Contact

pswing@brandeis.edu

Research Areas

Women’s Suffrage; Anthropology; Creativity; Women and Spirituality; Ethnomusicology 

Education

Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

M.A., University of Texas at Austin

B.A., Wesleyan University

Links

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Blue Moon Creativity

Pam Swing

Pam Swing

Pam Swing

Pam Swing is an anthropologist, folklorist and photographer. For the past several years, her main focus has been on the life and work of her suffragist grandmother, Betty Gram Swing (1893-1969). Betty joined Alice Paul’s National Woman’s Party in 1917 and became a national organizer. She picketed the White House, burned President Wilson’s words, was jailed five times, participated in two hunger strikes, and worked on the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in a number of states. As Pam sorts and partially transcibes her grandmother’s papers for the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, Pam has been doing additional primary research at the Library of Congress and other archives, meeting Gram relatives she never knew existed, and collecting additional papers and materials from them. Her grandmother’s papers are very incomplete, and it has been detective work to figure out the significance of scraps of writing and other material. Pam is beginning to write a book about her grandmother’s suffrage work.

Pam also facilitates circles of women. She uses ritual, art, silence, poetry and play to create sacred time/space where women feel safe to explore their unique inner voice. She is especially interested in feminist approaches to how we access and sustain creativity. Her underlying goal is to help women recognize and cultivate the conditions that foster renewal and growth. Her work with women grows from her connection with Greenfire Women’s Retreat in Maine. She began going on personal retreats in 1992, and became a team member for consultations with women on retreat as well as facilitating retreats at Greenfire and Blue Moon Yurt.

Her past anthropological and folkloric work centers on the fiddle music tradition of the Shetland Isles of Scotland. She did extensive fieldwork there, culminating in a doctoral dissertation on the program of teaching traditional music in local schools. She assisted Shetlander fiddler Tom Anderson with implementing this innovative program in the early 1970s. In 2012, Pam took an activist role in seeking alternative solutions to the Shetland Islands Council proposal to end funding for this highly successful program. The program continues to thrive.

Current Projects

As I shift from research to writing a book for young adult or general audience about Betty Gram Swing’s suffrage work, I am experimenting with approaches that intertwine Betty’s voice and my voice in my roles as granddaughter and researcher. My goal is to bring to life my grandmother’s role in the challenging fight for women’s suffrage in the United States. 

Representative Publications

Swing, Pamela. “Teaching Traditional Fiddle in Shetland Isles Schools,” Folklife Annual 88-89 (1998): 86-99.

"Gram Swing, Betty," biographical entry for American National Biography, a website of Oxford University Press. April, 2015.