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Couple’s Ancestry Search Leads to Nash Photos of Yakima Valley Farm Workers

It started with a search for a newspaper photo of an uncle with former U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson, taken at the Green Giant plant in Grandview, Wash., in the early 1970s. Laura Solis knew the history of her uncle, that he, her father and their family traveled from south Texas every year to do agricultural work in Washington. The photo was somehow tied to farm worker housing, her dad recalled. Solis wanted to find this meaningful piece of family history.

Aerial view of migrant labor camp, location and date unknown. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

Her search led to an even more important find: the images of a Seattle photographer who documented the life of Latinx farm laborers in the Yakima Valley from 1965-1975, a time when dismal working conditions and meager wages for the country’s migrant workers featured prominently in national news. The Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection is housed in Washington State University’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC).

Only a fraction of Nash’s 12,500 photos is digitized, but what they revealed to Solis was enough. The mission to find a family photo became one of preserving Nash’s images of regional and cultural history. She, her husband Mike Fong, both of Seattle, and other community members are donating funds to support digitizing the full collection, matching an $8,000 digitization grant WSU Libraries recently received from the Washington State Library.

“We both know how much these photographs would mean to the families of the people depicted in them and how important they are to preserving the history of farm workers in the Yakima Valley,” Solis said.

Lipi Turner-Rahman, manager of the Kimble Digitization Center in WSU Libraries, will direct the digitization of the Nash photos with Mark O’English, university archivist in MASC, and Suzanne James-Bacon, electronic resources and MASC technical coordinator. Turner-Rahman sees the project as an extension of WSU’s land-grant mission.

“WSU is committed to preservation and worldwide open access to materials that document the lives of oppressed and neglected communities,” she said. “By digitizing and freely making this collection available online, WSU Libraries intend to augment the narrative of Washington’s largest minority group and add their stories, voices and images to the complex narrative of Washington’s common heritage.”

The invisibility of agricultural workers

Before finding the Nash collection, Solis and Fong searched through microfiche databases at the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library for back issues of the Yakima Herald. The couple went through three years of the newspaper starting in 1969 looking for Solis’s uncle’s photo and accompanying story. They found neither. Then COVID-19 forced the library to close.

Harvesting hops near Granger in 1971. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

Solis, who grew up in the small town of Granger in Yakima County, was disheartened by the absence of stories about the area’s farm workers as she combed through the Yakima Herald accounts. It hit close to home: Like her father, Solis’s mother and family members also worked the Yakima Valley fields. The pair met and married in the valley in the early 1970s.

“There were sections of the paper devoted to personal and community stories, but they never featured the lives of the people who came to Washington to work in the fields,” she said. “Looking through that lens, it was surprising and sad to me that agricultural workers were not seen as being part of the community because I knew the other story.

“Agricultural laborers weren’t merely present; they were living and thriving and creating communities of their own that are the basis of the communities that are there now,” Solis added. “The focus on agricultural workers as a problem to be solved had the effect of making them invisible as people.”

‘They give me back the truth’

The partially digitized Nash collection, which Fong found when the couple’s search turned to online resources, filled in the missing pieces. Photos of weddings, dances, theater productions, rural women and agricultural labor revealed the rich and complex social, cultural, political and economic life of the Yakima Valley migrant laborers, according to Turner-Rahman.

Nash had also captured the rise of justice for migrant farm workers and labor movements within the Yakima farm and migrant worker community, she added. He photographed farm worker rallies, the urban Chicano youth movement at UW and the collaboration between Latinos and black student unions picketing at UW and at grape protests. Of particular interest to researchers are photographs of visits by United Farm Workers (UFW) founder Cesar Chavez to farm worker rallies and Washington community organizers Guadalupe Gamboa and Tomas Villanueva.

Cesar Chavez speaking at a farm workers rally in Yakima Valley in 1971 or 1972. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

“Here were the people that were missing from the newspaper articles,” Solis said. “Here were the experiences I remembered with my parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. The people in the photographs might even be members of my family. Above all, the photos show the humanity that had always been there. They give me back the truth about the place and the people I came from. They are beautiful and touching beyond words to me.”

Solis and Fong have since created a Facebook page to preserve the history depicted in Nash’s photos. Their goal is to link to stories as well as the images and follow up with anyone who comments to document a fuller backstory of the people in the pictures.

