Category Archives: Bingham Center

New Acquisitions – Rev. Caroline Bartlett Crane Pamphlets

Post Contributed by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture

Caroline Bartlett Crane: “America’s Housekeeper,” Renaissance Woman

Portrait from Is God Responsible? A Sermon, Kalamazoo, Mich. 1898.

Caroline Bartlett Crane (1858-1935) was an American Unitarian minister, suffragist, civic reformer, educator, and journalist. Among the first wave of college-educated women in the U.S., she worked as a teacher, school principal, and newspaper reporter before pursuing the call to ministry she first experienced as a teenager.

Bartlett Crane was accepted as a candidate for the ministry at the Iowa State Unitarian Conference in the 1880s. In 1889, after ordination and completion of her first church assignment, she began work at the Unitarian church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Within a short time she led the church to open the first free public kindergarten, a school of manual training and domestic science, a gymnasium for women, a day nursery, a cafeteria, and the Frederick Douglass Club for the “young colored people of the city.” The church continued to expand until it outgrew its building. In 1894 a new one was built and renamed “People’s Church.”  In 1898, after illness and differences with the board, she resigned her ministry.

Published by The Young Men’s Union of the People’s Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., 1896.

 

The Sallie Bingham Center has recently acquired three rare pamphlets written by Rev. Bartlett Crane between 1896 and 1898. Two are sermons delivered in the People’s Church. Why the People’s Church…, published in 1896, outlines Bartlett Crane’s philosophy regarding opening church membership to “any human being who is willing to join in the work of helping the world.” The second, Is God Responsible?, published in 1898, is a reflection and expression of sympathy and support for her congregants after a tragic fire and explosion in a local chemical plant.

Published by The Young Published by The Young Men’s Union of the People’s Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., 1898.

The third pamphlet, If I Were Twenty Again!, also published in 1898, offers the accumulated wisdom of a woman who had already had four successful careers and was about to embark on her fifth and final career. Turning to public health and sanitation reform at the turn of the 20th century, Bartlett Crane successfully campaigned for meat inspection ordinances after discovering unsanitary conditions in local slaughterhouses. She founded the Women’s Civic Improvement League in 1903-4. By 1917 Bartlett Crane had inspected facilities in sixty-two cities in fourteen states. As a result of her work to improve urban sanitation, she was known as “America’s housekeeper.”

A tribute to Caroline Bartlett Crane is a small house in Kalamazoo, Michigan which won first place in the Better Homes in America contest in 1925. Bartlett Crane headed a local committee that designed the house to be functional and affordable for a family of moderate income. Called “Everyman’s House,” it was built by volunteers and received national attention. Almost sixty years later Bartlett Crane’s achievements were recognized by her induction, in 1984, into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. The pamphlets are available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Muffins (1852) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Muffins baked and blog post written by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

When looking for a recipe to test, I immediately remembered a book I had cataloged for the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection , Ladies’ Indispensable Assistant, published in 1852 (available in digitized form through Hathi Trust or in print. 

Title page for book "Ladies Indispensable Assistant"

This book was memorable for its extraordinarily long title. When faced with titles of this length, catalogers frequently resort to truncation, but I had risen to the challenge:

Ladies’ indispensable assistant : being a companion for the sister, mother, and wife, containing more information for the price than any other work upon the subject : here are the very best directions for the behavior and etiquette of ladies and gentlemen, ladies’ toilette table, directions for managing canary birds : also, safe directions for the management of children, instructions for ladies under various circumstances : a great variety of valuable recipes, forming a complete system of family medicine, thus enabling each person to become his or her own physician : to which is added one of the best systems of cookery ever published : many of these recipes are entirely new and should be in the possession of every person in the land.

This mixing of food and medicine is fairly common in household management works of the time, when cooking, preparing home remedies, and caring for invalids all fell under the purview of the mistress of the household, but I had never before seen a household management book with instructions for keeping canaries, let alone one which felt the need to advertise this in the title.

In the hopes of producing something palatable and edible, I skipped the sections on home remedies and medicinal plants and went straight to the “valuable recipes.” I had high hopes, after all, the title page declared this “one of the best systems of cookery ever published.”

I settled on Muffins.Image of recipe in book. It reads: Mix a quart of wheat flour smoothly with a pint and a half of luke-warm milk, half a tea-cup of yeast, a couple of beaten eggs, a heaping tea-spoonful of salt, and a couple of table-spoonfuls of luke-warm melted butter. Set the batter in a warm place to rise. When light, butter your muffin cups, turn in the mixture and bake the muffins till a light brown.

