Collections Highlight: Joan Heath Fortner

Born in 1932 to Mr. and Mrs. Norbert A Heath, Joan Heath Fortner was active for years in Chicagoland art organizations. An alumna of The Immaculata High School (1950), Mundelein College (1954, BFA), the New York Fashion Academy (1955), and Loyola University (1979, M.A. in Education) Fortner always enjoyed art and sought to pursue it as a career.

An outfit designed by Joan Heath Fortner at age 16, 1948

An outfit designed by Joan Heath Fortner at age 16, 1948

From a young age, Fortner was extremely passionate about art and fashion. She became the youngest person to win the Chicago Tribune American Fashions Competition and would go on to win the competition for five consecutive years.

Tribune Style Show Finalists Article, 1950

American Fashions Competition Article from the Chicago Tribune, 1950

In addition to this award, she was the 1950 recipient of the Bishop O’Brien scholarship to the Art Institute in Chicago. In 1953 she won a second scholarship to the New York Fashion Academy for a design she submitted to a contest by the Evans Fur Company.

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Design sketch by Joan Heath Fortner showing fine attention to detail.

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Design sketch by Joan Heath Fortner. The contrasting use of light and dark colors displays the distinct characteristics of her work.

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Design sketch by Joan Heath Fortner.

While living in New York, Joan Heath met her husband, Gene Fortner. Following their marriage, the couple lived in New York for four years where she worked as a dress designer before returning to Chicago. While raising three kids, Fortner obtained a Masters in Education from Loyola University Chicago in 1979. Upon receiving her M.A., Fortner became an Art Education Teacher at Mather High School and also worked with District 63 in Niles, Glenview, and Des Plaines.

Article highlighting Fortner's achievements, 1981.

Article highlighting Fortner’s achievements, 1981.

During her lifetime, Fortner has been involved in many art organizations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Most recently, she served as the Vice President of the Des Plaines Art Guild and the executive director of Art Cubes, a nonprofit art service organization funded by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council that brings the arts to older adults.

Due to her dedication to her work, Fortner has won many awards and today she is still extremely active in her community. Along with teaching art classes, she is currently working on watercolor and acrylic paintings.

An article highlighting an exhibit of Fortner's work, n.d.

An article highlighting an exhibit of Fortner’s work, n.d.

The Joan Heath Fortner Papers at the Women and Leadership Archives consist of 1.5 linear feet of material spanning the years 1948-1981. The Women and Leadership Archives has a substantial number of other collections that focus on women artists, for a complete list see our website.

Original research for this post was done by WLA intern Sebastian Villa during the Fall of 2012.


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 Time at Loyola and the WLA

Graduations have been in high swing here at Loyola University Chicago this past week. There are still a few more to come before the ceremonies wrap up. This is my third May at Loyola and I’ve decided graduation time is one of my favorite things. The campus is full of happy people who appear in waves during times of the morning and afternoon graduations. All over campus there are the 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, by Piper Hall, where the WLA is located. The aura is one of happiness, excitement, and just plain fun. Even during light rain and gray skies that inevitably appears one or two of the days, the mood still feels jubilant, albeit a bit soggy.

What do my warm fuzzy graduation feelings have to do with an archives blog? Good question. First, the WLA holds the records of Mundelein College and, as you might imagine, the collection has many graduation pictures. Some of which are available here: http://content.library.luc.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/coll14 I imagine graduations at Mundelein also had the same sense of accomplishment and happiness. Closing my eyes, I see happy groups of graduates and family members, caps and gowns, and flowers everywhere.

Second, the WLA is staffed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) from Loyola’s Public History Program. The program is two years long and they end up with, hopefully, jobs in the public history field. It’s a lovely 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 it is a mixed bag for the WLA and me. The WLA experiences turn-over every year as one or two GAs graduate. I’ve come to know, depend on, and honestly, become quite fond of the graduating GA. In a former position, I also had student staff and am very familiar with the cycle of student workers. They come, they work hard, 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 child and the years fly by, giving me a heightened sense of time passing. I don’t know, really. All I know is I miss each one who leaves and feel a sense of sadness when I come to work and they are not there.

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 comes into the brain! She’s right. While I don’t know the students as children, I get to know them for one or two very formative years. I end up becoming close to each one, hearing about their lives and sometimes their struggles. In addition, I see them succeed, grow, and move on in a positive way.

