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Ruth Mountaingrove videotape autobiography

Identifier: Coll 265

Scope and Contents note

The Ruth Mountaingrove Videotape Autobiography contains 21 VHS tapes. Ruth recorded her video-autobiography between approximately 1988 and 1997. The contents are presented in rough chronological order, though many start out in the present and then continue with the past. Ruth talks about her life and occasionally plays the guitar and sings her songs, or reads one of her poems. She occasionally tapes other rooms or objects in her apartment, such as artwork and special possessions. Ruth also tapes her different art studios, her photographs, paintings and art exhibitions, as well as her performance art.

For most of the videotapes, Ruth uses a borrowed video camera set on a tripod to tape herself. Most of the recordings take place in her living room while she is seated in her rocking chair. The quality of the video and audio recordings varies from tape to tape. Some are of a very low quality.

Most of the tapes focus on Ruth's life as a country lesbian in Oregon and her work as a writer, publisher, and photographer. She also discusses her experience with WomanSpirit magazine, the Ovulars (weeklong workshops for feminist photographers) and The Blatant Image magazine, as well as her life as an art student at Humboldt State University.


  • 1988-1997


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room.

Collection digital files may be requested through Special Collections and University Archives Reproductions Request Form or accessed online.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Born February 21, 1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from a Pennsylvania Dutch background, Ruth Mountaingrove is the daughter of Edith Shelling and Herbert Daniel Shook. She graduated from Kutztown State Teacher’s College, now known as Kutztown University. Many years later Ruth continued her education at Humboldt State University, in Arcata, California, where she studied photography and received a Masters of Fine Arts in 1990 at the age of 68. She has lived on the West Coast since 1971.

The video tapes cover all aspects of Ruth's life, beginning from the time of her birth to the year she made the last video in 1997. Ruth takes the viewer through her childhood and her teenage years where she began her love of music, literature and photography. In junior high Ruth bought her first camera, a pivotal moment in her life. While in college, Ruth gained more experience as a photographer and began writing poetry.

In 1946, while living in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Ruth was a teacher, poet, and artist. During that period she published her first book of poetry, Rhythms of Spring. On December 27, 1946 she married Bern Ikeler. Together they had 5 children: Eric, Kim, Jeff, David, and Heather. Eric died shortly after birth and David died when he was a young man, while living in Southern Oregon.

A central theme in Ruth’s writings is feminism and lesbianism. Her feminism began after she read Betty Friedan's, The Feminine Mystique in 1963 during the rise of the Women's Movement. Ruth shares details about experiencing generations of family abuse. Ruth divorced her husband in 1965.

During this period when Ruth was changing her life and becoming a feminist, a momentous event occurred. She met and fell in love with her future lover and partner, Jean Mountaingrove. They met in 1970 while attending a conference in Wallingford, PA., at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Retreat Center. Ruth eventually moved to Oregon in 1971 to join Jean. Together they lived in several intentional communities: Mountain Grove (from which they took their last name), Golden, and Cabbage Lane. They co-published WomanSpirit magazine for ten years, from 1974 to 1984. With its national distribution, WomanSpirit became one of the most influential feminist/lesbian magazines of its time. It brought many women to Oregon who were seeking a collective way of life on women's land in the country.

In 1978 Ruth and Jean bought Rootworks, privately owned land near Wolf Creek, Oregon, where they continued to publish WomanSpirit magazine. A barn, called Natalie Barney, was built by a large crew of women, to provide for the growing needs of the publication. Rootworks was also the location for the Women Photographer's Ovulars, which were weeklong workshops for feminist photographers. These workshops took place annually for six years. The feminist photography magazine, The Blatant Image, which developed from the Ovulars, was also published at Rootworks.

After 12 years, Ruth and Jean's domestic partnership ended. Ruth had heard about free tuition at California colleges for people over 60, so she decided to continue her education in photography and art. She moved to Arcata, California to attend Humboldt State University where she received a degree in photography.

