Mary Anne Smith Papers

Identifier: MSS.0401

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

Comprised of 17 boxes and 1 flat box (8.6 lin. feet) and includes subjects on China, nuclear war and weapons, women’s rights, worker’s rights, socialism, and diaries and correspondence.

The China records contain information about the U.S. – China People’s Friendship Association. This section also contains records from the group’s trip to China, led by Smith, in 1976. The documents in this section range in dates from 1975-1977.

Another series contains information about nuclear war and weapons and ranges in date from 1982 to 1987. These materials are largely magazine and newspaper articles which discuss the danger of nuclear war and weapons as well as peaceable alternatives.

The collection also contains three series’ containing Mary Anne’s materials regarding women’s rights, worker’s rights, and other liberation movements. The majority of the pieces included in these series are magazines, articles, personal notes, flyers and correspondence. These three series represent 1968 to 1972, the years in which Mary Ann learned about and was involved in a numbers of groups and movements.

The last series contains Mary Anne’s personal notebooks, letters, calendars, and various miscellaneous items. Of particular interest to the researcher may be her extensive collection of buttons, her Mao-style hats, and three audio cassettes which contain an interview with Mary Anne from 2001.


  • 1964 - 1985

Biographical Sketch - Mary Anne Smith

Social activist Mary Anne Smith was born in 1945, the oldest of three children. In 1961 she attended an interracial, interdenominational church camp which laid the foundation for her future in activism. The formative experiences of that summer marked the beginning of Mary Anne’s interest in civil rights. From 1964-1967 Mary Anne attended Vanderbilt University where she studied classics and her interest in activism grew.

In the years following college, Mary Anne continued to read literature on race and the Vietnam War. Her goal was not political, however, but religious. She planned to teach Latin and then attend Divinity School. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, she felt that people she knew in the church reacted in a way with which she disagreed. At this point, she decided that her future would be in political activism.

1968-1972 were very intense years of study and social involvement for Mary Anne. She studied heavily the overarching power structure involved in racism, sexism, classism, and capitalism. During this period she became particularly interested in Marxism and socialist societies. Along with seven other women, Mary Anne became part of a group call the Women’s Anti-Imperial Collective. This small group would meet to exchange feminist and anti-imperialist ideas as well as try to raise consciousness surrounding these ideas in the larger community. During this time she was also involved with anti-war protests as well as the worker’s rights movement.

Mary Anne was particularly interested in changing the direction of the United States through Marxism. Her hope was to find a place in which socialism was working in order to find an example for this country. She became involved in the U.S. – China Friendship Association and was interested in bolstering the relationship between these two countries. As coordinator of the Nashville chapter of the group, Mary Anne spoke at gathering, planned fundraisers, and dispersed literature in the community. In 1976 she had the opportunity to travel to China with some of the group members in a leadership role. As leader, she was able to meet with all of the Chinese leaders with whom they came in contact. She had a particular interest in life for women in China, and based on her experience felt that women there had many of the same struggles and ideas as women in the U.S. The goal of the trip for the Association was to build relationships between their organization and organizations in China and, for Mary Anne, to learn ways the U.S. could look to China as an example.

After the trip Mary Anne returned to Nashville. She and her first husband separated, and she worked at various places in the city. In 1978, she decided to move to Atlanta and there continued her involvement in social activism.


8.64 Linear Feet (17 Hollinger boxes, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Comprised of 17 boxes and 1 flat box (8.6 lin. feet) and includes subjects on China, nuclear war and weapons, women’s rights, worker’s rights, socialism, and diaries and correspondence.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Provenance Statement

This collection was donated by Mary Anne Smith to Vanderbilt Special Collections in 2001.

Finding Aid for the Mary Anne Smith Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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