SisterSerpents – Art as Activism

Art is one of the most powerful and important means of communicating that we have as a culture and as individuals. In our collection, the WLA has the records and materials of an organization that used their creativity to fiercely shed light and provoke thought on issues they felt passionately about. SisterSerpents formed in Chicago on July 4th, 1989 and was a group of radical feminist artist-activists, whose mission was to use their art to increase awareness on women’s issues in society. In their own manifesto, they declared themselves “dedicated to working cooperatively to combat patriarchal attitudes through cultural means.” To achieve their goal they utilized guerilla-style tactics, placing provocative posters, and neon-colored stickers with their messages all around Chicago.

SisterSerpents poster on a street lamp, 1991

Stickers for placing on advertisements and products

SisterSerpents also held art shows, exhibitions, and performances. They organized panels and discussions, wrote letters to the press, and printed their own journal, MadWoman. Participation in the art collective was largely anonymous, though a few of the founding members – Mary Ellen Croteau and Jeramy Turner – showed some of their independent work as well as the pieces they created collectively.

A couple editions of “MadWoman” journal – note the SisterSerpents signature combination of anger and humor; Issue #4 promises typos

Their work explored a wide range of themes important to women, including traditional roles of homemaker/mother, rape and violation, misogyny and subversive messaging in the media, power struggles in relationships, body image, the stigmatization of emotions, and barriers in the workplace. SisterSerpents shows and works were provoking, angry, humorous, and challenged cultural and gender standards. They had showcases with titles such as “Rattle Your Rage” and “Piss on Patriarchy” that ran in cities like Chicago, Denver, New York, and Berlin. SisterSerpents did not pull punches when it came to expressing their beliefs, and their exhibits often sought to shock with violent and explicit imagery and themes. While their work garnered some acclaim, it also led to controversy and opposition. For example, in 1990 the American Family Association protested one of their shows that included a “fetus wall” which contained stylized photographs of fetuses and sought to challenge ideas about abortion. For their “Rattle Your Rage” show, a newspaper quoted SisterSerpents with the following:

“We wanted to have a women’s show that wasn’t polite or nice, one that expressed angry attitudes. You know, a lot of women’s art is very decorative and aesthetic. This is not just giving women a voice, but it’s using art as a way of taking a stand. We wanted it to be threatening. We wanted people to be upset. Jolted. And to realize that there’s all kinds of hostility coming from women that’s going to take all kinds of forms.”

One of SisterSerpent’s art installations, “Used Boyfriend Auction”, highlighted struggles of power and misogyny in relationships

SisterSerpents remained active until 1998, and their significance was cemented with the inclusion of several of their posters in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s permanent collection. They were undoubtedly controversial. However, regardless of politics, I think one must admire SisterSerpents tenacity and creativity in funneling their passion and anger into art, and then using it to contribute to bigger goals. Working in their collection, I was struck by how they were able to use their art as a means to participate in political conversations.

During the summer months when I have more time, I enjoy tapping into my creative side and one of the ways I express myself artistically is through knitting. Learning about SisterSerpents inspired me to want to do more with my own creative endeavors, and so I researched ways I could use my needles to contribute to social issues. If you’re a knitter like me, I encourage you to check out the Red Scarf Project and find out how you can use knitting to encourage foster youths entering college.


Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Reflections on My Time at the WLA

I can’t believe that it has been two years since I began my term as a Graduate Assistant for the Women and Leadership Archives. When I came to the WLA, I had very little experience in an archives outside of research projects I had to perform in undergrad. Now I know the ins and outs of how an archives works, secrets and tricks of the trade of archival research, and best practices for the profession. Oh how time flies! I also had a chance to highlight some pretty special collections through my blog posts over the last couple of years. Here are some of my favorites:

• My all-time favorite blog post tells the history of the Mundelein Riding Club and horseback riding classes at Mundelein College* from the 1930s to 1960s. As a former equestrienne, this was easily my favorite blog post to research. Plus, the WLA have the complete records of Mundelein College so there was an abundance of source material. Read the blog post here or you can take a look at some photos of the Mundelein Riding Club in our Mundelein Photograph Collection.

• I really enjoyed researching the papers of poetesses Ruth Lisa Schecter and Renny Golden to write the blog post, “Women and the Written Word: Poetesses in the Archives.” A close study of their collections reveals not only the professional activities of these amazing artists but also their artistic process.

