Helene Pilibosian Papers Now Available in Harvard Archives

AWA Helene Pilibosian Papers feat photo
Helene Pilibosian, 1984

Helene Pilibosian, 1984

BERKELEY, Calif.,—The Armenian Women’s Archives announced immediate availability of the Helene Pilibosian Papers at Harvard University’s prestigious Schlesinger Library.

The newly available papers provide researchers, students and the general public an in-depth view of the life and work of Helene Pilibosian (1933 – 2015), prominent Armenian writer and poet.

“These extensive papers give detailed insights into the development of Watertown, Massachusetts in the 1940s and ‘50s, and of its historic Armenian community in particular,” noted Lori Dedeyan, Archivist with the Armenian Women’s Archives of Berkeley, CA.

Pilibosian’s poetry often reflects challenges emerge from her identity as a first-generation Armenian American woman, as well as inherited trauma arising from the experiences of both her parents during the Armenian Genocide:

She was too young to be smitten by the century,
too veiled in attitudes by circumstances of society,
too poor or weak to pick mulberries from the tree.
No travel to American but dreams…..
Was she on the wrong tree?

(poetry excerpt from “Armenian Brides, 1900 and 2000,” “History’s Twists: The Armenians,” by Helene Pilibosian. Ohan Press, 2007, Watertown, MA)

AWA also announces the upcoming 2020 publication of more than 500 pages of Pilibosian’s previously unknown and unpublished poetry, titled, “Legacy of an Author: Events and Wanderings Sprinkled in Six Books.” The poems were recently discovered by chance on Pilibosian’s computer after her death, through the efforts of AWA and Pilibosian’s husband, Hagop Sarkissian. This upcoming publication will provide important insights into Pilibosian’s contributions to Armenian American culture.

Hagop Sarkissian at Harvard's Schlesinger Library

Hagop Sarkissian at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library

In 1964, Helene became the first woman editor of the Armenian “Mirror-Spectator,” an Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) paper in Boston. During her time there, she came into contact with many prominent Armenian writers, intellectuals, and political figures of the time. Her papers from this time period detail the workings, as well as the political and social concerns, of the Armenian community, and are international in scope. In April 1965, she dedicated an entire issue of the paper to the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide; her editorial, “Out of Smoldering Ashes,” was later printed in the “Congressional Record.” Her memoir, “My Literary Profile: A Memoir,” provides insights into her experiences as a woman navigating academia in the 1950s. It also casts light on the experience of women undergoing treatment for depression during this time.

Founded in 1988, the mission of Berkeley’s Armenian Women’s Archives is to trace the life stories of women of Armenian descent, or those married to Armenians. AWA is an educational literary nonprofit that accomplishes its purpose in three ways: through preservation of unpublished documents and personal records, through making accessible a variety of published materials, and through outreach and educational programs.

Lory Dedeyan, archivist and AWA advisory board

Lory Dedeyan, archivist and AWA advisory board

AWA facilitated Schlesinger Library’s important acquisition of Pilibosian’s papers, which are now accessible at the library — the premier women’s archives in the United States. Electronic access to the papers is currently under development..

In addition to this recent success at Harvard, AWA has facilitated numerous placements of valuable archival papers, books and recordings — primarily in university archives. Through these activities, AWA continues to document and keep alive women’s culture and history that otherwise might be lost and forgotten.

The Armenian Women’s Archives provides services on a sliding scale basis. For information, contact AWA via email. AWA’s mission is greatly facilitated by contributions from Women’s Money and the John & Hasmik Mgrdichian Charitable Foundation. Donations from organizations and individuals, of any amount, are gratefully accepted. Checks may be made payable to Armenian Women’s Archives, PO Box 9267, No. Berkeley Station, Berkeley, CA 94709.

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