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.


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:

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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.

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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.

 


EllenProfilePic

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.

oranges-really

“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.


kate-johnson

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.


Start of a New School Year

Universities around the country are now in full swing. Returning students fall into a familiar routine while incoming freshman spend their first days figuring out class schedules and getting the lay of the land. Articles and photographs in the Skyscraper give some idea as to how Mundelein College* students rang in the new school year. Freshman and upperclassmen alike participated in socials, dances, and a Big Sister program.

Students advertising Freshman Day, 1936

Students advertising Freshman Day, 1936

Much information about the new students can be found in the Skyscraper. Yearly, the front page of the newspaper featured a photo of the “First Ladies.” The women featured in the photos were students from the incoming freshman class that were the top students in their high school class. The newspaper recognizes all incoming students with articles containing demographics and statistics of the incoming freshman class. These include what schools, states, and countries the students came from as well as if there was an increase in enrollment. Staff and faculty are also recognized, including one article highlighting that the new faculty studies in seven countries.

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1936 highlighting the freshman class

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1936 highlighting the freshman class

Top-ranked freshman with their Mundelein Beanies, 1966

Top-ranked freshman with their Mundelein Beanies, 1966

One start-of-the-year tradition stands out when perusing through the Skyscraper: the Beanie Bounce. The dance was in conjunction with the freshman from Loyola. All the freshman attendees don their green beanies that signify they are first years. The Beanie Bounce began in 1949 and was one of the many events the Mundelein sophomores sponsored. Mundelein and Loyola student councils jointly sponsored the event as well.

Starting days before the dance, Mundelein and Loyola students “Beanie Hide’ N Seek. Mundelein students take one of the Loyola men’s beanies but she does not know what the owner looks like. Before and during the Beanie Bounce, the Mundelein student searches for the person that matches the name associated with the beanie. Customarily, the man saves a dance for the lady that has his hat. By the look of the yearly articles reporting on the event, the Beanie Bounce was always a tremendous success.

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1958

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1958

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1959

Skyscraper newspaper clipping from 1959

From my research, the last mention of the Beanie Bounce in the Skyscraper appears in 1960. In 1966, Loyola University Chicago became fully coeducational. The transition to a coed university may have had an impact on the dance as LUC was no longer solely for men. In any case, the beginning of the school year can be an exciting time with both old and new traditions. The Beanie Bounce is just one of several beginning of the year activities. Check out the online digital Skyscraper collection and photograph collection to learn more about Mundelein and their many traditions!

* 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.


Megan Bordewyk
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.


Found in the Archives: A Message From Your Man in Service

This summer, I am working on the Women and Labor project, a new collaborative project in which I’m using the Mollie Lieber West Papers to create an online exhibit about the life of Mollie and the contributions of women in the labor movement. While I research the history of labor unions, women in the workforce, and Chicago in the 20th century, I am also learning more and more about Mollie West and finding so many cool things in her collection.

Along with Mollie’s many amazing accomplishments in the labor movement and endless stories of her bravery and dedication to social justice, her life included a beautiful love story that is told through letters, objects, and other materials in the collection.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered for the Army in 1943.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered to join the Army in 1943.

Among Mollie’s papers, there is a small vinyl record. The label has an old Pepsi-Cola logo on it and says, “This is a recorded message from your man in service.” This 78 RPM record holds a sweet audio message from Carl Lieber, Mollie’s first husband, sent to her while he was serving in the Army.

During World War II, Americans joined together to help each other and the servicemen fighting overseas, including companies like Pepsi. From my internet research I learned that Pepsi ran canteens in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. that provided meals, showers, and other services to military men and women. They also set up recording booths in these canteens and sent a traveling recording booth to other military camps where millions of soldiers were able to create these wonderful audio letters to send to their loved ones. Online, I’ve found people talking about records they’ve found that were recorded in Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.

