Category Archives: Students and Interns

Tracing “Miss Violet”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Last Minute Valentine Ideas from the Rubenstein Library

Post contributed by Amanda Lazarus, Ph.D. Candidate and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern for the Rubenstein Library.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, our love of archives, and busy/forgetful people the world over, here are three very last minute gift ideas for your Valentine, straight from the Rubenstein Archives!

Vintage Cake Recipe

If you’re a bit (or very) obsessed with GBBO and your Valentine loves sweets but isn’t into chocolate, this one’s for you!

Marian Jane Parker’s Selected Recipes and Menus for Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions (1920s) offers readers three different menus for Valentine Parties and a shortlist of recipes that vary considerably in complexity. Among these is a simple recipe for a heart-shaped cake made with pantry staples, which makes it ideal for hasty baking. Don’t have a heart-shaped cake pan? Neither did I! Just use what you have on hand and adjust the recipe quantities and baking time as needed. Since my cake was destined to feed no less than nine RL librarians, I doubled the recipe and made the sponge in two 9” round cake tins.

After 35 minutes in a 350F oven, everything was perfectly baked. I left the cake rounds to cool and moved on to the icing. Since MJP advises you to cover your cake with “white icing” without specifying any ingredients, feel free to choose your own recipe (vanilla buttercream and whipped cream are classic options), or keep things easy and use a prepared icing product. As for decorations, these can be as simple or elaborate as you like. MJP recommends you adorn your cake with small hearts, while the photograph shows her heart-shaped cake a bit more gussied-up with red and pink piping. I added a pink marzipan cover to my cake since I had some almond paste hanging around, and added strawberries—inside and out—both for the bright flavor and Valentine’s Day color. As a final touch, I cut the strawberry toppers into little hearts.

Custom Mittens

Easy, scalable, and will fly off your needles in no time!

I know what you’re thinking, “Winter’s over, it may not have even happened at all.” While that may be true-ish, here’s what I know for certain: summer is coming, which means we only have 2.5 months before Perkins undergoes its annual transformation into an ice cube. So, this Valentine’s Day, show your friends and SOs how much you care, and give them the gift of bespoke forethought and coziness. Give them the gift of handmade mittens.

This pattern for adult mittens comes from the Sarah E. Goodwin Needlework Patterns Collection, and is one of many charming designs and printed instructions for the creation of tapestries, collars, edging, capes, mittens, afghans, hoods, curtains, infant shoes, slippers that Miss Goodwin both collected and created during her life. In the 19th century, it was common for women to submit and collect needle work patterns from their local papers and women’s journals. Here, Miss Goodwin appears to have copied out one such pattern:

Rule for Knitting Mittens Mrs. M[ose?]/ Washington 1866.
22 stitches on each needle, knit an inch or more seamed, make a seam stitch each side of one of the two stiches and widen one new stitch between, knit 5 rows and widen twice just inside the two seams and so continue until long enough to commence to close the thumb. When there are 23 stitches between the two seams, take them off with a darning needle on a piece of yarn. Continue your knitting by making 8 stitches when you made the thumb knit around once. The second time slip and bind at the beginning of the 8 stitches and narrow at the end of them. Knit once plain again and narrow again as before then continue to knit to the end of the little finger these narrow once in 5 stitches and knit 5 rows, once in 4 and knit 4 rows until you finish. Take up the 8 new stitches one needle the rest on the other two, knit around and narrow twice as before. Knit plain until as high as the nail then narrow twice in each needle every other time.

After working this pattern myself, here are a few additional notes to help you get started:

Supplies*

  • 220 yard of DK weight yarn
  • US 5 / 3.75mm DPNs (double sided needles)
  • Stitch markers (paperclips work, too!)
  • Darning needle
  • Waste yarn

After you’ve cast on all your stitches (44 in total), evenly redistribute your stitches across two other needles (11 stitches over 4 needles), before joining in the round.

Happy Knitting!

New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year

Back in the mid-19th century, folks did their Valentines by the book, and this book in particular:

In addition to having the longest title I have ever seen, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or, Cupid’s Festival of Love , Containing All the Most Popular New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year (this is only the half of it), is an example of books of Valentines that became quite fashionable during the 19th century.

Typically written in a series of rhyming couplets, some of Richardson’s Valentines are sweet, while others are sour. The best, in my humble opinion, are those dedicated to a person of a particular demeanor or profession:

*Did you know you can purchase all of these supplies at the Scrap Exchange**?
**Not a sponsored post.

