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Gender and Sexuality Collections
The Canaday Center began collecting published and manuscript materials documenting the social history of American women in the early 1980s. The published works in this collection focus mainly on the period of 1840-1920, and concern the nature of domestic life and the struggle of women for equality. During this era, women were seen as the repository of American ideals and virtue, and worshipped as the creators and protectors of future generations.
To support and guide women in this endeavor, popular books and magazines of the period covered all aspects of domesticity such as etiquette, beauty, marriage, and health. The Canaday Center’s collection includes hundreds of titles which today provide a glimpse into the lives of women of the period and the cultural values of Victorian America.
Despite this overriding belief in domesticity, society did allow women to be involved in a few pursuits outside of the home. Such activities included social reform movements that strove to improve the lives of the poor, sick, and undereducated. Eventually, these movements led to the movement advocating for women to have the right to vote. The Center’s collections document this as well, and include the records of the Toledo Woman’s Suffrage Association, and rare issues of a Toledo suffragette newspaper The Ballot Box. The latter was edited by Sarah R.L. Williams, one of the members of the Board of Directors of the Toledo University of Arts and Trades.
More recently, the Center has branched out from documenting the lives of women to also document the lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Toledo. Collections in this area include the papers of former University of Toledo professor Jan Waggoner Suter, an early gay activist, whose collection includes documentation of LGBT groups in the 1960s and 1970s when most were still underground. Recently, the Center collected materials from Caesar’s Showbar, an iconic entertainment spot for drag queen performers that closed in 2010 after three decades in downtown Toledo.
Together, the Canaday Center’s collections provide rich documentation of many aspects of gender and sexuality in our society.