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What exactly happens when private papers—letters, diaries, snapshots, unpublished fiction—enter an archive of a public university where they will be available to all comers? Their relevance, their meaning, their status all shift from whatever they may have meant in the hands—or in the attic—of their author or the family. Suddenly they become History. This talk will examine that transfer of meaning with particular attention to Dr. Butwin’s mother, Frances Mazo Butwin, a woman whose documentary history begins as Frania (in Polish or Freydl in Yiddish) Mazo in Warsaw with diaries written shortly after the First World War when her family emigrated to Charleston to live above a delicatessen on King Street.

At the College of Charleston she edited the literary Magazine (as it was called) and began a lengthy correspondence with Julius Butwin whom she would marry and join in Minneapolis-St. Paul where they were active on the political left in the 1930s, owned a bookstore and together translated the Yiddish fiction of Sholom Aleichem in the early ‘40s. Julius died in 1945. Dr. Butwin is the youngest of their three children.

Co-sponsors: Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina

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