How to Define A Successful Synagogue and Other Practices of Activism

Post contributed by William R. Benner, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages at Texas Woman’s University, a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Bet-el Pamphlet from the Marshall Meyers Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

How do we fight for truth and justice in a market driven present? This is an ethical question that is central to my current research on the post-dictatorship generation’s brand of activism in the Southern Cone and it is a question that drew me to the Marshall T. Meyer papers in the Human Rights Archive housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. My trip was made possible by a generous Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant. I would like to thank Patrick Stawski and Eric Meyers for their expertise and enthusiasm in my research. I would also like to thank the staff at the Rubenstein and Perkins Libraries for their professionalism.

After a week of diving into the Marshall T. Meyer and the Abraham Joshua Heschel archives, I began to notice a curious difference between Heschel’s and Meyer’s usage of synagogue pamphlets. While Heschel’s pamphlets emphasize the progressive vision of Jewish life within the current cultural, philosophical and political atmosphere, Meyer’s Bet El pamphlets include a wider range of local and international political and cultural topics. Further, Bet El’s pamphlets were clearly written for adolescents as there is a section at the back that asks the youth about a variety of topics. Interestingly, Meyer even included advertising for local companies whose employees supported the synagogue.  When asked in the magazine Nueva presencia about the success of the Bet El synagogue during the repressive military dictatorship in Buenos Aires (1976-1983), Marshall Meyer responded by insisting “éxito” or “success” was an inappropriate term to describe the growth of Bet El. He explained that the term is used for commercial reasons and puts synagogues in competition with each other. Instead, Meyer states that it is the congregation’s collective search for an authentic spiritual identity that has encouraged the community to grow.

Bet-el pamphlet from the Marshall Meyer Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

I am currently working on an article examining Meyer’s use of pamphlets to distribute his progressive vision of religious activism. Meyer’s ‘success’ and his discomfort with the notion of commercial success is a conflict that I observe in the recent artistic productions by the post-dictatorship generation in Argentina. For example, in the blog Diario de una princesa montonera, the author and child of the disappeared Mariana Eva Perez confesses “Luchás por la identidad y la justicia y al mismo tiempo acumulás millas/ You fight for truth and justice and at the same time you accumulate [frequent flyer] miles”. Perez, like Meyer before her, struggles with the idea that she is in some way profiting off of the suffering of others. In the future, I hope to incorporate my archival work on Marshall T. Meyer in a larger book project that will attempt to articulate different practices of human rights activism during and after the last dictatorship in Argentina and how these practices addressed the ethical issue of ‘success’.

 

 

What You Can Do Yourself: Home Health Guides in the History of Medicine

Photograph of colored plate in book illustrating various uses for water to promote health. Figure 1 is a band standing in a bathtub, Figure 2 is a woman seated at a table, using a tube connected to a bag of water to rinse her nose, Figure 3 is a woman seated in a chair with her feet in a shallow tray of water Figure 4 is a man lying on a low mattress with the back of his head resting in a a shallow tray of water
“Methods of Applying Water” from New Curative Treatments of Disease… vol. 1, (1901) Fig. 1 – Exercising in a cold bath, Fig. 2 – Nasal douche, Fig. 3 – Foot bath, Fig. 4 – Head bath

What is that rash? What should you do if you have a snakebite? Are carrots really good for one’s health? What does chicken pox look like?

Long before WebMD and other online tools existed, popular medicine guides were created and consulted to answer such questions. In the United States, there is a long tradition of such home health guides designed to help the common person diagnose and treat illnesses. These guides, often physician-approved and authored, included ways to prevent illness and injury while offering instructions and remedies.

Home health guides offered laypeople (assuming they could read) information on a range of topics: basic anatomy, symptoms of illnesses, exercises for good health, “cures” by water or electricity, sexual education, and much more. These popular medicine guides continued well into the twentieth century with works like Our Bodies, Our Selves. Such works are still printed today in the digital age.

An exhibit featuring a sample of these popular medicine guides from our History of Medicine Collections is currently on display. You can visit the exhibit What You Can Do Yourself: Home Health Guides in the History of Medicine in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room from July 24 – October 13, 2018.

Health Knowledge : A Thorough and Concise Knowledge of the Prevention, Causes, and Treatments of Disease, Simplified for Home Use, vol. 2, (1921).

“Why Are You Constantly Harassing Us on the Street?”

Post contributed by Molly Brookfield, a Ph.D. candidate in the departments of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is writing a dissertation about the history of sexual harassment in public places in the United States. Her research at the Sallie Bingham Center was generously funded with a Mary Lily Research Grant.

