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Celebrating the Nevada Women's Archives

By Su Kim Chung on March 11, 2016 12:41 PM | Permalink

Mesquite Club mother/daughter luncheon, Las Vegas, Nevada, probably late 1920s or early 1930s. The oldest women's club in Las Vegas, it was founded in 1911 and still exists today. Betty Ham Dokter Collection PH 0012 0001.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s look at an ongoing collecting initiative in the UNLV Libraries that ensures the permanent preservation and promotion of women’s history in southern Nevada.  UNLV Libraries Special Collections, which documents the history and culture of Las Vegas and southern Nevada, added the Nevada Women’s Archives (NWA), as a collecting initiative in 1994, following the founding of the NWA at University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections two years earlier.  This collecting initiative focuses on the personal papers of notable women in southern Nevada, and the organizational records of numerous women’s organizations active in Las Vegas.  The NWA has long worked with Dr. Joanne Goodwin and the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada (WRIN) in discovering and selecting materials for the collection.

The NWA contains materials such as photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, correspondence, memos, reports, news clippings, and many others -- all of which provide insight into the lives and contributions these women have made in the development of Las Vegas and southern Nevada since the early 20th century. 

Examples of notable women whose papers can be in found in the NWA are pioneers who were instrumental in the founding and development of Las Vegas such as Helen Stewart, First Lady of Las Vegas, and Delphine Squires, who came here with her husband “Pop” Squires as one of the town’s founding residents in 1905. The papers of women influential in the world of gaming such as Mayme Stocker, first woman to hold a gaming license in Nevada, and Claudine Williams, one of the first female casino executives, show that women played an early role in the development of the gaming industry in Nevada. The NWA also documents the work of women involved in regional politics and community activism in Las Vegas, and includes the personal papers of women such as Jean Ford, Renee Diamond, Eileen Brookman, Thalia Dondero, Cynthia Cunningham, Ruby Duncan, Lily Fong, and Dorothy Eisenberg.

Lily Fong, higher education advocate and philanthropist in Las Vegas and first Asian-American to serve on Nevada's Board of Regents. North Las Vegas Library Collection PH 0277 0857

Women’s organizations that have played a vital role in the development of Las Vegas are also documented in the NWA. The minutes, scrapbooks, newsletters, and correspondence of organizations such as the Mesquite Club and Junior League provide insight into their efforts to bring a sense of purpose and community to the young city.  Other collections such as the archives of the Las Vegas Literary Club, Las Vegas Art League, and U-Wah-Un Study Club document the growth of cultural activities in early Las Vegas.  The records of organizations such as the League of Women Voters of the Las Vegas Valley, National Organization for Women Las Vegas Chapter, and Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada show the development of civic and political engagement in southern Nevada.

These are just a few examples of the women and women’s organizations included in the NWA. For a complete listing of the collections that form part of the NWA, check out our collection directory on the Special Collections web site.  We are constantly looking for new collections to enrich the NWA and document the lives of new generations of southern Nevada women.  If you are interested in donating to the NWA  or would like further information, please contact, Su Kim Chung, NWA Curator in UNLV Libraries Special Collections.