Helene Pilibosian Papers Now at Harvard Archives

Hagop Sarkissian with daughter Sharon Hekimian at Schlesinger Library, Harvard

BERKELEY, Calif.The Armenian Women’s Archives (AWA) has announced the immediate availability of The Helene Pilibosian Papers at the prestigious Schlesinger Library, Harvard University.

The newly available papers provide researchers, students and the general public an in-depth view of the life and work of Helene Pilibosian (1933-2015), prominent Armenian writer and poet. 

“These extensive papers give detailed insights into the development of Watertown, Massachusetts in the 1940s and 50s, and of its historic Armenian community in particular,” said Lori Dedeyan, archivist with the AWA Archives of Berkeley, California. Pilibosian’s poetry often reflects challenges arising from her identity as a first-generation Armenian American woman, as well as inherited trauma arising from the experiences of both her parents during the Armenian Genocide.

AWA also announces the upcoming publication in 2020 of more than 500 pages of Pilibosian’s previously unknown and unpublished poetry, titled, Legacy of an Author: Events and Wanderings Sprinkled in Six Books. The poems were recently discovered by chance on Pilibosian’s computer after her death, through the efforts of AWA and Pilibosian’s husband, Hagop Sarkissian. This upcoming publication will provide important insights into Pilibosian’s contributions to Armenian American culture.

Helene Pilibosian, 1984

In 1964, Helene became the first woman editor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, an Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) paper in Boston. From this position, she came in contact with many of the prominent Armenian writers, intellectuals and political figures of the time. Her papers from this time period detail the workings, as well as the political and social concerns of the Armenian community and are international in scope. In April 1965, she dedicated an entire issue of the paper to the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide; her editorial, “Out of Smoldering Ashes,” was later printed in the Congressional Record. Her memoir, My Literary Profile: A Memoir, provides insights into her experiences as a woman navigating academia in the 1950s. It also casts light on the experience of women undergoing treatment for depression during this time.

Founded in 1988, the mission of Berkeley’s AWA is to trace the life stories of women of Armenian descent or those married to Armenians. AWA is an educational literary nonprofit that accomplishes its purpose in three ways: through the preservation of unpublished documents and personal records, through making accessible a variety of published materials, and through outreach and educational programs.

AWA facilitated Schlesinger Library’s acquisition of Pilibosian’s papers, which are now accessible at the library, the premier women’s archives in the United States. Electronic access to the papers is currently under development.

In addition to this recent success at Harvard, AWA has facilitated numerous placements of valuable archival papers, books and recordings – primarily in university archives. Through these activities, AWA continues to document and keep alive women’s culture and history that otherwise might be lost and forgotten.

This article is a press release submitted to the Armenian Weekly and has been published to our community news section as a courtesy. If your organization has news it would like to submit to the paper for consideration, please email us at editor@armenianweekly.com. Please note that this service is reserved for organizations that engage in not-for-profit or humanitarian work in the Armenian community. Publication is not guaranteed.
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