Women’s History Month 2017

This year for Women’s History Month, Special Collections has some special things going on! We will have a display on the second floor of Newman Library near the main entrance. “Remarkable Women Throughout History: Snapshots from Special Collections” is a month-long display (March 1-31) with posters, items in exhibit cases, and a book display from the circulating collection. In addition, we will also have more materials from our collections on display in the exhibit cases in our reading room on the first floor near the cafe. We invite you to visit our exhibits during the month of March and learn about our collections and some of the remarkable women represented in them.  (We’re grateful to our amazing colleagues throughout the library who helped us make this happen, as well as the students who delved into our stacks and boxes to find the stories of these women to share.)

womensmonth_poster_2017feb

For the fifth year running, our “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! You can view the posts to date here: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/category/feature-items/womens-history-month/. New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. We don’t have all the posts planned out just yet, but we know will be featuring the work of Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (cookbook author, artist, and activist), Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (author and educator), and Ellen Swallow Richards  (one of the first women to teach at MIT).

And, although we didn’t build a new digital display this year, we do still have our exhibit from 2016 available in case you missed it! You can view it online here: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/womens-history-2016.

Keep in mind there will be events all over campus in March 2017. The Women’s Center at Virginia Tech has a calendar here: http://womenscenter.vt.edu/Program/womens-month.html. We encourage you to check it out and join in where you can!

Advertisements

An Office of One’s Own: Women Professionals in the Special Collections

To celebrate women’s history month, we are highlighting a small selection of the pioneering women professionals in our collections. These particular women entered their respective careers in the 1950s and 60s, a time when women had limited access to higher education and professional opportunities. Women in historically marginalized groups (including LGBTQ communities, rural communities, and communities of color) faced additional challenges beyond gender barriers. The four women profiled below overcame several obstacles to work as accomplished professionals in fields traditionally dominated by men.

ChemistryLab
VPI students Caroline Turner and Harriet Shelton at work in a chemistry lab, January 1950

Marjorie Rhodes Townsend: Aerospace Engineer, Patent Holder

Marjorie Townsend was named " Townsend Knight of the Italian Republic Order" in 1972 for her contributions to US-Italian space efforts
Marjorie Townsend was named ” Townsend Knight of the Italian Republic Order” in 1972 for her contributions to US-Italian space efforts

In 1951, Marjorie Rhodes Townsend became the first woman to earn an engineering degree at George Washington University. One of few women in a traditionally male-dominated field, Townsend experienced significant discrimination from both coworkers and managers. In spite of these challenges, she enjoyed a lengthy and distinguished career at the forefront of aerospace technology. Townsend spent eight years with the Naval Research Laboratory developing sonar signal-processing devices for anti-submarine warfare. Townsend went on to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center from 1959-1980. As a project manager for NASA’s Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS) program, Townsend helped coordinate some of the earliest advances in satellite technology and spacecraft systems design.

Learn more about the Marjorie Rhodes Townsend papers here:
http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vt/viblbv00183.xml;query=;

L. Jane Hastings: Architect, Business Owner

Drafting tools used by L. Jane Hastings
Drafting tools used by L. Jane Hastings

As an eighth-grade student, L. Jane Hastings was told that women could not be architects. When she secured a coveted spot in the University of Washington’s architecture program, Hastings recalls being asked to give up her place to make room for returning veterans. Hastings received her Bachelor of Architecture degree with honors in 1952, having worked full-time throughout most of her program. In 1953, she became the eighth licensed woman architect in the State of Washington. Hastings founded her own practice in 1959 and went on to form the Hastings Group, a prestigious firm that completed over 500 residential, commercial, and university projects across the greater Seattle area.  In addition to practicing and teaching architectural design, Hastings was active in several professional organizations. In 1992, Hastings was appointed the first woman chancellor in the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows.

Learn more about the L. Jane Hastings Architectural Papers here:

http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vt/viblbv00138.xml

Dr. Laura Jane Harper: Academic Dean, Advocate 

Dr. Laura Harper, first woman to serve as academic dean at Virginia Tech (VPI)
Dr. Laura Harper, dean of the Virginia Tech College of Home Economics from 1960-1980

Dr. Laura Jane Harper was the first woman to serve as an academic dean at VPI. She lead the College of Home Economics from 1960-1980, chartering a new program that emerged from the consolidation of the Home Economics programs at VPI and Radford University. Dr. Harper was lauded for mentoring other women and supporting them in leadership positions throughout the university. In her 1999 Master’s thesis “A Fighter To The End: The Remarkable Life and Career Of Laura Jane Harper”, Saranette Miles recounted Dr. Harper’s decision to turn down a marriage proposal for the sake of her career (p. 55) and how she frequently challenged VPI President T. Marshall Hahn to uphold his commitments to create meaningful opportunities for women at the university (p. 70-75) .