Imagine you are a young woman walking down the street on a sunny summer day in New York City. The sidewalk is crowded with people and you are thinking about the day ahead. You’re so absorbed in your thoughts that the shouted remark from a fellow passer-by jolts you unpleasantly back to your surroundings. The remark comes from a man who is also hurrying down the sidewalk. Maybe he shouts, “Looking good, honey!” or “How’s it going, sweetheart?” The specifics of the remark aren’t what’s important; it’s enough to know that he’s tried to grab your attention in a loud and public way that has startled you and forced you to acknowledge his presence. Annoyed, you turn to face the man, reach into your bag, and grab hold of a stack of cards you’ve had made for this occasion. You hand a card to the catcaller, and his eyebrows arch as he reads the first lines: “Brother, I feel insulted and oppressed by your comment. You and men like you make it unpleasant and difficult for all of us women, including your mothers, sisters and daughters, to leave our houses alone. Why are you constantly harassing us on the street?”

This was the tactic taken by New York feminist Marigold Arnold in 1971. That summer, Arnold handed mimeographed cards to men who harassed her in the street and the Women’s Health and Abortion Project published the full text in their newsletter—which is where I found it, while visiting the Sallie Bingham Center on a Mary Lily Research Grant. According to her mimeographed card, Arnold wanted men who catcalled to know that they “interrupt … [women’s] train of thought when we are walking alone, acting as though simply because you are a male we will be honored by your talking to us.” But Arnold was adamant, “We don’t feel honored.” In distinctly 1970s-flavored rhetoric, Arnold’s card declares, “The road of true liberation for all people is for each of us to struggle against oppressing our brothers and sisters. No more oppressive comments to women on the street.”

Arnold’s mimeographed statement was just one way that New York women resisted sexual harassment on the street in the 1970s. The New York Radical Feminists (NYRF) had a Street Harassment Committee that held self-defense workshops. Women raised awareness of street harassment with poems, stories, and cartoons in the group’s newsletter (see image). In 1976, members organized a Women’s Walk Against Rape, similar to the more recent Take Back the Night marches. When one of their members was harassed in Zabar’s, a deli on Broadway, the NYRF even started a blacklist of New York businesses where male employees harassed women.

These documents illustrate that women have experienced sexual harassment in public places since at least the 1970s (and my dissertation will show it has been a problem for much longer). While the New York Radical Feminists did not completely succeed in eradicating street harassment, their work can be viewed as a precursor and inspiration to groups like Hollaback! or Stop Street Harassment, work that is increasingly relevant as we continue to grapple with the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in American society.

All materials cited here can be found in the New York Radical Feminists Records, Box 1 at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Nature’s Remedy: “All Druggists Sell the Dainty 25 Cents Box”

Post contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern, 2017-2018

In early 1900s America, an individual seeking relief from myriad ailments could choose from myriad purported treatments. When looking to cure “indigestion, bad breath, loss of appetite, sick headache, and rheumatism,”[1] one could turn to an array of syrups, lozenges, tonics, or tablets. One such product, extremely popular for several decades, was Nature’s Remedy.

The man behind Nature’s Remedy, Augustus Henry Lewis, began his pharmaceutical career as a pharmacist in Bolivar, Missouri. Teaming up with his nephew James Howe, Lewis moved his company to St. Louis in 1901, soon becoming the A.H. Lewis Medicine Co.

Nature’s Remedy patent medicine tin. History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, 1550-1980s. Beyer Family Collection Artifacts, 18th century-circa 1935. Received from Dr. and Mrs. Emil C. Beyer. Box 8, Item hbeyer0031.

Tin boxes filled with Nature’s Remedy churned out of the factory. By 1906, the business had grown so much that it moved into “a handsome new building at the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets.”[2]

 

Paper ad targeting women and girls
Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Advertising campaigns described Nature’s Remedy as “Mother Nature in a pleasant, helpful form – all vegetable and a skillful blend of her own plan of insuring health.”[3] Slightly more descriptive circulars referred to the product as a vegetable preparation that “act[ed] on the stomach, liver, kidneys, and bowels.”[4] Marketing was so rigorous that the company enlisted a composer to produce a tune to popularize Nature’s Remedy. The first chorus from the 1928 sheet music, purchased to be played at home on a ukulele or banjo, reads as follows: “No matter whether you have wealth, Just as long as you have health, You ‘feel like a million!’ If you just wear a great big smile, You are in the latest style, You ‘feel like a million’ But when you wear a frown, And your health is run down, You feel bad, you look sad, At the whole world you are mad! And then you follow nature’s course, Banish all of that remorse, You ‘feel like a million!’”[5]

Black and white bilboard advertisements.
Item ID AAA7481, Nature’s Remedy digestive aid tablets, Dentyne gum, Doran’s Coffee, Loveland (4 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. [1900s-1910s].

Black and white billboards.
Item ID BBB4564, Wheat, Cigarettes, Gasene Naphita Soap, Natures Remedy Tablets, Fatima Cigarettes, Fatima Cigarettes, Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum, unknown, Holsum Bread (9 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. Undated.

