All posts by Kate Collins

Would You Buy a Comic Book from this Woman?

Post contributed by Sagan Thacker, recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville BA in History. Read more in their senior thesis, “‘Something to Offend Everyone’: Situating Feminist Comics of the 1970s and ‘80s in the Second-Wave Feminist Movement,” forthcoming in the University of North Carolina at Asheville Journal of Undergraduate Research and available to read here.

“Would You Buy a Comic Book from This Woman?” by Barb Behm, in Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.

In January 2020, I traveled from Western North Carolina to the Sallie Bingham Center to study feminist newspapers in two of the Bingham Center’s incredible collections: the Women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements (LGBT) Periodicals and Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals collections. I was looking for material about feminist underground comics of the 1970s and ‘80s—books such as Wimmen’s Comix and Tits and Clits. I wanted to determine what feminists of the time period thought about the comics, and whether they viewed them as serious literature or just mindless entertainment.

I soon found several articles that turned popular notions of comics on their heads. Most notable was a February 1976 article from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, newspaper Amazon: A Feminist Journal. Written by Barb Behm about the now obscure Pricella Pumps/Star Buckwheat Comic Book by Barba Kutzner (1976), the article cogently praised the book’s relatability and satire of American society and its metaphorical significance for all women. Behm touted Kutzner’s protagonist as both a character with which women could heartily identify and a way to break free from the oppressive system and celebrate non-normativity.

This source was instrumental in showing that feminist underground comics, far from being tangential and lowbrow parts of the second-wave feminist movement, were instead an important part of the intellectual discourse within feminism. By finding a critic who enthusiastically engaged with the work on a level beyond its perceived lowbrow status, it became clear that some feminists viewed comics as a valid and direct medium to write and engage with feminism on a level that would not be widespread until the zine revolution of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. This reframing of comics’ literary history deepens our understanding of second-wave feminism and gives a more nuanced portrait of its discursive diversity.

Cover by Barba Kutzner, Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.

 

October 6: Readings and Conversation with Sallie Bingham

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET
Online via zoom: Registration required to receive Zoom link.
Contact: Kelly Wooten, kelly.wooten@duke.edu or Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture  is honored to host a virtual reading and discussion with Sallie Bingham, author of two new books: The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke and Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader.

In The Silver Swan, Sallie Bingham chronicles one of the great underexplored lives of the twentieth century. Bingham is especially interested in dissecting the stereotypes that have defined Duke’s story while also confronting the disturbing questions related to her legacy. According to Gloria Steinem, “Sallie Bingham rescues Doris Duke from this gendered prison and shows us just how brave, rebellious, and creative this unique woman really was, and how her generosity benefits us to this day.”

Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader is a collection that captures the spirit of the author’s illustrious writing career via short stories, a novella, and a play. From the complex stories of artistic influence and the exhilaration and fright of solitude, to the incendiary rage of a betrayed young wife who sacrifices everything for revenge, to the struggles for independence of the three women who surrounded Ezra Pound like subservient stars, these fictions seize the reader’s attention while slashing stereotypes.

The Rubenstein Library holds a range of collections documenting the lives of Sallie Bingham and Doris Duke.

Looking Back, Moving Forward with Southerners on New Ground

Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Online via Zoom: Registration required to receive Zoom link
Contact: Kelly Wooten, kelly.wooten@duke.edu or Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu

Please join the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a panel discussion grounded in the history of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) that will explore how activist archives inform intersectional struggles for social justice. Mandy Carter (SONG co-founder), Wesley Hogan (historian), Lisa Levenstein (historian), and Mab Segrest (SONG co-founder) will reflect on the importance and contemporary relevance of SONG’s organizing in the 1990s and beyond.

Wesley Hogan’s On the Freedom Side and Lisa Levenstein’s They Didn’t See Us Coming both incorporate research using the SONG Records and the papers of two SONG co-founders, Mandy Carter and Mab Segrest, from the Rubenstein Library.