Read more about Harper’s career and her contributions to the Peacock-Harpery Culinary Collection:
https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/whm-laura-harper/

Linda Adams Hoyle: Statistician, Trailblazer

Chiquita Hudson,   Marguerite Laurette Scott, and Linda Adams Hoyle, right, were among the first black women to attend Virginia Tech.
Chiquita Hudson, Marguerite Laurette Scott, and Linda Adams Hoyle, right, were among the first black women to attend Virginia Tech.

Linda Adams Hoyle  (class of ‘68) was the first black woman to graduate from Virginia Tech. As a statistics major, Hoyle was frequently the only woman in her classes and one of few black students. Her experiences on campus – friendships, dorms assignments, political activism, and safety concerns – were shaped by the intersection of race and gender. After graduation, Hoyle went on to work as a statistician for the Census Bureau in Washington, D.C.  In her oral history interview for the Black Women At  Virginia Tech History Project, Hoyle discussed the challenges of raising a family while pursuing a career:

….. So when you have this full time career–my job at that time was extremely demanding. It was difficult because I had to attend to my children as well as do the job. My husband, the way he worked, it was difficult. He could not just stop in the middle of a job say to pick up a sick child. His work did not permit him that flexibility. Those were things I had to do.

Read Linda Adams Hoyle’s Oral History Interview:
http://spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/blackwomen/adams.htm

Learn more about the experiences of Virginia Tech’s first black students:
http://www.vtmag.vt.edu/sum14/trailblazers-black-alumni-60s-70s.html

“With reluctance I seat myself…:” A Mother on the Home Front

March is Women’s History Month. Over on the History of Food & Drink blog, I’ll be profiling women who made contributions and influenced American culinary history. Which got me thinking about our other manuscript collections, women who lived through American history and women whose words are on our shelves. If you had the time to look through our nearly 1800 collections, you would find many women’s names. Most of them aren’t famous, but their letters, diaries, architectural drawings, cookbooks, and other papers can be important both as individual objects and in the larger context.

That being said, I thought I’d share Nancy B. Harbin’s letter. Written in the second year of the American Civil War, Nancy writes from Calhoun County, Mississippi to her sons in Richmond, Virginia. Jack, John, and Edward all served with Company F, 42nd Regiment, Mississippi Infantry.

As with many mothers, her concern is first and foremost for the well-being of her sons. Her letter is really two letters: one to Jack and a second to John. She doesn’t write Edward directly, which may be the result of his being “so near death.” It is unclear if he was sick or injured. (Our research on the family wasn’t as fruitful as we might hope–which sometimes the case–and we don’t know if any of Nancy’s sons survived the war. ) On the one hand, this is a letter from a mother to her children, providing them updates from home, sharing her concern and love for them, and encouraging them. On the other, the very fact that it has survived 152 years makes it an important part of the larger body of Civil War materials in our collections and far more than a simple letter from mother to sons. Because Nancy’s concerns are what we might expect from such a letter, it is both specific to her family and a representative voice of the Civil War home front correspondence of the time.

We have other home front letters from women (and men!) in our Civil War holdings, and if you were to keep reading, you would see similar themes, regardless of location, relationship, or loyalty. If you’d like to do so, come visit us and we’ll be happy to help!

The Wonderful Witches of Oz

“As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing.

‘What has happened?’ the Scarecrow asked a sad-looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby carriage along the sidewalk.

‘Why, we’ve have a revolution, your Majesty – as you ought to know very well,’ replied the man; ‘and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I’m glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City.’

‘Hm!’ said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. ‘If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?’

‘I really do not know,’ replied the man, with a deep sign. ‘Perhaps the women are made of cast-iron.”

-L. Frank Baum; The Marvelous Land of Oz

The patchwork girl of Oz  by L. Frank Baum; illustrated by John R. Neill (1913)
The patchwork girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum; illustrated by John R. Neill (1913)

The release of the blockbuster film Oz: The Great and Powerful earlier this month has sparked a renewed interest in the life and work of L. Frank Baum. Best known for his children’s masterpiece The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the 1939 screen adaptation starring Judy Garland, Baum authored more than a dozen different novels set in the magical Land of Oz, which took its name from the bottom drawer of the file cabinet in Baum’s office, labeled for files beginning with the letters “O-Z”.