This year, two WLA GAs graduated on May 5th: Mollie Fullerton and Jenny Pederson. Mollie began as a volunteer and then worked as a GA this last academic year. Jenny’s been with the WLA two years as a GA. Both will be sorely missed: Jenny for her great good humor and kindness; and Mollie for her sensitive ability to see truth in situations. Both are creative and intelligent with wonderful senses of humor. I wish them both all the luck and good fortune in the future.

WLA graduate students Jenny Pederson and Mollie Fullerton photographed in Piper Hall, 1st. Floor.  Photo taken by GA Caroline Lynd, who graduates in May 2016.

Jenny and MollieR

 

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.

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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: Carol Ronen

Born in Chicago on March 28, 1945, Carol Ronen has devoted much of her life to public service in Illinois. In 1967 Ronen graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and went on to earn her Master’s in Public Administration at Roosevelt University in 1979.

Carol Ronen's Masters in Public Administration Diploma, 1979.

Carol Ronen’s Masters in Public Administration Diploma, 1979.

Throughout her career, Ronen was highly recognized as a progressive public servant who advocated the causes of women, early childhood education, health care, violence prevention, and human rights.

In Chicago, Ronen served as the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Chicago-Cook County Criminal Justice Commission as well as Director of Legislative and Community Affairs for the Chicago Department of Human Services. In 1989, she became the Executive Director of the Chicago Commission on Women where she created and facilitated programs that advocated for issues such as domestic abuse and welfare reform.

An article outlining Ronen's goals for the Chicago Commission on Women, 1989.

An article outlining Ronen’s goals for the Chicago Commission on Women, 1989.

Carol Ronen served seven years in the Illinois State House of Representatives for the 17th District from 1993-2000. In 2000 she was appointed to the Illinois State Senate for District 7 after the resignation of her predecessor, Arthur Berman.

Carol Ronen for State Representative Rally, n.d.

Carol Ronen for State Representative Rally, n.d.

Elections Certificate, 2000.

State Senate Elections Certificate, 2000.

In the Illinois legislature, Ronen was a major advocate for LGBTQ rights. Ronen was a strong opponent of S.B. 1773, which sought to only recognize heterosexual marriage in the state, when it was proposed in 1996. Additionally, she was the lead sponsor of the Illinois Human Rights Act (2005), which protects Illinois residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Passing this bill took over a decade of work and, according to Ronen herself, “fulfills a personal commitment I made when I first ran for office – to extend equal protection to Illinois gay, lesbian and trans-gendered citizens.” At the time this Act was passed, there were only four other states that had adopted such sweeping protections.

Part of a speech given by Carol Ronen in opposition to S.B. 1773, which would have allowed only heterosexual marriage to be recognized in IL.

Part of a speech given by Carol Ronen in opposition to S.B. 1773, which would have allowed only heterosexual marriage to be recognized in IL.

Ronen was also a strong supporter of the Equal Pay Act, which increased the number of women covered by equal pay protections, and was a driving force behind increasing the Illinois minimum wage.

In October 2007, she announced that she would be resigning as District 7 State Senator and would not complete her term. She officially stepped down on February 10, 2008, and was succeeded in office by Heather Stearns.

Carol Ronen in the State Senate, n.d.

Carol Ronen in the State Senate, n.d.

The Carol Ronen Papers at the Women and Leadership Archives consist of 2 linear feet of materials and document the years 1952-2009. Additional papers at the WLA of women involved in politics include the Carolyn Farrell Papers, the Sheli Lulkin Papers, the Mary Ann Smith Papers, the Marion Volini Papers, and the Carol Mosley Braun Papers (currently unavailable for research).

Original research for this post was done by WLA intern Sebastian Villa during the Fall of 2012.


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.


#SaveSweetBriarsHistories

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

When I first heard that the Board of of Directors of Sweet Briar College (SBC) in Virginia voted to close the women’s college due to “insurmountable financial challenges,” all I could think about were the similarities of the situation to Mundelein College. As a Graduate Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives, which holds the Mundelein College Collection, I am incredibly familiar with the plight of women’s’ colleges.

Mundelein was a Catholic women’s college founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs). The college opened its doors in 1930 and offered students a liberal arts education for over 60 years. In 1991, Mundelein “affiliated” with Loyola University Chicago. Like many women’s and small colleges, Mundelein ran into financial troubles in the 1980s. Enrollment was steady, but not growing. The college had over $4 million in debts and needed to upgrade buildings and equipment. Salaries were low and had been that way for a while. The college either had to make major staff cuts in an effort to reorganize a more fiscally sound school or consider a merger with a university willing to take on Mundelein’s debt

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

On March 19, 1991, Mundelein announced that it was in negotiations with its next-door neighbor Loyola University Chicago about a merger or affiliation. While the administrators of both schools emphasized the commonalities of the Catholic institutions and benefits of affiliation, students saw it differently. They marched with banners and signs in front of the Skyscraper chanting “Save our college!” and “60 more years!” A group called Concerned Students for Mundelein initiated a letter-writing campaign to tell alumnae what was going on and ask for their help in preventing a Loyola takeover. At the Board of Trustees meeting to vote on the affiliation, students wearing black with red armbands staged a sit-in.