New Exhibit: “No One Can Suppress Archie Boston”

Post contributed by Kasia Stempniak, John W. Hartman Center intern for 2018-2019 and Ph.D. student in Duke’s Romance Studies department. 

The Hartman Center’s new exhibit, “No One Can Suppress Archie Boston,” on display through October in the Stone Family Gallery, focuses on Archie Boston, a graphic designer whose innovative and socially-conscious designs shed valuable insight into the intersections of race and identity in the advertising world.

Raised in segregated St. Petersburg, Florida in the 1940s, Archie Boston moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s to pursue a career in graphic design. In 1963, Boston and his brother Brad started their own advertising agency, Boston & Boston. As one of the first African-American owned advertising agencies, Boston & Boston faced difficulties securing clients in an almost exclusively white industry. Rather than hide their identity, Boston and his brother confronted the industry with provocative self-promotional ads that made explicit references to slavery and racism. “We wanted our potential clients,” Boston remarked in an interview, “to know that we were a black firm.”

Archie Boston's Pentel ad, featuring an image of him with a display of Pentel pens. The larger text reads: "I told Pentel what to with their pens. And they did it."Boston later worked at the ad agency Botsford & Ketchum where he developed one of his most famous ads for Pentel that boasted the caption, “I told Pentel what to do with their pens.” By placing himself at the center of the ad, Boston subverted the usually invisible presence of the advertising executive. At a time when very few African-Americans worked in advertising, the ad also announced a subtle shift in the demographics of the industry.

In the late 1970s, Boston left the agency to pursue a career as a professor at California State University-Long Beach (CSULB) where he developed the design program for the next thirty years all while still operating his own graphic design firm, Archie Boston Graphic Design.

The first African-American recipient of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Fellow Award, Boston served multiple terms as president of the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles where he was the first African-American elected to this position. In his final lecture at CSULB, Boston articulated how design, teaching, and social activism shaped his career: “I want to be remembered as a professor who cared about his students and did what he thought was best for them. I want to be remembered as someone who stood up against criticism and spoke out on controversial issues. And finally I want to be remembered as a designer and educator, someone who documented my experience as an African American.”

Book jacket image from "Fly in the Buttermilk," showing Mr. Boston drinking out of a milk carton through a red-and-white striped straw.
Book jacket image for Fly in the Buttermilk

The Archie Boston Papers offer a comprehensive view of Boston’s wide-ranging career including early student sketches, self-promotional ads for Boston & Boston, corporate ads for Lloyd Bank, Pentel, and Yamaha, awards and university materials related to Boston’s tenure at CSULB as well as Boston’s two published texts, his memoir Fly in the Buttermilk: Memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education (2001) and Lil’ Colored Rascals in the Sunshine City (2009).

Some of Boston’s most important designs, including Boston’s famous Pentel ad, are on display in the exhibit. Other highlights of the exhibit include Boston’s most recent work that engages directly with race and identity, including poetry and designs that Boston created after being inspired by Black Lives Matter, the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 2017 event in Charlottesville, Virginia. These recent works convey a growing sense of urgency and frustration with the treatment of African-American communities in the United States.

The Archie Boston Papers are available for the public research at the Rubenstein Library.

SLGs Have Their Roots in Woman’s College Experiment

Post contributed by Gia Cummings, University Archives student assistant

Among Duke’s countless unexplainable quirks are sleeping outside for a basketball game, the first-year meal plan, anything to do with the transportation system, and most mysteriously, Selective Living GroupsProspective students are puzzled by the concept, and Duke students stammer to conjure an explanation: it functions similar to Greek life but it’s certainly not that; it’s not a club but it’s also not a friend group; you live together, but it extends beyond that—and all of these responses leave you equally as confused. Eventually, as one transitions from wide-eyed first year to aloof sophomore, the questions fall away and the social landscape becomes comprehensible. And yet, the underlying question: ‘what is an SLG?’ slips away unanswered.

Although the definition of a Selective Living Group is concrete now, it began as a nebulous idea pioneered by some innovative students of the Woman’s College, women who wanted to extend their learning into their living space. In 1961, the Women’s Student Government Association (WSGA) Council defined the reasoning for the living situation in their “Proposal for an Experimental Dormitory”:

From the “Proposal for an Experimental Dormitory,” 1961. Woman’s College Records, box 35.

