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.
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)
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
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.
You are cordially invited to a dramatic reading of excerpts from pertinent texts that will bring to life the voices of women and men, past and present, whose perspectives on menopause range from “the historical to the hysterical.” In addition to the readings, individuals are also encouraged to share their own stories and experiences of “the change.”
Post contributed by Mary Kallem, field experience student in the Bingham Center and master’s student at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.
Few anarchists have gained as much mainstream recognition as Emma Goldman, an iconic figure in labor organizing, feminist history, and prison abolition. The Bingham Center acquired a sizable collection of Goldman’s papers as part of the larger Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the history of women at work.
Dating from 1909 to 1940, the Emma Goldman Papers reflect radical community labor amidst state repression, the financial instability of writers and activists, and a tumultuous political landscape. Goldman’s prescience remains apparent today.
These papers illuminate a historical understanding that reaches beyond her as an individual. In addition to providing an intimate picture of her financial, political, and social lives, this collection also reveals the relational network that constituted anarchist organizing and publishing of her time.
With over 300 letters, the collection includes both the revolutionary and quotidian aspects of the relationships between Goldman and her comrades, including Alexander “Sascha” Berkman, Eugene Debs, Alexander Schapiro, and Thomas Keell. The collection also features published material, handwritten articles from Errico Malatesta and Emma Goldman, photographs, ephemera, and more.
This collection of Goldman papers has been in the hands of a private collector until recently, and it is now being opened to the public for the first time. The day-to-day correspondence may be the most striking element of the collection, given its familiar nature: whether asking to borrow money, lamenting poor book sales, or mutually gathering hope, these letters reflect struggle. For those who continue to fight for social change, there is a solidarity to be found in these shared material and emotional conditions.
Post contributed by Heather McGowan, Public Services Intern for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture
Eleanor Butler was the youngest daughter of the Earl of Ormonde of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. Her siblings wed and secured their family’s future, but in 1778 39-year-old Eleanor had no plans to marry. Her brother threatened a nunnery and life in a convent for Eleanor.
Twelve miles away, 23-year-old orphaned Sarah Ponsonby, was facing the unwanted sexual advances of her cousin and guardian Sir William Fownes. As Lady Betty Fownes became ill, Sir William was waiting for the day he could call Sarah his new Lady Fownes.
Both women were trapped in unbearable situations. The Ladies met in 1768, Eleanor was appointed Sarah’s tutor and the two formed a deep friendship. They decided to run away to England together and missed the ferry, forcing the two women to hide in a barn. They were caught and taken home. When Sarah became ill, Eleanor ran away to Sarah’s home at Woodstock and hid in Sarah’s bedroom, where Sarah’s maid Mary Carryll smuggled food in to the room. Eleanor was found again, but her family refused to take her back. After a few days, Sarah’s family let them go. The Butlers agreed to provide Eleanor with an annual income of £200, and Sarah’s beloved cousin, Mrs. Sarah Tighe, agreed to a yearly supplement of £80.
In 1778, the Ladies, along with their maid Mary, eloped to the rural vale of Llangollen in Wales and settled down for a life of “delightful retirement.” The Ladies redesigned their cottage in the Gothic style, and spent 50 years studying literature, learning languages, and piecing together a collection of woodcarvings and other works of art. The letters that make up the majority of the Ladies of Llangollen collection in Rubenstein Library are written from Sarah to her cousin, Mrs. Sarah Tighe, who hesitantly accepted the Ladies’ lifestyle.
The two Sarahs wrote to each other for the remainder of Ponsonby’s life about their lives in Ireland and Llangollen. Tighe kept Ponsonby abreast of political happenings (revolutions and counter-revolutions in Ireland between the 1770s and 1820), as well as social and family matters at home, while Ponsonby told Tighe of her idyllic life iwth Eleanor reading, gardening, and enjoying the culture in Llangollen.
Despite their hopes to live a life of quiet retreat, their elopement catapulted the Ladies into the nineteenth century press. The highest echelons of cultural and social elites found their way to the door of the Ladies home, Plas Newydd. They entertained up to 20 visitors a day; William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Walter Scott and even Queen Charlotte all came to talk and spend time with the Ladies of Llangollen. Questions about the nature of the Ladies ‘romantic friendship,’ circulated around this extraordinary pair both during and well after their lifetimes. Eleanor was described as masculine, while Sarah was seen as more feminine, but once in Llangollen, both cropped their hair and wore dark riding habits. The Ladies shared a home and a life of devotion in their retreat at Llangollen. Eleanor Butler died on June 2, 1829 and three years later Sarah Ponsonby died in December of 1832. Upon Sarah’s death, Plas Newydd was publicly sold.
In addition to the letters in the collection, the Ladies of Llangollen, their home, and Llangollen itself are thoroughly documented in drawings, photographs, and print materials produced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their position as courageous and audacious Irish aristocrats who broke away from the constraints of convention gained them substantial notoriety.