Co-sponsored by the Duke Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and the Center for Documentary Studies.

New Methods for Undergraduate Outreach

Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

If you stopped by the coffee shop in Perkins Library in February, you might have been surprised to see undergraduate students crowded around a table using glue, scissors, and images from the Rubenstein Library. They were using, of course, scanned images from the collections that had been printed out for students to use for the Valentine’s Day pop-up. There were copies of historical valentines, as well as anatomical hearts from the History of Medicine Collection, Victorian floral illustrations, photographs of friends, and doodles from zines, that students could cut out and collage together to make their own valentines to send to friends and family.

Valentine’s day pop-up, 2020.

The Valentine’s Day craft pop-up is just one of the ways we’re working to connect with students beyond the classroom. Hundreds of Duke undergraduates come into our reading room and classrooms each year, but we also want to build relationships with students that transcend their coursework. For the last two years, Lucy Dong T’20 served as the Middlesworth Outreach and Social Media Fellow in the Rubenstein Library, helping us develop creative ways of reaching undergraduates both on campus and online.

With Dong’s assistance and the gift of two mobile exhibit cases from Ken Hubbard T’65 and Tori Dauphinot P’15 P’16, we’ve been able to safely bring our collections out for pop-up exhibits, going beyond our usual classroom and exhibit spaces to reach students who may never make it to the Rubenstein. In the fall, we hosted pop-up exhibits recognizing Transgender Awareness Week and Native American Heritage Month. Both of these small exhibits took place outside of the popular coffee shop in Perkins Library and included a variety of eye-catching material from across the Rubenstein Library’s collections, inviting passersby to slow down and take a closer look.

Trans history and Native American Heritage Month pop up events, 2019.

In the digital realm, Dong focused her work on our Instagram account, a platform popular with undergraduate students. She explored the Rubenstein Library’s collections to find content that would interest the Duke community. One of her favorite finds was the Library Question and Answer Book with student queries from the 1980s, a flashback to when typewriters were essential to Duke students and an anonymous student’s concerns about becoming a slave to technology seem quaint. Dong also used the platform to help students to see themselves as creators of history, encouraging student organizations to place their records in the University Archives.

Our long-running Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen blog series also got an update, thanks to a collaboration between Dong and Sonia Fillipow T’20. Inspired by minimalist cooking videos on platforms like Buzzfeed and Bon Appetit, they brought this snappy modern style to retro recipes for Jell-O they found in a 1962 Joys of Jell-O cookbook from our Nicole DiBona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks. Their three minute video walked viewers through making an attention-grabbing “Crown Jewel Dessert” cake and a Jell-O vegetable salad.

We look forward to continuing to find new ways to engage with Duke students and helping them get to know the Rubenstein’s collections in ways that inspire curiosity, foster creativity, and inform their understanding of the present moment.

Teaching Remotely, Staying Connected: Rubenstein Library Instruction Goes Online

Amanda Lazarus, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern, 2019-2020

Special thanks to Assistant University Archivist, Amy McDonald, for her generous help in digitizing the photobooks used for this session, and to Hannah Jacobs, Wired! Lab Digital Humanities Specialist at Duke University, for consulting on and hosting the photobook WordPress site.

In spring 2020, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders limited access to educational and research resources on Duke’s campus, and the world over. During this time, the Rubenstein Library, which offers object-based instruction sessions for Duke University students, took quick and measured steps to keep teaching, and moved instruction online. Here is a brief look at how one Rubenstein Library instructor converted a scheduled, on-site instruction session on photobooks to a virtual one, and the steps taken to help students connect with Rubenstein Library materials and each other.

Edmonds, John. Higher. New York: Capricious, 2018.