(Note: This blog post is not an endorsement for Pepsi. While this service they provided likely brought joy to many, companies also benefited from creating a patriotic image and connecting their products to the idea of victory in the war.)

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

 

Thanks to a grant from Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, we were able to have this record and the other audiovisual materials in Mollie’s collection digitized. This gave us the opportunity to hear Carl’s voice and his message for the first time!

We also made another discovery with this digitization. A second record, with a label in Italian, turned out to not contain Italian music as we had expected. This record also held a recorded message from Carl that he had made while on leave for a day in Rome! The touching audio messages on both records reveal a lot about the couple’s relationship and the complex experiences of the war.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

Carl’s messages and the others I listened to online contain words of encouragement to loved ones not to worry and descriptions of the good things about life in the training camps.

Here is the audio from the first record that Carl sent while in Washington, D.C. I did my best to transcribe Carl’s message, and you can find the transcript below!

“Hello, honey. I thought this would be a very nice way to bring us closer together on my birthday. Although we’re many miles apart, I want you to know that I feel that you are as near and dear to me as you have always been. I’ve never been much at making speeches of this kind, but I’ll try as hard as I can to convey my love to you. I’m making this record in Washington, D.C. I got here on a 12 hour pass. I wrote you a letter about it all. We’ve been married a little over 4 years now and I know you must be going through a pretty trying experience, with your condition and things as they are. But I want you to know that you’ve gotta keep up your morale, and it’s up to us in the armed forces to keep up the civilian morale. That’s why I felt I should make this record and give you a chance to hear my voice so you can celebrate my birthday, even though I’m not there with you to celebrate it together. I love you very much and feel that you should be with me, but I’m sure that as soon as we’re victorious in the war, we can be together and have a fine time together and do all the things we planned to do. Well, I’m getting …my own monotone, so don’t worry about it. I’m not going to sing a song for you, but I want to say now as I close that I love you very much and want you to keep healthy and keep well and do everything possible in order to see that you have a nice life in the future, and that means take care of that baby that’s comin’ along. So long, honey. I love you.”

The Women and Labor digital exhibit will feature the audio from both of these records, as well as more documents, photographs, videos, and artifacts that tell Mollie’s incredible story and the story of women in the labor movement. Follow the Women and Leadership Archives on Facebook to learn more and don’t miss the launch of the exhibit this August!


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and has just completed 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.


Horses for Classmates: Horsemanship and Horse Shows at Mundelein College

Imagine a beautiful spring day in one of Chicago’s numerous parks. Perhaps you are jogging, enjoying your lunch break from work on a park bench, or simply strolling down various paths—taking in the landscape and enjoying the stretch of your legs. You view your surroundings and find the usual suspects: birds, flowers, trees, and a gaggle of collegiate women on horseback taking in the sites of the gorgeous day. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

In fact, up until the 1960s, this would not have been so unusual. Horseback riding was considered a popular form of exercise for many—including many students of Mundelein College. Mundelein College, a women’s Catholic liberal arts college, was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMS) in 1929. When Mundelein opened its doors to students in the fall of 1930, horseback riding classes became a central part of its athletic program.

How did an urban college, housed in a skyscraper no less, provide the horses for these classes?  A Chicago Tribune article states that during the early to mid-twentieth century, there were approximately 20 stables located near various Chicago Park District riding trails, housing as many as 100 horses. These horses could either be boarded, given a stall paid for by their owner for a monthly sum, or rented from the stable by the hour for riding. Most likely, the students of Mundelein chose to participate using one of those two options.

