On Display: The Public Lives of 20th-Century American Women

By April C. Armstrong and Amanda Ferrara, exhibition curators

Men, especially political leaders, are usually assessed on their professional records. Women, no matter how professional they may be, are often judged on their personal lives.

–Brenda Feigan Fasteau and Bonnie Lobel, New York Magazine, December 20, 1971

Visitors to Mudd Library will notice a new exhibition in our Weiss Lounge drawn from the holdings of our Public Policy Papers, “On Display: The Public Lives of 20th-Century American Women.” As the exhibition title’s double meaning suggests, the lines between the private and public lives of women have often blurred, with personal medical decisions becoming a matter of public debate, living rooms transforming into sites of political activism, and marriage pulling women into unpaid public service. 

Lillian Markowski, age 20, an engine cleaner for the Long Island Railroad. Markowski took over her fiance’s job when he joined the Army. Her brother was also a soldier. Photo by Roy Pitney, February 2, 1943, Ivy Ledbetter Lee Papers (MC085), Box 103, Folder 4.

On May 21, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, stating, “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It took more than a year for the needed 36 states to ratify it, with Tennessee’s vote on August 18, 1920 officially giving women the constitutional right to vote in America. The 2019-2020 academic year thus marks the centennial of the culmination of one major aspect of women’s activism in the United States. As the exhibition acknowledges, the right to vote was still not effectively available to many American women, especially women of color and the poor. The fight for many other civil rights was–and still is– ongoing.

Editorial cartoon depicting suffragettes (geese) waking up Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan, who are sleeping in front of the Senate, 1914. This cartoon references the Women’s March of 1913. Political Cartoon Collection (MC180), Box 10.

The Public Policy papers may not appear at first glance to have a great deal related to women, in part because the priorities of earlier generations did not lead them to intentionally collect this sort of material. This is not a problem exclusive to Princeton, but a challenge for our colleagues across our profession. The Society of American Archivists has acknowledged and reiterated that these archival silences have limited our understanding of women’s history (see, for example, Tanya Zanish-Belcher and Anke Voss’s Perspectives on Women’s Archives (2013)).

Margaret Snyder and Daria Tesha tour mines in Zambia, ca. 1973. Snyder was actively involved in women’s economic and development issues in various regions of the world for more than three decades. Among her various roles, she was the Founding Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Margaret Snyder Papers, Box 41.

We have curated this exhibition in part to demonstrate that our predecessors here at Princeton, despite biases against seeing women’s contributions to American public life as worthy of documenting or preserving, nonetheless inadvertently amassed a wealth of material for those seeking to learn about 20th-century American women. Further, it is important to us to show how women have always been involved in public policy, even before they might have been understood to be engaged in this work by their contemporaries. Thus, this exhibition draws both on named collections of prominent women’s papers, such as the Margaret Snyder Papers and the Anne Martindell Papers, and on collections where researchers might not expect to find relevant material, such as the George S. McGovern Papers and the John Doar Papers. Material also appears in the exhibition from institutional records like the American Civil Liberties Union Records and the Association on American Indian Affairs Records

Maps showing family planning services available to women in Queens, New York, 1961 and 1966. (Click to enlarge.) Norman Ryder Papers (MC250), Box 8.

It is our hope that by curating this material, we might inspire more creative approaches to the Public Policy papers for students, faculty, and visiting researchers using our library. As our collecting policies have changed to prioritize underrepresented demographics, we expect continued enrichment in our holdings related to those outside Princeton’s historical white male paradigm.

Note: The majority of the material on display in this exhibition are facsimiles, including all material mounted on the walls. Most of the material on the bottom of the cases are originals. Originals of the facsimiles can be viewed within their collections in our reading room. Access to Mudd Library is open to all, regardless of institutional affiliation. Please contact us for more information.

For further reading:

Armstrong, April C. “‘Make This World Safe for the Babies’: The Liberty Loan Committee’s Appeal to American Women.”

Armstrong, April C. “World War II ‘Trainwomen’ of the Long Island Railroad.”

Selections from Women’s World Banking Records Now Available Online

By Amanda Ferrara

Mudd Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the completion of the Women’s World Banking records digitization project.

Women’s World Banking (WWB), founded in 1979, is a not-for-profit international financial institution, committed to facilitating the participation of low-income women entrepreneurs in the modern economy at the local level. The WWB’s records document the administration of the organization, mainly during the tenure of its first president, Michaela Walsh. A selection of the records, almost 50,000 pages from over 40 boxes of records from Michaela Walsh’s time as head of WWB, are now online and viewable  from anywhere in the world.

Women’s World Banking Records (MC198), Box 31, Folder 2.

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Two Historical Princeton Area Publications Now Freely Available Online

By Dan Linke

An initiative undertaken jointly by the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP), the Princeton Public Library (PPL), and the Princeton University Library (PUL) has begun to unlock decades of the town and the university’s history by making the historical runs of two local publications full-text searchable and available online via a Princeton University Library website.

The Princeton Herald, a community weekly newspaper, published from 1923 – 1966, stated in its first editor’s column that it wanted “to be able to bring into the homes of Princeton and neighboring people those points of interest, news, and events…”

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ARCH Participants Write, Part VI

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the sixth in a short series of such reflections.

