FeMail (organization)
Correspondence, 1982-2013

SC23215

Quantity: 13 boxes (ca. 4.25 cubic ft.)
Access: See research use and access note
Acquisition: Rebecca Smith, Herefordshire, England, April 2011; accretions, August 2012, and September 2013
Processed By: Abigail Stambach, Student Assistant, University at Albany, April 2011; revised by Jasmine Bumpers, Student Assistant, University at Albany, September 2012; revised October 2013

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Historical Note:

FeMail was a “correspondence magazine” group of women that was formed in the mid-1960s with members from the United States and the United Kingdom. “Correspondence magazines” were fairly popular groups beginning in the mid-twentieth century.  The primary qualification for membership in this particular group was that all the women were also members of Mensa, a social organization for individuals with a high IQ.  FeMail membership fluctuated but there were typically seven or eight women from each country. By the twenty-first century, membership dwindled.  However, members Martha Grutchfield, Madelon Hambro, Carol Conkey, Becky Smith, Jo Roberts, Margaret Aitchison and Sheila Noble all remained in the group throughout most of its tenure.   

Each month, members would write a letter and send a copy to each of the two coordinators or editors – one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom. Martha Grutchfield served as the coordinator for the U.S. and Rebecca (Becky) Smith for the U.K. Each coordinator would compile the letters into the “magazine” and create a monthly rotation for the members in her country. The “magazine” would then circulate among the members. By the late 1990s, the “magazine” began to circulate via email but a paper copy continued as well. Eventually, the group phased out paper copies except for one hard copy that was archived by the coordinator in the United States.

Most of the members had met in person on at least one occasion but the majority of communication that occurred among these women was in the form of the correspondence magazine. Phone calls to one another were seldom made, and letters and e-mails outside of FeMail were rarely sent.

Scope and Content Note:

This archive consists almost exclusively of letters written by members of FeMail from its beginning in 1982 to the present. All the letters have the same basic format. The heading typically includes the names and ages of the writer and her family as well as her address. The body is divided into two parts, “news” and “personals.” The “news” section was like a member’s diary for the month, discussing topics such as health, travel, children, work, politics, cultural events, family events, religion, hobbies, pets and gardens. Members also expressed their opinion on current events and the letters have discussions about Princess Diana’s death in 1997, Y2K, the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the mad-cow-disease epidemic in Britain, the housing crisis of 2008, the U.S. presidential election campaign of 2008, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Generally, there was little restriction on the subject matter but some members avoided very personal matters. The “personals” section allowed members to address each other individually and respond to past letters. This section became a complex, rich and multi-layered dialogue. Occasionally, the exchanges resulted in disagreements and conflicts. Usually the disagreements were resolved but not always; one member in the late 1990s chose to leave the group after developing a major rift with another member.

Most of the letters were typed, but some of the earlier exchanges were handwritten. The letters have been arranged chronologically, mainly by month, with letters not specified by day located at the end of each folder.

Research Use and Access Note:

This collection is open for research use with explicit restrictions relative to quoting and publishing information from the documents. Provisions in the deed of gift indicate the restrictions apply for 30 years (from April 2011 to April 2041). During this period, researchers seeking access should obtain written permission from members of FeMail, or their heirs or representatives. No material from the collection may be reproduced or published during this period without express written permission.

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
1 1 January 1982 and November 21, 1983
1 2 February 8, 1984 – May 31, 1984
1 3 June 4, 1984 – June 30, 1984
1 4 July 7, 1984 – July 31, 1984
1 5 August 3, 1984 – September 21, 1984
1 6 October 31, 1984 – November 29, 1984
1 7 December 1, 1984 – December 28, 1984
1 8 January 24, 1985 – February 28, 1985
1 9 March 2, 1985 – March 28, 1985
1 10 April 2, 1985 – April 28, 1985
1 11 May 1, 1985 – June 30, 1985
1 12 July 3, 1985 – July 29, 1985
1 13 August 2, 1985 – August 26, 1985
1 14 September 11, 1985 – October 29, 1985
1 15 November 4, 1985 – November 26, 1985
1 16 December 3, 1985 – December 31, 1985
1 17 January 1, 1986 – January 21, 1986
1 18 April 28, 1986 – June 28, 1986
2 1 July 3, 1986 – July 20, 1986
2 2 August 7, 1986 – October 26, 1986
2 3 November 22, 1986 – December 27, 1986
2 4 January 6, 1987 – January 21, 1987
2 5 March 17, 1987 – April 25, 1987
2 6 May 2, 1987 – May 31, 1987
2 7 June 8, 1987 – June 29, 1987
2 8 July 5, 1987 – July 27, 1987
2 9 August 5, 1987 – August 29, 1987
2 10 September 3, 1987 – September 29, 1987
2 11 October 6, 1987 – October 25, 1987
2 12 November 8, 1987 – November 29, 1987
2 13 December 3, 1987 – December 30, 1987
2 14 January 5, 1988 – January 29, 1988
2 15 February 5, 1988 – February 17, 1988
2 16 February 19, 1988 – February 27, 1988
2 17 March 1, 1988 – March 31, 1988
2 18 April 1, 1988 – April 30, 1988
2 19 May 5, 1988 – May 26, 1988
2 20 June 2, 1988 – June 30, 1988
2 21 July 12, 1988 – July 25, 1988
3 1 August 4, 1988 – August 23, 1988
3 2 September 2, 1988 – September 15, 1988
3 3 September 19, 1988 – September 28, 1988
3 4 October 4, 1988 – October 30, 1988
3 5 November 5, 1988 – November 24, 1988
3 6 December 2, 1988 – December 29, 1988
3 7 January 1, 1989 – January 29, 1989
3 8 February 8, 1989 – February 28, 1989
3 9 March 4, 1989 – March 24, 1989
3 10 April 15, 1989 – May 30, 1989
3 11 June 1, 1989 – June 20, 1989
3 12 July 4, 1989 – July 28, 1989
3 13 August 1, 1989 – August 29, 1989
3 14 September 3, 1989 – September 26, 1989
3 15 October 4, 1989 – October 28, 1989
3 16 November 10, 1989 – November 26, 1989
3 17 December 7, 1989 – December 28, 1989
3 18 January 6, 1990 – January 28, 1990
3 19 February 10, 1990 – February 27, 1990
3 20 March 6, 1990 – March 31, 1990
3 21 April 1, 1990 – April 30, 1990
3 22 May 3, 1990 – May 31, 1990
3 23 June 7, 1990 – June 29, 1990
3 24 July 4, 1990 – July 28, 1990
3 25 August 1, 1990 – August 27, 1990
3 26 September 6, 1990 – September 29, 1990
3 27 October 1, 1990 – October 29, 1990
3 28 November 1, 1990 – November 26, 1990
3 29 December 8, 1990 – December 27, 1990