Category Archives: Bingham Center

Emancipation from the Cook Stove and Getting Boys into the Kitchen: Early 20th Century Cookbooks

Post contributed by Stephanie Fell, Rare Materials Project Cataloger

When the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection was packed and shipped to Duke in early 2015, many of the materials were boxed thematically. Therefore, as we have been cataloging the collection, the materials tend to come in waves of various themes and subject matter. Lately a number of cookbooks and monographs relating to domestic arts have been coming across my desk. Some have been traditional cookbooks and domestic arts manuals, offering recipes, menus, and nutrition information, as well as advice to the home maker, from cooking, cleaning, and child care tips to household budgeting and how to decorate the home. I wanted to point out a couple of items in particular that caught my attention.

Red cover with gold. A woman kneels in front of a cook stove.
An example of the typical publisher’s binding cookbook from the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

These particular books, at first glance, are traditional cookbooks or domestic arts manuals for women to help them maintain a healthy and happy home through cooking and good housekeeping. Looking more closely, however, they contain a subversive message that rejects traditional gender roles and encourages the reader to emancipate herself from the kitchen.

Book opening to an illustration of a man and woman standing in the kitchen
Foods and home making by Carlotta C. Greer

Foods and Home Making by Carlotta C. Greer, published in 1938, was intended to be used by teachers to train boys and girls to do household tasks better. This text looks typical of the genre and time period; it includes “many suggestions and devices to stimulate pupils to participate in home activities and to do their share in making their homes attractive and happy” (page iii-iv). Upon closer examination, the “To the teacher” note includes the following advice: “Much of the material of Foods and Home Making is suitable for boys as well as girls. Knowledge of food selection is necessary for boys. Stimulation of boys’ interest in home making contributes to their appreciation of home life” (page v). The author encourages the reader to get her sons involved (and appreciate!) the work involved with sustaining and maintaining a household.

Another noteworthy feature of the Rubenstein Library’s copy is that it contains manuscript annotations indicating the owner was using the volume to prepare for an exam. Part of my work as a rare materials cataloger is to include provenance-related information such as this in the library’s catalog record in copy-specific notes. This kind of information about the book is important to include in the bibliographic record, because it shows not only how a former owner used the item, but also helps to differentiate this copy from copies at other institutions.

Book page with notes written in pencil
Manuscript annotations show a former owner’s use of the item.

Another volume I cataloged recently is Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them by Mrs. & Mrs. Eugene Christian. Published in 1904, it is dedicated to “the women of America on whom depend the future greatness of our glorious country”. This unassuming volume includes more than just recipes and housekeeping advice. Scrolling through the table of contents, the reader will find that chapter 8 is entitled “Emancipation of Woman”. The authors advocate a raw food diet — one reason for this being simplicity: “There is nothing more complicated–more laborious and more nerve-destroying, than the preparation of the alleged good dinner. There is nothing simpler, easier and more entertaining than the preparation of an uncooked dinner” (page [39]). The authors argue that eating raw foods is healthier and will “emancipate [the reader] from the slavery of the kitchen and the cook stove” (page [49]). They continue, “… the use of uncooked or natural foods will surely bring relief and freedom” (page 52). Mr. and Mrs. Christian were admittedly ahead of their time in more than one regard.

Title page of Uncooked Foods
Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them by Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Christian

As I’m cataloging the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, which documents the work of women over the last 500 years, I’m not just describing the materials bibliographically, but I’m also trying to provide relevant access points and descriptive information for researchers. In addition to these items, the Rubenstein Library holds many other volumes related to cooking and domestic life. One can find other examples of domestic arts advice for women both inside and outside of this collection through Duke University Library’s online catalog. A genre term search for “Cookbooks” will return many items in that category and a keyword search for “prescriptive literature” may yield broader results.

Curating the Self: The Dawn Langley Simmons Papers and Transgender History

Post contributed by Adrian Kane, doctoral candidate in History at the University of Washington

I travelled to the Rubenstein Library this winter, with generous support from the new Harry H. Harkins Jr. T’73 Research Grants, to conduct research for my dissertation “Narrating Sex: Transitional Bodies and ‘Expertise’ in the British Empire and Commonwealth, 1945-1970.” The Dawn Langley Simmons papers, a collection of correspondence and ephemera related to the English-born Charlestonian author, offer an unusually rich portrait of the life of a woman of transgender experience in the 1960s and 70s—one all the more valuable because Simmons played an active role in the archive’s construction.