Reading over the recipe, I had all the ingredients. However, several steps were required to convert this into a usable recipe for modern kitchens. First, the recipe was short on instructions, lacking rising time, cooking time or oven temperature, information difficult to provide at a time when cooking might be done over an open fire or on a coal burning cast iron stove. Since this was essentially an enriched yeast dough, like a brioche with less butter, I consulted similar modern recipes to get an idea of cooking time and oven temperature. I decided on 400 degrees Fahrenheit and to simply bake until light brown as instructed.

On to the ingredients. A quart of flour is approximately 4 cups. By comparison, the muffin recipe in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook calls for 1 ¾ cups of flour to make 1 tin’s worth of muffins. So right away I knew I wanted to halve the recipe. This was also before modern instant yeast, so I knew the measurement of a half cup of yeast would be for some sort of home made yeast preparation, recipes for which I had leaved past before spotting the muffins. Since I did not want to grow my own yeast, I decided to use the active dry yeast I had on hand. 1 teaspoon would be the usual amount of yeast to use with my proposed amount of flour if I were making bread. The recipe called for “wheat flour,” which to modern readers might mean “whole wheat,” but in 1852 whole wheat flour was called graham flour, after health nut and fiber aficionado Sylvester Graham. Since this was a yeasted bread dough, I decided to use the white bread flour I had on hand. I also substituted cashew milk for regular milk, since that was what was in my refrigerator.

Photograph of ingredients used in the recipe: bread flour, active dry yeast, and cashew milk
Modern Ingredients

Here is the recipe I used, adjusted to modern measurements and reduced by half:

2 cups unbleached bread flour
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 beaten egg (grade A large white)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

To compensate for my modern yeast, I proofed it in the warmed cashew milk with a tablespoon of sugar before adding the yeast-milk mixture to the flour. This made a very wet and sticky dough. It was so wet that I did not bother with covering it and simply left it on top of the stove to rise.

Photograph of wet dough in a glass mixing bowl
A very wet dough

I checked at 10 minute intervals until it looked “light,” hoping for a doubling in volume. After an hour I decided it had risen enough. I scooped the batter-like dough into a greased muffin tin and baked until light brown, which turned out to be 25 minutes.

Image of fully baked muffins in a metal muffin pan
Hot out of the oven!
Photo of a single deliciously golden brown muffin
The finished product

These were delicious hot out of the oven. They were crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside, sort of a cross between a roll and a muffin. They also reheated well in the microwave. I would make these again.

You Say You Want A Revolution: Revealing Lesbian-Feminist Atlanta

Post contributed by Hanne Blank, recipient of a Mary Lily Research Grant from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. 

In 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial and countless celebrations thereof, the D.A.R. set forth a Bicentennial Declaration, a four-page statement of its beliefs.  In it, they took American culture and American men to task for dozens of crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated against womankind, calling “for an end to the conspiracy against women by the Man’s church and the Man’s state… the destruction of patriarchy, the rule of men over women.”

If this doesn’t sound much like the D.A.R. you’ve heard of, there’s good reason: this proclamation wasn’t issued by the Daughters of the American Revolution, but by a cadre of firebrand lesbian feminists – Dykes for an Amerikan Revolution — who cheerfully reclaimed the über-Establishment group’s acronym for themselves.  Far from wanting to celebrate some elite patrimony, this D.A.R. wanted “full power to levy war against sexism, racism, classism and all other oppressions…with a firm reliance on the strengths of our pioneer foremothers and sisters, reborn in us, as lesbian feminists.”

The D.A.R.’s “Lesbian Feminist Declaration of 1976” is just one of many lesbian feminist manifestos, mission statements, memoirs, and utopian missives tucked into the papers of the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA), bright traces of an era not so very long ago where many second-wave feminists, not just the D.A.R., engaged in a very different American experiment.

Riffling through ALFA’s papers is a deep dive into this social and political moment. Even a cursory tour through the twenty-some years of ALFA’s newsletters, pamphlets, and papers overwhelms the researcher with a sense of a tight, sometimes contentious community full of heady politics, plans, and personalities. It is surprisingly seductive.  I did not approach the ALFA papers to research the group itself – I research feminist health care in the South, and was looking specifically to find out the extent to which it might’ve been part of the concerns of the lesbian community in Atlanta’s 1970s and 1980s – and yet in a matter of hours I fell headlong down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Imagine, if you will, a rented clubhouse to which any member could – by arrangement – get a key.  A woman, or a group of women, might unlock the doors of the ALFA house to visit the ALFA library, hold a meeting, convene a coven, or put together a potluck.  Imagine the voices, the laughter, the intensity of a small house full of passionate, thoughtful, iconoclastic, sometimes hot-headed women learning, organizing, and socializing.

