Pembroke Center

Feminist Activism in Rhode Island

These collections document the work of feminist organizations and activists at Brown University and in the state of Rhode Island.

Curated by the Pembroke Center Archives, the Feminist Activism in Rhode Island collections include records from the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Education of Women, Women for a Non-Nuclear Future, COYOTE-RI, and The Womxn Project.

For a full list of available collections, visit the Brown Library catalogue. Researchers can access these collections by visiting the John Hay Library.

For more information about donating or accessing material, please contact

The following collections represent some of the materials available within Feminist Activism in Rhode Island.

Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) is a national grassroots social justice network founded by Margo St. James in San Francisco, California, in 1973. It is dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities. COYOTE focuses on ending violence and stigma through education, community building, and advocacy. COYOTE looks to improve the lives of sex workers, end the criminalization of sex work, and erase the stigma associated with sex work. COYOTE Rhode Island was founded by Bella Robinson in 2009 and is the only state chapter of this nationwide organization.

This collection contains the organizational records of COYOTE Rhode Island, a group of sex workers, former sex workers, trafficking victims, and allies, who advocate for policies that promote the health and safety of people involved in the sex industry. Materials include administrative records; special project files such as the COYOTE-RI Impact Survey and Sex Workers Outreach Project pen pal letters; subject files regarding other advocacy organizations; public records of court cases, arrests, and legislation relating to prostitution; and informational zines and booklets. View finding aid here.

This collection consists of the activist files of Lesley C. Doonan, social justice feminist and founding member of the Women's Liberation Union of Rhode Island. The collection documents Doonan's participation in various feminist organizations including the National Conference on Women, the Rhode Island Abortion Counseling Service and the Women's Liberation Union of Rhode Island. Materials include correspondence, conference material, clippings, legal files, and print materials. View finding aid here.

The Jodi L. Glass papers provide rich documentation of the inner workings of feminist organizations and movements in Rhode Island and beyond. Included in the collection are the correspondence, essays, news clippings, legislation, agendas, and minutes of a number of groups and movements, including the Rhode Island Feminist Chorus, Feminist Resources Unlimited, and the anti-pornography movement. View finding aid here.

Mary Ann Sorrentino received a BA in psychology from Elmira College (New York) and did graduate research at the University of Florence in Italy. Mary Ann Sorrentino worked as a health and human service administrator, coordinated an alcohol treatment program, and was executive director of Opportunities for Women, before becoming executive director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island in 1977. She and her husband, Albert Ciullo, have a daughter Luisa.

One week before Luisa's confirmation into the Roman Catholic Church in May 1985, their priest called a meeting with the family to question Luisa about her beliefs about abortion. Although Father Francis Egan allowed Luisa to be confirmed, shortly thereafter the church excommunicated Mary Ann Sorrentino. Mary Ann Sorrentino was the first person in the United States to be publicly excommunicated for being pro-choice. In January 1986, a priest narrating an anti-abortion television broadcast mentioned the excommunication, which prompted Mary Ann Sorrentino to state publicly her criticisms of the church's decision and its stance on abortion. At the same time, debate escalated over a proposed amendment to the Rhode Island constitution (Proposition 14) that would outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control. Articles about the controversy surrounding Mary Ann Sorrentino's excommunication appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country; Mary Ann Sorrentino appeared on the television talk show "Donahue" in February, and "Redbook" published an article in June. In November 1986 the amendment failed. Mary Ann Sorrentino resigned from Planned Parenthood in 1987, began a public relations and media relations consulting firm (mass communications), and continued to give speeches and write editorials and essays.

The Mary Ann Sorrentino papers about her excommunication from the Catholic Church consist of correspondence, clippings, and other materials. These papers relate to the practice of abortion, the authority of the Catholic Church over its members, and general discussion of religion and morality with respect to abortion. View finding aid here.

The Womxn Project is a non-profit organization in Rhode Island focused on building a strong, feminist, community-based movement to further human rights of Rhode Islanders by using art and activism to advance education and social change. The Womxn Project stirs social awareness and invites political action to inclusively further womxn's rights through creative advocacy campaigns and collaborative art projects.

This collection contains records and items that were created to advocate for the passing of the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019. Materials include canvassing packets, memorabilia, handmaid's costumes worn at lobbying events at the Rhode Island Statehouse, community petition quilt squares, the community petition quilt, and petition scrolls that predated the quilt. View finding aid here.