Writing Women’s Lives

In January, my public history class welcomed to campus Janice Nimura, author of Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back (2015, now in paperback!) — the rare mass-market biography that takes seriously, and as its subject, the lived experience of young women.

As Nimura writes this month at Lithub:

I always like the moment in my talks when I show a photo of the Vassar class of 1882, a gaggle of young bluestockings with one Japanese face in the middle: Sutematsu Yamakawa, the eldest of my three subjects, elected class president in her sophomore year! There’s always a gratifying murmur from the audience as I drive the point home: that’s how talented she was, how intellectually dazzling, how extraordinary in transcending her otherness.

But one afternoon my audience was a room full of Bryn Mawr students, and one of them raised her hand. Wasn’t it possible, she asked, that Sutematsu’s classmates had elevated her because of her differences, rather than in spite of them? Didn’t they think of her as a sort of samurai princess, and wouldn’t they have found it gratifying to show her off?

#HIST303, always with the good questions. (I’m going to miss this class.)

Community Day of Learning 2016

Faculty_and_students_from_the_Bryn_Mawr_Summer_School_for_Women_Workers_in_Industry
Faculty and students at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry (1930), via Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

For a second year, the Greenfield Digital Center will be supporting history programming for the 2016 Bryn Mawr College Community Day of Learning, In/Visible: Class on Campus, Class in Our Lives. Can new archives and historical research expand our notion of campus histories? Join us on Tuesday, February 23 during the first two sessions (room locations and session times will be updated online, here) Continue reading “Community Day of Learning 2016”

Digital Library Federation Forum Talk online

“College Women: A Collaborative, Cross-Institutional Archives Portal,” the DLF Forum talk I gave with Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College) and Joanna DiPasquale (Vassar College), is now available online via The University of British Columbia Open Collections repository. Our presentation begins at 00:14:50.

Studying the History of Religion at College

A topic I’m eager to explore in more depth 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 (collegewomen.org) 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 latest Religion in American History blog post, Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (10/29/15).

Image: Mount Holyoke College, 1940s, via collegewomen.org

 

Black at Bryn Mawr: What’s Next?

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.

cross-posted from Black at Bryn Mawr

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 (collegewomen.org), 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 “Project Update: College Women”