The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Michaels (Sheila) Papers
Collection Number: M373
Volume: 1.0 cubic feet
Sheila Babs Michaels (aka Kessler, Shiki y Michaels), born on May 8, 1939, was reared in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended the College of William and Mary, but was suspended for her political and racial opinions while on the College's newspaper board. After returning to St. Louis, Missouri, and subsequently moving to New York City, she attended Columbia University, where she created a concentration in Mythology and did graduate work in Middle Eastern (Persian and Ancient Civilizations) Studies.
By 1961, she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and began her personal crusade to have "Ms.," the term used for someone whose marital status is unknown or who wishes to state she does not "belong" to a man, adopted as a form of address for women. By 1962, she worked for both CORE and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Jackson, Mississippi, where she also worked very briefly for the Mississippi Free Press. In 1963, she became a SNCC Field Secretary. During Freedom Summer 1964, she was Project Manager of the Mississippi Council of Federated Organizations' (COFO's) Hattiesburg Project. Michaels also worked with SNCC in Georgia and Tennessee.
In 1968, when the
yet-unformed women's movement launched its first picket against the Miss
America Pageant, she was in Istanbul. Returning to New York she joined
the first New York feminist group (later known as the New York Radical
Feminists), which was meeting at the Southern Conference Educational Fund
(SCEF) offices without the knowledge of SCEF's national leadership. Michaels
was instrumental in getting the term "feminist" accepted in
place of "women's liberationist" and averted the enshrinement
of the term "male chauvinist pig."
Contents of the Collection.
An Oral History With Sheila Michaels. Vol. 732, Hattiesburg:
The inclusive dates of the collection are 1960-2001, but the bulk of the collection consists of materials from 1962-1964, during Michaels' tenure as a staff member in CORE and later in SNCC. Of special interest in the collection are Michaels' role in the adoption of "Ms." as a form of address for women, her 23-page Field Diary, the January 5, 1963-June 8, 1963 copies of the Mississippi Free Press, and an oral interview of Mr. Sandy Leigh, SNCC Field Secretary in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964.