What ingredients did these tablets contain? A chemical analysis conducted on the product in 1923 by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the presence of burdock, juniper berries, sarsaparilla, mandrake, rhubarb, dandelion, prickly ash, aloes, cascara, and Belladonna root.[6] A write up in JAMA went on to delicately allude to its effects: “The manufacturers of these tablets direct the purchaser to take one every night for a week. They very kindly allow the sufferer (from the effect of the tablets) a few days to recuperate and then suggest that the week of torment be repeated and if this is survived, another few days of rest is allowed before another round of torture and so on ‘until the bowels become strong enough to do their work.’”[7]

Whether of the belief that the product was a nostrum, a placebo, a bonafide cure, or a temporary comfort, the list of contents – and Mr. Clark’s description – make the purpose of the pill clear: It was a cathartic mixture, a purgative, a laxative.

Although some may read the remedy itself as cause for a sour stomach, there is something rather kismet in this tale. Under the full leadership of Mr. Howe, the same “handsome” factory went on to manufacture one of America’s leading brands of antacid tablets.

[1] A.H. Clark, “Nature’s Remedy Tablets,” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1919. Quoted in American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 5th edition (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1923), 63.

[2] “A. H. Lewis Medicine Co. Outgrew Its Building,” The Pharmaceutical Era (35), 6 (1906), 639.

[3] Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. Retrieved from https://repository.duke.edu/dc/mma/MM0227

[4] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 63.

[5] Waldon, W. Feel Like a Million. St. Louis, Mo.: A. H. Lewis Medicine Co., 1928. Print.

[6] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 64.

[7] Ibid., 65.

Jean Dominique on Collective Passion and Geopolitics in Haiti during the 1998 World Cup

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist

In a 13 July 1998 editorial, Jean Dominique of Radio Haïti-Inter reflected on the geopolitical implications of World Cup soccer, focusing in particular on Haitian love for the Brazilian national team. This passion, and the political ramifications of soccer, continue to this day. Just last week, the Haitian government raised gas prices during the Brazil-Belgium World Cup match, in very wrongheaded hopes that people would be too distracted to notice.

Transcript of original editorial, translated from French:

“La France Métisse”: this is the headline splashed across the front page of an Italian newspaper. “Long live King Zidane,” says the one in Algiers – Zidane is of Algerian descent. The victory of the French team yesterday presents certain social dilemmas: Jean-Marie Le Pen’s[1] blood must have boiled to see the Stade de France streaming with black people and beurs (beurs are French people of North African descent). Soccer is no mere sport ; it is something else as well, and the World Cup has geopolitical implications. But in Port-au-Prince, one has to wonder about the phenomenon of Haitians willing to shed their blood for Brazil or Argentina. At first glance, this appears quite strange. In the aftermath of the World Cup, would it not be thrilling and fun to examine how things unfolded at home and elsewhere, beyond technical and professional terms and 4-2-4 formations, penalties, red cards, or semi-finalists?

Flags painted on a brick wall.
Brazillian, Haitian, and Argentine flags. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

If the vast majority of Haitians are as head-over-heels in love with Ronaldo as are the residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, we should seek the cause of this phenomenon. Is it a sense of Latin-American belonging? Is it a racial reflex? — for Brazil, or at least Brazilian soccer, has been strongly permeated with African diasporic origins. Let’s not forget King Pelé or the brown-skinned Ronaldo himself. But then why would we have in our midst so many fans of Argentina, which has nothing to do with Blackness? Our fervor for and aggressive attachment to foreign soccer teams stem from other factors: outsized love for the game, of course, and in the momentary absence of a national team, the people of our land want to take part in a collective passion. We must love together. And, alas, we must also hate together.

Let us recall Carnival ‘98, let us recall those Sundays of sport and culture organized so skillfully by Dady Lescouflair[2]. Throughout all the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, we came together to appreciate wholesomeness, sport — all sports! — and painting. And so it must be that for us, soccer draws upon collective urges that have as much to do with politics as they do with religion. Let us add immediately that in Haiti, during this month of the World Cup, the political fervor for Brazil and Argentina would seem at first glance to have nothing to do with imminent political choices; some of the candidates have even argued that soccer represents a new opium to distract the masses from pressing economic concerns… But bear with me.

A less simplistic explanation for this phenomenon should allow us to pose other questions, for Haiti’s passion for soccer retraces the very lines that define and connect our world. We should not dismiss the political ramifications: the popularity rating of Chirac and Jospin[3] and France demonstrates that a national team’s victory can be taken advantage of by politicians. But if we zoom out a little more on this World Cup, we discover first off, as did the journalists of Manière de Voir in a special edition of Le Monde Diplomatique that just happened to be devoted to this very World Cup ‘98, that there exists such a thing as a geopolitics of soccer in our world today. It is as global a phenomenon as the economy, but it differs from the globalization of the economy in a crucial way. Whereas the world economy is dominated by the United States, with Wall Street reigning supreme over the stock markets while Hollywood dictates global culture, in the world of soccer, Brazil is the superpower and the United States plays no role at all. One can see perhaps a parallel with today’s geopolitical dynamics, with the main difference being that a global superpower in soccer arouses universal goodwill and the admiration of all, which is not the case for the United States.