• My most recent blog post explored the story of Roberts v. Texaco through the papers of Bari-ellen Roberts, the lead plaintiff of this famous class-action lawsuit. Cumulatively, this blog post took me almost an entire semester to write because of the detailed records the WLA holds. There was a lot of research to do! For anyone interested in legal history, the history of race and our justice system, or the history of women in business this collection is a treasure trove of information.

• Even though I didn’t write this one, I need to give a special shout-out to this blog post telling the story of Joan Heath Fortner, an artist and designer whose papers we hold in the archives. As a self-proclaimed devotee of all things fashion, I adore all of her design sketches held at the WLA (one is even the background on my phone shhhhh).

Even though my time has run its course at the WLA, I will remember it fondly. I look forward to reading blog posts from the new Graduate Assistants this fall!


Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Graduation 2017

It is graduation time at Loyola University Chicago. This is my fourth May here, and the week of graduation is one of my favorite times. The campus is full of happy people who appear in waves during the times of the morning and afternoon graduations. All over campus there are graduates in caps and gowns, some carrying flowers. Family members and friends take pictures of the grad by the lake or other iconic locations around campus, including around Piper Hall, where the WLA is located. The aura is one of happiness, excitement, and fun. Even when grey skies and rain inevitably appear during at least one or two days, the mood still feels jubilant, albeit a bit soggy.

Related to my warm and fuzzy feelings this time of year are the graduation pictures from the WLA’s Mundelein College collectionI am sure graduations at Mundelein carried the same sense of accomplishment and happiness that I experience at Loyola. In my imagination, I see Mundelein’s campus and envision groups of happy graduates and family members everywhere.

1971 Mundelein Graduates posing outside of Piper Hall

Graduation is also an important time at the WLA as the archives is staffed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) from Loyola’s Public History Program. By the time the two year program is over, students (hopefully) have jobs in the public history field. It’s an exciting time for the graduating GA, although it can be stressful, depending on if there is a job to go to. I’m always happy to see a student succeed, graduate, and move on in a positive way.

The flip side is that graduation is a mixed bag for me. The WLA experiences turn-over every year as one or two GAs graduate. I come to know, depend on, and become fond of each GA. Over my years as an archivist, I’ve had many student staff members and am familiar with the cycle: they come, they work, they graduate, and they leave. 

I confess, though, the cycle hasn’t become easier as the years roll on. I’m beginning to think just the opposite. The older I get, the more sentimental I become. Perhaps it’s because I have a daughter and the years fly by, giving me a heightened sense of time passing.

A friend of mine jokes that this is one of the times the chorus from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof floods the brain! She’s right. While I didn’t know the GAs as children, they are at the WLA for two formative years of their lives. I become close to students as I hear of their successes and struggles and I feel sad when they leave.   

This year, two WLA GAs graduate on May 9th:  Megan Bordewyk and Ellen Bushong. In addition to working hard at the WLA, Megan, a film buff, provided commentary for new movie releases while Ellen informed us about fashion history. Both are creative and intelligent, each with a wonderful sense of humor. I wish Megan and Ellen good luck and good fortune in the future. And I will miss them.

Graduating WLA GA’s, Megan Bordewyck (left) and Ellen Bushong (right)


Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

Mundelein College Fathers Club

Though Father’s Day may still be a couple months away, I’d like to use this post to celebrate a special organization that existed at Mundelein College* during the 1950s and early 1960s: the Mundelein College Fathers Club.

1957 Promotional Flyer & Membership Card

1957 Promotional Flyer

Founded in the spring of 1952, the organization was formed by fathers of Mundelein students to support the College and administration.  Edwin B. Parkes, Chairman of the inaugural Club Membership Committee, described it this way: “We know of no better way to gain recognition for our girls and the Sisters than by organizing and using our talents.  Individually we can do little, but collectively we can accomplish the results desired.”   Through membership dues and fundraising events, these dedicated dads raised funds to rehabilitate the school buildings, including modernizing the classroom light systems, updating the convent section of Mundelein, and otherwise assisting with building upkeep.  In 1961 they funded the purchase of closed circuit television equipment to be used for educational purposes.  They also provided scholarships and loans to students in need.