 

After consulting course instructor Phyllis Dooney, we decided to move forward with a virtual, synchronous instruction session for her Digital Photography course, focusing on six photobooks from the Rubenstein Library’s collections that I digitized before the university closed in March. While preparing to move the session online, I tried to anticipate and prevent logistical and/or technological issues that might arise. To that end, I shared several resources with Phyllis and her students in advance of our virtual class:

Lesson Plan

 

The session was conducted via Zoom, and was divided into roughly two hour-long blocks. The beginning of class was reserved for student check-ins–an act of care and connection that Phyllis and I agreed was vital, and one which she had already put into practice in her own virtual classroom. I then followed a more conventional lecture format and introduced students to the Rubenstein Library’s services and collections, and provided a brief historical overview of photobooks.

 

Matyas, Emily. Sol y tierra: vistas más alláde la frontera México-EEUU, 1988-2018. Daylight, 2019.

In the second half of the session, I used Zoom breakout rooms to divide students into small groups, and assigned each a photobook to review using the discussion questions already provided. Students accessed the digitized photobooks prepared in WordPress using the 3DFlipbooks plugin (an attempt to recover some of the browsing and haptic experience of working with a physical photobook that was lost in virtual translation). Afterwards, students shared their findings with the whole class, discussing the images, narratives, technologies, and aesthetic choices they encountered in their photobooks.

Discussion topics the students used in their breakout sessions.

Remote instruction with special collections presents an opportunity to leverage technology to help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual. For my part, it was a positive experience and helped me to feel more grounded and connected.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library is committed to providing enriching, collections-based instruction to the Duke community and beyond. As the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed higher education, the Rubenstein Library’s instructors have developed new digital pedagogy resources, and offer unique instruction sessions and services through synchronous and asynchronous teaching online.

Gearing Up to Work from Home

The Rubenstein Library transitioned to working from home on March 17. The work of five departments and forty-one staff has continued despite this unexpected change in our daily work, and we continue to move forward on many exciting projects and initiatives, while taking this opportunity to think about our spaces, services, and work in new and exciting ways.

Collection Development
Andy Armacost, Curator of Collections

  • Andrew Armacost, Curator of Collections, has been named a co-director of a new Franklin Humanities Institute Research Lab, entitled Manuscript Migrations, which will explore ownership and provenance in manuscript studies.
  • Sara Seten Berghausen, curator for the Economists’ Papers Archive, has launched a new collections portal with updated information on many newly available collections.
  • John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, has been preparing a major digitization grant proposal to digitize all of the oral histories in the Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South collection.
  • Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections, served as program chair for the Librarians, Archivists, and Museum Professionals in the History of the Health Sciences (LAMPHHS) 2020 annual meeting where on short notice she helped transfer the conference to a virtual format.
  • Laura Micham, Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, has been working with a group of student curators on an exhibit to celebrate the centenary of American Women’s Suffrage.
  • Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, has been preparing an exhibit related to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, drawn from the recently acquired Witness to Guantanamo Video Collection.
  • Jacqueline Wachholz, Director of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, is completing a CLIR grant with the University of Miami to document the history of Pan American World Airways. Images from the advertising collections will help document the history of the firm and its worldwide services.
Andy Armacost, Sara Seten Berghausen, John Gartrell, Patrick Stawski, and Jacqueline Reid Wachholz. Not pictured: Rachel Ingold and Laura Micham.

 

Exhibitions
Meg Brown, Head of Exhibition Services and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian

The exhibition department is creating online exhibits and curating future physical displays, planning to be ready with great visual experiences when our community can safely return to the libraries. With a host of exhibition curators that include librarians, interns, students, and faculty, we have been working on:

  •  A Place Outside the Law: Forgotten Voices from Guantanamo and Suffrage Centenary, as noted above.
  • Early Studies in Parapsychology at Duke, curated by History of Medicine intern Steph Crowell and Rachel Ingold.
  • James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing the “New Negro” of the 1920s, curated by John Hope Franklin Center intern Jessica Stark and John Gartrell.
  • 35 Years of East Asian Collecting, curated by International Area Studies librarians.
  • Commemorating Dante. An undergraduate course taught by Dr. Martin Eisner spent the spring semester exploring Dante’s works. For their final projects, students submitted creative and thoughtful proposals for a Chappell Family Gallery exhibition. We will work virtually this summer with Professor Eisner and a few students to make these proposals into an actual exhibition!