The couple also teamed up with Turner-Rahman, O’English and WSU Libraries’ development director, Dawn Butler, as well as Gamboa, to support the digitization of the remaining 12,400 Nash photos so others can see the complete picture of Yakima Valley farm workers. Visit the WSU online giving page to join Solis, Fong and others who donated gifts for the digitization project.

“I did not know about these stories growing up in Granger in the late 1970s and 1980s,” Solis said. “I did not know about Lupe Gamboa, Tomas Villanueva or the others involved in the events in these pictures, or even that my relatives may have been involved. The location of La Escuelita [the school for migrant children during those decades] is now the Granger Public Library, which is across the street from my grandmother’s house. There is a tiny museum about Granger within the library, but to my knowledge this history is not preserved there or anywhere else.”

Recollections of a future organizer

Nash photographed Gamboa handing out leaflets in 1968. In a video interview for the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, Gamboa recalled growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, working in the dusty fields of the Yakima Valley and hearing the stories of other farm workers engaged in the hard business of harvesting the nation’s food. Asparagus proved an especially difficult crop; work started at dawn because asparagus had to be cut early, and the backbreaking toil continued under an unforgiving sun with no cover until dusk.

Mother harvesting asparagus in 1972. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

For all that monumental effort, farm workers received poor wages—they weren’t covered by minimum wage requirements, unemployment insurance or benefits. They were also vulnerable to individuals who cheated the workers, the fraud running unchecked by the absence of regulation. The seasonal nature of the work forced farm families to go where the crops were, moving through a circuit of other farms and other states to bring in sugar beets, mint, green beans, and cotton.

“We would work as a family unit, and everybody would get the same wage,” Gamboa said. “My father, who had been working as a farm worker for 30 or 40 years and was very good would get the same wage as myself who was 13 or 14 years old. There was no differentiation. That’s why everybody had to work. Working together, you’d make a living wage.”

Organizing in the Yakima Valley

Fast forward to 1970, when Gamboa helped coordinate a series of strikes for higher wages on hop operations in Granger and the surrounding area. Men were paid $1.50 an hour, while women earned $1.25 doing the same job. The local farm workers seeking better conditions took their lead from the UFW in California. Eventually, the Yakima Valley strikes would disrupt the operations of between 14 and 16 hop ranches. More importantly, they laid the foundation for an organized farm workers movement in the region and state.

Guadalupe Gamboa handing out leaflets in 1968. Gamboa was a University of Washington student in the late 1960s. He then became an organizer for Cesar Chavez and returned to UW to earn a law degree. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

“This hadn’t happened before,” he said. “The growers had been used to very docile Mexicans.”

Despite that early success, organizing efforts in the Yakima Valley took more than a decade to coalesce when the newly formed UFW of Washington State held its first strike at Pyramid Orchards in early 1987. During that hiatus, Gamboa worked for the national UFW in urban U.S. cities and Canada before returning to eastern Washington in 1977. He served as a paralegal helping farm laborers with workers’ compensation reform and finished his law degree from UW.

But the farm workers’ continued plight and the need for a UFW presence in the Yakima Valley re-energized Gamboa and other activists in rallying support for farm workers’ rights.

“Culture played a very important part,” he said. “We had corridos [popular narrative and poetry that form a ballad] on the Mexican radio stations across the border talking about the benefits of the union and appealing to the culture and history of the workers, identifying how they were similar to Benito Juárez, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, who had fought for their rights. So we did utilize the cultural element.”

‘I just went in there to show what was going on’

Protester at hop strike in 1970. Photo courtesy of Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

A commercial photographer and Seattle native, Nash received his undergraduate degree at UW. His first trip to the Yakima Valley was to the Ahtanum Labor Camp, where he photographed the Latinxs and the conditions that they lived in. He also went to the Crewport Labor Camp near Zillah, Wash., and made several subsequent return trips to the Yakima area.

When asked in a 1989 oral history interview why he wanted to do these types of projects, Nash replied, “I just went in there to show what was going on. To try and illustrate what was happening to a segment of the population that at best might have heard about it third hand, that’s all.”

Digitization and publication of Nash’s photographs will make them available to scholars and students at any time and from anywhere, Turner-Rahman said.

“The digitized collection will be of vital scholarly interest worldwide and give scholars access to formerly unavailable material on Washington’s Chicano populations’ everyday life, as well as their political, social and financial aspirations,” she said. “It will foster new research and research questions from a variety of disciplines and fields on converging issues, including social and political movements, migration, Diasporas and history.”

