Few conventions about education have either much cheer or tenderness. Those of the National Women's Studies Association do. In this, too, NWSA is unusual. One of the many good events at the 1980 Convention at Indiana University in Bloomington was a workshop that Frances Doughty of the National Gay Task Force gave. She used letters, photographs, and other archival remnants to portray a "lesbian friendship group," women who were either friends or lovers for thirty years. The audience touched its past with blissful curiosity. Then Doughty told a story about a famous member of the group: Janet Flanner, the writer. Shortly before her death, someone asked Flanner if she had any messages for the next generation. "Write it all down," Flanner answered, "Write it all down."
Throughout the NWSA Convention, people were, if unknowingly, obeying Flanner's command. Many of the approximately 1,500 participants were keeping notebooks, journals, diaries, or their technological equivalents: photographs and tapes. It rained consistently in Bloomington from May 16 to 20. People who walked or jogged around the campus returned to their rooms with shoes or sneakers squelching. Recording events, codifying time, was almost as common an experience as being wet.