The latter has had some curious reactions to the World Cup. Earlier today, I recalled yesterday morning’s mise-au-point in the New York Times. I recently noted the francophobia on display in weekly and daily newspapers during the preliminary matches at the Stade de France. Subsequently, the special envoys changed course, bouncing back by highlighting France’s successful organization of the World Cup. But this only further revealed the feelings of exclusion the Yankees feel in the face of the globalization of soccer zeal. Barely 12% of viewers from New York to Los Angeles watched the games, while some thirty-eight billion people, all told, sat before their television screens around the world. A bit of humor emerges, however, from this American sense of social isolation and exclusion — these Americans who, as everyone knows, prefer baseball and American football to soccer — they call it soccer, by the way, not football. Michael Elliott, the resident francophobe at Newsweek, losing his luster, evokes the hope — wait for it — that his compatriots might start playing soccer in the future, and he adds, with a touch of humor, that it is high time for the American barbarians to begin to civilize. Let us recall with some nostalgia that even Shakespeare was anti-soccer and that in King Lear, one finds the king himself addressing a peasant — which is to say, a man of the people — as a “base football-player.” Well, well!

So, reading that declaration by Michael Elliott, with the barbarians on one side and the civilized on the other, I remembered a joke from a Marine colonel, who said of our country, quote: “How can you expect a people to evolve after nineteen years of occupation, if they have never even learned to play baseball?” A people that cannot learn to play baseball is not a civilized people, according to that Marine colonel. This World Cup has indeed avenged our footballing people…

This perhaps is taking us away from clashes between Haitian fans of Brazil and of Argentina. But have we truly departed from the questions that these strange passions present to us? A mystery remains, certainly, but the vapors of this opium will dissipate quickly, and the realities of everyday life will quickly resume. It will remain once again a diffuse state of mind. The masses of our homeland, like those elsewhere, are able to come together around a collective passion, to transform it into a sort of mobilization. And in the lingering indifference to the electoral crisis of 6 April 1997, is there not an indication of a collective awakening soon to come? It remains to be seen what the motivations of this coming awakening might be…

A taptap (elaborately-painted bus) in Port-au-Prince, decorated with images of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi and other soccer images. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

Finally, a small suggestion to one and all concerning the political crisis: why should there not be a decision — at the state level obviously, parliamentary of course — to offer Ronaldo Haitian citizenship, bring him to Port-au-Prince, and then appoint him Prime Minister? But of course, there is the matter of his grandmother’s papers…[4]

Special thanks to Dr. Grégory Pierrot for transcription of the original French text. He recently reflected on race, colonial legacies, and what the 2018 French national team represents to French people of African descent over at Africa is a Country. Thanks also to Eline Roillet for help with this translation.

[1] Jean-Marie Le Pen was a far-right French politician who espoused explicitly racist beliefs.

[2] Evans “Dady” Lescouflair was Haiti’s Minister of Sports and Youth in the late 1990s.

[3] Lionel Jospin of the Parti Socialiste was the Prime Minister of France under right-wing President Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002.

[4] Ericq Pierre was appointed Prime Minister by President René Préval, only to have his nomination rejected by an obstructionist parliament because he could not prove his Haitian citizenship by producing his grandparents’ birth certificates.

Anything and All Things of Interest to Women: The Sarah Westphal Collection

Post contributed by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Join the staff of the Bingham Center as we celebrate the newly acquired Sarah Westphal Collection and the opening of an exhibition of works from the collection.

The attention to recovering traces of women’s voices and women’s agency that motivates all of Sarah’s research and work in the field of medieval gender studies also underwrites her approach to building her collection.

—Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor and Diefenbaker Memorial Chair in German Literary Studies, University of Waterloo

Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
RSVP on Facebook (optional)

Speakers:

  • Jean Fox O’Barr, Duke University Distinguished Service Professor
  • Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor and Diefenbaker Memorial Chair in German Literary Studies, University of Waterloo
  • Thomas Robisheaux, Duke University History Department

The exhibit will be on display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery from July until December, 2018

Sarah Westphal, who received her PhD from Yale in 1983, was a member of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature and an affiliate of the Program in Women’s Studies at Duke from 1983-1986. In addition to her long academic career as a scholar of medieval German literature, Westphal has spent thirty-five years amassing a collection of over six hundred books written, printed, illustrated, or published by women from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Westphal’s particular interest is women in Britain and continental Europe in the eighteenth century. The collection includes monumental works such as a beautifully-bound first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) as well as previously unrecorded works and unique manuscript collections.

In Sarah Westphal’s own words the collection is “anything and all things that women published or were interested in, especially in the eighteenth century.” The collection ranges from literature for children and adults to science, cookery, travel writing, prescriptive literature, political and philosophical treatises, biographies of women by women, and works by women printers and artists. This exhibition presents eighteen items selected by Westphal, each with its own complex story.