—Story by Nella Letizia

Zoom Event: Read the Constitution Out Loud on Sept. 17

The U.S. Constitution is a living document—come be a part of it on Constitution Day from 3-4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) Tuesday, Sept. 17, by joining other members of the WSU community to read the Constitution out loud via Zoom.

The annual WSU Libraries’ event, organized by Social Sciences and Government Information Librarian Lorena O’English, celebrates the signing of the Constitution in 1787.

“For a few years now, I have held a live reading of the Constitution and its amendments on this day, with people taking turns reading the text,” she said. “It is a surprisingly moving experience.”

To register, please visit https://bit.ly/3gTgPrN. Individuals outside the WSU community who wish to participate can contact O’English directly at oenglish@wsu.edu.

New Faculty and Staff Library Orientation Planned Sept. 2

A library orientation for new WSU faculty and staff is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2, through the Human Resource Services’ Skillsoft online learning system.

The one-hour course, taught by WSU Animal Health Sciences Librarian Suzanne Fricke, will assist new and returning faculty and staff in gaining full-text access to electronic journal articles, eBooks and physical resources through WSU Libraries. Topics include on- and off-campus electronic access, interlibrary loan, library accounts and renewals, tools for browsing current journals, new browser extensions for more rapid access to PDF copies of articles, and resources for reference management.

To enroll in the course, visit the HRS website (http://ihr.hrs.wsu.edu/skillsoft/default.aspx?c=ilt_wsu_SYST_1482).

Locker Pickup Available for Library Materials

WSU Libraries are now offering a 24/7 contactless locker pickup adjacent to Terrell Library as a safe way of providing library materials to patrons.

Contactless lockers for patrons to pick up library materials adjacent to Terrell Library. Photo courtesy of Sue Shipman.

Locker pickup will provide the fastest delivery, generally one day for WSU materials on average once a request has been made. Patrons must first be logged into their library account in the Search It discovery tool. To get started, enter the title to borrow. When it comes up in the results, click on the call number or the title. In the “Availability and Request Options” box, click the red “Request Item” button. Under the “Pickup Location” drop-down menu, choose the “Pullman Locker Pickup” option and click the “Request Item” button in green.

Once requested items are pulled from WSU library collections or received from Summit and Interlibrary Loan, they will be checked out to a patron and put in a locker in the Terrell Library parking garage elevator lobby on the first floor (mall level). Pay parking is available in the Terrell parking garage. Library staff will email the locker number and access information to the patron. Items will be held for seven days. Pickup for materials in Owen Science and Engineering Library and the Animal Health Library will also be at this location.

Steve Overfelt, a library and archives paraprofessional who is processing the locker pickup requests, said the hope for this latest service is to enhance the consistency of library borrowing during this time of rapid change.

“We want our faculty, staff, students and community users to have better access to the materials we offer, even though we cannot be open for browsing the shelves and studying with friends,” he said. “We are committed to providing efficient and timely service to all of our patrons, and this is another way we can do that for our stakeholders.”

WSU Libraries Remain Closed for Fall Semester

The Washington State University Libraries on the Pullman campus will remain closed for fall semester due to the evolving environment surrounding COVID-19.

Exterior view of Terrell Library on the WSU Pullman campus.

“We regret making this decision but think it is necessary for everyone’s safety,” said WSU Libraries Dean Jay Starratt. “Libraries and library staff are very committed to helping people and to providing resources to support research and learning. We will continue to do our very best to serve during this trying time.”

During the closure, the libraries will still provide a large suite of remote services. The most up-to-date information on access options and available services can be found on the libraries’ remote resources and guidance website. Below are a few of the resources available.

Books:

Print books held in the library can be checked out and mailed to a personal address via request. Return postage will be provided. Visit the libraries’ website for access to Search It and other databases.

WSU Libraries staff will also increase purchase-on-demand options for materials that cannot be obtained through Interlibrary Loan.

There are more than 200,000 e-books available in many disciplines. Liaison librarians and an online support page are available for students, faculty and staff with questions about these resources.

A purchase request form can also be accessed online for members of the WSU community to provide recommendations of resources for libraries staff to consider purchasing.

Books and materials that have already been checked out with the exception of reserve items will be automatically renewed until they are returned.

Journal Articles and Magazines:

Many journal articles can be accessed online via the libraries’ website. For items not available in full text online, copies can be requested in Search It. For in-house materials, staff will scan and email them. For items not held locally, an Interlibrary Loan request will be made.

Services:

Reference: Online reference is available 24/7. Pullman librarians and staff will be online Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Staff at other libraries will help during other hours. See the Ask Us page for available reference methods.