And we have created digital exhibitions for two of the current physical exhibitions:

The exhibition department is also taking this time to work with colleagues in Digital Strategies and Technology to migrate older digital exhibitions to the platform we currently use and to explore how we might streamline the creation of future digital exhibitions.

Draft of Guantanamo exhibit on SketchUp: 3D Design Software, created virtually with curators.

 

Research Services
Katie Henningsen, Head of Research Services

Instruction librarians are working with peers around the country to develop remote teaching resources and converting existing courses and workshops to the online environment. In the fall we will offer asynchronous instruction sessions and digital assignments. Developing these tools will allow us to expand our instruction capacity and engage more Duke students and students from other institutions to use Rubenstein Library materials. This summer we are offering our first Digital Archival Expeditions fellowships for Duke graduate students. Seven students and one peer-coordinator are developing online teaching resources and assignments for specific Duke courses in the fall. We are looking forward to having these students’ subject expertise and collaborative work featured on our website at the end of the summer.

Research Services continues to respond to reference questions, reproduction requests, and requests for permissions to publish. The reproduction staff are organizing several years of images scanned for researchers, and they are using those images and digital collections to fill reproductions orders when they can. As we prepare for fall, we are rethinking our services, spaces, and work with researchers to continue providing high-level services in new and exciting ways.

Research Services Staff, clockwise from top left: Katie Henningsen, Jennifer Baker, Kate Collins, Elizabeth Dunn, Joshua Larkin Rowley, Megan O’Connell, and Kelly Wooten. Not pictured: Trudi Abel, Hope Ketcham Geeting, Brooke Guthrie, and Lucy VanderKamp.

 

Technical Services
Meghan Lyon, Head of Technical Services

Creating description of rare materials without being able to look at the item itself is very challenging, but Technical Services staff have found a number of creative ways to keep working from digital copies or substitutes. In the days before leaving Duke’s campus, archivists and catalogers scanned title pages and took photographs of comic books, manuscripts, and other in-process priority projects so that they would have reference images to continue cataloging from home. Combined with Duke’s institutional access to HathiTrust, and using digitized copies of our own materials in the Internet Archive, Technical Services continues to publish new catalog records and collection guides. Our remote work has also included long-desired description for digitized audiovisual, born digital, and electronic media; updating of departmental documentation and policies; and migrating legacy description from paper box-lists to online platforms. And, speaking of migration: Technical Services staff have been deeply involved in the development of ArcLight, a new portal for searching our archival collection guides that launched in July. You can read more about this project on the The Devil’s Tale blog, or check it out yourself at archives.lib.duke.edu.

Technical Services Staff, clockwise from top left: Meghan Lyon, Craig Breaden, Noah Huffman, Tracy Jackson, Paula Jeannet, and Alice Poffinberger. Not pictured: Liz Adams, Jonathan Cogliano, Richard Collier, Jessica Janecki, Leah Kerr, Megan Lewis, Laurin Penland, and Lauren Reno.

 

University Archives
Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist

The University Archives is meeting virtually with Duke offices and student groups, and we have accepted almost a dozen new digital accessions. We are glad to have the technology to fulfill our mission to collect and document Duke’s history! As part of our collecting and documentation, the University Archives launched the Share Your COVID-19 Story initiative in April, which provides Duke students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to share their personal stories. We aim to capture as many experiences of the Duke community as possible so that future researchers will understand not only the administration of Duke, but also the realities of life for the Duke community during this time. Materials in this collection will be available online in late 2020. This summer, the University Archives is also sponsoring a Data+ project, On Being a Blue Devil, which (virtually!) brings together three undergraduates and a graduate student to create visualizations of the geographic origins of Duke students over time. The students will produce maps and interactive features to show how Duke’s student body has changed from a regional cohort to one that includes students from across the country and around the world.