Simmons, a prolific biographer in her own right, was keenly aware of the way textual evidence shapes memory. Her sequence of donations to Duke chronicle her 1968 transition and marriage to John-Paul Simmons—the first marriage between a white woman and Black man in South Carolina, she claimed—as well as her struggles with racist violence, housing instability and single-income working motherhood. Many of the documents bear Simmons’s marginal comments in colorful ink, explaining in-jokes or clarifying her relationship to the correspondent. Her 1975 diary, for example, closes with a list of “Points of Int.” written on the inside flyleaf, while the bland, newsy letters from her sister Fay assume a different tone in light of Simmons’s comment that Fay and her right-wing “Powellite” family refused to see her in person after her wedding.

Front endpapers of Dawn Langley Simmon's diary, showing handwritten notes by her on both sides
Front endpapers of Dawn Langley Simmons’s diary

What is largely absent from either the letters or the marginalia, however, is the suggestion that transition was a central part of her identity or a primary source of adversity in her life. Of all the letters she chose to donate only one expresses disapproval of her transition, and her friends in the United States and England alike seem to have readily adopted her new name and pronouns. This may, of course, reflect curation on her part. But even if there are deliberate gaps in the archival record, it is significant that Simmons chose to preserve vacation postcards and programs from her daughter’s Christmas pageants rather than accounts of her changing body or any hostility she endured because of it. Even today, after all, trans people are expected to recount feelings of gender-based misery in order to access basic healthcare and legal support, and, as an historian, I had assumed that the pressure to reproduce the “correct” narrative would have been still greater in the early days of the Johns Hopkins gender identity clinic. Yet Simmons seems to have taken active steps to ensure that no future biographer could reduce her life to a simplistic tale of suffering and its surgical redemption. She was a writer, a mother, a lover of antiques and old houses, a bon vivant, a restless soul with one foot planted on either side of the Atlantic—all of these aspects of her identity come to the fore in the Dawn Langley Simmons papers, and serve as a reminder that published or institutional records of transition cannot fully represent the way mid-twentieth century trans people understood themselves.

Announcing our 2019-2020 Travel Grant Recipients

The Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019-2020 travel grants! Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researchers through a competitive application process. Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants):

Emily Fleisher, Artist: Artistic project will include a series of drawings based on historic needlework that create a narrative about the lives of American women before 1920

Charlie Jeffries, Faculty, University of East Anglia: Your Best American Girl: Construction of Adolescent Sexualities in the US Culture Wars

Laura Kenner, Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University, History of Art and Architecture Department: Text, Sex, and Video: New York City’s Downtown/Underground Scene (1973-1996)

Nell Lake, Doctoral Candidate, Brown University, American Studies Department: Research for dissertation that will link 20th century moral discourse around care and domestic labor with 20th century politics of women’s work

Jessica Lapp, Doctoral Candidate, University of Toronto, Faculty of Information: The Provenance of Protest: An Exploration of Feminist Activist Archiving

Kaja Marczewska, Research Fellow, Coventry University, Centre for Postdigital Cultures: Distribute-it-Yourself: Judy Hogan and the History of North American Small Press in Circulation (1960s-1990s)

Jennifer Withrow, Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Economics Department: Three Essays on Labor and Marriage Markets: Farm Crisis and Rural-to-Urban Migration in the United States, 1920-1940

 

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture:

Selena Doss – Faculty, Western Kentucky University, Involuntary Pilgrimage: Black Southerners and Territorial Separatism, 1783-1904

John Harris – Faculty, Erskine College, Pirates of New York: The United States and the Final Era of the Illegal Slave Trade, 1850-1867

Jacqueline Fewkes – Faculty, Florida Atlantic University, American Mosques: An Ethnohistory of Space, Memory, and Muslim-American Community

Crystal Sanders – Faculty, Penn State, America’s Forgotten Migration: Black Graduate Education in the Age of Jim Crow

Kali Tambree – Doctoral Candidate UCLA, Enslaved African peoples who jump off of the slave ship as it is en route to the Americas

Charles Weisenberger – Doctoral Candidate, University of Massachusetts-Amherst “The Telfair Family and the Antebellum One Percent: Slavery in the Early United States, 1735-1875”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History:

Sarah Arnold, Faculty, Maynooth University, Department of Media: Television, Technology and Gender: New Platforms and New Audiences

Mark Bartholomew, Faculty, University of Buffalo, School of Law: “Advertising Outrage and its Legal Regulation”