In the pages of ALFA’s newsletters, notes, and other documents, we see Atlanta’s lesbian feminists dancing until they dropped at monthly Boogie Women dances and furiously typing up newsletters that featured complete monthly rosters of women’s events from concerts to consciousness-raising groups.   In what seems a perpetual whirlwind, ALFA women simultaneously created, curated, and celebrated a burgeoning by-women-for-women culture: women-owned restaurants, feminist therapy collectives, women’s self-defense classes, lesbian sexuality workshops, dyke softball tournaments, DIY gynecology seminars, political rallies, community debates over subjects like butch/femme and BDSM.  Even the ads placed by community businesswomen were, like this one, definitely and defiantly, sometimes hilariously, lesbian feminist.

Advertisement for "Lesbian Haircutter Makes House Calls - Pam Martin, P.H.D. (Professional Hair Dresser)." Above text is hand drawn cartoon, showing two women, one with scissors in her hand, the other saying "Thank Goddess you're here! Yesterday my mother said she liked my hair"

Lesbian feminist culture and community was ALFA’s raison d’etre.  As such, it often wrestled with questions of separatism.  Here and there in the newsletters and other papers we can trace discussions about whether separatism was crucial to lesbian identity and survival or not, whether lesbian-identified and straight-identified women’s loyalties were too different for them to truly share political goals, let alone cultural space.

But separatism was not always something that sprang out of an “us versus them” mentality.  Just as often, what motivated the conversation seems to have been sincere curiosity.  Like the D.A.R. — whose 1976 manifesto made its way into ALFA’s files via the era’s mimeographed, photocopied, and snail-mailed networks of feminist activist work and writing –the women of ALFA wondered what women’s lives, and lesbian lives, might be like if women had an alternative to living in a (racist, ageist, ableist, classist, capitalist) patriarchy.

If it could be escaped, maybe women would be able to access an “ovarian intellect” without the customary overlay of “male-functionalization” they perceived in their lives and thoughts.  Perhaps then women would be able to express themselves and their genders (to say nothing of their sexual desires) in genuine freedom, without falling into the tropes and traps of patriarchy.  As they struggled, strategized, and partied together, the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance, like so many other women’s communities across the country, was engaged in constant experimentation.  Atlanta’s lesbian feminists pushed boundaries, their own as well as the wider world’s, as they wove their webs of women’s community out of little more than motherwit and the desire to see if they could.

As with the world-transforming aspirations of many other 1970s radicals, ALFA eventually sputtered out.  It folded in the early 1990s, victim of the AIDS crisis and the cultural and economic retrenchment of the Reagan years.  But as the newsletters, the flyers, and the meeting minutes in ALFA’s papers tell it, ALFA was full of stalwart, soulful daughters of a distinctively American revolution.

Hanne Blank is an historian and writer of numerous books including Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality (Beacon Press, 2012) and Virgin: The Untouched History (Bloomsbury, 2007).  Currently a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University, she researches the history of feminist and womanist health in America’s Deep South during the 1970s and 1980s and is additionally at work on a book entitled FAT.

Re-Imagining: Revisited and Revived

Cover of book "Bless Sophia: Worship, Liturgy and Ritual of the Re-Imagining Community"Join the Bingham Center for a two-day event celebrating the history and future of the Re-imagining Movement.

Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Time: 3:30 p.m. reception, followed by a talk at 4 p.m. by Dr. Sara M. Evans
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (Rubenstein Library Room 153)
RSVP via Facebook (optional)

Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Time: 12 p.m. with Dr. Sherry Jordon and Dr. Evans; Light lunch served
Location: Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chemistry Building Room 011)
RSVP via Facebook (optional)

Photograph of Sara Evans
Dr. Sara Evans

On Tuesday, April 18, distinguished historian Dr. Sara M. Evans, WC’66, will provide a history of the Re-Imagining Movement nearly 25 years after 2000+ theologians, clergy, and laity assembled at the first Re-Imagining conference to address injustices to women and promote equal partnership with men at all levels of religious life. The conservative backlash it prompted inspired conference organizers and participants to create the Re-Imagining Community still active today.