A dad and daughter duo at a Fathers Club event

Just as important as their good works was the club’s mission to providing opportunities for fun, social get-togethers for their members.  They planned opportunities not only for Mundelein fathers to meet and get to know one another, but also so that fathers and daughters could spend meaningful time together during the college years.  For the dads, each club meeting included some form of entertainment after the business was concluded.  These included some stereotypical, 1950s male interests – such as lectures from a criminal cases columnist from the Chicago Tribune, an FBI agent, a popular sports editor at the Chicago Daily News, and film showings on such subjects as the inner workings of the Stock Exchange, traffic patterns, the Baseball World Series, and one called “Blue Flame” that chronicled the story of natural gas from well head to consumer.  At a meeting in 1960 they arranged to put in a long distance call to the Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where they were able to ask questions of an Air Force Officer about the country’s defense system.

One of the signature events for the club was their annual Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance.   Though it went through a few name and venue changes, the basic idea stayed the same; an evening of father and daughter bonding over music and food.  A 1962 club membership letter told fathers that participation in events, like the Father-Daughter Buffet-Dance, “demonstrates to her [their daughter] that I am interested in her, her teachers, and in what she learns.”

1961 Promotional Flyer

Mundelein dads “twisting” with their misses at the Father-Daughter Dance

1960 Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance

As any educator will tell you, investment from a student’s parents or guardians in their education can make a world of difference in how that student feels about and does at school.  Hat’s off to this dedicated group of dads (and who often worked alongside the “Women’s Auxiliary”, the Mundelein Mother’s group) to support their daughter’s college experience.  To see how the Fathers Club tradition has lived on, check out the Loyola Parent’s page.

1954 – Student Captains of the Fathers Club meeting with the Club President and Promotion Manager

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.


 

Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago.  A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Roberts vs. Texaco: The Class Action Lawsuit You Forgot About

Warning: This blog post contains a reference to racial slurs targeted at black employees by Texaco executives, ca. 1993-1994.

In the fall of 1996, Texaco—one of the largest oil and natural gas companies in the United States—was rocked with scandal when audio tapes came to light that revealed top-level executives  using offensive language in reference to their black employees. They also stood accused of conspiring to destroy documentation proving they participated in discriminatory employment practices. The “Texaco Tapes,” so-called in the press, became key evidence in the class action lawsuit Roberts vs. Texaco that was first launched against the corporation by minority employees in 1993. The recordings revealed company executives referring to their black employees as “black jelly beans” and “n****ers” while also discussing efforts to shred evidence the prosecution requested during the discovery phase of the investigation. [1]  The company soon settled with the complainants for $176 million dollars; at that time, the highest settlement for a class action lawsuit in U.S history.

The story of the trial and its resolution are described in detail through the personal papers of lead plaintiff Bari-Ellen Roberts, who donated her materials documenting the case to the Women and Leadership Archives in 2003. Bari-Ellen Roberts graduated from Mundelein’s Weekend College in 1978.* This collection is unique for the breadth and depth of information highlighting the processes of a high-profile civil action lawsuit—not only does it contain Roberts’ copies of court documents, but the collection also holds copies of her personal journal during the years of the trial, national media coverage, and transcripts of the “Texaco Tapes” that effectively resolved the case. From Robert’s records, researchers can get a very real look into the process of the legal system in the United States as well as the personal turmoil that can result from a long battle in the court room. The Roberts vs. Texaco case is an important piece of history that shouldn’t be forgotten as important discussions related to the politics of race and gender continue to proliferate in America.

Roberts and her co-plaintiff Sil Chambers began the process of filing a class action lawsuit in 1993. Roberts joined Texaco after vacating a leadership position at Chase National Bank, where she became the first African American in the Corporate Trust Division to become Vice President. When the master trust she managed moved to another state Roberts sought out new job opportunities.  She accepted a position with Texaco after a long negotiation that would foreshadow the rest of her time with the company—Roberts turned down two job offers before they offered her a salary commensurate with her previous experience.  Texaco recruiters assured Roberts and other potential black applicants that the company was in the process of diversifying their leadership, telling Roberts they promoted candidates based on performance not color. In her memoir Roberts vs Texaco: A True Story of Race in Corporate America, Roberts remarks that she “kept [her] side of the bargain by working as hard and productively as any white man, but the reward Texaco promised… did not come.”[2]

Image source: Amazon.com

At first Roberts, Chambers, and six other employees silently approached the ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) about their legal options, but it wasn’t until meeting with young lawyer Cyrus Mehri, then of the Washington, D.C law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld, and Toll, that legal intervention truly gained traction. In spite of the group’s resolve to move forward with the suit, Roberts felt conflicted about going through with it. Roberts wrote in her journal that she had a “real push pull kind of feeling.”[3] Should she jeopardize her financial stability to stand up to this monolithic company with seemingly limitless resources? Was it wise to embark on an expensive, not to mention emotionally taxing, process that could take years to reach an uncertain conclusion?

