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COLLECTION Identifier: 96-M78--96-M118

Papers of Holly Near, 1967-1994


Papers of singer, songwriter, activist, actor, and author Holly Near


  • Creation: 1967-1994


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. To gain access to folders #216-344f, researchers must sign a special permission form agreeing not to identify or try to contact the writers of letters. Materials containing sensitive information are closed until the likely death of the writer.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in these papers is held by the donor during her lifetime. At her death, copyright will be transferred to Timothy Near, Laurel Lowell Near, and Frederick Eli Near, after whose deaths copyright is transferred Lucas Near Verbrugghe and Devon Near Hill, after whose deaths copyright is transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


8.42 linear feet ((8 cartons, 1 file box) plus 1 folio folder, 14 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 1 videotape, 7 audiotapes, 2 phonograph records, and electronic records)

The bulk of the collection consists of fan letters sent to Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, and Redwood Records, 1973-1994. These letters, largely from women, form an excellent snapshot of the issues of concern to women and political activists during this period. Less well documented are Near's career and personal life. There are some Redwood Records business records, but there are few materials pertaining to Near's youth, family, and activities outside of her music and activism.

Many letters and other documents arrived with Post-It(tm) notes attached. For preservation reasons, the documents were photocopied with the notes present, and the notes were then discarded. Original clippings and other highly acidic papers were also replaced with photocopies.

Folder headings used by Near or her office staff appear in quotation marks.

Series I, Personal, #1-22. There are two folders of biographical materials containing clippings and articles about Near. Additional clippings, press releases, and media packets can be found in Series II. The remainder of the materials in this series consists of correspondence with family and friends. The folder of family correspondence is largely notes and birthday and other greetings. The letters from friends fall into two categories: brief notes and good wishes, and longer missives in which the sender discusses family events and plans, such as the birth or college graduation of a child. Near's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through the finding aid in 2010.

Series II, Professional, #23-452. This series is divided into four subseries: Redwood Records, Correspondence, Political activism, and Other. The Redwood Records subseries begins with general documents relating to Near's work, largely press packets and clippings, 1979-1992. Most, but not all, of these clippings are about Redwood Records. Others concern Near and her work generally. There are also a few folders of business correspondence and financial records. The remainder of the subseries consists of concert and tour contracts, itineraries, programs, and posters.

Subseries B, Correspondence, is grouped into three main sections: letters from other musicians and activists, mail regarding endorsements, and fan mail. Correspondence with other musicians and activists, many of whom are well known, includes topics such as upcoming concerts and events, as well as some mention of political events and issues of the day. Near received many requests for endorsement of other musicians or political events; many of the requests, some with Near's comments or replies, appear in this section.

The bulk of the correspondence in subseries B is fan mail, largely written by women. The processors decided not to "weed" or selectively sample the letters because, as a body, they represent a remarkable snapshot into the lives and concerns of an underdocumented group of people over a decade of change and upheaval. While some of the letters are brief and impersonal, including congratulations or thanks for Near's work, many of them consist of lengthier writings which include comments or stories that shed light on personal concerns. The authors of these letters seem to have felt a real "connection" with Near because of the way she was able to blend her politics and her music. Many writers state that they feel Near seems to direct her songs to them personally. Some letters discuss issues of great personal and/or political concern, including women's and gay/lesbian rights, child and spousal abuse, and the mentally or physically challenged. Of these, some are written in praise of Near and her efforts, others challenge her position, and the remainder are intended to introduce Near to the writers' thoughts and perspectives. Controversial issues within the women's and gay/lesbian rights movements are also discussed, such as including sign language interpretation for the deaf at live concerts, transsexualism, bisexuality, and lesbian parenting.

Subseries C is comprised of records related to Near's political activism, especially her human rights efforts, largely in Central and South America; peace; racism; and women's and gay/lesbian rights in the United States and internationally. Folders have not been rearranged, but represent the filing system in Near's office. Subseries C is arranged alphabetically by subject, organization, or country, and includes such items as mailings, general printed materials, correspondence, notes, and fliers.