 University Archives Staff, clockwise from top left: Valerie Gillispie, Amy McDonald, Hillary Gatlin, and Matthew Farrell.

 

Research Support in a COVID-19 World: A Series of Anecdotes

On Wednesday, March 11, we made the decision to close the reading room the following Saturday. In those final days the reading room was filled with faculty, researchers, and graduate students utilizing the seven reading room scanners to image material they would need for their courses and research. Our staff immediately stepped in to offer support, routing material for scanning to the Libraries’ Digital Production Center (DPC), digitizing material on staff scanners.  After the reading room closed, staff spent a day scanning material for Duke classes to finish the spring semester. Below are just a few stories of how Rubenstein Library staff are making material available to researchers during the pandemic.

Hope Ketcham Geeting, Research Services Assistant

For the past two years, Building Duke, a Bass Connections course, has used University Archives to research the development of the campus from 1924 through present. During the spring semester, Dr. Kristin Huffman brought the Building Duke students to the reading room multiple times each week for research. As we began preparing to close the reading room, reproduction staff worked closely with Dr. Huffman to digitize the material her students would need to complete the semester. Since scanners were in high demand, many large blueprints went to the DPC for digitization and I worked with Dr. Huffman to digitize the rest in the reading room. Collectively we were able to scan all of the materials needed for Building Duke to complete the semester.

Master plan, existing conditions, 1 sheet, diazo, undated. Sarah P. Duke Gardens records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

 

Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist

Since my work is mostly back-of-house, I don’t frequently work with Rubenstein Library researchers directly. That said, since starting remote work in mid-March, I’ve been as busy as ever. Making newly (and in some cases, not-so-newly) acquired born-digital files ready for our processing archivists to describe has taken a front seat and involves:

  • Identifying collections appropriate for remote arrangement and description (e.g., collections that are not too large, have as few “weird” file formats as possible);
  • Refining documentation, which was definitely geared toward having physical access to our spaces and collections; and,
  • Juggling remote access to our electronic records processing workstations.

Similar to on-site work, this involves a lot of wrangling information in various forms (e.g. spreadsheets, calendars, documentation) and keeps the boredom at bay.

Keeping track of collections ready for remote arrangement and description.

 

Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist

For the University Archives, the end of each academic year usually brings a flurry of discussions with undergraduate student group leaders interested in archiving their groups’ past year of records. This year—even as students scattered to their homes and the University Archives staff began working from home—was no different. Digital Records Archivist Matthew Farrell and I worked with a number of student groups—including the Native American Student Alliance, theater performance group, All of the Above, and the Duke Club Ballroom Dance—to either archive new records or begin conversations about what the archiving process would look like for them. We’re so pleased that the pandemic hasn’t prevented these student voices from joining the University Archives’ collections!

Photograph of Black Caucus 2019 leaders, 18 September 2019. Black Student Alliance records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

 

Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center

At the end of March, after closing the Rubenstein Library’s reading room, I noticed a tweet from the account @fanzines looking for the zine Girl Jock from the early 1990s. They were having trouble locating copies after seeing a mention of the title. The Bingham Center has a few issues in our zines and periodicals collection, and I recalled taking pictures of the covers in a history class session on Men, Women, and Sport earlier in the semester. We don’t have the zines digitized, but these handy photographs were able to fulfill some curiosity on the fly. The reply from @fanzines: “Wowowow! Thank you so much, Kelly! This is awesome. Interesting that they made the leap to a professionally printed magazine.”

From the Collections

Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center.

For over twenty years, the Rubenstein Library has offered travel grants for researchers. The first grant began with the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture’s Mary Lily Research Travel Grant program and grew to include the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture; John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; History of Medicine Collections; Human Rights Archive; and most recently, the Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History.