On April 15, 1991, Mundelein College and Loyola University Chicago administrators signed an agreement that created “Mundelein College of Loyola University.” It happened so quickly that many students and alumnae felt blindsided.

The Mundelein Student Government Statement of Position makes this clear; the students write that the trust between Mundelein students and the administrations and boards of both institutions must be established. Mundelein students had chosen to go to a small, women’s college and were being thrown into a university that resembled more of a state school. Also, as expressed in by Mundelein Student Government representatives in their Statement of Position, many Mundelein women did not feel welcome at Loyola, based on a history of the use of terms like “mundle bundle” and the “girls’ school next door” by Loyola students, creating the perception among Mundelein students that Loyola did not encourage women and minorities to take on leadership positions of power and authority.

Alumnae also felt angry and cheated by the college and its board. Alumna Jane Trahey knew that Mundelein was experiencing financial difficulties, but she didn’t know how bad it was: “I wanted to sue the Board because I think they were negligent. They didn’t pursue all possible avenues. I don’t understand how they could have looked at the financial situation and studied the balance sheets for the last five years and not said ‘Something is seriously wrong here and we have to act now.’ Mundelein graduates never had to opportunity to rally the cause, to raise the money, to keep the college alive. I think we could have done it.”

Protest at Sweet Briar.

Protest at Sweet Briar.

When the Sweet Briar College announced its decision to close to students, faculty, staff, and the world in early March, many of the reactions were similar to those at Mundelein. Students felt blindsided. Both students and faculty took action with a sit-in protest at the President’s house where they waved signs protesting the closing of Sweet Briar. Although many of the students present at the sit-in acknowledged their lack of control over the situation, they felt the need to voice their dissent.

Unlike at Mundelein, alumnae and faculty have taken their cause to the next level. Shortly after the closing was announced, alumnae formed Save Sweet Briar to stop the college from closing and “provide accurate information to students, faculty, and alumnae about the true financial condition of Sweet Briar College and the viable alternatives to closure.” Currently, their goal is to raise money to fight the closure. The fund has had $5.2 Million pledged, $10.2 Million pledged over 5 years, and $1 Million donated.

Also unlike Mundelein, the closing of Sweet Briar College has made it to the courts. The Commonwealth of Virginia filed suit to keep Sweet Briar open. Additionally, a group of faculty and staff filed a motion supporting the lawsuit.

Although Mundelein College no longer exists, its records still do. Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives grew out of the need to preserve Mundelein’s records and expanded to collect the papers and records of individual women leaders as well as organizations. What will happen to Sweet Briar’s records once the college is gone? I emailed John Jaffe, the Director of Integrated Information Systems/CIO at Sweet Briar, and he said that if the college closes “there are plans in place to consolidate all records of the college into the existing archives. In addition, the entire archives will be moved to a senior research level institution in the Commonwealth where they will be preserved and made available to scholars.”

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

Unlike Mundelein College, Sweet Briar is closing in the digital age and the college’s history is documented online. It has two Tumblrs (one officially sponsored by the Tusculum Institute at SBC and one unofficial site run by an alumna). Papers about the history of the college written by SBC students in courses called “Doing Sweet Briar History,” “History of Sweet Briar,” and “Practicum in Sweet Briar History” are available on the SBC library website. An Omeka site with archival photos from the Mary Helen Cochran Library makes it its mission to provide widespread access to archival photos and similar photos are available on the library’s Flickr. Once Sweet Briar closes, what will happen to these digital resources? The unofficial Tumblr will continue as long as the alumna running it receives material to post, but who, if anyone, will manage the other sites? Will Sweet Briar’s website still exist once the college is gone or will it only live on through the Wayback Machine? If another archive takes SBC’s physical collections, will they also maintain the digital footprint of Sweet Briar?

In addition to its archives, Sweet Briar has a museum and the college itself makes up a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places with 22 contributing structures. The campus also contains a slave cabin that is open to the public and a slave cemetery with 60 graves. While it may not be possible to #SaveSweetBriar, I hope that we can #SaveSweetBriarsHistories.

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.