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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 801

Papers of Tia Cross, 1963-2007


Correspondence, writings, photography, and memorabilia of Tia Cross, photographer, anti-racism activist, and feminist.


  • Creation: 1963-2007


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Series I (#1.1-3.12), and several documents from #6.4 are closed until the death of the donor. Access to the photographs in the collection (#PD.1-PD.6) requires written permission from the donor during her lifetime. The rest of the collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Tia Cross is held by Tia Cross during her lifetime. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Open papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures. Permission to copy photographs must be obtained in writing from Tia Cross during her lifetime. No material may be made available on the internet without Tia Cross's permission during her lifetime.


5.42 linear feet ((13 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 6 photograph folders, 27 slides, 1 object, electronic records)

This collection documents the personal and professional life of Tia Cross. The papers include correspondence, notes, speeches, workshop and course materials, photographs, and political buttons. The collection reflects Cross's work as a photographer, her anti-racism workshops, and her community activism. Cross held many of her workshops for white women, teaching them how to confront their inner racism, and how to move forward to more diverse relationships with the people of color around them. Cross is a lesbian feminist, and corresponded with several other prominent lesbian feminists about racism, diversity, and social change. She is also a committed community activist, believing that society must confront the issues of racism, classism, and homophobia in order to effect real and lasting social change, consequently co-founding several community organizations within Massachusetts and Vermont, including food co-ops, multi-racial coalitions, and cultural resource centers. Cross kept copious notes during telephone calls and meetings, and these documents reflect otherwise lost conversations and are found throughout the collection. Cross often photocopied her correspondence, so many of her outgoing letters are in the collection. Cross's original folder headings were maintained; titles in brackets were created by the archivist.

Additional material received in 2017 was added to the collection in June 2017 and is housed in #PD.6. All other files remain in the same order.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1963-2007, undated (#1.1-3.12), includes writings, evaluations, student activity forms, correspondence, printed material, resumes, and menstrual charts. Materials from Goddard College include Cross's writings and papers, evaluations of her work written by Cross and her advisor, and correspondence with her advisors. Cross had planned to write an anti-racism anthology as her final master's degree project, however the anthology was not finished. For Cross's finished senior thesis on her anti-racism work see Series III (#11.2). Also included is Cross's personal correspondence with her friends including her ex-partner Barbara Smith, and friends Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Kali Lightfoot, and others. Some material from Barbara Smith includes a discussion of the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. Correspondence topics include family life, travel, mutual friends, relationships, racism, diversity, Cross's projects, and her recovery from breast cancer. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, PROFESSIONAL, ca.1974-2005, undated (#4.1-11.2, E.1), includes correspondence, memoranda, reports, printed material, articles, workshop and lecture planning notes, minutes, evaluations, grant applications, and questionnaires from Cross's lectures, workshops, and her work as a professional photographer. Cross produced several slide shows including "Visionary Women: A History of Lesbian Photographers," and one of lesbian erotica. Material from these projects includes questionnaires given to lesbian photographers, and a poem on erotica. Cross also lectured on feminism, lesbian/women photographers, and racial justice at Burlington College. Material from the Multi-Cultural Council of Vermont includes the planning of Vermont's first multi-cultural conference held in 1990, as well as programming, grant applications, and correspondence. Some of Cross's workshops were held at Grouse House in Vermont; this cabin was owned by Cross's family. Also found here is Cross's Goddard College senior thesis "From a Quiet Place, With Fury" (#11.2). Material is also included from the Vermont Women's TV Network. In addition, Tia Cross's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX). This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, ORGANIZATIONS, 1974-2004, undated (#11.3-13.6, F+D.1), includes correspondence, memoranda, reports, and other material related to Cross's activism, organizing, and volunteer work. Cross was very involved with several Boston-based anti-racism groups, including the Boston People Against Racism and the Klan, Boston Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and Boston People's Organization. Cross served on the Boston People's Organization's anti-racial violence committee, which offered training and workshops. Cross was also a member of the Boston Women's Coalition's forum committee, which was charged to facilitate, alongside broad groups of area women's political discussions on issues of the day. Cross was often involved with the National Conference on Women in the Law, frequently giving anti-racism workshops, as well as serving on the steering committee and lesbian caucus. Material is also included from Cross's time on the board of directors of the YWCA of Vermont. Materials from the Elizabeth Stone House "hike-a-thon" include a gear and equipment list, trail map, lists of participants, safety guides, and material from several wilderness schools she attended. A speech given by Cross describing her recovery from a physical attack in 2002 is also found here. Materials from the Duck Village Food Co-op in Somerville, Massachusetts, include co-op rules, job descriptions, food prices, and memoranda. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORABILIA, 1979-1997, undated (#PD.1-PD.6, 13.7m-13.12m, Mem.1), includes photographs, slides, buttons, bumper stickers, and a T-shirt. Slide shows were produced by Cross, and are of black, white, and hispanic children playing together at the Arnold Arboretum. The erotica slide show contains nude black and white women in erotic poses. Buttons and bumper stickers show support for the AIDS Action Committee, anti-racism, anti-war, and lesbian and gay pride. T-shirt is from women's basketball and softball teams, called "The Fliers," sponsored by New Words Bookstore. This series is arranged by format, then alphabetically.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Tia Cross was born on September 16, 1949, to Harold and Patricia (Crocker) Cross in Concord, Massachusetts. She graduated from Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1967. Cross went on to complete three years of undergraduate study at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and one year of nursing school at the Catherine Labouré School of Nursing in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She continued her education at the Art Institute of Boston, graduating from a three-year photography program in 1981. In 1984, Cross entered the Off-Campus Study Program at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, to finish her bachelor's degree and earn a master's degree. Cross did finish her bachelor's degree and earned her teaching certificate from Goddard College, but had to leave the school for personal reasons before finishing the master's program. Tia Cross, who had been named after her mother Patricia, officially changed her first name in 1989. Cross left the Boston area in 1983, moving first to Barnard, Vermont, and later to Burlington, Vermont. In 1993 Cross returned to Massachusetts, eventually settling on Cape Cod.