As archivists, we have long understood that research, scholarship, writing, and creative processes take time. The outcomes from the people and projects we support often come to fruition years in the future. Thankfully, we stay in touch with many of our grant recipients long after they visit the Rubenstein Library, and are thrilled to celebrate their publications and projects once they are out in the world. Here are a few selections we’d like to highlight:

Anesthesia Mask, 4”x5” printed plexi glass plate, 2016-2018. History of Medicine Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, c. 20th c.

Lindsey Beal, Mellon Faculty Fellow at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, received a History of Medicine travel grant in March 2016. Beal’s photographic work, Parturition, features History of Medicine Collections instruments and artifacts with a focus on obstetric and gynecological tools.

Little Cold Warriors: American Childhood in the 1950s by Victoria Grieve, Associate Professor of History at Utah State University, was published by the Oxford University Press in 2018. Dr. Grieve visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2016 as a Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education Fellow through the Hartman Center to use the Outdoor Advertising Association of America archives, the Garrett Orr papers, and the J. Walter Thompson Co. Writings and Speeches Collection.

Her Neighbor’s Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage by Lauren Jae Gutterman, professor of American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, was published in 2019 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Dr. Gutterman received a Mary Lily Research Travel Grant from the Bingham Center in 2013. Her research focused on the Minnie Bruce Pratt papers, as well as the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance’s archives and the papers of prominent feminist thinkers Robin Morgan and Kate Millett. Dr. Gutterman is also co-host of the podcast Sexing History.

Marjorie Lorch, Professor of Neurolinguistics, Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, University of London, visited the Rubenstein Library in February 2018 as a History of Medicine Collections grant recipient, utilizing the Henry Charles Bastian papers for her research. Her article, “The long view of language localization” was published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy in May 2019. She also co-authored an article with R. Whurr, “The laryngoscope and nineteenth-century British understanding of laryngeal movements,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, also published in May 2019.

Rachel R. Miller successfully defended her dissertation “The Girls’ Room: Bedroom Culture and the Ephemeral Archive in the 1990s” to complete her Ph.D. in English at the Ohio State University on May 18, 2020. She received a Mary Lily Research Grant to use the Bingham Center’s zine collections in 2018. Since her defense was held via videoconference, Dr. Miller noted on Twitter, “I’ve been working for four years on a project about how teenage girls’ bedrooms are archival spaces, so I guess it’s only appropriate that I’ll be defending my project from my bedroom.”

Erik A. Moore, postdoctoral associate at the University of Oklahoma’s Humanities Forum, visited the Rubenstein Library in May 2017 as a Human Rights Archive grant recipient. His article “Rights or Wishes? Conflicting Views over Human Rights and America’s Involvement in the Nicaraguan Contra War” was published in the journal Diplomacy & Statecraft (v. 29, no. 4) in October 2018. Dr. Moore used the Washington Office on Latin America records in his research.

Wangui Muigai, Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies and History at Brandeis University, is a historian of medicine and science. She received a Franklin Grant in 2015 for research on infant mortality and race from slavery to the Great Migration. Dr. Muigai  was awarded the Nursing Clio inaugural prize for best journal article for “‘Something Wasn’t Clean’: Black Midwifery, Birth, and Postwar Medical Education in All My Babies” in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (v. 93, no. 1,) in 2019, which cites an interview from the Behind the Veil oral history collection.

John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights by Brandon K. Winford, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, was published by the University of Kentucky Press in 2019. . Dr. Winford is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and went on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was awarded a Franklin Research Center grant in 2015-2016. While visiting the Rubenstein Library, Dr. Winford consulted the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company archive, the C.C. Spaulding papers, the Asa and Elna Spaulding papers, and the Rencher Nicholas Harris papers. In February 2020, Dr. Winford returned to Duke to give a talk about the book and his research at the Duke University Law School.

Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America by Wendy Woloson, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers-Camden, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in September 2020. Dr. Woloson visited the Rubenstein Library as a Hartman Center grant recipient in 2017 and used the Advertising Ephemera Collection and the Arlie Slabaugh Collection of Direct Mail Literature.

 

Tracing “Miss Violet”

Contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

This past fall the Sallie Bingham Center received a reference question from Dr. Elizabeth Harmon, American Women’s History Initiative Digital Curator at the Smithsonian Institution Archives about Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge. Dr. Harmon wanted to know more about Dandridge’s involvement with the women’s suffrage movement since Dandridge was employed as a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1900s. In her research, she had not come across many other women employed at the Smithsonian who had also been active in the campaign for women’s right to vote. Within the Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers which comprise 64 boxes of correspondence, journals, sketches, photographs, and poems spanning across generations are archival materials relating to Violet’s life and her experiences with the suffrage movement and as a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Maryland around the same time.

Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge was born March 15, 1878, at her family home of “Rosebrake” in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to parents Danske Bedinger Dandridge and Adam Stephen Dandridge. Violet grew up at Rosebrake with two younger siblings, Stephen Hawks and Dorothea Spotswood, until moving to D.C. at the age of 18 in 1896 to begin studying art. She returned to Rosebrake in 1897 after her younger brother unexpectedly died while attending the University of Virginia. Dorothea Spotswood also died at a young age from an unspecified illness in 1907.

Portrait of Serena Katherine “Miss Violet" Dandridge. She is standing wearing a tweet suit.
Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge

By 1903, Violet had moved back to Washington, D.C. and began drawing marine and fauna wildlife for publication at the National Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1914, her parents committed her to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest psychiatric hospitals in Maryland, for bouts of “nervousness” and possibly an eating disorder. The superintendent of the hospital stated that they resorted to force feeding Violet as she did not “retain food well” and her weight was a concern. However, in a letter to her family two weeks later, Violet noted that the staff were “kind and helpful” and the food was “delicious,” but she was just too anxious to finish her meals because she was worried about her mother, Danske, who also had a history of mental illness and particularly struggled after the deaths of Violet’s two younger siblings. Danske passed away from suicide during one of Violet’s stays at the hospital, but the nature of her death was concealed from Violet by doctors and family members out of concern for her well-being.

Violet was involved in the movement for women’s suffrage, and by 1915, she was regularly making donations, attending local meetings, and subscribing to suffragist newspapers and magazines. Violet most likely became involved in women’s suffrage before her time at the hospital, as the superintendent in February of 1914 claimed that Violet “wishe[d] to die on account of man’s injustice to woman.” Violet also had a deep love and appreciation for the environment, being arrested twice when she was 52 years old for interfering with a company’s plan to cut down local trees. She found inspiration for her poems and her art in nature, particularly trees. Sometime after being released from the hospital, Violet moved back to her family home to raise sheep and live with her cousin, Nina Mitchell, both never marrying.

During the 1940s, Mary Katharine Kern, a graduate student at Duke University, contacted Violet to learn more about Danske Dandridge for her thesis on poets of the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. The acknowledgments of her thesis and correspondence from the curator at the time indicate that the library acquired the Dandridge Family Papers from Violet as a purchase. The library also acquired Violet’s cousin Nina Mitchell’s papers, which also hold traces of Violet’s story.  Violet died on November 7, 1956, at age 78 after returning to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for further treatment related to mental illness.

In the fall semester of 2019, we shared the letters sent from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital as primary evidence of early twentieth century treatment of women with mental illness with students in Seth LeJacq’s Writing 101 course on Women and Western Medicine. These letters provided a poignant complement to this course’s analysis of texts like Charlotte Perkins Gilman book The Yellow Wall-paper. Violet’s papers are a unique portrait of women’s involvement in science and politics as well as personal experiences with mental illness in the early 1900s.