Color photograph of Sarah Westphal

Civil War Letters Grapple with Gender, Interracial Marriage, and Working-Class Life

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Rubenstein Technical Services

There is just too much to write about in the Lois Wright Richardson Davis family papers, a collection that tells the tale of a mother and her seven children divided by the American Civil War. For a relatively small collection (0.75 linear feet), the letters reveal many triumphs, trials, and heartbreaks, as well as many aspects of the historical and social contexts of their time. Two of Lois’s sons (and a stepson) fought for the Union, while two of her sons-in-law fought for the Confederacy. This split in the family came about just before the war, when two of Lois’s daughters (Ellen and Eunice) and their husbands decided to move from Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama, where they hoped to find better employment prospects. Soon after they arrived, the war broke out and the sons and sons-in-law volunteered for opposing sides. Remarkably, the family members were not hostile toward one another in their letters, and often inquired after the health and safety of one another. Sometimes they even joked about their tragic situation. In one letter, daughter Eunice wrote from Mobile to her brother up North asking, “Are you coming down here to fight us?”

Weathered blue stationary with cursive handwriting in ink.
Letter from Eunice in Mobile, Alabama to her mother, March 3rd, 1861. She wrote that if war breaks out, “no one can tell or even think when or where or how it will end. There will be such suffering….” Eunice eventually lost her husband and a brother to the war.

The bulk of the letters shared between the family members describe their experiences during the “fatal conflict” and offer valuable first-hand narratives about important battles and skirmishes.  For instance, in a letter from 1863, Charles Henry, who was Lois’s eldest son and who was a soldier in the Union Army, wrote home about a harrowing battle at Sabine Pass.

Aged stationary with cursive writing in ink.
1st page of a letter about Sabine Pass from Charles Henry in Louisiana to his mother in Massachusetts, September, 13th, 1863. He described waking in the morning on a ship to see a “Rebel Battery mounting about seven or eight large guns.” Charles Henry’s steamer ran aground on a sand bar, and they had to escape on a riverboat that “would hardly hold together.” The Union lost two gunboats and suffered two hundred casualties in the battle, whereas the Confederacy was virtually unscathed.

However, it would be remiss to categorize these letters as simply being about the Civil War. The family members were excellent writers, and their descriptions offer insights across many categories of human experience. For instance, the historian Martha Hodes, who wrote her dissertation on interracial romantic relationships, was drawn to Eunice’s story. During the war, Eunice’s first husband died of cholera in the Confederate Army. She struggled for many years with poverty and illness, but she remarried to a successful Afro-Caribbean sea merchant, William Smiley Connolly. They married in Massachusetts in 1869, and she moved with him and her two children to Grand Cayman. The letters document their loving relationship and their life on the island. Unfortunately, the letters also reveal that Eunice, William, and their children were killed in a hurricane.

Small 19th century black and white photo of a woman pasted on a decorated card.
Possible photo of Eunice.
Aged stationary, possibly from 1870. Cursive handwriting in ink.
Letter from William Smiley Connolly. He writes from Grand Cayman to his mother-in-law in Massachusetts. He says that Eunice “is dear to me as my own life.”
Two pages from the old card catalog that mention William Smiley Connolly.

So, why am I writing about these letters now? I was searching through the old card catalog (now digitized into PDFs) at the Rubenstein for collections that may include materials about people of color. Sometimes in older collections, people of color were not included in the description, or the description that was included is outdated (and sometimes offensive). In my search, I stumbled upon the catalog record of the Lois Wright Richardson Davis papers, which mentioned William Smiley Connolly, the “black sea caption and shipowner.” Upon further inspection, it became clear that some of the description could be updated and that the letters were in over-stuffed folders, so I set out to reprocess the papers. Because one of the goals of reprocessing was to highlight certain voices that had been previously under-described, I created a collection guide with descriptions of each folder’s contents, making it easier for researchers to search for William Connelly’s letters and to find descriptions of African Americans. The collection provides valuable and often disheartening historical evidence of racism and slavery from the letter writers’ perspectives, as well as evidence of African-American contributions to the Union. I also made it more apparent that this collection not only emphasizes soldiers but also provides rich information about the lives of working-class women in the 19th century. As the years go by in the letters, the female correspondents covered many topics including illnesses, religious beliefs, child-rearing, single-motherhood, and employment.  There are many surprises in the collection, many of which I tried to document in the collection guide, including one letter in particular that skims the surface of the complexity of gender.

April, 28th 1884. Charles Henry wrote a letter of recommendation for Alphoso Oakes, who was “very feminine in his ways.”