Her answer came shortly after she read over the final draft of the complaint. In January of 1994, Roberts applied for a managerial position being vacated by her supervisor. In her performance review given by the woman leaving the position, Roberts received a grade high enough to warrant the promotion. When senior management reviewed the evaluation, however, they countered that her performance did not warrant the grade and reduced it. They remarked that she was “uppity” and returned a lower grade that minimized Roberts’ chance of receiving the promotion.[4]

In February of 1994 a white male employee from another branch with less experience was placed in the position Roberts applied for. At the meeting announcing the change in staff, the head of Roberts’ department told her she could help train the new replacement—in front of her colleagues. This was an acknowledgement of everything Roberts knew about the treatment of minority employees at Texaco: they were competent enough to support executives but not good enough to actually be executives. Furious and humiliated, Roberts gave her lawyer the go-ahead to serve Texaco with the complaint. “No pulling back. We are going to call Cyrus and start pushing for the filing of this suit asap.”[1] The surrendered tapes as well as the report of an investigation into Texaco’s discriminatory practices by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) sealed the company’s fate.

As mentioned, the Women and Leadership Archives hold the records of Bari-Ellen Roberts, including the various court documents chronicling the events of the trial such as the transcripts of her personal journal, the infamous Texaco tapes, depositions taken by the defense team of the Texaco executives, and records of Roberts’ life after the trial. By reading the Bari-Ellen Roberts papers, researchers can get a full and detailed picture of the legal process at work in the United States, particularly civil action suits. As a result of my close study of the Roberts’ papers for this blog post, I now hold a fierce appreciation for the leadership she displayed in forging paths for black and other minority women in corporate America. Twenty years later, it is unfortunate that the records documenting her courageous efforts also reveal how far we have yet to go.

Click here to read an excerpt from a transcript of Roberts’ journal, February 1994.

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.

[1] “Roberts’ Journal of Racial Discrimination Case,” Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago, Bari-Ellen Roberts Papers, Box 1, Folder 4.

[2] Bari-Ellen Roberts, Roberts Vs. Texaco: A True Story of Race and Corporate America (New York: Avon Books, 1998), 1-2.

[3] “Roberts’ Journal of the Discrimination Case,” Woman and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.


 

Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


At the Oscars!

This past summer I spent two months interning for the Academy in their film archive located in Hollywood at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study. I assisted in cataloging awards tapes and also spent part of the week in the Public Access Department. The Film Archive participates in a robust film reel lending program to organizations around the world. I had a fantastic experience interning at the Academy and gained valuable experience.

As a final perk to my internship at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive, I was invited to view the 89th Academy Awards red carpet arrivals and to a private Oscars viewing party on February 26, 2017. Even though the red carpet does not open to celebrities and guests until the afternoon, the Oscars Fan Experience was a full day affair. All people invited to watch the red carpet live arrive in the morning and eat breakfast. To keep attendees entertained there were multiple photo booths, a hair styling station, a hand message station, and tarot card reading.

View from my spot on the bleachers

When the red carpet opened all viewing attendees are seated on bleachers with assigned seating. The red carpet fills up pretty fast with both celebrities and guests moving from one network interview to the next as they work their way down the red carpet. With so many people mingling in a relatively small space, it became a live action “Search & Find” or “Where’s Waldo” to locate recognizable faces. Some celebrities stopped and waved to the fans while others made a beeline for the entrance to the Dolby Theatre. When the red carpet closed and the ceremony was about to begin, all the people from the bleachers walked over to the El Capitan theater across the street to view the Academy Awards and enjoy a catered buffet dinner and popcorn. Overall it was an amazing and most likely a once in lifetime experience!

How many celebrities can you spot on the crowded red carpet?

