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COLLECTION Identifier: PC 212

Photograph collection of Elaine Wessel, 1947-1978


Photographic prints and contact sheets of images Elaine Wessel took in the 1970s, mainly featuring the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU).


  • Creation: 1947-1978


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the photographs created by Elaine Wessel as well as copyright in other photographs in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Photographs may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.21 linear feet ((1/2 file box) plus 4 folio photograph folders)

The photograph collection of Elaine Wessel contains photographic prints and contact sheets of images Wessel took in the 1970s, mainly featuring the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU). Photographs document CWLU members socializing, attending CWLU meetings, and participating in community events. Several photographs document a 1973 tour CWLU members took of Foshan in the Guangdong Province of China and include images of sculptors, a factory, and rice fields. Also included are photographs Wessel took of a Chicago performance by the Alive and Trucking Theater Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and photographs of Wessel taken by others. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Photographer and lesbian rights activist Elaine Wessel was born in 1947 and was raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Roosevelt University and worked there as an audiovisual technician. As a teenager, she was active in the civil rights movement and in the 1970s, she became active in the women's rights movement. From 1970 to 1977, she was a member of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU) and wrote articles and took photographs for CWLU publications including CWLU News and Blazing Star. Wessel was also active in several lesbian rights organizations including the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Metropolitan Chicago, and Chicago Lesbian Liberation. She also contributed articles and photographs to the periodical Lavender Woman.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2021-M176

The photograph collection of Elaine Wessel was acquired from Between the Covers in October 2021.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2022

By: Johanna Carll

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Wessel, Elaine, 1947-. Photograph collection of Elaine Wessel, 1947-1978: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Jeannette Ward Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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