Reserves: Most items are already on electronic reserve and will remain available 24/7. For additional requirements, see the Course Reserves page.

Instruction: Librarians can meet with classes using Zoom. They can create online activities for students and share the results with professors and instructors. They can consult with students individually, or in groups, using Zoom, via email or over the phone. To find a subject librarian, see the Find Your Librarian by subject page.

Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC):

MASC faculty and staff are available to assist with remote research. Please contact by email at mascref@wsu.edu or call 509-335-6691.

Physical Course Reserves Unavailable in Pullman Libraries This Fall

In order to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and meet the quarantine recommendations of a national COVID-19 research partnership, WSU Libraries in Pullman will not offer physical course reserves this fall.

Faculty who already placed requests have been contacted with alternative options, which include requesting that the libraries purchase the item in electronic format if possible (faculty can use this form to make such requests), asking that parts of a book are digitized for regular e-reserves and contacting the subject liaison librarian for additional options.

The Institute of Museums and Libraries teamed up with library cooperative OCLC and Battelle to form REALM (REopening Archives, Libraries and Museums), a partnership conducting research on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials that are prevalent in libraries, archives and museums. The project will draw upon the research to produce authoritative, science-based information on how—or if—materials can be handled to mitigate exposure to staff and visitors. REALM recommended 72-96 hours of quarantine for the types of materials circulated by libraries.

“For most scenarios, this is easily done, but with materials that typically circulate for two hours at a time and have people waiting their turn, this will not be feasible,” said WSU Libraries Associate Dean Beth Blakesley. “Given this, plus the fact that most instruction will be done remotely and that many students are not expected to be residing in Pullman, it will be impossible for the Libraries to provide physical course reserves in Pullman during the fall. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes.”

Summit Service Restarts on Aug. 3

The Summit service, which allows WSU Libraries’ patrons to request library materials from member libraries of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, will resume on Monday, Aug. 3, for the Pullman campus only at this time. Because the campus is currently closed, materials can be mailed to a physical location. The WSU Libraries are planning for onsite pickup within the next two weeks.

The service is heavily used by library patrons, according to access services supervisor Brian McManus. A limited number of alliance libraries will be participating, 16 out of the 38 total members. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be a quarantine period of four days between arrival times and the times requested materials will be made available to patrons.

The WSU Libraries are continuing to provide library services at a distance. Please visit the remote resources and guidance webpage for help with your research.

Rare Pamphlet Added to Library Collection

In 1942, London’s Hogarth Press published a pamphlet by British physician Isaac Harris called “The Calcium Bread Scandal,” a spirited denunciation of the Food Ministry’s proposal of adding nutrients, including calcium, to bread as a way to fortify the health of the British public during wartime.

“In any case, the disease [osteoporosis] is so rare that adding calcium to bread for this purpose [preventing osteoporosis] would be like burning a house in order to roast a pig,” the good doctor wrote.

WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC) recently acquired Harris’s colorful and rare pamphlet, thanks to a $10,000 bequest of former MASC employee Leila Luedeking, who supported the Hogarth Press Collection as well as the Leonard and Virginia Woolf Library during her life.

While working at MASC from 1973 to 1998, Luedeking cataloged many of its rare book collections and especially contributed to the description of the Woolf Library. She served as a crucial resource for Woolf scholars in the United States and the United Kingdom who corresponded with the department. MASC’s files include detailed letters and emails that Luedeking wrote to them.

“She was a recognized expert on the work of Leonard Woolf and coauthored an important bibliography of his vast literary, political and critical publications,” said Trevor Bond, WSU Libraries’ associate dean of digital initiatives and special collections. “This work remains the standard source for Leonard Woolf.”

Longtime goal met

With the acquisition of “The Calcium Bread Scandal,” MASC reached its goal of holding a copy of every title published by Hogarth Press from its founding by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917 until Leonard sold his interest in the press in 1946, said special collections librarian Greg Matthews.

Harris’s pamphlet has two parts: The first is his main diatribe against the Food Ministry’s plan, which he explains in 10 points. The second reprints four letters Harris submitted to the editors of newspapers and medical journals arguing against the medical efficacy of adding nutritional supplements to bread. These pieces are more technical.

Harris objected to the Food Ministry’s proposal for other reasons than the rarity of osteoporosis in the population. He also pointed out that Vitamin D aids the physiological absorption of calcium, so adding the mineral supplement without its necessary vitamin counterpart would be ineffective. Finally, Harris viewed the bread supplement scheme as a symptom of the very fascism the Allies were fighting against, Matthews said.