Sources:
Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

W. E. B. DuBois in the Charles N. Hunter Papers

Post contributed by Lucy Dong, T’20,  Middlesworth Social Media and Outreach Fellow (2019-2020)

Back in February, I was busy combing the archives for cool stories and important figures in black history to share on our social media (follow us on Instagram!) That’s when Dr. Trudi Abel,  Research Services Archivist, tipped me off to an interesting find in the Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 , a black educator, journalist, and reformer from Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hunter papers are all digitized, so you can check them out even while the Rubenstein is closed.

Dr. Abel has taught a course called Digital Durham for many years, and she’s found that the Charles N. Hunter Papers are especially underutilized for what it reveals about education of black students in Durham. For example, in some of his correspondence, we get insight into the beginning days of what was called the Durham Colored Graded School. Later named the Whitted School after their principal Rev. James A. Whitted (Durham’s first black principal), the Durham Colored Graded School was created in response to the earlier Durham Graded School which gave only white students access to the modern graded model of teaching by age group.

Among letters to other educators, the nation’s first black congressmen, and more personal family matters, there’s a letter from prominent black scholar W. E. B Du Bois.  Du Bois and Booker T. Washington happened to visit Durham in the same year, both commenting on the rich culture and entrepreneurial spirit of its black community during Reconstruction. One primary symbol of that prosperity was North Carolina Mutual Insurance, created by black entrepreneurs to serve their community, which established (white) insurance companies refused to service. NC Mutual paved the way for a flourishing, though segregated, black business district.

Washington saw Durham as a great example of black people helping themselves out of poverty and saw segregation as a reasonable means to achieve “racial self-help and uplift.” Du Bois celebrated the success of Durham’s black community, but generally pushed harder to demand full civil rights. In this letter, Du Bois is seeking recommendations for someone to help him do some sociological studies on social improvement in black communities, especially pertaining to the South.

Front and back of handwritten letter from DuBois to Hunter. On letterhead from Atlanta University.

Can you make out all the words here? Dr. Abel regularly has her students do transcription projects to become familiar with reading older documents. The handwriting is not the easiest thing to read, but thanks to contextual clues and some corrections by Dr. Abel, I came up with the following:

Dr. A.B. Hunter, Dean Sir:

You have perhaps heard of the sociological studies of the Negro people which we are making here; we have already made a little inquiry with Negro health and dwellings and we want this year if possible to conduct a short investigation into the organizational efforts of Negro for social improvement. I enclose blanks[survey forms] indicating the scope of the questions. Is there anyone in your school who would be disposed to take charge of the inquiry for the city of Raleigh? I desire very much to have some reliable person interested in the matter to take hold of it and report to the conference. Due credit will of course be given. If you recommend someone kindly turn the blanks over to him and ask him to write me as to the number of each kind he will need. Thanking you in advance for the favor, I am

Very Truly Yours,
W. E. B DuBois

But wait, I thought these were the records of Charles N. Hunter, not A. B. Hunter. Were they related? Why was this piece of correspondence included in Charles N. Hunter’s personal records? A separate letter provides our missing link:

Handwritten letter from A.B. Hunter to Charles Hunter, on letterhead for St. Augustines School in Raleigh, NC.

My dear Mr. Hunter,

I enclose Prof. DuBois’ letter and have written him that you were hopefully most familiar with the societies he indicated in his letter. I hope you will be able to undertake the work. I regard his investigation as of very great importance. Will you kindly write him.

Very truly yours,
A.B. Hunter

Rev A. B. Hunter, Dean of St. Augustine’s School – now St. Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh – recommended Charles N. Hunter to help with Du Bois’ study. Quick searches into ancestry records and census documents did not indicate a familial connection.

Thanks to Dr. Abel for this fun experience piecing together the context and the connections between these three black educators. It was exciting to first interpret the handwritten letter, then search for the reason it was included in this collection and learn a little more about Durham’s past. Such are the small thrills of doing work in the archives–turning over fragile pieces of history to uncover things I didn’t know I didn’t know.