It is a letter written by Charles Henry after the war. He wrote many letters in support of veterans who were seeking pensions. One of these letters described a possibly gender-fluid, transgender, and/or gender-nonconforming soldier nicknamed “Lucy.” The letter piqued my interest because I am often looking for past evidence of LGBTQ folks in archival collections and am intrigued by situations when ordinary ways of describing sex and gender breakdown. As Charles Henry described “Lucy,” he slipped in and out of the language of the gender binary. It is difficult to tell if Charles Henry was making fun of “Lucy” in a derogatory way—for as I went through the collection, it became apparent that Charles Henry sometimes had a biting sense of humor—or if he was merely recalling a beloved fellow soldier who was “young, slim, smooth faced, and very feminine in his ways” (Charles Henry underlined certain words for emphasis). For the purposes of the letter, Charles Henry described “Lucy’s” rheumatism caused by the war and finished by saying, “I presume nearly every man in Co. A. 26th Regt. Mass. Vet. Vols would remember ‘Lucy’ and ‘her’ sickness for he was a great favorite in the company and previous to his capture was an excellent soldier and after his return he was so mild in his manner and amiable in his disposition that his sickness excited the sympathy of all.”

Hand-written letter on stationary.
2nd page of Charles Henry’s letter about Alphonso Oakes.

 

I could go on and on about these letters but am told that blog posts are to be somewhat brief. Plus, I want to save many of the invaluable epistolary moments of the collection for others to discover on their own. I hope that researchers, instructors, and students will continue to visit this collection and that they will be as captivated as I was by the lives that it reveals. You can learn more about the Lois Wright Richardson Davis family papers by visiting the collection guide and by visiting the Rubenstein’s reading room (open to the public). I also highly recommend Martha Hodes’s book about Eunice and William, The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Ninteenth Century.

 

Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies Records now open for research

Post submitted by Leah Kerr, Project Archivist, Rubenstein Library Technical Services

The Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies (JCPES) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that informs programs and policy seeking to improve the socioeconomic status and civic engagement of African Americans. The think tank was founded in 1970 as the Joint Center for Political Studies (JCPS) to aid black elected officials create effective policy and successfully serve their constituents. Founders included the social psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, and newspaper editor Louis E. Martin. The organization later became the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) 1990.

Assorted print materials from the Joint Center archive

The collection is comprised of administrative records including correspondence, memorandums, budgets, funding reports, publications, policy research studies, conference materials, photographs, audiovisual media, and electronic records. Among its many publications, JCPES published FOCUS magazine from 1972 to 2011, which covered national issues for an audience largely comprised of black elected officials (BEOs). The collection also includes oral histories and interview transcripts, an extensive history of JCPES, and original Southern Regional Council publications. The JCPES Records collection is rich with photographs from events including presidents, the Congressional Black Caucus, and many African American mayors and other elected officials.

Follow link to the collection guide: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/jcpes/

Socialism & States’ Rights

 

Post submitted by Ali Nabours, Human Rights Archives, Marshall T. Meyer Research Grant recipient

I recently had the honor of conducting dissertation research at the lovely David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Human Rights Archive, made possible by the Marshall T. Meyer Research Grant and the helpful, hospitable staff.

My research reveals connections between Populism and Progressivism, in both the implementation of the New Deal, and the formation of Louisiana Governor-turned-Senator Huey P. Long’s Share Our Wealth program. Both are part of a single tradition I refer to as Southern Socialism. Comparing letters and clippings in the Huey P. Long Papers with the David Gordon George Papers suggests that, to dissidents, “states’ rights” was about resisting federal intervention, not about limiting government involvement at the state and local levels.

George’s writing captured the Virginian’s evolution from Socialist to “a New Deal Democrat, with a small ‘d’ on the democrat.” Although George went on to become a mainstream Southern conservative – supporting both Barry Goldwater and George Wallace in later decades – in the 1930s he represented one iteration of the South’s Leftist tradition. Clippings George preserved demonstrate the values that motivated him to join the Socialist Party, and later leave it. He eschewed party affiliation, rejecting Southern Democrats, who maintained anti-democratic policies such as the poll tax, and Socialists, whom he believed “moved so far to the leftward it is in danger of committing political ‘suicide.’”[i]

In 1937, George wrote a series of articles which illustrate the maintenance of Confederate identity among white Progressives even as they embraced seemingly contradictory values and policies of the political Left. George promoted the Lost Cause cultural identity in several stories for the Sunday Magazine of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, referring to the Confederate flag as contemporary Southerners’ “own flag,’ comparing the last battles of the Confederate Navy to epic Viking funerals, and praising “almost self-sufficient plantations” as the most “outstanding feature” of the Old South.[ii] His affinity for Southern nationalism is remarkable when juxtaposed with other articles in George’s papers advocating Leftist priorities, including government intervention in the establishment of co-operatives, racial justice, state-supported vocational and academic education, and expanding democracy through repealing the poll tax.[iii]

Individuals often simultaneously subscribe to two seemingly contradictory ideologies, yet George’s disparate interests suggest that, for him and other members of the Southern Left, states’ rights were not incompatible with a sort of “small scale” socialism.[iv] “States’ rights” to George was not about slavery or the protection of the socioeconomic status quo, but rather, about a government-supported cooperation to benefit the South’s labor force, which was inextricably tied to local geography through agriculture or extractive industries such as mining and lumber. For dissidents outside the Socialist Party, suspicion of a distant federal government melded with a community-based agrarian tradition, creating a coherent socialist vision tailored to the South.

