The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Historical Manuscripts Home
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject

Collection Title: Michaels (Sheila) Papers

Collection Number: M373

Dates: 1960-2001

Volume: 1.0 cubic feet

Provenance: Donated by Ms. Sheila Michaels between 1998-2001

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Sheila Babs Michaels (aka Kessler, Shiki y Michaels), born on May 8, 1939, was reared in St. Louis, Missouri. She attended the College of William and Mary, but was suspended for her political and racial opinions while on the College's newspaper board. After returning to St. Louis, Missouri, and subsequently moving to New York City, she attended Columbia University, where she created a concentration in Mythology and did graduate work in Middle Eastern (Persian and Ancient Civilizations) Studies.

By 1961, she joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and began her personal crusade to have "Ms.," the term used for someone whose marital status is unknown or who wishes to state she does not "belong" to a man, adopted as a form of address for women. By 1962, she worked for both CORE and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Jackson, Mississippi, where she also worked very briefly for the Mississippi Free Press. In 1963, she became a SNCC Field Secretary. During Freedom Summer 1964, she was Project Manager of the Mississippi Council of Federated Organizations' (COFO's) Hattiesburg Project. Michaels also worked with SNCC in Georgia and Tennessee.

In 1968, when the yet-unformed women's movement launched its first picket against the Miss America Pageant, she was in Istanbul. Returning to New York she joined the first New York feminist group (later known as the New York Radical Feminists), which was meeting at the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) offices without the knowledge of SCEF's national leadership. Michaels was instrumental in getting the term "feminist" accepted in place of "women's liberationist" and averted the enshrinement of the term "male chauvinist pig."
Her career has been rather diverse. She has worked in public relations, journalism, criticism, editing, and as a New York City cab driver. She has also worked in India, Singapore, Japan and Laos. At present, she is teaching Biblical Studies to women's organizations and synagogues, amassing an Oral History collection of Nonviolent Activists, which is at Columbia University. It is largely testimonies of members of the CORE, as well as the stories of SNCC and Peace Movement activists.


Contents of the Collection.

Michaels, Sheila. An Oral History With Sheila Michaels. Vol. 732, Hattiesburg:
University of Southern Mississippi, 1999.

Other Finding Aids:

Related Collections:

RG Sheila Michaels Oral History Interview (Vol. 732)
M395 Komisar (Lucy) Collection
M351 Randall (Herbert) Collection

Scope and Content:

The inclusive dates of the collection are 1960-2001, but the bulk of the collection consists of materials from 1962-1964, during Michaels' tenure as a staff member in CORE and later in SNCC. Of special interest in the collection are Michaels' role in the adoption of "Ms." as a form of address for women, her 23-page Field Diary, the January 5, 1963-June 8, 1963 copies of the Mississippi Free Press, and an oral interview of Mr. Sandy Leigh, SNCC Field Secretary in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964.

Box and Folder List

Box 1    
Folder 1 Sheila Michaels-Related Materials 1962-1968; undated
Folder 2 Clyde Kennard ca. 1960-1963; March 31, 1998
Folder 3 Freedom Riders Speak for Themselves 1961
Folder 4 SNCC Lapel Pin ca. 1960-1963
Folder 5 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) January 28, 1962; undated
Folder 6 Field Diary of Sheila Michaels August 29, 1962-September 28, 1962
Folder 7 Hattiesburg Freedom Summer Photographs 1964
Folder 8 Envelopes: Civil Rights and Women's Issues ca. 1964-1965
Folder 9 Now! The Voice of Freedom May 25, 1964-June 1, 1964
Folder 10 Assembly of Unrepresented People 1965
Folder 11 Assembly of Unrepresented People (Index) 1965
Folder 12 Oral Interview With Sandy Leigh November 8, 1966
Folder 13 Stokely Carmichael Wedding 1968
Folder 14 "Peg Leg" Bates Souvenir Handkerchief 1989
Folder 15 SNCC 40th Reunion at Shaw University April 9-16, 2000
Folder 16 Role of Sheila Michaels in Coining the Term, "Ms." November 5, 2000
Folder 17 Panel Discussion on Faces of Freedom Summer April 30, 2001
Folder 18 "Memories Involving Cecil Price" May 14, 2001
Folder 19 "Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Overcoming Reticence, Denial, Pain & Shame" October 20, 2001
Folder 20 "Serving Wherever I Was Needed" February 1, 2001
Box 2    

Folder 1

Mississippi Free Press (oversized material)

January 5, 1963-June 8, 1963

Folder 2

"Taxi!" (oversized material)

June 10, 1979 


Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148