Rachel Kirby, Doctoral Candidate, Boston University, American and New England Studies: Study of visual representation of Southern agricultural products

Shayan Lallani, Doctoral Candidate, University of Ottowa, Department of History: Cultural Globalization in the Caribbean: Dining and the American Middle-Class Turn in Cruise Ship Tourism, 1920-2016

Adam Mack, Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Liberal Arts Department: Limitless: Supermarkets and the Dilemma of Choice

Brent Malin, Faculty, Pittsburgh University, Department of Communications: Ordinary and Necessary: A History of the American Tax Deduction for Advertising

James McElroy, Doctoral Candidate, University of Minnesota, Department of History: Racial Segregation and Market Segregation: The Late-Twentieth Century History of the American City Supermarket, 1960-1990

Emily Morgan, Faculty, Iowa State University, Department of Visual Culture: Imagining Animal Industry: Visualizing the American Meatpacking Trade, 1890-1980

Robert Terrell, Faculty, Syracuse University, Department of History: The People’s Drink: The Politics and Culture of German Beer in the Twentieth Century

Emily Westkaemper, Faculty, James Madison University, Department of History: Career Women: Image and Reality in U.S. Popular Culture, 1940-2000

 

History of Medicine Collections:

Matthew Barrett, Doctoral Candidate, Queen’s University, History Department: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Doctor: Medical Attitudes toward Homosexuality and the Court-Martial of Dr. Percy E. Ryberg

Kelly O’Donnell, Faculty, Thomas Jefferson University, College of Humanities and Sciences: Study of the role doctors’ wives played in the medical profession, recasting the history of American health care by focusing on the women behind the “great men” of medicine

Laura Smith, Doctoral Candidate, University of Arkansas, History Department: Southern Doctors from Southern Communities: Medical Education and Professionalization in the Nineteenth-Century South

 

Human Rights Archive (Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grants):

Meghan Gibbons, Independent Researcher: Nationalism and Maternal Protest in the US, El Salvador, and Argentina

Gabrielle Girard, Doctoral Candidate, Princeton University, History Department: Modeling Democracy: The Global History of an Argentine Human Rights Experiment, 1978-1991

Michael Jones, Doctoral Candidate, Tulane University, Department of Political Science: Blood & Peace in the Hills of Africa: Post-conflict Institutions in Comparison

Zachary Norman, Faculty, University of Utah, Department of Art & Art History: “Researching Images of Incarceration: Developing Visual Art & Studies Courses to be Taught Inside”

Mira Rai Waits, Faculty, Appalachian State University, Department of Art: Colonial Carcerality: The Birth of the Modern Prison in India

 

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History:

Jonathan Coleman, Independent Researcher: Anywhere, Together: A Queer History of Kentucky

Benjamin Serby, Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University, History Department: Gay Liberation and the Politics of the Self in Postwar America

 

Photographic Research Grants, Co-Sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts and the History of Medicine Collections:

Rachel Fein-Smolinski, Faculty, Syracuse University, Department of Transmedia: “Sex Lives of Animals Without Backbones: A Study of the Aesthetics of Pain and Courage Within the Western Healthcare System”

 

We look forward to working with you all!

Developing a Code of Ethics for Rubenstein Library Instruction Sessions

So far this academic year, Rubenstein librarians have taught 132 class sessions (though we won’t finalize these numbers until the end of the spring semester). You’d think that’d be enough to fill our time, but we’ve also been meeting monthly to discuss our individual teaching practices and how to improve our students’ experiences in our class sessions. We want to inspire confident special collections researchers for life!

Through our discussions, we realized that we often returned to couple of key points about archives and primary source research in our class sessions. We’d broach those points on an ad hoc basis as they arose in classes, but we wondered if starting our class sessions off with a shared understanding of those points would be useful, reassuring, and perhaps even empowering for our students.

We’ve followed the development of codes of ethics for different spaces and organizations within (and beyond) our profession and thought that model might also work for us. Early this semester, we drafted and began implementing what we’re calling our approach to classes at the Rubenstein Library. (“Code of ethics” seemed so heady that it might have the unfortunate effect of tamping down student engagement.) Here is what we developed:

Explore and be curious! Our class sessions are interactive, hands-on opportunities to look at lots of materials, so take advantage of this time. Challenge yourself to look (even briefly) at items that don’t initially catch your interest—you might be surprised at what you discover.

Our class sessions seek to be inclusive, offering multiple perspectives, viewpoints, or lived experiences, but may not include the voices of every population for a number of reasons. Let’s talk in class about the voices that aren’t being presented.