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By Kimberly Monroe, Howard University

It has been said that archives are where memory is preserved and history is made. Archives have the ability to connect the past with the present and future, while still maintaining the character and originality it possesses. The Princeton University Archives, Research, and Collaborative History Program (ARCH) allowed students from HBCUs the opportunity to learn more about archiving as a profession and to explore the various collections at Princeton.

Kimberly Monroe, a PhD candidate from Howard University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part V

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fifth in a short series of such reflections.

Stepping Outside the STEM Box

By Genevieve Airyanne Antoine, Tuskegee University

From my awkward middle school days to my considerably less awkward years in college, one academic gospel has been preached to me. “STEM is the future. STEM is the new wave. Don’t want a job? Choose a major that ISN’T STEM.” Sound familiar? I am sure you can relate. Fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of my own ambitions drove me to accept this as fact. In my junior year of high school, I committed myself to take the path of a scientist. I present myself now as undergrad-level chemist and physicist. Of course, I am proud of my accomplishments. Two degrees later, however, I wonder why the current professional and academic climates have turned such a blind eye to the humanities?

Genevieve Airyanne Antoine (Tuskegee University), Kimberly Monroe (Howard University), and Adisa Vera Bradley (Howard University) [foreground] and Mudd’s Valencia Johnson, Michael Marie Thomas (Texas Southern University), and Dr. Jontyle Robinson (Tuskegee University) [background] at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part IV

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fourth in a short series of such reflections.

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By Madison Washington, Lincoln University

The ARCH program provided an introductory glance into the field by archival professionals. We convened on a daily basis with staff from Mudd and Firestone Libraries, visited the Princeton University Art Museum, and spent our final day of the program at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Throughout the week we touched on various aspects of the field and ruminated over intense discussions. One of the discussions that resonated with me was that of Dunbar Rowland and William C. Bolivar. While the stories of these two men are starkly different, their commonalities present an important narrative on the importance of agential community archiving.

Madison Washington, seated next to fellow Lincoln University student Alaze Moriah Clausell, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part III

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the third in a short series of such reflections.

Do You Remember? Untitled Individuals And Closeted Negro Persons

By Kaya Mosley, Lincoln University

Being surrounded by so many fiery individuals has definitely lit a spark within me… kinda like nitrate film. Before my involvement in this program I viewed archives as simply dusty, old, mildewy smelling papers from “way back when”. Now I know that what is considered to be archives extends all the way to vinegar-smelling film and pre-presidential post-it notes. Aside from distinguishing smells, I became privy to a few more things.

Kaya Mosley and Taylor Brookins, both students from Lincoln University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part II

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the second in a short series of such reflections.

The Disappearing History of Xennials

By Michael Marie Thomas, Texas Southern University

I grew up a latchkey kid, meaning my parents worked and I came home to an empty house, but before you pull out the Kleenex, know that I was also the kid who enjoyed after school specials on television. I enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons, Saved by the Bell, cereal with real sugar, book fairs, and toys that could cause bodily harm. Basically, I enjoyed being a kid (R.I.P. Toys “R” Us). I also experienced the evolution of VCRs (R.I.P. Blockbuster), CDs (R.I.P. Borders Books and Music), cell phones (R.I.P. Motorola Razr Flip), and the internet (those who never experienced the sound of dial up internet: I really feel for you). Yet I am realizing that all these amazing things that I have grown up with are in danger of being lost to time.

Michael Marie Thomas, a student from Texas Southern University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part I

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the first in a short series of such reflections.

Beauty, Justice and the Future

By Adisa Vera Beatty, Howard University

I.

Most, likely many, of the experiences and information I encountered will continue to surface in my mind for several weeks. However, some experiences that have left an impression would be processing part of a collection and visiting the conservation lab. I’m a memory keeper so it’s not a surprise that those two experiences resonated with me. There is something very poignant to me about experiencing the artifacts of someone else’s lived life. There’s some mystery, randomness and beauty about that experience but I’m sure it loses its charm when you do it every day. Then there’s the conservation lab where there is no sifting and sorting; this space is filled with deliberate acts. They slow down, revive and restore pieces of the past daily.

The before and after results once paper conservator Ted Stanley has performed his miracles. Photo by Adisa Vera Beatty.

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Demystifying Mudd: Summer Student Employees

By Himaayah Agwedicham ’20 and Jasper Gebhardt ’20

Student Assistant for Technical Services: Himaayah Agwedicham ’20

This summer, I’ve worked as an assistant under Lynn Durgin, Special Collections Assistant for Technical Services. I process and review the records for senior theses, alumni files, and doctoral dissertations. Generally, I work most closely with the influx of newer materials that will become additions to the documented history of Princeton University. I spend most of my time in Mudd’s processing room, where I work on a library computer to review or log collections.

Although I usually work with new materials, one of my first projects was to collect and check for duplicates in Mudd’s extensive Class Reunions Books Collection (AC214). Princeton Reunions are notorious for being the largest and most consistently attended of such celebrations in the world. Over 25,000 alumni, family, and friends attend the celebration each year. Continue reading