This logic parallels modern-day defense of the selected living group system, wherein living with people of diverse backgrounds and thought processes is a learning experience in and of itself. The women of the Experimental Dorm, which was housed in the Faculty Apartments (Wilson Residential Hall) beginning in the fall of 1961, had varying academic talents and interests: they organized themselves with the intentions of pursuing academic stimulation, learning for the sake of learning rather than learning for a course. The women read common books to expand their knowledge, but they also extended the experimental aspect past their studies.

Color photo of the front of Wilson Residence Hall. The three-story brick building is Georgian in style.
Wilson Residence Hall. The Experimental Dorm was housed on Wilson’s 3rd floor.

At that time, students of the Woman’s College had strict curfews and restrictions regarding their social lives and freedom, and the women of the Experimental Dorm took on an unprecedented level of self-governance. They requested self-monitoring on the tracking of their movements, along with control over the rules in their own house, and adopted a government-like structure that resembles the House Councils that each dorm currently has, with assistance from older (male) faculty members. The members organized a flexible leadership system that included rotating chairmanship and standing committees to address particular issues–including monetary ones, given that the members paid dues to be a part of this community. In this sense, and the selection process, the Experimental Dorm distinguished itself from the residential Corridors that would soon follow.

Typewritten page describing the government and organization of the Experimental Dorm.
Page from “Structures and Functions of the 1961-62 Experimental Dorm.” Woman’s College Records, box 35.

Although the vision of the Experimental Dorm prioritized “intellectual orientation”, they were intentional in not pursuing a specific academic community (like the later Corridors); in fact, the girls aimed to acquire a diverse group of interests in order to promote mental stimulation. As was recognized by these women, learning stems from exposure to new concepts and ideas; they aimed to choose members that stimulate one another. This aspect was evident in the fact that the Experimental Dorm took applications followed by interviews, attempting to select candidates who reflected a passion for learning. As the women outlined in their selection guidelines, their criteria specifically stated that they did “not want grade point averages or other specific records to be used in judging the girls” and that “each choice would be made on an individual basis,” with diverse interests being of particular importance. This dorm set itself apart by incorporating a social aspect along with an academic one: the Experimental Dorm was designed to create a community, not just a study group. In this sense, the ancestry of modern SLGs is clear, the creation of a group that shares similar values beyond their academic interests, designed to grow its members as people as well as students. 

Selective Living Groups today are often praised for their ability to bring people together; to create a learning environment in the dormitory alongside the classroom. The origins of those aims can be traced directly to the goals of the women who began the Experimental Dorm: a project which began to create a community, but whose effects have grown to become an important aspect of student life at Duke to this day.

Benetton & Fashioning Controversy

Post contributed by Kasia Stempniak, Graduate Intern, Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History, and Romance Studies PhD student. 

Fashion advertising has never shied away from provocative imagery. One of the first clothing brands to consistently court controversy through advertising was the Italian sportswear brand Benetton. A family owned company established in 1965, Benetton became one of the most successful sportswear brands in Europe in the 1980s. That same decade, Benetton decided to enter the United States market and hired J. Walter Thompson (JWT) as their advertising agency to better reach US consumers. JWT would remain with the Italian brand from 1983 to 1992 and the Benetton advertisements in the JWT archives at the Hartman Center offer a unique look into the evolution of advertising conventions in the fashion industry.

Benetton magazine advertisement featuring about a dozen people of different races and ages. They are all wearing Benetton clothing and hugging one another.

With the Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani as the creator of its advertisements, Benetton launched a series of ads in 1983 that were designed to be explicit celebrations of diversity and inclusivity. These ads, like the one seen above that was featured in the magazine Mademoiselle in 1983, were part of a campaign called “All the Colors of the World.” With their messages of global harmony, these ads would take on dozens of different iterations in the next two decades. They became such a staple in Benetton’s marketing repertoire that in the 1990s, the expression “a Benetton ad” was sometimes used to refer to an image with a diverse group of people. Some of these ads tackled politics, like this advertisement diffused during the Cold War in 1986 that featured two athletes, one from the US and one from the USSR, in a friendly pose.