Photograph of Dr. Sherry Jordan
Dr. Sherry Jordon

Then, join us on Wednesday, April 19 as feminist theologian Dr. Sherry Jordon and Dr. Evans discuss the future of the Re-Imagining Movement. Light lunch served.

The events are co-sponsored by the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke; the Duke Divinity School; the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University; the Duke University Chapel; and the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South.

Dreamers & Dissenters: Women’s Marches, The Long View

Post submitted by Jennifer Scott, Public Services Intern, and Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

This is the first post in a series entitled Dreamers & Dissenters, in which we will highlight Rubenstein Library collections that document the work of activists and social justice organizations. In this series we hope to lend our voices, and those of the people whose collections we preserve, to the reinvigorated spirit of activism across the United States and beyond.

Drawing by Robin Morgan, ca. 1968. From the Robin Morgan Papers

On Saturday, January 21st, 2017 massive demonstrations took place in over 670 cities in the United States and throughout the world in one of the largest displays of global protest in modern history. A tweet by Kera Lovell about a week before the Marches caught the attention of the Bingham Center. Lovell, an American Studies scholar at Purdue University, drew a connection between a Huffington Post article about the posters being created for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington and the imagery of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s captured in the Sallie Bingham Center’s digital collection, Women’s Liberation Movement Print Culture. The collection includes documentation of the protest of the 1968 Miss America Pageant, the first major U.S. women’s movement protest to attract national media attention. The protest was also the beginning of the woman symbol-with-fist image, which was drawn by co-organizer Robin Morgan for the occasion. Morgan was inspired in part by the Black Power movement’s clenched black fist that emerged in the late 1960s—as well as the Columbia University demonstrations at the same time—suggesting synergies between the movements.

Lovell’s comparison took on even greater significance when Saturday, January 21st arrived, as demonstrations unfolded in every U.S. state and on every continent. A striking pattern emerged in both handmade and professionally printed signs across the globe. The woman symbol-with-fist popped up on signs, shirts, buttons, and more in far-flung marches from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC to Los Angeles, CA and beyond. Organizations and websites such as CBC/Radio-Canada even offered DIY sign templates featuring glittering variations of the symbol to take to the marches. A symbol that debuted for around 400 women in 1968 was now being seen and shared by millions of women, men, and children in what might be the single largest day of demonstration in United States history, according to Erica Chenoweth, professor of international relations at the University of Denver.

Women’s March in Raleigh, January 21, 2017. Accessed from http://www.wral.com/organizers-estimate-17-000-gather-in-raleigh-for-women-s-march/16456580/ on January 26, 2017

What inspired these protesters? The organizers of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington declared that its mission was to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” Their website offers the list of “Unity Principles” that guided the March, including ending violence and upholding reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice. More than 500 organizations and groups from all over the country joined the March.

Institutions across the country have rushed to document and analyze the marches, from preserving abandoned protest signs to creating programs exploring the movements emerging from the marches. The Sallie Bingham Center, home of the Robin Morgan Papers and the now-even-more iconic woman symbol-with-fist, remains dedicated to documenting and providing access to women throughout history, from those who marched for women’s rights in Atlantic City in 1968 to those who marched throughout the world on January 21, 2107.

On Monday, February 6th at 11:45 a.m., the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke will host “Women’s March: The Long View,” a wide-ranging panel discussion with Duke University scholars Laura Micham, Jocelyn Olcott, Deondra Rose, and Ara Wilson. The panel will discuss the place of the event within longer histories of feminist organizing, the cultural and symbolic politics at play in the march, its broader political and policy implications, and the possible futures of the movement. Optional Facebook RSVP.

Meet the Staff: Megan Lewis, Processing Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Megan Lewis joined the Rubenstein staff in 2002 as a rare book cataloger. In 2009, she became the Technical Services Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

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Tell us about your academic background and interests.

My B.A. is in English, so I’m particularly interested in our literature collections. It’s fascinating to make connections between the materiality of what we collect with the published product. I’m also interested in popular culture. Show me your popular culture, and I’ll show you who you are. Since I started working at the Bingham Center, I’ve become interested in the ways we as archivists can serve various activist communities by documenting their work.

What led you to working in libraries? How did you know you wanted to be an archivist?

I was genetically destined to work in libraries, since my mom was a librarian and I loved to shadow her at work when I was a kid. After working at my college library as an undergrad, I was lucky to get my first job in special collections at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Once I started learning about rare books there, there was no turning back.