“To-day it is one food crank who becomes the dictator; to-morrow there may be another,” Harris wrote. “To-day it is calcium; to-morrow, Heaven knows what else may be imposed upon us.”

Matthews appreciates the doctor’s candor. “Harris’s writing style was clear as befits an expert writing for a general audience, though he exhibited a flair for simile and rousing rhetoric, encouraging his readers to resist the rise of tyranny at home,” he said.

A champion of Woolf literature

Robert and Leila Luedeking. Photo courtesy of Kimball Funeral Home.

Luedeking came to Pullman in 1956 when her husband, Robert, was hired by WSU to teach chemical engineering. The couple raised five daughters here, and according to her obituary, Luedeking joined her husband at the university first as a graduate student and then as an employee in MASC when her youngest started preschool.

Colleagues who worked with Luedeking found her to be a good bibliographer. Rare books cataloger Julie King, who started working in MASC in 1986, remembers that Luedeking was involved at the start when MASC obtained the Woolf Library in the early 1970s.

“Leila catalogued the bulk of the Woolf Library,” King said. “She was quite protective of the books, and rightly so. At the time, the Woolf Library was interfiled with the other books in MASC, and we have since collected it all into its own section in the book stacks, but Leila provided the foundation work.”

Luedeking also initiated getting many MASC collections catalogued online, including those associated with Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

“We were members of the Washington Library Network at the time, and Leila got us on the online format,” King said. “She and humanities librarian Ann Wierum were responsible for acquiring many of our English literature sub-collections: D.H. Lawrence, John Masefield, Vita Sackville-West, Henry James and others.

“I could tell she was fussy about details,” she added. “I am, too—that’s what makes a good cataloguer, so I made sure to have everything just so.”

Luedeking’s devotion to the Woolf collections didn’t stop with her retirement in 1998; Bond said she regularly gave to MASC afterward until her death last November so that the department could continue to collect items.

“I had the pleasure of working with Leila for a few months before she retired,” he said. “I remembered her as a quiet, sharp and dedicated colleague.”

—Story by Nella Letizia

WSU Joins ACM Open-Access Publishing Model

WSU has joined an open-access publishing model with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. The agreement will ensure that articles and proceedings papers authored by WSU-affiliated personnel are published under an open-access license.

ACM delivers resources that advance computing as a science and a profession, according to its website. ACM provides the computing field’s premier Digital Library and serves its members and the computing profession with leading-edge publications, conferences and career resources.

The publishing model, called ACM OPEN, has been adopted by more than 30 other institutions around the world to date. Under the ACM OPEN agreement, faculty and students will continue to receive unlimited access to all articles in the ACM Digital Library.

For more information, please contact Joel Cummings, WSU Libraries head of collection development, at jcummings@wsu.edu.

New Library Guide Offers Anti-Racism Resources

WSU Libraries offers a new library guide that serves as a starting point for resources to learn about and engage in anti-racism, compiled by librarian Erica Nicol. Patrons will find reading lists, as well as a list of books and more from the WSU Libraries’ collections.

Closeup of Erica Nicol
Erica Nicol

Nicol pulled titles for the guide from some recommended reading lists that circulated after the May 25 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, including author Ibram X. Kendi’s The Anti-Racist Reading List as a base. In addition, WSU Libraries Dean Jay Starratt purchased 15 eBooks to add to WSU Libraries’ collections. Getting eBooks makes it possible for more people to access the books in our current social-distancing world, she said.

“The guide largely came about because, in the wake of May 25, I wanted the libraries to do something to support Black Lives Matter and WSU’s work on eradicating institutionalized racism,” Nicol said. “A library guide doesn’t feel like much, but it does highlight what we in the libraries are especially good at—facilitating and promoting access to good information.”

One notable title that Nicol added to the guide is “Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

“It’s a fantastic book for white people who want to be better and more active allies,” she said, “and it really resonates with me as someone who was brought up in a time and place when being color blind was so heavily promoted.”

As a librarian, Nicol is also drawn to Safiya Noble’s “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” which looks at how racism is embedded in online search results.

“It’s fascinating and really important to keep in mind when talking with students about searching and looking at information critically,” she said.

The library guide is a work in progress and will be updated frequently, Nicol said. While its focus is on anti-Black racism now, the guide will be expanded in the future to include more and different types of resources, and to look at racism that affects different groups.


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