This way of thinking may explain Huey Long’s peculiar politics. Long’s Populist and Socialist priorities were frequently based on local- and state-level control, not nationalization. For example, Long favored securing and promoting state banks over national banking reform, arguing in a letter to supporters, “One of the first things we must try to do now, before it is too late, is to save the system of community banks for the people so that all resources of finance may not be more closely tied up in a few hands.”[v] Likewise, the Conference of Southern Governors, which David George served as a board member, outlined methods for the states to repeal anti-democratic policies without federal legislation.[vi] Socialist policies in the South were conceived as state, not national, initiatives, making “states’ rights” the right to manage their own economies – just as their Confederacy had done in the war to protect slavery.

[i] “George Asserts Socialist Party Nearing Suicide,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 17, 1935), David Gordon George Papers, Box 7, Folder: Socialist Activities, Clippings, 1933-1935, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[ii] George, David G., “The Flags of the Confederacy,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Dec. 5, 1937), Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1937, 1 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David, “The Shenandoah — Last to Fly Southern Cross,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Oct. 17, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1937, 1 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David G., “Curles Neck — A Modern Plantation,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 7, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1934-1937, 2 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[iii] George, David G., “The Virginia Farmer Approaches Co-Operation.” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Oct. 10, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Serial and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1934-1937, 2 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David G. “Independent Candidate for House of Delegates To Represent Hanover and King William Counties,” Pamphlet (November 7, 1939), David Gordon George Papers, Box 7, Folder: Elections, 1939-1941, 1939 George Campaign, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; “The Sins of the Poll Tax,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 28, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, 1919-1976, Box 4, Folder: Poll Tax, 1937-1942, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[iv] Granting that Southerners resented national business monopolies and the global economic system as much as other Americans, the South was unique in that land monopolies were largely local. A lasting distrust for the federal government among white Southerners, the perpetuation of the plantation system, and a period in which dissent leaned Left combined to encourage local- and state-level reforms, as opposed to nationalization.

[v] Huey P. Long to “My dear Friend,” Letter, (Jan 28, 1933), Huey Pierce Long Papers, 1929-1940. Section A, Box 85, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[vi] Conference of Southern Governors, “Plain Facts About the Poll Tax,” Pamphlet (ca. 1943), David Gordon George Papers, Box 4, Folder: Poll Tax, 1937-1942, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

The Good, The Bad, and The Just Plain Weird

Post contributed by Mandy Cooper, Research Services Graduate Intern, and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History.

Have you ever come across a piece of advice that just makes you stop, blink, and shake your head? While I was searching for a recipe for my Test Kitchen post, I came across one such piece of advice and knew I had to write about it. In the 1836 edition of The American Frugal Housewife, Lydia Maria Child wrote that “New England rum, constantly used to wash the hair, keeps it very clean, and free from disease, and promotes its growth.”

Title page of book. The paper is slightly yellowed. It reads "The American Frugal Housewife, dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy. By Mrs. Child, author of "Hobomok," "The Mother's Book," editor of the "Juvenile Miscellany," &c. A fat kitchen maketh a lean will -- Franklin. "Economy is a poor man's revenue; extravagance a rich man's ruin." Sixteenth Edition, enlarged and corrected by the author. Boston: Russell, Shattuck, & Co. 1836.
Title page of Lydia Maria Child’s “The American Frugal Housewife”
Photograph of paragraph of text describing washing hair with rum. "New England rum, constantly used to wash the hair, keeps it very clean, and free from disease, and promotes its growth a great deal more than Macassar oil. Brandy is very strengthening to the roots of the hair; but it has a hot, drying tendency, which N.E. rum has not.
Child’s advice to wash hair with New England rum in “The American Frugal Housewife”

I have to admit that I’ve never considered using rum to wash my hair! The smell alone would be overpowering. Prescriptive literature from the nineteenth century is filled with all kinds of advice for women—from keeping a home and raising children to cooking, healing, and beauty. Some of this advice is good, like Child’s tip to thoroughly clean your teeth after eating your last meal at night. On the other hand, some of the advice is bad. Still other kinds of advice—like washing your hair with New England rum—are just weird.

My fellow intern and I joked that we should do a beauty advice post similar to the Test Kitchen posts, but neither of us were willing to be the test subjects—despite plenty of material to choose from! It was tempting to try the recipe for Cologne Water in The New England Economical Housekeeper that called for rosemary oil, lemon oil, lavender oil, cinnamon oil, and rose water, just to see what it would smell like. Though the author of The American Family Keepsake assured readers that a recipe for Turkish Rouge “is a superior rouge; […] will not rub off, and is in no ways injurious to the face,” it was less tempting to try this recipe, which called for alkanet chips to be suspended in alcohol until it reached the right color.

