Women’s History Month Kick-off

The theme of Women's History Month for 2015 is Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives.

The 2015 theme of Women’s History Month is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Photo from the National Women’s History Project.

As I pondered the task before me, writing the blog post to introduce March as Women’s History Month, I found myself wondering…what is the history of Women’s History Month? When did it start and what were the reasons? There is irony and humor in the history of Women’s History Month but that aside, how did it all start?

An International Women’s Day began in the early 20th century, first at the end of February than later, in March. The more recent history of celebrating women’s history started in 1978 when the school district of Sonoma, CA, participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8th, International Women’s Day. The idea began to take off in 1979 at a summer conference on women’s history at Sarah Lawrence College. There participants heard of the success of the Sonoma County’s Women History Week celebration, wanted to carry it to their own organizations, communities, and schools, and agreed to work to secure a National Women’s History Week.

In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. Also in 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in Santa Rosa, California by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan to broadcast women’s historical achievements.

Barbara_Mikulski

Representative (now Senator) Barbara Mikulski.

Responding to the growing popularity of Women’s History Week, in 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week. Congress passed their resolution as Pub. L. 97-28, which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week. The Week took off in popularity and by 1986, fourteen states had declared March as Women’s History Month.

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Various Congressional resolutions and presidential proclamations later, March is clearly cemented as Women’s History Month.

I’ve been interested in women’s history since my college days in the 1980s. I knew some of the history of Women’s History Month but not all of it. My first surprise was learning that the month had roots in International Women’s Day that started at the turn of the 20th Century.

Fast forward to the late 1970s and early 1980s and we come to my next surprise. Who knew Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) sponsored anything together? For readers who don’t know who Hatch and Mikulski are, Google them to totally understand the magnitude of this cooperation. Their joint legislation only goes to show the tremendous bi-partisan support for a month to honor women and their contributions throughout history.

A photo of Mundelein College students from the WLA's collection.

A photo of Mundelein College students in the Marksmanship Club, circa 1940, from the WLA’s collection.

Here we are in 2015 celebrating Women’s History Month. I’ve taken to joking that Women’s History Month is made for the WLA. To celebrate the Month, there will be a feature every week on the WLA website highlighting a woman or organization from our collections.

In addition, for those on Loyola’s campus, a display in Cudahy Library will feature artists from the WLA collections. Very different artists, I might add. If you’re in the Loyola neighborhood stop by Cudahy and take a look.

Enjoy Women’s History Month!
IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy worked as 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 working on all things archival, 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.


 

A Story in a Box

My main task the last few weeks has been preparing for Women’s History Month in March. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate some of the unique women in our collections through weekly posts on our website. My first step in writing these posts was to peruse our finding aids and find four collections I wanted to share. Among the many fascinating individuals and organizations, one woman’s story stood out to me and begged to be shared. Her collection consisted of only one small box, but in that box I found many cool things that represented a life of leadership and spirit.

While Anna’s early artwork included watercolors and sculpture, she made her later work on the computer as her condition increasingly affected her coordination.

While Anna’s early artwork included watercolors and sculpture, she made her later work on the computer as her condition increasingly affected her coordination.

Anna Stonum’s finding aid described her as an activist and artist, two categories the WLA has many of, but this woman’s story was different. She is a great example of the diversity of our collections.

Anna Stonum, born October 14, 1958, moved to Chicago in 1980 to attend Mundelein College. Anna suffered from Friedrich’s Ataxia, a degenerative condition that affects coordination and caused her to spend most of her adult life in a wheelchair. Anna was a passionate artist who worked with different media as her coordination worsened, but never quit creating. In the 1980s, she joined the movement fighting for rights for the disabled and demonstrated her leadership and courage. She picked fights with the CTA, Wrigley Field, and Jerry Lewis, all in the name of accessibility and respect for those with disabilities.

Anna’s papers don’t contain any photos of her, other than a couple tiny, grainy images from news articles. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a picture to accompany her web feature, and then I found this.

Anna Stonum and Mike Ervin, 1998

Anna Stonum and Mike Ervin, 1998

Pretty cool, huh? OK, maybe it seems a little dramatic at first, but Anna and her husband Mike Ervin were cool enough to pull it off. And don’t you kind of want someone to paint you looking like you’re ready to conquer the world in the middle of a lightning storm?