I never actually planned to become an archivist, but fell into it at Duke after working as a rare book cataloger. A position opened at the Bingham Center, and I applied for it. I’d first heard about the Bingham Center when its director visited my class in library school. She gave an inspiring talk about how the Bingham Center “saves women’s lives,” and as a lifelong feminist, I thought it would be a dream job to work there. I was right.

What are the main projects you work on at the Rubenstein and Bingham Center?

I process and catalog manuscript collections. That means that I arrange them in a coherent fashion and create collection guides, as well as a catalog record, so people can find what we have. I’ve worked almost exclusively with large modern collections, but lately I’ve also been cataloging small, older manuscripts from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. As a Bingham Center staff member, I also participate in events, outreach, and donor relations.

How do you describe what you do to people you meet at a party?  To fellow librarians and library staff?

I tell laypeople that I’m a women’s history archivist. Usually, they say “cool!” and that’s it, but sometimes they want to know details.

To fellow library folks, I say that I’m a technical services archivist at the Rubenstein, because that gives them an idea of where I fit into Duke Libraries’ organizational structure.

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What does an average day look like for you?

On an average day, I might check in with my library school intern and my undergraduate student assistant. I’m lucky to have an intern who also processes collections.  My student assistant helps me rebox and folder incoming new materials, and creates boxlists that are part of the collection guide. Much of my job entails moving materials along so we don’t get backed up. Right now my shelves are almost full, which means that it’s time to send as many boxes as possible to our Library Service Center. I also meet weekly with my Bingham Center cohorts so we can discuss our work with each other.

What do you like best about your job? What excites you most?

I love that I get to help document women’s history. It’s a privilege to work with our donors, many of whom are tremendously accomplished women whose work has changed the world for the better in palpable ways.

I get excited when I see young women, who might not consider themselves feminists, use our collections and be able to connect their present-day struggles with the work done by activists who came before them.

What might people find surprising about your job?

It’s not always quiet, and it’s not without stress. When I tell people I work in a library, they often say, “Oh, that must be nice and quiet and calm.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Trying to keep up with new acquisitions and increase our processing capacity. Some donors like to send us things on a frequent basis, which has a mushroom effect.  Sometimes I feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice trying to beat back the water.

Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?

Right now, I’d have to say the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, which has been transformative for the Rubenstein. It’s an amazingly rich and deep collection based around the theme of working women. Each small manuscript collection I catalog is a mini history lesson.

Where can you be found when you’re not working?

Walking my dog and consuming culture in and around Durham.

What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?

Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993). Leslie was a transgender activist ahead of her time, and was also the partner of writer/activist Minnie Bruce Pratt, whose papers are held by the Bingham Center.

Helen Allingham in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Library Specialist.

The materials in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection celebrate more than five centuries of women’s work. One of the highlights of describing and cataloging these collections is the remarkable talent that is often showcased by these women.

For example, we received four sketchbooks from English watercolorist and illustrator Helen Paterson Allingham.

Helen Allingham, born near Derbyshire, England in 1848, studied at the Birmingham School of Design and the Royal Academy School in London.  In fact, she was the niece of the first female student at the Royal Academy School, Laura Herford. Allingham began her career as an illustrator, but eventually became well known for her watercolors, usually of cottages. Her renderings often showed so much detail that they have been studied by architects interested in the construction of these buildings.

Following her studies, she supported her widowed mother with her work as an illustrator for publications like The Graphic. She was a founding staff member of the newspaper, and the only woman on staff. Her other work includes the original illustrations for Thomas Harding’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd.

She married William Allingham, an Irish poet and editor, in 1874. After their marriage, Helen shifted her career focus to watercolor painting. Her work was widely praised by the art community in London. She had paintings accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and was eventually the first woman granted full membership to the Royal Watercolour Society. After the family’s move to Surrey in the early 1880s, Allingham began painting the cottages for which she is best known.

The collection includes sketches and drawings made in graphite, watercolor, and pen and ink, dating from 1868-1916.

Subjects in the scrapbooks from the LUB collection are varied, and include English cottages and buildings, architectural features, sailboats and coastal scenes, figures, landscapes, and botanical items. Essentially, Allingham drew or painted anything that she came across during her travels, from a simple pile of rope to a vestry door. Many of the images are only about two inches wide.

