Category Archives: Bingham Center

May 23rd: The Menopause Monologues

Color illustration of the anatomy of the uterus and ovaries. From The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.
Plate II, “Structure of Womb and Ovaries” from The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.

Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu,
RSVP or share via Facebook (optional)

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.”

The reading complements an exhibit, The Change of Life: Menopause and Our Changing Perspectives, on display through July 14 in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Co-sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Emma Goldman Papers – Newly Available

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.

A white woman, Emma Goldman, is phtographed from the waist up, leaning against the back of a chair. She is wearing pince-nez glasses and looking away from the camera to the right.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.

Letter from Goldman to unnamed comrade, 1909. Click for full letter

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.

The Emma Goldman Papers are available for on-site use in Rubenstein’s reading room and online within the Duke Libraries’ Digital Collections.

Ticket to lecture by Goldman, 1933.

Courageous and Audacious Ladies of Llangollen

Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby sitting at table with books and cat
A depiction of the Ladies of Llangollen (late 1800s)

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.

Manuscript with hand-writing
Letter from Sarah Ponsonby to Sarah Tighe, September 17, 1785 from the Ladies of Llangollen collection

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.

Painting of Ladies of Llangollen on the porcelain, showing ladies in dark clothes and top hats.
Porcelain basket with color image of the Ladies of Llangollen.

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.

Two women in dark riding clothes and top hats.
Figurine of Ladies of Llangollen in their riding habits.

The newly-processed Ladies of Llangollen collection was received as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin collection in 2015.

Sojourner Truth’s Narrative

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.

1850 edition of Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Title page and frontispiece portrait of the first edition of ‘Narrative,’ 1850.

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.

Continue reading Sojourner Truth’s Narrative

#28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

Post contributed by Rubenstein Library staff

Materials from various collections at the Rubenstein Library that feature African Americans.
Photos from collections in the Rubenstein Library that will be featured during Black History Month.

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:

Twitter: twitter.com/rubensteinlib

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rubensteinlib/

Franklin Center Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JHFResearchCen

Franklin Center twitter: twitter.com/JHFResearchCen

Look for the #28daysofblack, #bhm, #blackbooks, and #blackarchives hashtags.

Here’s a brief rundown of the projects we will be working on for #28daysofblack:

SNCC Legacy Project

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

Contract that binds newly-freed African Americans to the Plains Plantation in Mississippi.
Newly acquired Freedmen’s contract, 1865.

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

Destroyed office of Radio Haiti.
Radio Haiti in 1986.

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.

Continue reading #28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

October 31st: Screamfest V

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:

The Duke Blue Devil in a clown-like costume, ca. 1930s

An early version of our very own Blue Devil mascot lingers before the Chapel.

Photo of our limited edition copy of Stephen King's "IT."

A copy of Stephen King’s IT, ca. 1986.

Photo of four Halloween postcards

From our Postcard Collection, a selection of Halloween postcards.

Photo of a page from “Puppets and the Puppet Theater" showing puppets.

Black and white images of puppets from Puppets and the Puppet Theater.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 31st from 1:30-3:30 PM for a most festive open house certain to rouse the spirits!

Dreamers & Dissenters: Carl Corley and Gay Activism Before Stonewall

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.

Corley, pictured here at Guadalcanal, served as a scout and quick-sketch artist in the Marines during World War II.

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.

The published cover for A Fool’s Advice (1967), in which a rural young man struggles to reconcile his sexuality and his religion.

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.

Original cover art for Jesse, Man of the Streets (1968), which explores the torrid world of city hustlers.

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.

 

Oct. 24th: Remembering Kate Millett

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Time: 5:30-6:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library Room 153
Contact: Laura Micham,

Please join the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a program honoring the memory of feminist writer, artist, and activist Kate Millett (1934-2017) with readings and reflections.

Kate Millett’s papers have been at the heart of the Bingham Center’s collections since 2000, and have inspired much scholarship, enhancing our understanding of the world. (Read more.)