Roughly a decade after the first “All the Colors of the World” world campaign, Benetton released a modified version of these ads. In lieu of a line of smiling faces, however, the ad featured vials of blood labeled with different first names.Color Benetton advertisement, showing vials of blood. The vials are each labeled with a different. The names are ethnically diverse and include Fidel, Kaifu, Helmut, Jiang, George, and Mikhail. While still invoking the theme of inclusivity, the ad signaled a change in Benetton’s marketing aesthetic. In the 1990s, Benetton ads seemed to be more focused on shock value than clothing. Many of their most controversial images featured no Benetton clothing. Instead, they depicted a wide range of social and political phenomena, from soldiers in the Bosnian war, to a baby with its umbilical cord attached, to a nun and a priest kissing, to a dying AIDS activist. These advertisements were often met with backlash, calls for a boycott of Benetton goods, and, at times, with censorship. Toscani justified these ads in an interview with The New York Times in 1991, explaining that he saw advertising as both an artistic and political endeavor: “I have found out that advertising is the richest and most powerful medium existing today, so I feel responsible to do more than to say, ‘Our sweater is pretty.’” JWT and Benetton separated in 1992, but Benetton continues to test the limits of public reception with their advertising, despite experiencing a slip in popularity over the past two decades. As recently as 2018, a Benetton ad elicited vociferous criticism from politicians and consumers in Italy and around the world when it repurposed a photograph of migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Benetton ads in the JWT archive shed light on how a fashion company adopted unconventional methods of advertising as a way to connect with a younger generation and bring awareness to social issues. At the same time, reactions to these ads indicate that consumers were uneasy with the confluence of fashion and social commentary. Today, clothing companies are increasingly placing social causes at the center of their ads, like British clothing chain Jigsaw and their 2017 “Love Immigration” campaign. Did Benetton’s advertisements pioneer this modern phenomenon of “brand activism”? Or were Benetton’s ads an example of a company commodifying social causes and taking advantage of the ethically murky waters of fashion advertising?

Learning to Listen: A Student Assistant’s Experience in the Radio Haiti Archive

Post contributed by Tanya Thomas, Radio Haiti Student Assistant

Photo of Tanya outside beside a blossoming bush.
Student Assistant Tanya Thomas.

As a Haitian-American raised in Miramar, FL and Petit-Goâve, Haiti, moving to Durham, NC in 2013 for my freshman year at Duke was a culture shock. For one thing, I learned the hard way that ordering patties from a restaurant menu meant getting the ground beef portion of a burger, not a deliciously deep-fried, meat-filled Caribbean staple. As I began to settle into life at Duke and in Durham as a pre-med student majoring in International Comparative Studies with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, I started working on the Rubenstein Library’s Radio Haiti Archive project. The main part of my job was to listen to interviews from Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, a station that ran from the early 1970s to 2003, finally closing a few years after the assassination in spring 2000 of the station’s director, the agronomist-turned-journalist Jean Dominique. Working on the Radio Haiti project was my work-study job, but the job meant so much more to my Duke experience than extra cash. It gave me the opportunity to explore and understand the history of my homeland, which is why when I graduated in 2017, I wanted to keep working on the project, even while applying to medical school and working as a medical scribe in Miami.

Web page that includes description in English and Haitian Creole.
A screenshot of an interview described by Tanya Thomas in the Radio Haiti Archive.

As an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive, part of what I do is listen to Jean Dominique’s daily Face à l’Opinon interviews. I then describe these interviews in English and Haitian Creole so that anyone, from academics who study Haitian history to someone curious about twentieth century Haitian life, can browse and learn. I tag the relevant topic, place, and name labels to go with the descriptions. What made Radio Haiti special was the fact that Jean Dominique interviewed peasant farmers and grassroots activists just as often as he did political leaders and members of the intellectual and economic elite. It’s one thing for a renowned journalist to interview a member of parliament about how a policy affects peasants. It’s another to interview a rice farmer and local activist about how government organizations are actually impacting their livelihoods. No social position was too small to be heard on Radio Haiti. Listening to hundreds of these interviews helped me gain skills and insights that I will use moving forward as a doctor who aims to provide care to underserved populations.

Tanya and Laura sitting back-to-back in a work cubicle.
Tanya Thomas working with Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.

