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Sheila Michaels Papers

Identifier: M373

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2001


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

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.


1 Cubic Feet : M373; 302A.B15.O1-O2

Language of Materials



Materials relating to the Civil Rights activities of S.N.C.C. field secretary who served as Project Manager of the COFO-Hattiesburg Project office during Freedom Summer.


Donated by Ms. Sheila Michaels between 1998-2001.

Related Materials

RG Sheila Michaels Oral History Interview (Vol. 732), McCain Library 3rd Floor Brooks Reading Room and Online. see: External Documents link at bottom of page.

M351 Herbert Randall Freedom Summer Photographs

M363 Samuel C. Shirah, Jr. Papers

M395 Lucy Komisar Collection

M651 Bobs M. Tusa Freedom Summer Research Collection

Sheila Michaels Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001