Sister Safety

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Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

Exploring the files of Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon

As part of our Women’s History Month activities, I worked on creating a display showcasing materials from the collection of Mundelein College, a Catholic women’s college that was once located next to Loyola. The exhibit focused on two of Mundelein’s art professors and two students who went on to have successful art careers. This was another great opportunity to find new things and learn more about life at this unique college for women.

As I researched the art professors of Mundelein, I found interesting details on the life of Sister Mary Carmelyn. Sister Mary Carmelyn McMahon was born in Missoula, Montana in 1905 and taught at Mundelein from 1934 to 1954. Sister Mary Carmelyn designed several of the college’s Christmas cards and even illustrated the Graduate Pledge, which was taken by seniors at every commencement ceremony.

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

Sister Mary Carmelyn working with the Safety Council

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

The Mundelein College Graduate Pledge, created by Sister Mary Carmelyn

While inspiring students in her role as a teacher, Sister Mary Carmelyn discovered something else about which she was passionate. She began the College Safety Council at Mundelein in 1943 and spent her time learning and sharing ways to prevent accidents on school campuses and beyond. In the 1940s, she dedicated much of her time to the Red Cross and was appointed to serve on many safety councils, including the Education Committee of President Truman’s Conference on Highway Safety. She even taught the other BVM’s to swim. I wish we had a photo of that to share!

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

A World War II poster warning about one of the many safety hazards of the workplace.

This sudden concern for accident prevention seems out of the blue, but Sister Mary Carmelyn was actually just doing her patriotic duty. In the midst of World War II, factories increased production to provide supplies. Meanwhile, workplace accidents and injuries also increased. The National Safety Council, with the support of President Roosevelt, launched a national campaign in 1941 to teach ways to avoid accidents in industries, homes, schools, and on the road. Citizens could support the war effort by preventing carelessness that would waste resources or result in injury to much needed workers.

Sister Mary Carmelyn participated in the movement that spread these safety lessons to all areas of life. She promoted the 3 E’s of accident prevention: Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. She also wrote an article for Safety Education Magazine explaining the forgotten “R” in safety, religion. “Knowledge of skills,” Mary Carmelyn wrote, “plus the realization and acceptance of man’s relationship to his fellow men and his Creator, will…direct the knowledge toward…attitudes of safe living.”

Exploring Sister Mary Carmelyn’s records in the Mundelein College Collection provided the opportunity for me to learn more about national events during World War II. Through the archives, I was able to see one fascinating woman’s participation in broader patterns of history.

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.


It’s Equal Pay Day!

What is Equal Pay Day?

National Equal Pay Day, held on Tuesday April 14th, 2015, recognizes the wage gap that exists between men and women in American society. Organized by the National Committee on Equal Pay (NCEP), a coalition of organizations committed to pay equity, and annually held since 2005, this day is observed across the United States through public lectures, meetings, rallies, and protests. Generally falling on a Tuesday in early April, the timing references how far into the current year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year. Tuesday signifies how far into the week women work to earn what men made the previous week. NCEP advocates the wearing of red on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women and minorities are ‘in the red’ with their pay.”[1] This day is not solely an American endeavor – it is held internationally, in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

Why do we have Equal Pay Day?

Equal Pay proponents point to a long history of employment discrimination in the United States. According to the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2012, the median weekly earnings of women working full time were only 81% of men working full-time. Up from 64.2% in 1980, there is improvement but still much to be gained. Minority women are at an even greater disadvantage for full-time wage and salary work. As of 2012, African American women earn 68% of what White men earn while Hispanic women receive on average 59%.

This  ad created by Jane Trahey for a Mundelein College Event illustrates the income inequality in 1979.

This ad created by Jane Trahey for a Mundelein College Event illustrates the income inequality in 1979.

What is the History behind Equal Pay?

The issue of equal pay for women has a long and complex history. Fought on many fronts, the quest for equal pay in America picked up steam following World War II and is punctuated by passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (specifically Title VII) and 2009’s Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Other legislation has been introduced over the years to provide additional safeguards. The latest such effort, the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by former senator Hilary Clinton and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, was ultimately rejected in 2012.

What Collections at the Women and Leadership Archives relate to Equal Pay Day?

At the Women and Leadership Archives, collections of organizations that relate to equal pay rights for women include 8th Day Center for Justice; United Nations Development Fund for Women; Chicago Catholic Women; and the Homemakers Equal Rights Association. We also have many collections that document individual’s efforts for pay equality. These include women such as Mollie Leiber West, Helen Sauer Brown, Peggy Roach, Carol Ronen, and Bari-Ellen Roberts. This is just a selection of the collections held in the Women and Leadership Archives that concentrate on peace and social justice activism, of which equal pay is a part.

[1] “Equal Pay Day,” Accessed March 3, 2014. http://www.pay-equity.org/day.html.


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: 8th Day Center for Social Justice

Founded in 1974 by six Catholic organizations located in Chicago Illinois, the organization the 8th Day Center for Justice is an inter-faith coalition that strives to do social justice work that impacts Chicago and the surrounding communities.

Founding Members of 8th Day holding a staff meeting, 1975

Founding Members of 8th Day holding a staff meeting, 1975

For nearly 40 years the organization has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Chicagoans, many of them women. In their efforts to help women, they have broadly invested in issues such as education, war, universal human rights, poverty, and homelessness. Drawing from firm and long-held religious beliefs, the organization’s activism is peaceful and concentrates on consciousness raising, community organizing, workshops, and lobbying.

