My name is Amelia Browder and I am currently a student at San Francisco State University. I started my internship with the Freedom Archives in October because I had heard of the availability of a wide range of information in regards to the freedom movements referenced in a few of my courses. I had no previous experience having an internship and I was excited for the chance to work with historical documents, and audio and visual materials. Within the first few days of being there I was already working with historical newspapers and audio and developed skills such as cataloging and working with audio devices.
During my internship I worked with Nathaniel who help me locate materials based on my interest in the intersections of government repression and gender. One of the examples we found was the Lexington Control Unit for Women collection. This collection holds video, literature, and audio about the history of the control unit and the women imprisoned inside of it. The Lexington Control Unit was created to keep women who outwardly supported and participated in leftist movements away from the general prison population and to punish them for their political work. Some of the political prisoners locked inside Lexington included Susan Rosenburg, Siliva Baraldini, and Alejandrina Torres (See photo). During their time they were held at Lexington, they were psychologically tortured and sexually harassed. The artificial lights in their cells were on 24/7 and often guards would experiment the effects of sleep deprivation on them. At one point, the showers did not have curtains and the women were forced to bathe in front of the male guards as well as being constantly subjected to strip searches and voyeurism.
I learned more than just about government oppression with my experience at the Freedom Archives. I was constantly engaged in educational conversations about movement history, social justice and current political topics. Nathaniel pushed me to engage with the material and advanced my exposure to new ideas. I have always been interested in government service or law enforcement and but never knew about the Lexington Control Unit for Women. After being at the Archives and digging deeper in the history of political repression and patriarchy, I feel like I have a better grasp on the institutional ways in which the government makes examples out of political prisoners and specifically women. The ways in which those women were psychologically tortured was different than the ways in which men would be. Women were left more vulnerable and exposed. Considering a career path where most people have not been exposed to topics such as discrimination, repression, and especially the Lexington Control Unit for Women, I hope to bring in information and voices of those primarily affected and use this information to provide a different perspective around the connections between the history of political imprisonment and inhumane treatment. Additionally, spending time at the Freedom Archives has re-emphasized the importance of giving back to community, something that I can hopefully continue to engage regardless of where my life takes me.
Overall I have enjoyed my time at Freedom Archived and only wish that I had more of it to spend there. All of the staff members were kind, flexible, and knowledgeable. They answered my plethora of questions with ease and reassurance. I highly suggest to anyone interested in history, freedom movements, and engagement learning to seek an internship with the Freedom Archives.