In 1974 Cross and Marsha Spellman co-founded the Boston Women's Music Collective, which hosted Boston's first multi-racial conference on women in music, featuring 50 performers. In 1978 Cross became an active member of the Bessie Smith Memorial Production Collective, which saw itself as a catalyst for women becoming actively involved in the issue of racism within the women's movement in the Boston area. The collective, founded by members of the Combahee River Collective, produced the "Varied Voices of Black Women: An Evening of Words and Music." This event was held at several Boston area locations, including the women's prison in Framingham, Massachusetts. In 1979 Cross founded Cross Cultural Communications, which brought anti-racist, anti-homophobic workshops and classes to businesses and community organizations such as the Digital Equipment Corporation, the Haymarket People's Fund, the National Conferences on Women and Law, and the University of Vermont. The workshops often included awareness training for an organization's staff members, using consciousness-raising techniques, role playing, and discussions. Introductory workshops focused on awareness and personal experiences with racism or being racist. In-depth, problem-solving discussions were held during second and third workshops. Cross ran the programs alone when the group consisted of only white people, whereas when the group was diverse, she would ask a friend of color to be co-leader, correspondingly Cross would also co-lead workshops for friends of color when needed. Cross felt that racism and sexual politics were interrelated, and that both issues included class politics, economics, and imperialism. Her goal was to increase group and personal awareness of the issues, and to improve interpersonal, intergroup communication so that racism could be dealt with in an ongoing, committed way. Cross also offered anti-racist workshops and trainings through a local multi-cultural political group called the Boston People's Organization. In 1981 Cross was asked, both by the National Women's Studies Association and the New England Women's Studies Association to teach anti-racism workshops during their annual conferences, and also to train other white women to be diversity workshop facilitators. After moving to Vermont in 1983, Cross perceived the need for a statewide anti-racism coordination agency and multi-cultural resource center. In 1988 she founded the Multi-Cultural Council of Vermont, creating a non-partisan, activist communications center that would provide both educational resources and leadership in initiating and coordinating community organizing against racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and ageism. Cross believed in combining cultural celebrations such as music, dancing, and the arts with education and political organizing. The Multi-Cultural Council of Vermont merged these ideas in the first multi-cultural conference and celebration of diversity in Vermont in 1990. Today, Cross is still teaching anti-racism and diversity workshops in towns around Massachusetts.

Cross worked as a freelance photographer and videographer from 1978 to 1996, and has had her photographs exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution's "Voices of the Civil Rights Movement" group show, the Womanworks Gallery in Albany, New York, and in a one-woman show at Modern Times Café in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cross's photography has been published in Sojourner, New Women Times, and Heresies: Racism Is the Issue. Cross produced several slide shows, including "Visionary Women: A History of Lesbian Photographers," which focused on Clementina Lady Howarden, Emma Jane Gay, Alice Austen, and Joan E. Biren. In 1985 Cross, along with Dorothy Todd, co-founded the Vermont Women's TV Network, allowing women from all over Vermont to produce and show films, news programs, bulletin boards, shows for kids, and conference proceedings.

From 1985 through 1990 Cross lectured and ran workshops on women's studies, feminism, and photography at Burlington College, Vermont. She also sat on an ad hoc committee that organized the formation of a Burlington College faculty association. In 1989 Cross brought her feminist studies classes to the women incarcerated at the Chittenden County Correctional Center in Vermont.

Cross has served several community organizations in different capacities: co-chair of the Boston People Against Racism and the Klan; co-founder of Duck Village Neighborhood Food Co-op in Somerville, Massachusetts; advisory council member for Women of Power magazine; and as president of the board for the Multi-Cultural Council of Vermont. In 1982 Cross joined the forum committee of the newly organized Boston Women's Coalition, which was formed after a women's movement conference. The group hoped to build networks among feminist groups in the Boston Area, in order to revitalize the women's movement. In 1990 Cross was asked to join the Board of Directors the YWCA of Vermont, and became chair of the program committee in 1991.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1963-2007, undated (#1.1-3.12)
  2. Series II. Professional, ca.1974-2005, undated (#4.1-11.2, E.1)
  3. Series III. Organizations, 1974-2004, undated (#11.3-13.6, F+D.1)
  4. Series IV. Photographs and memorabilia, 1979-1997, undated (#PD.1-PD.6, 13.7m-13.12m, Mem.1)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2005-M145, 2006-M9, 2007-M234, 2017-M90. Accession number 2017-M90 was added in June 2017.

The papers of Tia Cross were given to the Schlesinger Library by Tia Cross between 2005 and 2007. One folder was acquired from Bolerium Books in 2017.

Processing Information

Processed: August 2014

By: Cat Lea Holbrook, with the assistance of Dan Bullman.

Updated: June 2017

By: Anne Engelhart



Cross, Tia. Papers of Tia Cross, 1963-2007: 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 gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1956, the Radcliffe College Class of 1968, the Robert and Maurine Rothschild Fund, the Jane Rainie Opel Fund, and the Zetlin Sisters 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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