Collection on Sharon 'Peachie' Wiggins donated to University Libraries

April 27, 2015

A research collection on Sharon Margarette “Peachie” Wiggins (1951–2013) has been donated to the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, further strengthening Penn State’s existing resources on social justice, crime, law, sociology, psychology, women’s studies, public safety and criminology.

Wiggins was originally sentenced to death in 1969 for a crime committed at the age of 17 along with Samuel Barlow and Foster Tarver in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Two and a half years later, all three had their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole. At the time of her death in 2013, Wiggins had served the longest term of any woman sentenced as a juvenile.

The collection was created by Ellen Melchiondo, who, in 2011, became Wiggins' friend and soon after an Official Visitor at Pennsylvania Prison Society. The collection documents Wiggins’ life in prison and provides a forum to discuss the policy implications of long-term sentences for juvenile and women offenders.

Wiggins was named Prisoner of the Year in 2009, to honor four decades spent rising above the prison environment through commitment to education and strength of character. Wiggins was the first graduate of the Penn State Williamsport Center’s associate degree program, part of its continuing education at the State Correctional Institution in Muncy. In later years she served as a student services liaison for the educational program.

Highlights of the collection include biographical material about Wiggins, correspondence, interviews and writings from current and former women prisoners, and advocacy efforts by the Pennsylvania Prison Society for Wiggins and other juvenile offenders.

Also featured in the collection, are letters from female offenders detailing their friendship with Wiggins and the impact she had on their lives. Melchiondo reported, “Peachie was the consummate friend and leader who selflessly shared her refined value system, spirit and grace throughout the Muncy.”

The collection serves as a vital addition to an existing collecting focus within the Penn State Special Collections Library centered on social justice, crime and related fields. Access to the collection is subject to normal operating hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. Questions about the collection can be directed to University Archivist Jackie Esposito, jxe2@psu.edu or 814-863-3791. Melchiondo can be reached at ellenmelch@gmail.com.

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Last Updated April 27, 2015