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Detail of window, with Allingham’s notes on construction.
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Upton Bales[?] cottage, in graphite.
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Pile of rope found in Lymm, England, in 1874, graphite.
allingham3
Sailing vessel in watercolor.
allingham4
Fishing basket in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
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Crab found in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
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Vestry door at St. Mary’s Church, Leicester, England, graphite.

Stop by and spend some time with these scrapbooks!

New Acquisitions Roundup- Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of The Ladder: A Lesbian Review

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture recently acquired 47 copies of The Ladder (1956-1972), more than doubling our run for a total of 79 issues of the publication spanning the years 1957 to 1972. We are especially excited about this opportunity to expand our holdings of this ground-breaking publication sixty years after the first issue was released.

The Ladder was the first nationally distributed lesbian periodical in the United States. Preceded only by a local Los Angeles newsletter titled Vice Versa, The Ladder began in October 1956 as the small publication of the group Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). The DOB was founded in 1955 in San Francisco as a social group for lesbians who wanted to avoid public scrutiny and the violence of bars that were often the target of police brutality. As their numbers grew, DOB chapters formed in cities across the country, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The DOB evolved into a highly influential lesbian activist organization providing a “feminine viewpoint,” educating women about “female homosexuality and positive self-image.” The DOB worked closely with groups that were primarily focused on gay men, such as the Mattachine Society and ONE, Inc.

Partners Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the co-founders of DOB, both had educational backgrounds in journalism and worked as reporters. Lyon decided to publish The Ladder as a way to advertise the group—since they were forbidden from doing so in newspapers—as well as to spread awareness about social issues affecting the wider lesbian community. The mission statement of the DOB was printed inside every cover of the magazine:

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Note the use of the word “variant” instead of “lesbian,” which had a negative connotation in 1956.

According to some sources, the magazine was titled “The Ladder” to symbolize a way to escape the “well of loneliness,” a phrase popularized by Radclyffe Hall’s influential novel of the same name. The first issues featured a hand-drawn cover with two people standing beneath a ladder ascending into the clouds. There were only 175 original copies made of this issue, which were given to friends and mailed to professional women in the San Francisco telephone book and around the country. By 1957, the second year of publication, there were hundreds of subscribers on the mailing list, and the magazine was available on select newsstands in major cities. By the publication of its last issue in 1972, it had a subscription of over 4,000 worldwide. It is difficult to estimate total readership, however, because the issues were frequently shared and read aloud at gatherings.

Early content included information from DOB meetings, “Lesbiana” literature reviews, prose and poetry, social experiments, etiquette advice, community events, and reader responses. The editors avoided including any overtly sexual content, but quickly began rallying around political issues and publishing news about the Homophile movement.

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This appeal appeared on the back cover of many early issues.

The Ladder was published monthly from 1956-1970 and bi-monthly from 1971-72. Over that time span, the magazine underwent drastic changes. The first major transformations began after Barbara Gittings, DOB New York chapter president, became editor in 1963. Gittings added the subtitle, “A Lesbian Review” to the cover in 1964, signifying the word “lesbian” as something that was no longer unspeakable. She changed the magazine’s size and publication quality, increasing issues from 12-15 pages to 27 and moving from a mimeographed copy to professionally printed pages. Kay Tobin Lahusen, a photojournalist who was Gittings’ partner and assistant editor, began using photographs of lesbians, rather than the illustrations typical of past issues. Regardless of the changes in its appearance, The Ladder was issued in a brown paper covering for the duration of its existence.

The last issue was published in September, 1972. In 1975, Arno Press released a nine-volume compilation of The Ladder in hardback as part of their series “Lesbians and Gay Men in Society, History, and Literature.” The Ladder was a lifeline for those women who read it, providing one of the first formal spaces for lesbians to come together in dialogue and artistic expression. Today, it stands as an important artifact of 20th century lesbian and feminist movements and a valuable resource for scholarship.

Post contributed by Valerie Szwaya, intern for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. 

Applications Now Accepted for the 2017-2018 Travel Grant Program

t1867-1The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2017-2018 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, and the Human Rights Archive (new this year!) will each award up to $1,000 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

Movers and Shakers: Robin Morgan and Ms. Magazine

wonder-womanDate: Thursday, October 20
Time: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: Breedlove Conference Room, 349 Rubenstein Library
Optional Facebook RSVP

Please join us for a conversation with Linda Lumsden, associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, about her research project, The Ms. Makeover: The survival, evolution, and cultural significance of the venerable feminist magazine. Dr. Lumsden received a Mary Lily Research Grant recipient to conduct research at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History.

Light refreshments will be served.