This collection, especially the objects and printed material, capture the world’s curiosity about the Ladies’ life. Their images were printed on tea cups, figurines, prints, and postcards, and their story was told and retold in accounts by neighbors, friends, and visitors to Llangollen. As a result, Llangollen became a destination and an ongoing source of fascination because of the two ladies who risked everything to live the life they always dreamed of, together.
Post contributed by Jessica Janecki and Lauren Reno
Over the past few years, the Rubenstein Library acquired some early editions of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth. These new acquisitions allowed catalogers in the Technical Services department to reevaluate and re-catalog these editions of the Narrative according to more current standards. We were surprised to find upon searching OCLC, the union catalog used by libraries around the world, that authorship for the Narrative was given to Olive Gilbert in most of the catalog records for various editions. This gave us pause and cause to look more closely at the history of the Narrative, the life of Sojourner Truth, and ultimately how to approach the cataloging of one of the most important books of the 19th century by one of the foremost abolitionists and feminists.
The attribution to Gilbert is problematic given that the first edition in 1850 and subsequent editions to 1878 reference Truth as the author in the publication statement with wording such as, “Printed for the Author,” or “Published for the Author.” Cursory research would show that Truth acted as her own publisher and distributor. This statement confirms that she also considered herself the author. Additionally, Gilbert’s name does not appear anywhere on any 19th century editions of the Narrative. Meaning, those attributing authorship to Gilbert had to be conducting some research into the history of the Narrative, and were likely to come across the fact that Truth was also the publisher and distributor.
What emerged when we looked at more recent research, mostly consulting Nell Irvin Painter’s biography Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, was unsurprisingly that the history of the writing and publication of the Narrative is complex. This however does not account for this century-long misattribution of authorship.
Happy Black History Month! This year we’ll be celebrating #28daysofblack by sharing materials from the Rubenstein Library’s collections and by highlighting our work on current projects. Stay tuned to follow our rare materials catalogers and manuscript archivists as they catalog and process collections that feature black authors, activists, artists, characters, entrepreneurs, and families. You will also be hearing regularly from John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. John will be posting about the SNCC Legacy project, among many other things. You can follow us on our various social media platforms:
In the 1960s a group of brash young organizers worked alongside local people in the Deep South to change the direction of America. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a key catalyst for mobilizing grassroots activists to address voting and political power, economic equity, education, and civil rights. Over the last three years, the SNCC Digital Gateway project has worked to create an online platform that highlights the work of SNCC activists, mentors and allies using primary sources from our library and libraries across the country.
Contract with freedmen on Plains Plantation, 1865 June 8-August 28
This worn and creased contract was once framed and ostensibly hung on someone’s wall. It contains language binding newly-freed African Americans and their children to the Plains Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi and was signed not even a month after the Civil War was over. According to the contract, the laborers committed to working every day “from sun to sun,” except Sunday, with other possible days off. They were to be paid one quarter of the net proceeds for the crop. Surnames of the freedmen include: Wilson, Thompson, Digg, Turner, Lonsway, Hatton, Clement, Willis, Payne, West, Blair, Garner, Kelley, Arran, and Johnson. The contract was written in iron gall ink, which caused corrosion of the paper. It now has a catalog record and a collection guide and is currently with Duke Libraries’ Conservation Department to receive repairs and proper housing.
Radio Haiti is an ongoing, multi-year project to create a trilingual (Haitian Creole, French, and English) public-facing digital archive of all the audio of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Our goal is to make the content as accessible as possible to people living in Haiti.
In February, we are going to finish up the processing of Radio Haiti’s papers, and archivist Laura Wagner will be traveling to Haiti to continue to do outreach around the project and to distribute flash drives with a large selection of Radio Haiti audio (around 500 recordings) to libraries in Haiti.
Allen Building Takeover
February 13th will mark the 49th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke in 1969. This month we’ll be continuing work on the Vice President for Student Affairs Records, which include materials documenting the events during and after the Allen Building Takeover. Some items of note include eye-witness accounts of events written by students as well as materials documenting the administration’s planning for an African and African-American Studies Program in the wake of the Allen Building Takeover.
Post contributed by Sierra Moore, Library Assistant for Research Services
Date: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 Time: 1:30-3:30 PM Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room Contact: Rubenstein Library front desk, 919-660-5822
As all Hallows’ Eve draws near there are a multitude of reasons why you might traipse through all places dark, gloomy, and strange. Here at the Rubenstein Library your travels will be far less perilous. Nonetheless, we have compiled samples from collections containing chilling texts and photographs certain to both entertain, enchant, and imbibe the type of intrigue you seek. Here is a brief preview of what we have in store:
An early version of our very own Blue Devil mascot lingers before the Chapel.
Post contributed by Hannah Givens, Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia
This post is part of the Dreamers & Dissenters series, in which we highlight Rubenstein Library collections that document the work of activists and social justice organizations. In this series we hope to lend our voices, and those of the people whose collections we preserve, to the reinvigorated spirit of activism across the United States and beyond.