Photograph of title page for "The New England Economical Housekeeper." Paper is yellowed with some darker spots. The text reads: The New England Economical Housekeeper, and Family Receipt Book. By Mrs. E.A. Howland. Stereotype Edition. Worcester: Published by S.A. Howland. 1847.
Title page for “The New England Economical Housekeeper.”
Photograph of two paragraphs of text describing how to make Cologne Water. The text reads "Take two drachms of oil of rosemary, two of the oil of lemon, one of lavender, ten of cinnamon, one tea-spoonful of rose-water. Pour on these one quart of alcohol; put all in a glass bottle, and shake it up well; to have it very clear, put some cotton in a tunnel, and place a piece of clean tissue or printing paper over it, and strain the contents through it. Another way. - One pint alcohol, sixty drops lavender, sixty of bergamot, sixty of essence of lemon, sixty of orange-water. To be corked up, and well shaken. It is better for considerable age.
Recipe for Cologne Water from “The New England Economical Housekeeper”

After reading through Child’s advice while searching for a recipe, I decided to look at other prescriptive literature from the nineteenth century and look at the different kinds of advice that women were given that shaped their lives, even though it didn’t always match reality. Different types of etiquette guides and domestic arts manuals have been around for centuries and are all examples of prescriptive literature. The Rubenstein’s guide to prescriptive literature includes material from 1631 to 2001 and highlights the changing focus of this literature.

A lot of the advice aimed at married women centered around being a good mother, wife, and hostess—and doing so economically while keeping up appearances. Child’s The American Frugal Housewife, The New England Economical Housekeeper, The Frugal Housewife, and The Female Economist are all good examples of this type of prescriptive literature. Instructions for being frugal were usually accompanied with tips for treating illnesses, raising children, and taking care of the household. Like a lot of advice manuals today, a lot of this advice presented a picture of an ideal woman that was a good housewife, a mother who trained her children well, a good cook, and an excellent hostess. For example, in Mrs. William Parkes’s Domestic Duties; Instructions to young married ladies, she informed her readers that “To possess the skill of a connoisseur in deciding upon the various flavours of wines, their strength and body, is not desirable for a female.” Obviously, knowledge of wine was only suitable as a male area of expertise.

Photograph of engraved image in book showing two women working in a nineteenth century kitchen
Frontispiece of The New England Economical Housekeeper.

Alright. Let’s get down to the good, the bad, and the just plain weird of all of this advice. I’ll try to resist the temptation to just list all of the weird advice for the shock value alone and stick to one or two examples of each—though it’s a difficult task!

The Good:

Child’s American Frugal Housewife was filled with good advice for women who wanted (or needed) to run a household on a budget. For example, she had two instructions for women to save money on paper “Preserve the backs of old letters to write upon” and “buy coarse white paper by the quantity” to make books for children learning to write. Mrs. Smith’s The Female Economist also contains advice for cleaning teeth; she provides instructions for creating a tooth powder: “Beat fine and sift two ounces of charcoal; mix with it one ounce of powder of bark.” Although this seems weird, given the charcoal toothpaste I’ve seen in stores and advertised online lately it’s not necessarily the worst advice.

The Bad:

Now for the bad advice. Mrs. Smith’s The Female Economist has a recipe for a healing ointment: an “Ointment of Lead.” Yes, you read that right. Mrs. Smith says to “Take of olive-oil half a pint; white wax, two ounces; sugar of lead, three drachms. Let the sugar of lead (reduced into a fine powder) be rubbed up with some part of the oil, and afterwards added to the other ingredients, previously melted together; stir them continually till quite cold.” She continued, “This cooling and gently astringent ointment may be used in all cases where the intention is to dry and skin over the wound, as in scalding, &c.” Mrs. Smith also had a recipe for “Eye-Water” to bathe the eyes in that called for sugar of lead. Unless you want to end up like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, this is definitely not advice you want to follow—especially for use on an open wound!

The Just Plain Weird:

And now for the advice that is just plain weird. Two of the books I looked at had similar remedies for a sore throat. Child’s advice was to bind a stocking on “warm from the foot, at night” while Mrs. Smith said to “Wear a worsted stocking round the throat all night which has been worn on the leg during the day.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want to try this sore throat remedy.

Rum wasn’t the only alcohol that was suggested for washing hair. Mrs. L.G. Abell’s The Skillful Housewife’s Book suggested wetting the hair “in brandy occasionally to strengthen the roots.” Actually, alcohol is a common ingredient in advice that seems weird to modern eyes. Mrs. Abell also suggested using brandy instead of water when making ink to prevent the ink from freezing.

While it’s tempting to keep going, I’ll stop here with just a sampling of the advice in nineteenth-century prescriptive literature. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop! Come in and take a look at some of the prescriptive literature in our collections—we’d love to have you! And of course, you can always take a look at some of the fully digitized versions of these books available online through HathiTrust.

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University