Some of the first red carpet arrivals

The Women and Leadership Archives has a connection to the Oscars too! The Mercedes McCambridge collection is often a favorite of visitors to the archives. Her early career involved voicing parts for radio dramas. After graduating from Mundelein College, she moved to New York and began an acting career in plays and films. Her film debut performance in All the King’s Men (1949) earned her a supporting actress Oscar and a Golden Globe. Mercedes went on to have a long career in film and television. In addition to Mercedes McCambridge’s collection, the WLA houses a couple of other fascinating collections related to film and television. Read more below about those collections!

Mercedes McCambridge

The Madonna Kolbenschlag, H.M. (Sisters of the Humility of Mary) collection highlights Madonna’s time as an educator, writer, activist, and clinical psychologist. She taught at various institutions and organizations. She taught courses on American Film at a time when the field was still emerging. The collection contains articles on film Madonna wrote as well as lecture notes and slides from courses she taught in the 1970s.

Slides from a History of Film course taught by Kolbenschlag

Mary Patricia Haley earned a Ph.D. in Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University in 1973. She went on to introduce mass media and film into the Mundelein College* curriculum. Eventually this led to the creation of a separate Department of Communications. Mary’s collection contains little information about film but her dedication to communications studies represents the growing field of film studies and the role women played in the growth.

These collections add valuable knowledge to the study of film and the history of the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Kolbenschlag’s collection highlights not only the beginning of film study, but how film was studied. McCambridge’s collection educated me on the rules and regulations of winning an Oscar and how those rules have changed. The collections provide a deeper understanding of what happens behind the camera. On February 28, 2016 you can find me eagerly sitting in front of the TV, predictions in hand, as I watch the Academy Awards.

Articles on film history from the Kolbenschlag collection


Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


From Rabbit Holes to Searching Primary Sources

Guest blog post by Ramonat Scholar* Carolina Luna. Original post and Carolina’s blog can be found here.

We’re Back!

rabbit-hole
I tried to get a picture of the Loyola bunnies but they are camera shy

During winter break, I was able to jump into a rabbit hole of background information on my topic. I learned a lot about the Hispanic community of Chicago and it was incredibly interesting. However, as I start receiving research advice I realize that my winter break research lacked structure. I was simply reading about my topic and anything that could relate to it.

piper_hall
Piper Hall holds the Women and Leadership Archives. Even if you are not doing research, Piper Hall is a site to see. Not only are the archivists incredibly nice and helpful but also the building is beautiful!

Now I have a better idea of how to structure my research and thus have more relevant and reliable sources. One of the types of sources that I have engaged with in the past couple of weeks has been primary sources. The records of the Hispanic Institute are housed in the Women and Leadership archives, which are conveniently a part of Loyola’s campus! Even though I can easily return to the archives, I have trained myself to take advantage of the time I am there. I went in last week to look through the Hispanic Institute records and I found information in two very unexpected ways.

budget-pic
No one likes to see how they budget their money but the way we spend money tells us a lot about ourselves or in this case: a lot about the Hispanic Institute.

The first instance that I found very helpful information was when I opened a folder I thought would only have dry financial statements. The folder is titled, “Reports, Budgets, & Donors.” I am not sure why I opened it, but I am glad that I did. As I scoured through the documents I realized that the Hispanic Institute was very detailed in the way they spent their budget. Within every school year’s report, there was a description of the course offered and the name of the instructor who offered the course. I was beyond excited because these documents gave me a list of instructors and the subjects they taught the leaders of the Hispanic community. This way I not only have a list of possible interview subjects, but also an idea of what the Hispanic Institute valued. The purpose of a budget report is meant to be financial but I learned to not categorize a source and rather picture how the information could relate to my topic.

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This is a part of one of the brochures I found at the Women & Leadership Archives. The text explains the services it has to offer the Hispanic community. (1)

Another instance in the archives in which a primary source gave me great information was when I encountered documents in Spanish. The Hispanic Institute archives had a brochure that must have been handed out to the Hispanic community. The brochure stated, in Spanish, the mission of the Hispanic Institute and the different ways in which it offered opportunities. I was able to see how the Hispanic Institute viewed themselves and their progress. I was also able to use a skill that I take for granted at times: being bilingual. An integral part of the Hispanic Institute is its bilingual and multicultural identity. I am excited that I can continue researching without the obstacle of having sources that have not been translated.