As a medical scribe, I work in the consult room as the patient is being seen by the doctor. I listen to their health concerns in real-time and type their symptoms and relevant information about their life circumstances into their electronic medical record. In the summarizing sections of the notes, I condense the entire visit to the patient’s most pressing symptoms. I also record what the doctor tells me that she or he finds during the physical examination, and the treatment plan they decided on with the patient. I write these notes not only for the doctor’s own reference, but also for anyone with access to the patient’s record. For example, this could be a paramedic taking a seriously ill patient to the hospital, or a judge in a court of law if the visit were to come up in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In that respect, medically scribing a patient encounter is quite like describing Radio Haiti recordings. In both these jobs, my notes must be clear enough to lay out the situation so that someone reading what I wrote for the first time can be caught up enough to know what the most pressing thing that happened was, and what related issues can be investigated for further context. Though I am a subjective human being, I must faithfully and dispassionately communicate what happened and who said it with as little subjective input as possible. Whether listening to descriptions of injustice and human rights violations in the Radio Haiti materials, or creating a record of the pain and suffering of a patient in the clinic, it can be difficult to keep my emotions from clouding my understanding of events, but critical distance remains crucial to the work at hand. Moreover, the patients we served in the Miami clinic were, like many of the people Jean Dominique interviewed at Radio Haiti, people who are excluded from the political process or silenced in clinical encounters: immigrants, undocumented people, people who do not speak English, and poor people. I have learned to balance the processing of personal information with the larger social responsibility of providing a service to the marginalized, and this skill is something I will keep nurturing throughout medical school and beyond.  As I reflect on this past year and prepare to start medical school this month, I realize that by working as a medical scribe and an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive the most important skill I have learned this year has been listening. As one of Radio Haiti’s old jingles went, “Radyo Ayiti: anvan nou pale, nou koute w!” (“Radio Haiti: before we speak, we listen to you!”)

The Rubenstein Library staff, and particularly the Radio Haiti team (Laura Wagner, Craig Breaden, Patrick Stawski, Sarah Schmidt, and Naomi Nelson) would like to congratulate Tanya on starting medical school at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine this week! We are proud of you, we appreciate everything you’ve done for this project, and we wish you bon chans as you undertake this next exciting step.

The processing of the Radio Haiti Archive and the Radio Haiti Archive digital collection were made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid., 65.

The Good, The Bad, and The Just Plain Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good:

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

The Bad:

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

The Just Plain Weird:

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

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

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

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.

The Change of Life: Menopause and Our Changing Perspectives

This post is contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, History of Medicine Collections.

Image from book showing women's faces.
Essays on physiognomy : designed to promote the knowledge and the love of mankind. Johann Caspar Lavater. London: Printed for Thomas Tegg, 1840, pg. 181.

“…there is no limit to the marvelous powers attributed to females” (Pliny, NH, 28.23).

When Pliny the Elder spoke of female powers in his Natural History, he attributed the most marvelous among them to menstrual blood. A menstruating woman could sour crops, tarnish mirrors, blunt razors, kill bees, drive dogs insane, and stave off hailstorms.

How unfortunate that the same womb which, in a woman’s younger years was blamed for such chaos, could be even more problematic in her later life.

Glass lantern slide for teaching obstetrics.
Glass lantern slide for teaching obstetrics, late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Philadelphia, PA: N.H. Edgerton; Received from George D. Wilbanks, MD and Evelyn R. Wilbanks, Ph.D. History of Medicine artifacts collection, 1550-1980s.

For centuries it was believed that the menses were a means to cleanse poisons from a woman’s blood. When a woman’s menstrual period came to a permanent end, toxins could accumulate and stimulate disease (in addition to a slew of physical and mental conditions). “The Change of Life,” as the cessation was referred to, was the harbinger of both barrenness and wildness, sullenness and excitability, lethargy and hysteria, volubility and melancholy. Pathologized and medicalized, this physiological transition was viewed as anything but a natural, biological process.

The term now widely used to describe this phase – menopause – comes from the Greek words men (“month”) and pausis (“cessation”). Since French physician Charles-Pierre-Louis de Gardanne coined the term in 1821, knowledge about what menopause denotes has grown significantly.

Image showing the structure of the womb and ovaries.
The Viavi gynecological plates : designed to educate mothers and daughters concerning diseases of the uterine organs constructed under the supervision of Hartland Law, M.D.; Herbert E. Law. San Francisco : The Viavi Press, 1891

The items in this exhibit trace changing perspectives on menopause – from early proponents who labelled it a debilitating disease to the women who have reclaimed it as an empowering transition. The exhibit aims to make visible the experience of menopause, dispel myths, and encourage public conversation about a topic that has, for too long, been considered taboo. Its curation was inspired by the words of feminist Rosetta Reitz:

“I’m going to pull menopause out into the open, remove the cobwebs, clean it off, and look at it.” [1]

Curated by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, The Change of Life: Menopause and our Changing Perspectives, runs from March 20 – July 14, 2018, and is on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

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[1] Menopause: A Positive Approach. Rosetta Reitz (1924-2008). New York: Penguin Books, 1979, c1977, pg. 1.