in the Michael Horvat Science Fiction Fanzines Collection, Msc0791.  

 

A special thanks to Tony Strelkov for sharing his mother’s story.