Speakers will include Kimberly Lamm, Toril Moi, Sylvia Herbold, Heather McGowan, Kathy Rudy, Naomi Nelson, and others.

Co-sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture; Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies; and the Forum for Scholars and Publics.

Breaking Every Taboo: A Remembrance of Kate Millett (1934-2017)

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Laura Micham, and Laurin Penland. 

Kate Millett at the Los Angeles Women’s Center, 1977, photographed by Michiko Matsumoto. Kate Millett papers

We were saddened to learn of Kate Millett’s passing on September 6, 2017. As many people have been writing and speaking about her legacy, we realized we are not alone in trying to grapple with the significance of her contributions to the feminist movement, to the creation of feminist theory, to the art world, to writing, to LGBTQ activism, to advocacy for mental health reform, and to many, many other realms. Here at the Rubenstein Library, her papers have been at the heart of the Bingham Center’s collections since 2000, and have inspired much scholarship, enhancing our understanding of the world.

The Kate Millett papers in the Sallie Bingham Center provide rich documentation of Millett’s activities as a feminist activist, artist, and author. These materials reflect the intensely personal nature of much of Millett’s work and the frequent fusion of her personal, political, and professional interests. Materials in the collection also cover feminism and the social conditions for women around the globe, especially in France, Italy, and the Middle East—most notably Iran, where Millett traveled in the seventies.

Brochure for Women’s Liberation Cinema Company film, Three Lives, directed by Kate Millett, 1971. Kate Millett papers

Many researchers have been moved by their encounters with the writings and artwork of Kate Millett in her papers. Dr. Michelle Moravec, Associate Professor of American History and Women & Gender Studies at Rosemont College, writes:

“Working in a person’s archived papers is always an intensely intimate experience, but in Millett’s case the resonances are amplified by the emotional reactions she left scrawled across her papers. ‘Ridiculous!’ she pronounced in a scrawling red hand, across a tedious letter regarding a speaking engagement. ‘That awful Barnard thing goes on’ she sniffed in response to a request to publish her presentation from the Scholar and the Feminist Conference IX: Towards a Politics of Sexuality. Interspersed are flashes of Millett’s intellectual process, dashed off notes for one of her many lectures proclaims ‘We now have to dare everything… Writing our lives… Break every taboo.’  Long handwritten letters attest to her poignant longing to create an artistic community at The Farm, an art colony she created, the economic struggles all too familiar to female artists and writers who did not become academics, and her engagement with deeply difficult material including sexual abuse and torture.”

Born in 1934 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kate Millett was an internationally acclaimed artist, writer, and activist. A founding member of the Noho Gallery in New York City, Millet created the Women’s Art Colony Farm in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1978, and had shown her work internationally since 1963. She was known for her sculpture and installation works in addition to pen and ink drawings both abstract and figurative. Millet’s Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation, Sexual Politics (1970), placed her at the forefront of the women’s movement. Her other political works include The Prostitution Papers (1973), The Basement (1979), Going to Iran (1979) and The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment (1994). Millett also wrote a series of memoirs that combine deeply felt personal revelation with trenchant political analysis. These include Flying (1974) about her early years, Sita (1977) and Elegy for Sita (1979) the story of a tragic romantic relationship, The Loony Bin Trip (1990) Millett’s exposé of the mental health system, A.D., A Memoir (1995) in which she reflects on her early life, and Mother Millett (2002) a meditation on her upbringing in middle America and her experience as an activist and then outcast from the movements she helped to form and lead.

In these books Millett gave her readers the analytical tools and inspiration for making a revolution. Her words, such as these from Sexual Politics, will continue to resonate, “For to actually change the quality of life is to transform personality, and this cannot be done without freeing humanity from the tyranny of sexual-social category and conformity to sexual stereotype—as well as abolishing racial caste and economic class.”

