Barbara Santee archive of Oklahoma women’s reproductive rights

This past summer, Special Collections acquired the archive and library of Dr. Barbara Santee, who has spent the last 40 years working to improve and maintain women’s reproductive rights through activism in the state of Oklahoma. She served as the Executive Director for NARAL’s Oklahoma affiliate, has volunteered as a clinic escort, and studied here at the University of Tulsa.

During her time spent at rallies and throughout campaign efforts, Santee began to collect buttons and pins with pro-choice slogans, eventually displaying them in unique ways, including hats, vests, t-shirts, and even straw place mats. The buttons date from the 1980s through the 2000s, and show the priorities and issues that reproductive activists had on their minds at the time.

The central piece of the button collection, however, is a long denim skirt with over 300 buttons and pins attached to it. It’s quite heavy, weighing between 8 and 10 pounds. You can see the pieces she collected on the mannequin in this 2013 photograph, along with her place mats on the table:

Reproductive rights activist Barbara Santee at the Oklahoma Capitol with her reproductive rights button collection, as displayed on a mannequin. Some of her buttons are seen here.

Reproductive rights activist Dr. Barbara Santee at the Oklahoma Capitol with her pro-choice button collection, as displayed on a mannequin. Some loose buttons are seen here with the photo.

The total number of buttons and pins cataloged and processed so far is 881. Among other rally and campaign ephemera are slogan stickers and metal bracelets with the names of women who died from illegal abortions.

We are continuing to process this collection for public research use and display.

About Melissa Kunz

Melissa Kunz is a Special Collections Librarian. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hendrix College in Arkansas.
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