University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Ramona Barth papers, 1880-2002, undated

Full finding aid (pdf)

Collection Scope and Content

The items in this collection range from unpublished manuscripts, to stamp collections, to large posters. There is a small collection of VHS and cassettes, as well as transparencies with which Barth made t-shirts (including one of her own face). The topics are varied, but women’s liberation is a common theme throughout the collection. As early as her college essays, Barth explores the idea of changing gender roles, and more personal freedoms for women. Another common theme is spirituality and the role of feminism in religion. She writes extensively on Unitarian women as well as feminist critiques of the Bible. Common topics for her feminist essays include motherhood, domesticity and sexuality.

Series one contains biographical material, including school work from grade school to graduate school, yearbooks, newspaper clippings about Barth and material relating to her husband, Joseph. Series two contains personal and professional letters, as well as a number of postcards. Series three contains work that went unpublished, including essays, articles and book manuscripts. Series four contains published work found in newspapers, magazines or journals. Series five contains material relating to the many events Barth organized, including celebrations of feminist icons like Margaret Fuller, and Puerto Rico’s Women’s Week. Series six contains both personal photographs and images Barth used for research purposes. Series seven contains the memorabilia collected by Barth such as stamps, postcards and posters. Lastly, series eight contains audio/visual material such as VHS and cassette tapes.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ramona Sawyer was born in 1911 in Ware, Massachusetts, and attended grade school in Ware before enrolling in Tuft’s Jackson College for Women. She studied sociology and graduated magna cum laude in 1932. From there she went on to Meadville Theological School in Chicago, where she met Joseph Barth in 1934. They married in London in the same year, then returned to Chicago so Barth could finish his degree. Ramona Barth graduated from Meadville also in 1934. They moved to Newton, Massachusetts, where Joseph had his first ministry and Ramona had their first child. In 1936 they moved to Maine after Joseph lost the ministry in Newton. Their second child was born in Maine, but the family had been there only a year when Joseph was invited to take a ministry in Miami.

They spent 15 years in Miami–Joseph preaching, and Ramona writing prolifically. It was there she wrote her book on Florence Nightingale, The Fiery Angel, published in 1945. In 1955, Barth and her husband moved back to Boston, where Joseph had been given a ministry on Beacon Hill at King’s Chapel. Here, Barth began getting more involved with the women’s liberation movement. The couple had a brief separation in 1963, but reunited, ultimately raising 5 children together. Barth joined the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Joseph left his ministry in 1971 and the couple retired to Alna, Maine, in 1972. Joseph died in 1988. Barth remained active in her community, particularly with the Alna, Maine, branch of NOW. She also organized a number of events honoring Edna St. Vincent Millay in Camden, as well as events for Anne Hutchinson and Margaret Fuller in Boston. She passed away in 2002 in Alna, Maine.