Pen and ink drawing, ca. 1978. Kate Millett Papers

Many moving tributes have been published in newspapers, on websites, and on social media such as this one by Gloria Steinem on Facebook: “As Andrea Dworkin said, ‘The world was asleep, but Kate Millett woke it up.’ Sexual Politics—and all Kate’s work—will keep us Woke.” The impact of Kate Millett’s life and work cannot be overstated.

Tales of Provenance: Una Vincenzo Revealed in Three Inscriptions

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

Cover of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by Una Ashworth Taylor and newly cataloged as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.

When I open books, one of my favorite things to do is look for small signs of its previous owners, its provenance: Was the book a gift, with a thoughtful note to the recipient? Did the owner write her name, big and bold, on a flyleaf? Sometimes there are so many signs that a separate story, that of the owner, begins to emerge. This was the case with Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge and her copy of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by her aunt Una Ashworth Taylor.

Inscription by author Una Ashworth Taylor.

Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge was born in 1887 to a family steeped in literary culture. Not only did her aunt Una write Knight Asrael, but her other aunt Ida wrote several novels, contributed regularly to 19th century magazines, and published biographies on Lady Jane Gray, Queen Hortense, and Madame Roland (Palumbo-De Simone, 2004). Her grandfather, Sir Henry Taylor,  was a well-known dramatist and poet (Reger, 2004). This literary heritage is felt early on in Una Vincenzo’s copy of Knight Asrael. Una Ashworth Taylor wrote a deeply personal inscription to her nieces, one explicitly connecting baby Una and her older sister Violet to literature, to the power of reading:  “Here are your stories, Violet, for you to listen to now, to read to yourself soon, & to tell to baby when she is old enough to hear them. September-1889.”

Although it’s unclear if Violet read the chivalric stories in Knight Asrael, Una seems to have, or at the very least, she enjoyed its opening pages. On the front pages of Knight Asrael, there are exuberant blue drawings, signed by their artist: U.T.

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

While these drawings might be some of the earliest known Una Vincenzo works, they are not the last: Una trained at the Royal College of Art, ultimately focusing on sculptural works (Ormrod, 1984, p. 29). A bust of the famed Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky cast by Una now lives at the  Victoria and Albert Museum

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

Una Vincenzo left one more sign in Knight Asrael, an inscription of her own on the title page: “Radclyffe-Hall & Troubridge, Chip Chase, Hadley Wood, Herts.”

Radclyffe Hall is the author of several novels, most notably The Well of Loneliness, an influential work in lesbian literature.  She and Una met in 1915 and moved in together in 1919—after Una formally separated from her husband, Admiral Ernest Troubridge (Ormrod, 2004, p. 65, p.133).   Una and Radclyffe (also known as John) were romantic partners for 28 years, living together at Chip Chase and abroad, until Radclyffe’s death in 1943 (Baker, 2004). Una documented their lives together through photography

Inscription connecting Una Vincenzo with Radclyffe Hall and noting where they once lived together at Chip Chase.

and a biography published after Radclyffe’s death, The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. And even after death, Una continued to write letters to her beloved (Ormrod, 2004, p. 286).

When the provenance in Knight Asrael is taken together, the life and loves of Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge begins to break through: her artistic endeavors, her literary nature, and her deep love for Radclyffe Hall. Una ultimately lived to the age of 76, dying in 1963 in Rome, Italy (Ormrod, 2004, p.313).

The Rubenstein Library acquired its copy of Knight Asrael as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the lives and work of women across several centuries.

 

Works Cited

Baker, M. (2004). ‘Hall, Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe- (1880–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37878, accessed 21 July 2017]

Ormrod, R. (1985). Una Troubridge: the friend of Radclyffe Hall. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Palumbo-De Simone, C. (2004). ‘Taylor, Ida Alice Ashworth (1847–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015  http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46564, accessed 21 July 2017]

Reger, M. (2004). ‘Taylor, Sir Henry (1800–1886)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27030, accessed 21 July 2017]