In America, queer history often seems to have “begun” with the Stonewall uprising in 1969, but over the past twenty years, historians have become increasingly interested in pulp fiction as a site of identity and community-building immediately before that. However, pulp novels are often not preserved, their authors remain anonymous or secretive, and their readerships have never been easy to study. Likewise, Southern queer history is a developing field hampered by a widespread misconception that queer history happens only in cities. Southern pulp author and artist Carl Corley serves as a case study that sheds light on both the gay pulp genre and queer Southern history. Corley’s life is well documented in his collection of papers, art, and published books and in the papers of historian John Howard, both held by the Rubenstein Library, as well as in Howard’s landmark book, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (University of Chicago Press, 1999). A comprehensive digital collection of Corley work is now available online at www.carlcorley.com as the public component of a master’s degree thesis recently completed for the University of West Georgia’s public history program.
As a gay pulp author and artist from Mississippi and Louisiana who published under his own name, Corley is at once a unique and a potentially representative figure. His life and work demonstrate that queer Southerners participated in communities and engaged in a national dialogue about queerness. Corley also challenged readers to accept queer people in society with speeches he included in books like A Lover Mourned (1967):
But in this society, … this love of man for man is not a thing which will last. … Someday, maybe it will last. But not now. It’s impossible. We are doomed and condemned and damned from the start. We are pointed out on the streets, made the butt of ill-timed jokes, ridiculed, and sneered at. There is no place that we can go and hide and live out the burning energy of such a love. We cannot live together with a lover because the law will evict us, and if not the law then the people who are our neighbors.
Corley’s books probably suffered some editorial intervention in the form of tacked-on sad endings, and many of his books contain the usual references to being led astray into a world of homosexual torment. Usually no such event actually happens in the story and overt pro-gay statements substantially outweigh these occasional twilight references. Corley did not shy away from gay-bashing and violence in his plots, but frequently indulged in editorializing on behalf of his characters, explaining that discrimination was the root cause of any perceived misery in gay life. The conclusion of Corley’s highly autobiographical first novel, A Chosen World (1966), is entirely given to this sort of advocacy. Scholars generally assume that readers were savvy enough to simply ignore added moralizing, and thus embrace Corley’s work as empowering.
Corley’s main contribution to the body of gay literature was his rural perspective. He was known for “specializ[ing] in romantic stories about boys from the country,” and his plots show a complex relationship between the country and the city. The mainstream narrative construction for rural queer people is a journey to the city where anonymity allows one to associate with other queer people and come out. However, with a growing academic interest in rural queer studies, a counternarrative has emerged showing how many queer people have lived in rural areas permanently, and that such regions may not be as hostile to queer people as they have been stereotyped. Corley falls somewhere in between. For him the city can be overwhelming, and may contain corrupting influences, but can also offer opportunities and places to meet other queer people. His young rural protagonist frequently makes a trip to the big city (usually Baton Rouge or New Orleans), where he discovers the existence of a queer subculture. However, although some characters stay in the city and begin participating in this culture, many of return to idyllic country life or express regret for leaving. Corley glorifies the rural South as a place where gay couples can be free, happy, dignified, and in harmony with nature, if only their families and neighbors will give them some peace.
While queer activist organizations existed in the 1950s, they were arguably much more secretive than the pulp fandom, and unlike popular fiction they failed to engage queer people where they were, both spatially and socially. They did not attract large numbers of members or subscribers until the 1970s after Stonewall. Also, while activist societies often craved respectability in the 1950s and 1960s, queer media embraced pleasure and desire as part of sexual subjectivity. Many more gay men read pulps than the Mattachine Review, and at the same time, in a time when overt gay themes never appeared on television and rarely in public discourse, the straight mainstream also learned about queer life through pulps. Serious writers like James Baldwin and Christopher Isherwood fit into this loose genre of gay fiction, but these books were hard to find since bookstores and libraries often refused to carry such risqué titles. Cheap, small pulps, on the other hand, had a distribution model based on the magazine trade, shipping directly to outlets like drugstores and train stations, including those in rural areas. As publishers became more reliable, books also came with mail-order forms so customers could purchase them directly from anywhere.
In a sociological survey conducted by Barry M. Dank in 1971, 15% of gay men said they “developed their ideas of what it means to be gay” through reading—a very high percentage compared to the general population of readers. Despite this high number, it is currently impossible to tell exactly how many people were reading pulp novels, how many of them were queer, or how many people read a specific novel or author. Still, comparisons can be made among authors. Corley was popular enough to have three of his novels reprinted in one edition, which suggests a high level of interest. Corley was a recognized author in pulp circles, perhaps a slightly odd one known for rural settings and distinctive covers, but one who contributed to a trend towards establishing gay identity, open sexuality, and demand for respect. Using his own name not only indicates his personal search for literary recognition, but also his status as a successful brand. Corley’s work made rural queerness visible. Although much of his private life remains a mystery, he left behind the most queer-positive work he could in a genre that is only now receiving recognition for the cultural change it helped create.