Subseries D contains materials related to Near's other professional activities, including her autobiography (on paper and in audio) and plays that she wrote, directed, and/or in which she acted.


Holly Near, singer, songwriter, activist, and author, was born in Ukiah, California, in 1949, the daughter of Anne (Holmes) and Russell Near. She grew up on her parents' cattle ranch in Potter Valley, California, and began performing at age 7, singing at local events and conventions. Near was involved with acting and music at Ukiah High School. She attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she majored in drama. During her studies at UCLA, Near auditioned for the Free the Army Show. With Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Pamela Donegan, Rita Martinson, and Glen Chandler, she entertained service members in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan (1971-1973). The Free the Army tour was the beginning of her political awakening and her opposition to the Vietnam War. She was also active with the Pentagon Papers Peace Project, Another Mother for Peace, and the Indo-China Peace Campaign.

In 1973 Near released her first album, Hang in There, and founded, with Jeff Langley, Redwood Records, which produced all of her albums as well as those by other artists, including Sweet Honey in the Rock. In 1975 she became involved in the women's music scene by performing at the annual fundraiser for the Los Angeles Woman's Building with Meg Christian, Margie Adam, Cris Williamson, and Lily Tomlin. Later that year she performed in her first women's music festival at the San Diego Women's Music Festival. During the 1970s Hang in There was followed by three other albums. Near toured broadly and performed around the United States and abroad as well as at many women's music festivals and concerts.

Beginning in 1979 and continuing into the early 1980s, Near began her "Anti-Nuke Tour." She toured the country speaking out against the threat of nuclear war and the problems of nuclear weapons. She became active in the broad coalition of organizations and people supporting Latin Americans working for self-determination. She performed with Inti Illimani, a Chilean ensemble, and produced their album, Sing to Me the Dream, in 1984. Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger recorded HARP and toured during 1985, demonstrating the links between the political folk music of the past and present. Near also collaborated with Ronnie Gilbert on two albums: Lifeline (1984) and Singing with You (1986). In 1985 she was named Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine for her singing, songwriting, and activism on behalf of women and progressive causes. Her autobiography, Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm, appeared in 1990.

In addition to Near's musical career, she has also appeared in films and television programs. These include Slaughterhouse 5, Minnie & Moskowitz, Dogfight, Heartwood, All in the Family, Room 222, Patridge Family, and L.A. Law. With her sister Timothy Near she co-wrote and performed in Fire in the Rain--Singer in the Storm, her one-woman show which ran in San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and off-Broadway in New York City.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Personal
  2. Series II. Professional
  3. ___Subseries A. Redwood Records
  4. ___Subseries B. Correspondence
  5. ___Subseries C. Political activism
  6. ___Subseries D. Other

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 96-M78, 96-M118

The papers of Holly Near were given to the Schlesinger Library by Holly Near in June and August 1996.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Additional papers of Holly Near, 1954-2011 (MC 691).


  1. Carton 1: 1-10, 12-18, 22-45, 47-49, 53-63, 65, 67-68, 70-71
  2. Carton 2: 75-83, 85-93, 95-97, 100-110, 112-116, 118, 123-127, 128-129, 132-133, 135, 137-139, 142-143, 145-150, 152-156, 158-166, 168-169, 171, 173-176, 178-184, 186, 189, 191-198
  3. Carton 3: 199, 201-210, 213-230
  4. Carton 4: 231-232, 234-240, 242-246, 248-250, 252-256, 258-260
  5. Carton 5: 261-266, 268-273, 275-280, 282
  6. Carton 6: 283-293, 295-301
  7. Carton 7: 302-305, 307-315, 317-324
  8. Carton 8: 325-341, 372-414
  9. Box 9: 415-417, 419-431, 433-445, 447-455

Processing Information

Processed: October 2000

By: Susan von Salis and Deborah A. Richards



Near, Holly. Papers of Holly Near, 1967-1994: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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