The portrait was done by artist Riva Lehrer for her series Circle Stories. Before creating this portrait, Lehrer interviewed her subjects to learn about their lives and find imagery that represented their experience. This powerful image illustrates Anna and Mike’s determination and strength as a team.

So why does this couple deserve such an intense tribute?

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

As a woman who just recently moved to the big city, I am fascinated by Chicago’s public transportation and have been amazed by the technology that allows buses to lower and lift wheelchairs so that everyone can take advantage of these vehicles. Today, every CTA bus you ride is accessible because of Anna, who helped found the Chicago chapter of Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. The organization spent years fighting for CTA to install lifts before the company committed to ordering 700 accessible buses in 1989, influencing similar cases across the nation.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Anna’s strength and spirit can also be seen in her refusal to let challenges get in the way of her creativity. In 1994, Anna started her own graphic design company, Designs for All. She mostly did work for newsletters, but she also created some cool logos and designs that were used nationally by disability activists.

Anna Stonum passed away suddenly at the age of 40 due to a heart attack. As sad as this was to learn, it was from the writings of her friends and family after her death that I learned the most about who Anna was as a person. Her collection contains her obituary, where a friend describes how she inspired others who saw how much she enjoyed living. There is also a copy of New Mobility magazine that includes an article her husband wrote after her death. He tells stories about how he spontaneously proposed after a couple of cocktails in New Orleans and about one of the many times they were arrested for “raising hell with ADAPT” and spent three days in a Canadian jail.

When you jump into a collection, you never know what you might find. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand a person through documents and articles. But with Anna Stonum, her passion and strength could be found in every folder.

Caroline blog photoCaroline Lynd is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time caring for her pufferfish, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies.

 


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: Carolyn Farrell

Carolyn Farrell after being elected to the Dubuque, Iowa City Council, 1977.

Carolyn Farrell after being elected to the Dubuque, Iowa City Council, 1977.

Carolyn Farrell, B.V.M., was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1934.  In 1953 at the age of 18, Farrell joined the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), taking her final vows in 1961.  She received her B.A. in History from Clarke College in 1966 and went on to attain a Master’s of Science in Education Administration from Western Illinois University.  Farrell also completed post-graduate work at the University of Iowa in Administration of Higher Education and at the Hubert Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

After holding positions as a teacher and administrator for a number of years, in 1974 Farrell began serving on several public committees in Dubuque, Iowa.  It was during this time that Farrell realized she wanted to become involved in politics.  She ran for Dubuque City Council in 1977 and became the first woman to be elected for a four year term.  In 1980, Farrell was elected for a one year term as the Mayor of Dubuque, becoming the first woman religious to serve as a mayor of a city in the United States.[1]

The following year Farrell returned to her former position as the Director of Continuing Education at Clarke College, a position which she held until 1988.  In 1991, Farrell accepted the Interim Presidency of Mundelein College in Chicago where she oversaw the College’s affiliation with Loyola University Chicago.  Farrell went on to serve as Associate Vice President of Loyola University for Mundelein College and Associate Vice President and Director of the Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, Center for Women and Leadership. Farrell retired from Loyola University Chicago in 2006 and continues her work as Director of the Roberta Kuhn Center at the BVM Motherhouse in Dubuque, Iowa.

Carolyn Farrell as Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, 1980.

Carolyn Farrell as Mayor of Dubuque, Iowa, 1980.

Farrell’s election to office and her service to the field of higher education is a testament to the drive and influential capacities of both women and women religious. Her prominent place in Women’s History is reflected by her attendance at the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The Carolyn Farrell, BVM Papers at the WLA consists of 13 linear feet and document Farrell’s professional life with the majority of her papers spanning from 1977-1996. Additional papers at the WLA of women involved in politics include the Carol Ronen Papers, the Sheli Lulkin Papers, the Mary Ann Smith Papers, the Marion Volini Papers, and the Carol Mosley Braun Papers (currently unavailable for research).  The WLA also has the papers of over a dozen BVMs and 25 women religious or former women religious.  See our website for a full list of these collections.

 


[1] Dubuque, Iowa operates under a council-manager form of government, whereas the mayor is elected by the city council from among its members.