The background, experience, and knowledge you bring to this class session are valuable. There isn’t one right interpretation of a historical document. Please listen carefully and treat everyone’s responses respectfully.

The material you encounter in this session has the potential to be uncomfortable or upsetting. Be kind to yourself and recognize your limits. You can look at something else or even step out of the room to take a break.

When working with historical documents, you may encounter racist, oppressive, or outdated language in the documents themselves or in the archival record. When we discuss these items, we will want to use terms that reflect the ways these communities describe themselves today.

Later this month, we’ll come together as a group of instructors to talk about how we’ve been able to incorporate the code into our class sessions—but informal reports suggest it’s been useful! Our practice has generally been to give students two to three minutes to individually read over the code (presented on a slide) and then talk as a class about any questions they might have and how the individual points in the code might come up in the class session.

Color photograph of librarian teaching the code of ethics to a class session. The code appears projected on a screen behind her. Students sit at a conference table in front of the screen.
A Rubenstein librarian teaches our new instruction code of ethics in a recent class session.

We see this as a living document that we’ll continue to refine and add to as needed. So please do let us know what you think and feel free to borrow or adapt our instruction code of ethics for your own class sessions!

Teaching & Learning with Artists’ Books

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

In the fall 2018 semester, I worked with students in two sections of Dr. Amanda Wetsel’s Writing 101 course, Photography and Anthropology to introduce them to the Rubenstein Library’s collection of artists’ books.

As context, Dr. Wetsel shared that students in Photography and Anthropology consider how anthropologists have treated photographs both as an object of inquiry and a means of communicating their findings.  She writes, “As they read both early and contemporary anthropological texts, students think about multiple ways words and images interact. They then conduct ethnographic research on a photographic genre here at Duke, such as lock screen photographs, Instagram accounts, and displays of photos in dorm rooms.”  As a final project, several students used the format of an artists’ book to convey their findings with words and photographs.

After their research visit, Dr. Wetsel reflected on how the works the students explored during their session inspired them to think creatively about their own projects:

Viewing artists’ books at the Rubenstein prompted students to think about how the form of a book can reflect its content, how to create powerful texts and format those texts creatively, and ways of making books engaging.  As they unfolded the game board of Julie Chen’s A Guide to Higher Learning, stretched Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip across the table, tugged down the staircase-like accordion folds of text on Clarissa Sligh’s What’s Happening with Momma and unrolled the delicate, cigarette-shaped scrolls of Amy Pirkle’s Smoke, students thought about how they could adapt the forms to communicate their own research.  We’re fortunate to have a range of creative and beautiful artists’ books at the Rubenstein for students to touch, read, and use as inspiration.   The form of the artists’ book allowed the students to combine text and photos in powerful and unexpected ways.

Kim’s “A View into the Wallpaper”

Joanne Kim, ’22, created a book entitled A View into the Wallpaper. The book itself resembles a cell phone, a box which opens to reveal four smaller icon-shaped boxes. She writes:

Detail from “A View into the Wallpaper”

The transition from home to college life is a daunting change which necessitates adaptation and the reconciliation of homesickness, and in some cases, existentialism. At Duke University, freshmen female and male students handle change differently. Female students respond by physically displaying the change in spaces such as their cellphone lock and home screen wallpaper. Male students seek some consistency in a major time of change, and therefore, keep their lock and home screen wallpapers the same through the transition. All the while, both genders utilize the space as a means of protecting and discovering their core identities throughout their freshman year and beyond.

Joshua Li, ’22, describes his piece Lily as having “six long and blue trapezoidal flaps with a Rubik’s cube at the center.” Each flap as an image of a meme which he presents as a form of community building, and the cube can be removed and played with separately. He shared a quote from the text in the book:

Memes function like a societal adhesive, a catalyst for unity in the ultra-diverse Duke community, as these witty photographs have for many years brought people together through shared laughter and warmth. Similar to how creating and looking at memes promote harmony, solving a Rubik’s cube enables one to achieve that same sense of harmony by restoring order to the scrambled and disorganized faces of the cube.

“Lily,” opened
“Lily,” closed

He titled his book Lily “not only because the end product looked like the flower, but also because in Chinese culture lilies symbolize harmony and unity, which was the main conclusion from my research.” He continues, “The fact that the meme cube is at the center of a display made up of Duke colors (or close to Duke colors – the 3D printers here don’t bleed Duke Blue and white apparently) emphasizes the theme of memes being at the center of Duke University.”