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For the next couple of months the Hispanic Institute will be my baby. Images like this excite me to continue researching. (2)

I am excited to continue reading primary sources and to continue my research project. I am proud of the fact that I am not aimlessly wandering through a rabbit hole of information.

(1) & (2) Documents courtesy of the Women and Leadership Archives, Hispanic Institute Collection.

*The Ramonat Seminar is a yearlong endowed history course and this year’s theme is “Dorothy Day’s America: The History of Catholicism in 20th Century America.” Students must apply and be accepted for the class.


Carolina Luna is a History and International Studies Major at Loyola University Chicago. She is a Ramonat Scholar. Carolina hopes to attend law school in the future to advocate for social justice.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Christmas Collections and the Archives

With Christmas Day fast approaching, it seems an appropriate time to roll out the WLA’s collections featuring images of the season. Here are some of our favorites!

Virginia Broderick Papers:

Virginia Broderick was a successful artist that specialized in illustrating religious imagery in a style she called “cloisonism”. Influenced by famous Impressionist artists, Broderick employed bright, bold colors to highlight the subjects of her work as well intermittent use of bold lines to outline their shape. You can learn more about Virginia Broderick in this blog post from last Easter. See some of the beautiful Christmas cards she illustrated below:

broderickcards001

Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

Eleanor Foundation Collection (Unprocessed):

Founded in the early twentieth century by Ina Law Robertson, the Eleanor Foundation provided housing for working women and single mothers as the industrialization of Chicago opened opportunities for women in wage work at the turn of the century. The Eleanor Foundation also provided social programs for the benefit of its women. At its height in the early 1900s, the Eleanor Foundation boasted a junior league, a summer camp in Lake Geneva, and hosted several events supporting the various pursuits of its members. The organization’s vast outreach efforts were not unlike the famed Hull House founded by Jane Addams. Here are some photos of Christmas celebrations hosted by the Eleanor Foundation through the years:

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Group photo, ca. 1918. Eleanor Foundation Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Holiday on Ice Celebration, 1962. Eleanor Foundation Collection. Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas celebration, 1962. Eleanor Foundation Collection. Women and Leadership Archives.

I don’t know about you, but the bunny in that picture will haunt my dreams.

Legion of Young Polish Women Collection:

This Chicago-based ethnic non-profit works to promote the heritage and traditions of Poland while organizing charitable efforts for the sciences, education, and literature. Founded in 1939, the Legion is still an institution for the Polish community in Chicago to this day. For more about the Legion of Young Polish women, check out their digital exhibit.

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Legion representatives at a Christmas market, ca. 1940. Legion of Young Polish Women Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas celebration, ca. 1980. Legion of Young Polish Women Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

Fun fact: In Poland, December 6th is known as Mikołajki (or St. Nicolaus Day). On this day Mikołaj, or Santa Claus to Americans, visits good little boys and girls and doles out gifts dressed in either bishop’s robes (as seen above) or in the red suit so many associate with the Santa image.

Mollie West Papers:

Labor reformer Mollie West wasn’t all work and no play! Although she came from a Jewish family, Mollie enjoyed the Christmas holiday with her many friends. Here’s a great photo of Mollie at a Christmas shindig. To find out more about Mollie West and her remarkable life, check out the WLA’s newest digital exhibit here.

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Mollie at a Christmas party, undated. Mollie Leiber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Mollie at a Christmas party, undated. Mollie Leiber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

 


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Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Collections Highlight: The Bowling Poet

I recently pulled some materials for a food ways class visit and I stumbled across a fascinating woman whose papers we have in our collection.  While retrieving copies of World War II food stamps from her file, I was introduced to Dr. Eleanor Risteen Gordon.  Dr. Gordon was born in Wisconsin in 1935, and grew up during the war years.  Her surviving childhood letters in the collection little reflect this difficult time, but they do reveal a youthful appreciation for hot dogs, as well as a humorous hint at her later profession.

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gordon002editgordon003As I delved into Dr. Gordon’s papers, I quickly learned she loved words and language, and used them to communicate in unique and thought-provoking ways.  She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Chicago, and taught rhetoric and composition.  In addition, she published poetry that touched on nature, art, and everyday life with sensitivity, realism, and humor.   In this sample of her poetry, she describes a seemly mundane action, eating an orange, with an infusion of passion and sensory language.