Urban Plunge Participants, 1983

Urban Plunge Participants, 1983

The Urban Plunge, one of the organizations longest running programs has occurred annually since 1977. This Easter Week event is a weeklong faith-based immersion program in which participants engage with the city of Chicago through exploring its spaces and meeting local community and religious leaders and organizations actively making an impact. Formulated to encourage participants to analyze their surroundings and utilize their talents, the tour creates a space for participants to brainstorm solutions for the problems and challenges facing contemporary society.

Good Friday Walk for Justice, 1982

Good Friday Walk for Justice, 1982

In 1981, 8th Day Center began an annual event called the Good Friday Walk for Justice, to draw attention to contemporary social justice issues concerning racial, economic, and legal inequalities. Themes of the walk are different every year and generally have a historic or religious significance. The event leads participants to five different locations positioned to create a cross in downtown Chicago. Led by a coalition of social justice and faith organizations with prayer and reflection built into the script, the event encourages individuals to act and provide voice for those who are unable to speak.

From their general events such as the Urban Plunge and Good Friday Walk for Justice to participation in national movements such as the Sanctuary Movement and advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment, 8th Day contributed to debates not just on local issues and topic, but national and international ones as well. The organization has specifically explored the conditions of women in Asia. Within the United States, they have commented on issues of discrimination, employment, violence, and women’s ordination.

LauraLaura Peace is a 2014 graduate of the MA in Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago and a former WLA Graduate Assistant.

 

 


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.


Musings on Mundelein College and the Selma March

Mundelein College students in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mundelein College students in Montgomery, Alabama.

For the past few months we have been researching Mundelein College’s role in the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama as well as the march itself in preparation for the anniversary and the accompanying events this March. After researching Selma, writing blog posts and web features, and attending related events at Loyola, we wanted to use Selma as a starting point to talk about broader issues of race, gender, and representation in archives and elsewhere.

JENNY: Within our archives Selma is a challenging topic to research. Although we have historic persons as well as organizations who participated in Selma and other events of the Civil Rights movement, the vast majority of material is photographs. Small amounts of other material that relates to the history of the civil rights movement can be found – but is generally integrated into other collections such as Mundelein College and that of scholar Suellen Hoy. These two collections contain relevant material on Selma, but also represent other important strengths of the Archives, particularly the history of women in the field of education.

Despite our many strengths, like every historical institution, the WLA has gaps. When thinking of this for our collections, we do not have much material that relates to hispanic women and there is also little that relates to the history and presence of various Asian populations in the midwest.

MOLLIE: But how do you even begin to collect? We don’t have a slew of people knocking down our door desperate to donate their personal papers or organization’s records on a daily basis. Many people don’t even know that archives,  much less the WLA, exist. Often class or educational levels can play a role in a person’s knowledge of archives, which could lead to somewhat homogenous donors and collections. How can archivists reach out to fill in these gaps?

Mahalia Jackson, 1962. Photo taken by Carl Van Vechten.  Carl Van Vechten photograph collection, Library of Congress.

Mahalia Jackson, 1962. Photo by Carl Van Vechten. Carl Van Vechten photograph collection, Library of Congress.

JENNY: Taking inspiration from the Civil Rights movement, who are some Black women leaders or activists in the Civil Rights movement who could be part of ours or another archive’s collections? Why have I not learned about them? Take for example, Mahalia Jackson. Born New Orleans in 1926, Jackson was a nationally-renowned gospel singer who worked for 40 years in the music industry. She also actively participated in the Civil Rights movement, singing at multiple national rallies and events, but this portion of her history is overshadowed. I found Jackson’s page on Wikipedia, as well as entries on biography and music history sites. Much of the information I found was brief, noting two to three paragraphs of accomplishments and referencing her association with more publicly known figures of the Civil Rights movement. Wikipedia’s page has background on her childhood and youth, her career, her activism in the Civil Rights movement, as well as her death and legacy.

MOLLIE: Although Mahalia Jackson has a pretty decent Wikipedia page in terms of length, it is by no means complete. But unlike many other women, she actually has a page, which let Jenny learn about her in the first place. Like almost all Wikipedia articles about women, Jackson’s article is subject to gender bias. In the section on her Civil Rights activism, the article focuses on her relationships with Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. rather on how Jackson herself contributed to the movement. Gender bias on Wikipedia can take many forms ranging from total exclusion of women to a bias in the way the article is written.

Archives are spaces where stories like Jackson’s reside, but they are also places of interaction. We want visitors to come and engage with, look at, touch (when appropriate), and discover the materials in our collections. But because barriers (getting there, navigating the finding aids, finding the time etc) often restrict people from engaging one-on-one with the collections, we have to ask ourselves how to tell the stories of the women in the archives. With Selma, we told the story of Mundelein College and their role in the march. Public programs contextualized the stories found in the archives while blog posts and web features made it available to a wider audience. But did we tell a complete story? Did we tell a good story? As an institution that collects and makes available women’s stories, gender bias issues found on Wikipedia are not as much of an issue for us.

At the March 12th Mundelein Remembers Selma event, panelists reached out beyond Mundelein’s story to talk about broader issues of race, gender, and religion during the 1960s and participants in the march recounted their personal experiences. Was it a good story? Yes – it was engaging and interesting. Was it complete? No. But no story can be one hundred percent complete and coherent. Archivists and public historians need to acknowledge the gaps in their collections and stories and work to close them through exhibits, general interactions with visitors, or Wikipedia edit-a-thons.

JennyJennifer Pederson is a Graduate Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives. She will be graduating in May 2015 with a M.A. degree in Public History. In her spare time she enjoys stumbling upon public art and reorganizing her apartment.

 

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.