Women’s Work in the Woods: Women Loggers During World War I

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

Today’s blog post features a photograph album of 20 gelatin silver prints that depict women loggers at work in England during World War I. This item is from the  Lisa Unger Baskin Collection which documents women’s work across the centuries, from the 13th to the 20th. We chose to highlight this photograph album because it unites two of the Rubenstein’s collecting areas, women’s history and documentary photography.

Red leather spine of book.
The Great War: Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods.

Although the title, Glimpses of Women’s Work in the Woods, verges on the whimsical, these photographs show young women hard at work doing the grueling manual labor that, until the Great War, had been done almost exclusively by men.

Woman swinging axe.
Timber felling near Petworth. A typical feller using her axe on a small fir tree.

The women depicted in the photographs were members of the Timber Corps. During World War I, forestry, like many male-dominated industries, was left critically under-staffed and the British government encouraged women to do their part for the war effort by taking on these vital jobs. The images show women loggers felling trees with hand-axes and saws, trimming and “barking” felled trees, carrying logs, and driving horses. These photographs were taken in the summer of 1918 around the towns of Petworth and Heathfield in Sussex, England.

Photograph of tree falling and women fellers.
The tree falling.
Photograph of 6 women scraping the bark off three logs.
Heathfield. “Barking.”
5 women carrying a log.
Heathfield. Carrying the poles out of the wood.
Photograph of two horses and two women.
Timber felling near Petworth. Horse girls bringing logs down to railroad.

These images were captured by Horace Nicholls, a British documentary photographer and photojournalist. He had been a war correspondent during the Second Boer War and later returned to England to work as a photojournalist. Prevented from serving in World War I due to his age, in 1917 he became an official photographer for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial War Museum, documenting life on the home front.

The series was not issued commercially and the album in the Baskin Collection appears to be a unique production. The 20 gelatin silver prints are carefully mounted on cream card stock with gilt edges. The binding is full red leather with the title in gold on the front cover and spine. Each print has a hand lettered caption. Click this link to view the full catalog record.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2019-2020 Travel Grant Program

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2019-2020 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts, will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

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

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2019. Recipients will be announced in March 2019.

126 Years of Fascination with Lizzie Borden

Post Contributed by Michelle Runyon, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture Graduate Intern.

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found after being murdered with an ax. Andrew’s daughter Lizzie was immediately suspected and she was subsequently tried for the couple’s murders. The public was entranced with the grisly crime and Lizzie Borden’s trial. Many were unpleasantly surprised when she was acquitted of her father’s and stepmother’s murders. Lizzie Borden continued to live in her hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, until her death even though she was ostracized by the community.

Even since her death in 1927, Lizzie Borden has continued to catch the public imagination. In the 126 years since Bordens’ murders, there have been books, podcast episodes (for example, Unsolved Murders Episode 23), movies, and even an opera which tells the gruesome story of the the Bordens’ murders. The Duke Libraries holds dozens of works inspired by the story of Lizzie Borden.

Here at the Rubenstein Library, we have a few different items related to Lizzie Borden and her trial, including a two-volume scrapbook that details Lizzie Borden’s trial through contemporary newspaper clippings. Although we are not certain who compiled the scrapbooks, their existence is evidence of the public’s fascination with the Borden murders from the beginning and the attention that was paid to Lizzie’s trial.

Photograph of opened scrapbook. Clippings from newspapers have been pasted in. The text is very small and the newspaper browning at the edges.
Clippings in the Lizzie Borden scrapbooks, Rubenstein Library

The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection includes a brief manuscript relaying events in Fall River surrounding the two murders  and an autograph album collected by Jennie Nuttall, a resident of Fall River, MA, which includes a verse and signature by Borden from before the murders took place. This volume will be included in 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection exhibit opening at the Rubenstein on February 27, 2019.

We also have an album in the Bobbye S. Ortiz Papers featuring a song about Lizzie Borden, as sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio!

composite image showing the front of the album "The Best of chad Mitchell Trio" on the left and the reverse listing the track listing on the right. The first track on the album is "Lizzie Borden"
Front and back cover “The Best of Chad Mitchell Trio,” from the Bobbye Ortiz collection

As evidenced by the release this year of film entitled Lizzie inspired by her story, Lizzie Borden continues to be a figure of macabre fascination to many. Her story and the stories of the murders are retold time and time again.

“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.

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