The first horseback riding classes offered to students began only a year after Mundelein’s opening and continued into the 1960s. The Skyscraper, Mundelein’s student newspaper, reported that 56 students of various skill levels enrolled in the two-hour weekly class. Students with more experience rode park trails while beginning riders held their first lessons in an indoor arena of a nearby riding academy. The journalist wrote that the course, “promises to be a popular one. By personal interview with the young women it becomes evident that there is fascination in the rhythmic hoof-beats of a horse.” The class could be taken for gymnasium credit and in some instances supplemented “regular” gymnastic course requirements.[1]

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Some Mundelein students elevated the horse-related activities at the college. A student organization called the “Equestriennes,” more formally the Mundelein College Riding Club, planned an annual horse show that challenged members to compete in various events that not only highlighted their technical skill but also promoted showmanship. Events such as “musical chairs on horseback” and a costume race added unique flavor to the more traditional atmosphere of a schooling show.[2] In later years, the Equestriennes opened up entrants to high-school students for a special invitational class and charged admission to the proceedings.[3]

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Looking through pictures of Mundelein students competing alongside their friends and horsey partners takes me back to my own equestrian past. I rode and competed for 14 years before putting up the spurs to pursue my M.A in Public History. I think it’s time to dust off the old breeches and get back on the saddle!

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

[1] “Riding Classes Meet Each Week,” The Skyscraper, October, 15, 1931.

[2] “College Horse Show Includes Riding, Jumping Exhibition,” The Skyscraper, May 31, 1945.

[3] “Riders Vie for Trophies, Ribbons at Seventeenth Annual Horse Show,” The Skyscraper, May 6, 1957.


 

EllenProfilePicEllen 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.


The Inspiring Work of Mary’s Pence

I recently had the pleasure of planning a tabletop exhibit for a Mary’s Pence reception held on the Loyola University Chicago campus. Prior to working on the exhibit I knew very little about the grassroots organization. After spending hours researching their records here at the Women and Leadership Archives I am amazed at the work they do for women in the Americas. In the 1980s a group of women felt a need to not only help women, but to ensure women have access to resources to help themselves. Mary’s Pence gave out more than one million dollars in grant money in the organization’s first 25 years. Numerous women’s organizations benefit from the grant money provided by Mary’s Pence.
Mary’s Pence supports women because of the 37 million people in the U.S. living in poverty, 21 million are women according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Women and children have the lowest economic and social status. The organization exists to challenge the feminization of poverty. By funding organizations for women, Mary’s Pence gives women throughout the Americas a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved. Mary’s Pence gives internationally because there is even greater poverty in countries outside of the U.S. These countries are the neighbors of the U.S. and their policies and economies are linked. By supporting women in the Americas, Mary’s Pence is able to personally work in relationship with those that receive grants.

The original logo for Mary's Pence

The original logo for Mary’s Pence

There are two basic types of grants. The first and original type of grant given out by Mary’s Pence is to an organization dedicated to helping women. The other grant is part of the ESPERA fund. In the fall 2007 newsletter, Mary’s Pence announced their plans to start providing a grant that works in similar ways to micro-financing as a way to establish permanent funds for networks of women’s groups. Aware of the dangers of micro-lending, Mary’s Pence decided to provide capital for self-renewing funds that are administered by networks of women’s groups and the money is not paid back to Mary’s Pence. The funds are used to finance income-generating projects that “promote the common good and enable local women to support community-based solutions.”

Most ESPERA funds are agricultural.

Most ESPERA funds are agricultural.

The grant program became known as ESPERA (means “she hopes” in Spanish) and stands for Economic Systems Promoting Equitable Resources for All. The model for the program “builds financial resources in poor areas while fostering collaboration, teaching skills and empowering women to impact their communities.” Some of the desired outcomes in the early years of ESPERA included equalizing status of women within the family, increased decision-making power and greater control over the money in the home by women, and the status of women as leaders in the community grows. In the first year of ESPERA, Mary’s Pence partnered with three women’s networks in El Salvador, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

After having worked on the exhibit I have a greater appreciation for archival work and Mary’s Pence. The records of Mary’s Pence are important documents of an organization started by and for women. Mary’s Pence records demonstrate their growth throughout the years and also illustrate their dedication and immense passion for the work being done throughout the Americas. Their records deserve to be preserved for future generations and researchers. I look forward to following the organization in the years to come as they continue their important work.