Laura Laura Peace is a 2014 graduate of the MA in Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago and a former WLA Graduate Assistant. Laura currently resides in Chicago and is employed at HistoryIT.

 

 


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.


Constant Vigilance: The Art of Disaster Preparedness

Oh, no! You walk down the darkened stairway to the archives. About two inches of water sit at the bottom of the staircase and the level rises slowly as more water flows out under the door. What do you do? Should you open the door, turn on the lights, and rush in to save the patriarchy-crushing SisterSerpents stickers? Let out a blood curdling cry for help? Fetch your water wings? Send up the bat-signal? Run? Or should you consult your handy Disaster Preparedness Plan?

Every day

Floods RAVAGE Cities,floodingFires DESTROY Buildings,fireZombies ATTACK,zombies2and Sinkholes SWALLOW museums.cars

While that may sound a little dramatic, the tiniest roof leak or mold outbreak has the potential to cause a great deal of damage to collections. Last semester Nancy, the WLA Director and my supervisor, who is also on the Loyola Libraries Disaster Preparedness Committee, asked if any of the graduate assistants would be interested in helping the committee. When I expressed perhaps too much enthusiasm at the mention of disasters, I was given the task of helping draft an updated disaster plan for the Lewis Library.

Since then my life has been devoted to constant vigilance.

constantvigilanceI’m not exactly sure why I find disasters so fascinating. The first time I really remember thinking about disasters was in an undergraduate class called Geocinema where we watched natural disaster movies, such as Magma: Volcanic Disaster and Tidal Wave: No Escape, critiqued the science, and wrote our own geologically-sound screenplays. As I watched bad movie after terrible movie, I remember wondering why these characters were so dumb. Most of them were scientists – how could they be so illogical? Why didn’t they just make a plan and stick to it? Probably because it is surprisingly difficult to create a plan, keep it updated for when disaster strikes, and execute it flawlessly.

Unlike Corbin Bernsen playing a former weapons specialist in Title Wave: No Escape, who has no plan, but ends up teaming up with lady scientist Julianne Phillips to save coastal towns from a barrage of brutal tidal waves, I do have a plan. But I understand why Corbin and Julianne don’t; the Lewis Library Disaster Plan was challenging to write and will be even harder to keep updated. After wading through heaps of information on disaster recovery, I found that keeping these three points in mind made the Disaster Plan easier to write.

1. Find a focus. Although the Disaster Preparedness Plan puts human safety before collections, it focuses on the aftermath of the disaster, not the eye of the storm like Corbin and Julianne are forced to deal with. Although emergency instructions are a part of the plan, it was difficult to balance the inclusion of vital instructions for human safety and the assessment and salvage of damaged materials.

Although the content is different, Minor Zombie Emergency and Major Zombie Apocalypse have the same layout, making it easy to identify important information.

Although the content is different, “Minor Zombie Emergency” and “Major Zombie Apocalypse” have the same layout, making it easy to identify important information.

2. Organization is vital. Even when all of the important information is present, it won’t do you any good if you can’t quickly find what’s relevant to you. I looked at disaster plans compiled by other archives, libraries, and museums to find a simple, user-friendly layout. By using the same layout for each disaster situation you can easily tell that wet books should be dried or frozen within 48 hours to prevent mold growth, whereas microfilm and motion picture film need to be rewashed and dried within 48 hours.

3. Keep it relevant, useful, and updated. Phone numbers change, businesses go belly up, knowledgeable staff retires, collections move. The last complete Loyola University Libraries disaster plan is from 2007; it acknowledged that the plan needed to be updated yearly, but daily work often takes precedent over long-term planning. A disaster plan should be a living document, changing with the institution, but how do you accomplish that? I’m not sure. I can write that the Disaster Preparedness Committee will update the plan yearly, but that won’t make it happen. Maybe a monthly email to the committee with the “constant vigilance” gif would help.

If Corbin Bernsen and Julianne Phillips kept these points in mind, maybe they could create a plan for the next time tidal waves start destroying the coast.

0a621f2Mollie Fullerton is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is finishing her last semester of her MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to sharing authority, she enjoys biking, making/eating pie, and playing the musical saw.


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.