Throughout her life, Ruth has expressed her creativity through dance, writing poems, articles, and short stories, writing and singing songs, and by painting and taking photographs. She reads some of her poems and sings many of her songs, while playing her guitar, throughout the videos. She also tapes her performance art, many of her paintings and photographs, as well as her art studios and art exhibits.

Ruth has been photographing women in lesbian communities across the United States for many years and has been involved in the writing and publishing of many women’s publications, including Country Women magazine, Country Women’s Spirituality issue, WomanSpirit magazine, The Blatant Image, as well as her songbooks, Turned on Women, Country Songs and Women’s Songs

Ruth has had many one-woman exhibitions including those at Boston University; the University of Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon. Her month long one-woman exhibition, at the University of Oregon Museum of Art in 1988, included mostly lesbian photographs, a lecture, and slide show presentation. She was also editor for OLOC, (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) from 1994 to 1997.

At age 81, Ruth continues to live in Arcata where she is still active in the community and busy with her art and photography.


0.75 linear feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



Ruth Mountaingrove (1923-2016) was a photographer, writer and artist who moved to Oregon in 1971, settling in communes and eventually co-founding Rootworks, a lesbian community in Southern Oregon. The collection consists of 21 VHS videotapes of Mountaingrove relating the story of her life by talking, dancing, and singing.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Ruth Mountaingrove in 1998.

Existence and Location of Copies

Collection is available online in the Ruth Mountaingrove Videotape Autobiography in Aviary.

Separated Materials note

Collection materials stored separately under call number PH265.

General Physical Description note

3 containers, including 21 VHS videotapes

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Index to Videotapes

Allentown, Pennsylvania
Tape 1
Altar, Barbara
Tape 8
Anna, Karen
Tape 10
Arcata, California
Art Exhibits and Shows
Art Studios
Austin, Alice
Tape 9
Baker, Janice
Tape 10
Blatant Image, The
Blue Heron, Hannah
Tape 10
Cabbage Lane
Tape 7
Tape 9
Civil Rights
Tape 4
Common Lives, Lesbian Lives
Tape 11
Country Women's Poetry Book
Tape 7
Country Women's Spirituality Issue
Tape 7
Country Songs
Feminine Mystique, The
Tape 4
Tape 3
Flyaway Home
Tape 18
Friedan, Betty
Tape 4
Fure, Tret
Tape 21
Gargaetus, Pat
Gwynn, Bethroot
Tape 10
Hartwings, Ilene
Humboldt State University
Ikeler, Bern
Ikeler, David
Ikeler, Eric
Tape 3
Ikeler, Heather
Ikeler, Jeff
Ikeler, Jeffy
Ikeler, Kim
Tape 21
Tape 9
Journal Readings
Kaufer, Nelly
Tape 9
Lambertville, Pennsylvania
McCormick, Jean
Tape 4
Tape 4
Menstrual Cycles and Huts
Miracle, Billie
Mountain Grove Commune
Mountaingrove, Jean
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on becoming a lesbian
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on birth of children
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on childhood
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on death of children
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on divorce
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on family abuse
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on marriage
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on relatives
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on Ruth's mother
Mountaingrove, Ruth, on Ruth's father
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Tape 3
Newhouse, Carol
Tape 8
Tape 10
Old Lesbian's Conference
Old Women's Theater
Tape 19
Tape 9
Tape 11
Tape 4
Performance Art
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photography Exhibits and Shows
Poems, Poetry
Publishing and Publishers
Rainbow's End
Tape 10
Seagiver, Diane
Tape 10
Shalom, Belle
Songs, Singing, Playing Guitar
Timeschild, Tangren
Turned On Women
Tape 14
University of Oregon Knight Library
Tape 21
Wagner, Dian
Tape 9
Williamson, Cris
Tape 21
Wolf Creek, Oregon
WomanSpirit Magazine
Women's Conference in Beijing
Tape 19
Women's Liberation
Tape 5
Women's Songs
Writer, Writing
Tape 9
Guide to the Ruth Mountaingrove Videotape Autobiography
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Aggie Agapito
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA