Women and the Written Word: Poetesses in the Archives

For those who do not know, April is National Poetry Month. In celebration of the occasion, I delved into the Women & Leadership Archives’ collections to find records and personal papers concerning women’s contributions to the arts, particularly the written word. As close followers of the Women and Leadership Archives know, our collections feature the creative pursuits of remarkable female performers, artists, sculptors, and patrons, both past and present. In fact, check out the WLA’s digital collection Visions: A Highlight of Chicago Women Artists for a more detailed sampling of the materials we hold regarding these talented female artists.

Along with preserving the records and papers of women in performance and the fine arts, the Women & Leadership Archives also holds the records of famous poetesses as well as numerous poems featured in feminist newspapers. The first, Ruth Lisa Schecter, published several books of poetry including Near The Wall of Lion Shadows, Moveable Parts, Suddenly Thunder, and eight others. Her writings were also published in more than one hundred and fifty journals. In addition to actively writing throughout her adult life, Schecter was also passionately involved in spreading the influence of poetry through Arts Councils and colleges. Schecter served as the poet-in-residence at Mundelein College* beginning in 1969.

The second poet, Renny Golden, combined her love for writing with a passion for social activism. Her best known book of poetry The Hour of the Furnaces articulates the suffering of many citizens of Central American countries in the tumultuous years of the 1980s, when several countries fought civil wars against militaristic regimes. This work earned a nomination for the National Book Award in 2000.

Additionally, the WLA preserves numerous anonymous submissions of poetry from The Feminist Voice, one of Chicago’s first feminist newspapers that began during the 1970s. See below for some examples of these anonymous pieces as well as a sampling of some of the amazing offerings created by our other profound poetesses.

 

ConnieKiosse1

Drawing from the Connie Kiosse Papers, artist unknown. Undated.

This image from the Connie Kiosse Papers was submitted by an anonymous artist and poet. The marriage of words and illustration provide a provocative image of the contributor’s views on romantic love.

ConnieKiosse2

Drawing and poem from the Connie Kiosse Papers, artist unknown. Undated.

Another anonymous submission from the Connie Kiosse papers, this poem with accompanying illustration depicts the author’s personal struggle with a failing relationship and her tumultuous emotions associated with it. The poem makes powerful reference to the role of self-esteem as it intersects with modern womanhood.

Schecter1

Early draft of Schecter’s poem “Suddenly Thunder,” 1972.  Ruth Lisa Schecter Papers.

These two images depict an early draft of Ruth Lisa Schecter’s titular poem for her book, Suddenly Thunder and another one of her poems “Many Rooms in a Winter Night.” Examining drafts of Schecter’s work allows researchers to view the artist’s creative process as she composes a work from beginning to end.

Schecter2

Revision of one of Schecter’s later poems “Many Rooms in a Winter Night,” 1989.  Ruth Lisa Schecter Papers.

*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. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.

 


 

EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first 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.


Reflections on the National Council on Public History’s Annual Meeting

This past weekend I attended the National Council on Public History’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference revolved around the theme of “Challenging the Exclusive Past”. This theme starts to scratch the surface on the multitude of complexities in doing public history work. Attending the NCPH conference allowed me to draw broad comparisons among a variety of public history institutions throughout the country. Following in line with the conference theme, the main sessions highlighted the need to fill in the gaps in the historic record and tell the stories that have been ignored in the past.

Working at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA), I understand the need to expand the historical narrative to be more inclusive. The WLA first and foremost preserves documents related to women, a group often ignored in the historical record. While the main function of many archives is not necessarily to display or exhibit the collections, the WLA does host events, put on presentations, write weekly blog posts, and create tabletop displays and digital exhibits. These are ways of highlighting not only the WLA’s collections, but women’s history in general. The collections contained within the archives are also open for researchers and the public and they too may utilize the documents to fill in gaps and contribute to the study of women in history.

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The program for the 2016 NCPH Annual Meeting

After attending the NCPH conference it became very clear to me how difficult it can be for some public history institutions to include materials, stories, and exhibits from marginalized groups. Many public history professionals spoke not just of the people, stories, and histories that have been left out of the historical record, but of the institutions in place to prevent them from telling those histories. The stories ranged from people working in small local museums to the National Park Service and other federal organizations. There were many current and former federal employees and their comments were not always very positive about their past and present work. They brought up limitations they have at current historical sites because of controversial topics and they also mentioned that they struggle with people in positions of power to recognize and promote new sites that would fill in the gaps in the historical record.

While hearing about these challenges and struggles can be disheartening, I choose to take a more positive stance on the matter by applauding all those working to change current attitudes. Many of these people have been working for years to have their work recognized and have yet to succeed, but what they are doing is making a difference. My time spent at NCPH was very valuable to me in terms of understanding how I might proceed in the future with public history work. I am also thankful for institutions like the WLA that are dedicated to preserving the history of marginalized groups. These institutions are necessary because they open their doors to people who will be part of researching and writing the histories that have yet to be told.


 

Megan Bordewyk
Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first 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.


Erin Go Bragh: St. Patrick’s Day blast from the past

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let’s take a look at an invitation in the Mundelein College Skyscraper Newspaper for a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner held March 17th 1956.* The Women’s Auxiliary planned the annual event as a benefit for the College expansion fund. Note the “harp and shamrock motif” and “lilting Irish melodies.” How I wish they noted the menu, although I assume the meal consisted of the typical Irish American fare of corned beef, cabbage and soda bread.

How fascinating that a Women’s Auxiliary and Mother’s club raised money for Mundelein. I wonder if Loyola would be interested in this fund raising idea. Probably not!

Front page story from the March 5, 1956 issue of the Skyscraper

Front page story from the March 5, 1956 issue of the Skyscraper.

Here are two of the participants of the dinner. The photo caption reads “Mrs. Cahman and Mrs. Popp (pictured left to right) are seated at the Mother’s Club St. Patrick Day Dinner.” The Skyscraper notes the members of various committee and Mrs. Popp helped as part of the Arrangements Committee. How I wish for a color photo to confirm my bet they wore something green.

Two women enjoy the St. Patrick's Day Dinner, 1956.

Two women enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, 1956.

As you read the newspaper article, did you notice that all women are referred to as Mrs. and by their husband’s name? This is almost unheard of now, however, was standard practice back in the day.

It’s good to see some traditions haven’t changed from 1956. To celebrate March 17th, wear some green, listen to “lilting Irish melodies” and eat corned beef!

 

*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. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.


IMG_0021-149x110Nancy 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.


Colors of the Season: Lent and Spring with the Art of Virginia Broderick

We are FINALLY beginning to see some sunny skies and warmer temperatures in Chicago and I’m sure everyone is ready to see green grass and blooming flowers again soon. Along with the spring also comes the season of Lent. Lent is a forty day period of time during which Christians devote themselves to prayer, fasting, and works of compassion as a way of preparing themselves to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter. This year, Lent began February 10 and ends with Easter Sunday on March 27.

What better way is there to celebrate the coming of beautiful spring and Easter than with the artwork of Virginia Gaertner Broderick? A Catholic convert, Virginia developed her own artistic style she called “cloisonism” and used traditional Christian symbolism to create vibrant and unique art. Her pieces were published in many forms of church publications and even converted into stained glass, mosaics, and other forms that can be found all over the world. Read more about her fascinating life and career in the finding aid for her collection.

In her collection, I found a variety of publications used in the Lenten season. I hope you enjoy the colorful art that Virginia created to honor the solemnity of lent and the beauty of Easter

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

In Virginia's collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

In Virginia’s collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

Broderick Lent booklet 1982002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Broderick Lenten offering folder 003

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos 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 exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


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.