Studying the History of Religion at College

Mount Holyoke College, 1940s, via

How might we study religion at the Seven Sisters?

A topic I’m eager to explore is the built environment of religion on women’s college campuses — connecting threads I’ve pursued since my second year of graduate school, when I wrote pages and pages on the intersection of labor, education, and gender at Mary Lyon’s Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for my religion and history classes while researching a seminar paper on Mundelein, Chicago’s “skyscraper college” for Catholic women. 

As I work with the Bryn Mawr College Archives, and on the project team developing College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education ( I often think of the questions that many of my students have raised about the role of religion in their college lives, and the ways in which religious and interfaith spaces on college campuses have developed.

Read more in my lastest Religion in American History blog post, Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (10/29/15).


Black at Bryn Mawr: What’s Next?

cross-posted from Black at Bryn Mawr


Good question!

I’ve been invited by the Bryn Mawr College Pensby Center to kick off this year’s Diversity Conversations programming with a look at the past, present, and future of the Black at Bryn Mawr project. During 2015-2016, I will continue to manage the project, providing new research and integrating it with my teaching and the work of the Greenfield Digital Center. I feel the loss of the project’s creators, Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15 greatly — their energy and expertise made Emma’s idea for a Black history walking tour real, and far more successful than we ever could have imagined at this time last year. Our students graduate, and move on in their research and careers; talk of sustainability for campus history projects in the small liberal arts college environment must reflect this.

For those who can not attend the conversation, I am making my slides available via Slideshare, and welcome comments and further questions. Today’s presentation also dovetails with the work I am just beginning as a co-organizer of the 2016 NCPH Working Group “Campus History as Public History,” which is taking applications through October 15, 2015. Can we create best practices for these kinds of projects?

As always, the conversation continues on Twitter: #BlackatBrynMawr and #campushistories.

Urban Trinity and #PopeinPhilly

While much of my work at Bryn Mawr moves my research on Catholic women and girls into the larger world of women’s education history — with a particular focus on the Seven Sisters colleges — this week I’ve been enjoying a return to my American religious history roots. With #PopeinPhilly just a few days away, I’ve been tweeting glimpses of the Catholic public culture I’ve been seeing around town (while carrying my Pope Tote, of course) and following Philadelphia-area colleagues who are using the occasion of the Papal Visit in their college classes.

Back in June, I was interviewed for History Making Productions’ new documentary “Urban Trinity: The Story of Catholic Philadelphia,” and last night I finally had a chance to screen the final product with some of the other contributing scholars. I was thrilled to see the hard work of producer and series creator Kate Oxx make its debut, and to watch so many friends and mentors share the story of American Catholic history with a broader audience.

As the trailer teases, “Urban Trinity” is a terrific film, and I’m proud to have had a (very small) part in its making! I’ll update this space when the film and additional educational materials go online, but if you’re in Philadelphia’s 6ABC viewing area, the first two parts will air tonight, Tuesday, September 22, at 7pm (and the third on Sunday, September 27 at midnight) before a sold-out World Premiere at the World Meeting of Families film festival Wednesday, September 23. For more information, visit the Urban Trinity website here, or follow the latest news from the production team on Facebook.

Project Update: College Women

College women beta site 6-11

In June, my Special Collections colleagues and I announced the launch of College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (, a project of the seven institutions once known as the “Seven Sisters” colleges. With a one-year Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities — based on a grant proposal written by my predecessor at Bryn Mawr, Dr. Jennifer Redmond — we developed a collaborative archives portal that brings together digitized student materials drawn from the libraries of the seven partner institutions: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University).

Over the summer, as we saw our first users begin to explore the site, we were also busy putting the finishing touches on a white paper documenting this collaboration for the NEH Division of Preservation and Access, Humanities Collections and Reference Resources. With the white paper, we made the case for finding ways to collect geographically disparate collections in a vital, sustainable, and open-source subject-specific site, and over the long term, using that site to stimulate significant new work in women’s history.

To read more, download the “History of Women’s Education Open Access Portal Project” from the Bryn Mawr College repository, here. Continue reading

Summer Research on Storify

Exploring materials for child readers at the American Antiquarian Society, June 2015 (photo via @AmAntiquarian).

With the support of two weeks paid research leave from Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, I was able to participate in two research seminars over the past month that will help me move forward my dissertation research into new projects (more on those soon!)

For the moment, I’m using Storify to share the conversations started in Worcester and New York:

June 21-26, 2015
Reading Children: Summer Seminar in the History of the Book in American Culture (#PHBAC15)
American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA)

[View the story “Reading Children: The 2015 Summer Seminar in the History of the Book in American Culture” on Storify]

June 29-July 2, 2015
2015 Summer Institute in Digital Humanities
New York Metro American Studies Association / New York University (New York, NY)

[View the story”NYMASA 2015 Summer Institute: The Digital City” on Storify]

Now that I’m back at Bryn Mawr for the rest of the summer, I’ll be working on my new course for the Department of HIstory, “History in Public” (Spring 2016) and continuing research for Black at Bryn Mawr, the project that inspired this course. There’s a Storify for that too: view “Black at Bryn Mawr” on Storify.

Black at Bryn Mawr

Black at Bryn Mawr poster by Grace Pusey.

Black at Bryn Mawr poster by Grace Pusey.

I’ve had the pleasure of advising a number of projects at Bryn Mawr during my first year, including Black at Bryn Mawr, designed and researched by Grace Pusey and Emma Kioko, graduating seniors. Emma and Grace have taken an important public-facing, place-based approach to rewriting narratives of the College’s history; you can read more about the project here.

Together, we are offering walking tours of campus this week and in early May. Grace and Emma’s research blog will serve as the launching pad for my Spring 2016 course, History in Public – Race, Gender, and Campus Memory.

Want to learn more? Follow this semester’s work on Twitter (via #BlackatBrynMawr) and our summer research on Facebook: Black at Bryn Mawr.

#ClosetedOut Exhibition Opening at the University of Chicago

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 9.45.17 PM

I’m thrilled to return to the University of Chicago on Wednesday, April 1, for the Gala Opening of Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles: A History of LGBTQ Life at the University of Chicago, curated by Lauren Stokes, and based on the oral history project I coordinated from 2011-2014. If you’re in Chicago, please join us at the opening event, visit the exhibit during its run at Regenstein Library, and save the date for our Alumni Weekend curators panel in June. Details below:

It’s gratifying to see this research come to life, and I look forward to celebrating the generosity of our 95 oral history narrators, the many undergraduate students who worked as research assistants and oral history interviewers on the project, and the  Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, which trusted us to make history.