Of course Baum was much more than just a juvenile fiction author. As we celebrate women’s history month, it should be noted that the cause of women’s suffrage was supported and advanced by prominent male figures of the era. Baum, who publicly lobbied for women’s right to vote and served as the secretary of his town’s Woman’s Suffrage Club, was deeply affected by his beloved, spirited wife, Maud, and her mother, Matilda, an eminent feminist who collaborated with Susan B. Anthony and publicized the idea that many “witches” were really freethinking women ahead of their time. In Oz, Baum offers a similarly corrective vision: When Dorothy first meets a witch, the Witch of the North, she says, “I thought all witches were wicked.” “Oh, no, that is a great mistake,” replies the Witch of the North. In sequels, Oz’s true ruler is discovered; it turns out to be a girl named Ozma, who spent her youth under a spell – one that turned her into a hapless boy.

Baum’s contact with suffragists of his day seems to have inspired much of his second Oz story, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In this story, General Jinjur leads the girls and women of Oz, armed with knitting needles, in a revolt; they succeed, and make the men do the household chores. Jinjur proves to be an incompetent ruler, and a female who advocates gender equality is ultimately placed on the throne. His Edith Van Dyne stories, including the Aunt Jane’s NiecesThe Flying Girl and its sequel, and his girl sleuth Josie O’Gorman from The Bluebird Books, depict girls and young women engaging in traditionally masculine activities.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels were obviously shaped by Baum’s wishful revisions of social conflict and are now almost universally acknowledged to be some of the earliest feminist children’s books in America, because of Dorothy and similar characters: girls who are enterprising, ingenious, adventurous, or imposingly self-reliant.

Located within Special Collections at Virginia Tech are several Baum titles that can be found by searching the University’s online catalog, Addison. Among the results are two first editions: The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913) and The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903). You are invited to visit us and examine these texts to discover more about the inspiring heroines of Oz.

A Mightier Ring: Bugle or Tin Horn?

Hokies know that each year their activities are chronicled with a Bugle’s call, but how many know that The Bugle, Virginia Tech’s yearbook, was once accompanied by a Tin Horn.

VT's First Women Graduates
The first women graduates of Virginia Tech were (l-r) Mary Brumfield, 1923. and Ruth Terrett, Lucy Lancaster, Louise Jacobs, and Carrie Sibold, 1925

Women were formally approved by the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute’s Board of Visitors to be admitted to all courses of study – excluding the military – on January 13, 1921. This motion was approved, unanimously, due in large part, to VPI president, Julian A. Burruss’ persuasive arguments that VPI was in a unique position to economically provide the technical and agricultural training needed by Virginia’s women in the new arenas available to them in the post-World War I society.

Although, the motion to allow women to attend VPI was accepted unanimously by the Board acceptance among the cadets (and some professors) took a bit longer. The co-eds who arrived ready for classes in September 1921 faced cadets who publicly protested their admission and professors who actively doubted the women’s intelligence. Acceptance in extra-curricular activities was nonexistent so the co-eds organized their own groups: a basketball team (at various times called the Sextettes and the Turkey Hens); a Women’s Student Organization; special science, chemistry, business, and biology clubs; the Coed Dramatics Club; and their own yearbook The Tin Horn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 1925 Tin Horn, published when the women who entered in 1921 would be seniors, consisted of hand-drawn pages and pasted-in photographs dedicated “to the spirit of fun.”  Although, billed as the “first and only volume,” subsequent publications of The Tin Horn followed in 1929, 1930, and 1931.  The latter two were professionally printed. It would not be until 1941, 20 years after the arrival of the first female students on campus, that The Bugle would represent women equally alongside the men in their pages.

Special Collections has digitized all four volumes of The Tin Horn. They have also been pulled as part of our celebration of Women’s History Month and are available for viewing in our Reading Room. Whether you visit with The Tin Horn online or in Newman Library make sure to spend some time with Virginia Tech’s leading ladies.

Yours in Sisterhood: Special Collections Celebrates Women’s History Month

Tin Horn 1925
Page from the 1925 self-published, co-ed yearbook The Tin Horn.

March is Women’s History Month and in honor of this commemorative month Special Collections is hosting an interactive exhibit-celebrating women. Stop by the exhibit cases located on the first floor of Newman Library to see some representative materials from our collections featuring women in literature, the domestic arts, and science and technology. If you have a few extra minutes (or hours, seriously this is great stuff) then come on in and we will let you loose on a cart full of collections created by women. Our archivists have pulled women’s travel diaries from 1840-2000s, speculative fiction magazines, literary first editions, architecture collections, items from Virginia Tech’s history, and much more.

If you are visiting with us through the magic of the Internet don’t despair for each Tuesday in March we will be spotlighting a collection here on this very blog.

Mark your calendars for next Tuesday’s profile on the short-lived, co-ed yearbook, The Tin Horn, published by the first female students at Virginia Tech.