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“My sister has given the orange ‘voice,’ enabled the everyday to ‘speak.’” – Betty Risteen Hasselkus, Dr. Gordon’s sister describing this poem

It seems the wordsmithing apple didn’t fall far from the tree with Dr. Gordon; her father was a renowned crossword puzzle creator, who published regularly to the New York Times.  I can only imagine the level of competition on family Scrabble nights!

Digging deeper through the collection, I found that when Dr. Gordon wasn’t composing poems or teaching, she enjoyed a diverse range of hobbies and interests.  Amongst papers and letters I found numerous bowling awards and pins.  In 1986 she even bowled a perfect 300 game during league play.  In her obituary (Dr. Gordon passed in 1996), Henry Gordon, her husband of 37 years, shared that a fellow poet once told her “a bowling poet is a contradiction in terms,” but that “she never let that bother her.”

As if that wasn’t enough, I was surprised to find another of Dr. Gordon’s interests was antique, plastic jewelry.  An expert on the subject, she published articles that explored the impact of the development of plastic as a new material on style and culture.  She focused on how it made fashion more accessible and spawned whimsical and colorful styles while also being used to replicate and produce traditional styles for mass-wear.  As Dr. Gordon wrote, “Plastics provided fashion for everyone to laugh at, to enjoy, to wear.”[1]

A photo of a collection of vintage and modern plastic jewelry Dr. Gordon took for use in one of her articles.

A photo of a collection of vintage and modern plastic jewelry Dr. Gordon took for use in one of her articles.

At first glance, it may seem like Dr. Gordon’s interests were pretty eclectic.   I think however that they reflect a woman with a witty and playful personality who thought deeply about the culture around her.  Her body of work suggests to me that Dr. Gordon wanted to call attention to the beauty in everyday life, and show that the mundane could be celebrated.

I’d like to leave you all with one last material from the collection that reveals another of Dr. Gordon’s hobbies: a knitting pattern!  For those skilled with needles and yarn, please enjoy Dr. Gordon’s own pattern – “Eleanor’s Beret”.  As the holiday season approaches, it might make a fun and unique gift!  For those of us who’ve not yet conquered the intricacies of knitting and purling – may your takeaway from this post be to pursue what interests you, even if it makes you a “bowling poet.”

Click the following link to view the knitting pattern created by Eleanor: Eleanor’s Beret Pattern

 

[1] Eleanor Gordon and Jean Nerenberg, “Everywoman’s Jewelry: Early Plastics and Equality in Fashion,” The Journal of Popular Culture 13 (1980): 643.


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Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago.  A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Women and Leadership Archives Graduate Assistant in the Field

Pallas Athene Statue outside of the United States Army Women’s Museum, Fort Lee, VA. Athena, Greek goddess of knowledge and war, was adopted as a symbol for Army servicewomen during WWII. She appeared on recruiting literature and Army insignia worn on the uniforms.

Pallas Athene Statue outside of the United States Army Women’s Museum, Fort Lee, VA. Athena, Greek goddess of knowledge and war, was adopted as a symbol for Army servicewomen during WWII. She appeared on recruiting literature and Army insignia worn on the uniforms.

As part of my graduate coursework, our program requires students take a research seminar with the goal of completing a draft of a scholarly article for future publication. This semester’s seminar asks students to write a paper using a women or gender history framework of analysis. A third of the semester is spent reviewing articles that use those modes of analysis to better inform our efforts in writing our own papers while the rest of the semester is spent in the archives researching primary source material, delving into the secondary literature, and writing the final product. My paper, tentatively titled “’Fashioned for You’: Outfitting the WAC and Construction of the Female Solider, 1948-1955,” investigates the history of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) uniform worn from 1951-1955 and how it was employed by the Army to assuage public anxieties of women entering the military at a transitional time in the history of women entering the workplace in the United States. I found early on in my study that not a lot of records pertaining to WAC servicewomen existed in the Chicago area, and even fewer dealt with the WAC during the postwar era. As a result, I had to pack my bags and hit the road to Virginia to the United States Army Women’s Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia and the United States Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.  I spent a week in October in the archives researching the uniform worn by Army servicewomen in the 1950s, got a behind the scenes look at museum collections, and got to meet some of the most gracious professional archivists and public historians a graduate student could hope for. My experiences in the archives can hopefully show others more tentative about the research process that archivists are indeed your friend, and actually taking the trip to archives can reveal some unknown treasure a researcher didn’t even know they were looking for!