Final Exhibit

Final Exhibit

 


 

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.


Visiting Nurse Association: Affordable Health Care at the Turn of the Century

Logo for the Visiting Nurses Association

Logo for the Visiting Nurses Association

Affordable health care is currently a serious concern in our country, as it has been for generations. Just like today, people of the past have looked for new ways to provide healthcare services to those who can’t always afford it. Late in the nineteenth century, growing populations, the influx of immigrants, and new infectious diseases began to cause problems in American cities. In 1897, a group of women in Evanston, Illinois became concerned with the spread of disease and the lack of proper health care in their community. They came up with an idea for how to bring free or low-cost health care to those who needed it and those who struggled to afford it.

Mrs. Lelah Lutkin, Mrs. Mary Chandler, and Mrs. Kate McMullen formed a committee that founded the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Evanston, which would later grow to serve a wider community and be renamed the VNA North. Kate McMullen felt especially passionate about the experiment after the death of her daughter, Edna, to diphtheria. In memory of Edna, she contributed four months’ of a nurse’s salary and hired her daughter’s nurse, Frances Faltz, as the VNA’s first visiting nurse in 1898.

Frances Faltz, the association's first visiting nurse, in her nursing uniform

Frances Faltz, the association’s first visiting nurse, in her nursing uniform

In the early years, Frances Faltz visited patients on a bike in the summer time and borrowed a horse and buggy in the winter. This remained the custom until the VNA bought a car for the nurses in 1912.

The visiting nurses provided physical and emotional comfort to people in the community who might not otherwise be able to afford health care. Local philanthropic organizations and churches soon became involved in supporting VNA North’s mission, and VNA North slowly expanded its operations, becoming incorporated in 1912.  Although they had not originally cared for patients with communicable diseases, the visiting nurses began to do so in 1926.

A promotional flyer for the VNA of Evanston

A promotional flyer for the VNA of Evanston.

The VNA continually added services as the needs of Evanston and the surrounding communities dictated. Educating patients about proper hygiene and nutrition as ways of preventing disease became a vital part of the visiting nurses’ role.  They were also involved in issues of pre-natal care, parenting classes, infant welfare, tuberculosis, venereal disease, mental health, polio, physical therapy, hospice care, and other social services.  Looking at the records of the association, you can see the effect of historical events such as the Great Depression and World War II on public health concerns and how the VNA addressed them.

The VNA North collection includes several scrapbooks filled with clippings about the association and local health news. This scrapbook page contains a World War II era ad promoting public health nurses, such as the visiting nurses of VNA North.

The VNA North collection includes several scrapbooks filled with clippings about the association and local health news. This scrapbook page contains a World War II era ad promoting public health nurses, such as the visiting nurses of VNA North.

While visiting nurses organizations became common for a time, the evolution of healthcare later in the twentieth century led to the closing of many of these non-profits. In the 1980s, VNA North merged with the VNAs of Glenview and Skokie in order to serve twenty-nine communities.  Due to the challenges created by the growth in managed care, in 1997, 100 years after its founding, VNA North was fully integrated into Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and was renamed ENH Home Services.

While we still debate about the best way to provide care to the underprivileged, it is nice to think about a group of women one hundred years ago who used their resources to provide services and education that could save lives.


 

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.


Reconciling Scripture and Gender Inequality: a Real-life Example

This week, we would like to share a blog post written by WLA intern, Amanda Malmstrom! Amanda, a sophomore in History, has been an intern at the WLA throughout the spring semester, researching women in science at Mundelein College. She has specifically studied the life and achievements of Sister Mary Therese Langerbeck, a BVM nun, doctor of astrophysics, and physics professor at Mundelein College. Amanda wrote this post for her Theology 278 class, Christian Women and Spirituality, looking at Sister Mary Therese’s work from a theological perspective. Enjoy!

Click here to read Amanda’s blog post!

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


 

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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.