The first stop on my research trip was the United States Army Women’s Museum located in Fort Lee, Virginia. The museum originally opened in 1955 in Fort McClellan, AL as a one-room exhibit space dedicated to the WAC, but has since reopened at Fort Lee after Congress closed Fort McClellan in 1997. When the museum once again opened its doors to the public it changed its name and mission to include women’s stories in the United States Army throughout its history. The museum now boasts a robust collection of artifacts and archives of official Army records concerning women in the Armed forces as well as a comprehensive collection of Army uniforms. Before I began researching, however, the task of getting to the museum hit an exciting and unexpected roadblock; since the museum was on base, I had to go through a clearance check-point before I was allowed entry. It all felt very official!

Once inside the museum I took a small researcher’s orientation that consisted of a two minute video documenting a brief history of women in the Army before getting at the collections the archivist pulled for my visit. They placed me at a station in the archives with my own personal laptop and scanner that I could use to save photographs and documents for future reference.  That was very handy. Alexandra, the archivist, watermarked all of my scans before I left for home for copyright purposes, but the documents are still perfectly legible with the mark. I stayed overnight in rural VA so I could get back to work right away the next day!

Lobby for the United States Army Women’s Museum, Fort Lee, VA. Get your AWM swag!

Lobby for the United States Army Women’s Museum, Fort Lee, VA. Get your AWM swag!

My second day of research started out with a little bit of excitement. The museum staff were staging photographs for a new brochure and they asked if I might pose in one of their pictures! Needless to say, I wasn’t ready for my close-up, but I turned it out for a couple of shots before getting down to business. Follow the museum’s Facebook page here in case you’re interested in eventually seeing my modelling debut! (They also posted a summary of my project on their newsfeed.) I worked through the morning on my paper but at lunchtime the collections manager took me into storage to see some of the uniforms I’d been studying in person. Seeing the actual uniforms donated by the servicewomen that wore them was a special perk —the color was totally different than I imagined and it felt super exclusive getting a behind-the-scenes look at artifacts that the general public doesn’t get the chance to see. I left the archives around 3:00p.m. in the event of (inevitable) beltway traffic and made it back to basecamp in Maryland around 6:00p.m. When I got home, I began preparing for part two of my research trip: the United States Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, VA.

Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Arlington, VA.

Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Arlington, VA.

Day three and four of my research trip took me to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, VA. The offices of the foundation holds the records and memorabilia of women from all service branches from the Revolutionary War to the present, but they are perhaps best known for their support of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery dedicated in 1997, the only major national memorial dedicated to women in all of the service branches. I identified the foundation early on in my research because of an in-house history they published in 2005 called “A Defense Weapon Known to Be of Value”: Servicewomen of the Korean War Era. Their repository holds a number of papers donated by women who served in the WAC during the 1950s. I was certainly not disappointed—the curator of collections Britta Granrud was extremely helpful and pulled collections of potential interest especially for my visit. She also took the time to write out an e-mail with directions (for both metro and car) and parking instructions! Museum professionals and archivists are your friends, people!

Model of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, VA.

Model of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, VA.

Britta also took the time to bring one of the uniforms out for me to see with suggestions for resources I might look to for further research. She printed out potential contact information for me to use if I ever wanted to conduct oral histories of women regarding their opinions on the uniform.  The resource was super helpful and something I hadn’t considered, given the time frame of the project. If this paper ever sees publication, it may be worth it to consider partnering with the foundation to conduct the interviews. We shall see!

My experiences show that archivists and museum professionals often go out of their way to help researchers with their projects. If your project is a success, it’s a great boost for their reputation, but it’s also just the nature of archives and museum work to make information accessible to the public. If you have a school project or paper you need to complete, do not hesitate to reach out to archivists! They know what’s in their collections better than anyone, so they are the absolute best resource to help you find hidden treasures you may not ever knew existed.

If you’re interested in women’s military history of fashion history (like me) definitely check out the social media of these two stellar organizations! You won’t be disappointed!

United States Army Women’s Museum

Website

Facebook

Women in Military Service for American Memorial Foundation

Website

Facebook

Twitter


EllenProfilePicEllen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.