Daughters of the Samurai: Author Janice Nimura visits Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr College is delighted to welcome Janice P. Nimura to campus on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. Nimura is the author of Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West and Back, published in 2015 by Norton. According to the publisher:

daughters of the samurai coverDaughters of the Samurai describes the journey begun in 1871, of five young girls who were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened leaders in Japan. Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors—Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda—grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional  clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance. The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan—a land grown foreign to them—determined to revolutionize women’s education. Based on in-depth archival research in Japan and in the United States, including decades of letters from between the three women and their American host families, Daughters of the Samurai is beautifully, cinematically written, a fascinating lens through which to view an extraordinary historical moment.”

Ume Tsuda portrait, 1890.

Ume Tsuda portrait, 1890. Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

One of these young women, Ume Tsuda, attended Bryn Mawr College. Upon her return to Tokyo, she founded a similar institution for Japanese > women, which grew into the important and prestigious Tsuda College of today. The connection between Bryn Mawr and Tsuda Colleges has remained strong over the years and sparked a host of connections between Tri-Co colleges and Japan over the years.

Nimura will visit with staff and students in Taylor Hall from 1:30-2:30pm today, an informal opportunity to discuss the book and women’s international education initiatives. She will also speak to students in HIST 303: History in Public: Race, Gender, and Campus Memory from 3-4pm.

  • For more on Japanese ties to U.S. women’s education, read Febe Pamonag’s 2012 article, “‘A Bryn Mawr School in the East: Transpacific Initiatives for Japanese Women’s Higher Education,” in Pacific Historical Review 81.4 [link to full text on Tripod].
  • For more on Janice Nimura, visit the author’s website.

Greenfield in the Classroom

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker's seminar, "Building Bryn Mawr." (Photograph by the author.)

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr.” (Photograph by the author.)

Although I’m not teaching a course this semester, I’m still getting to spend time in the classroom, sharing the Greenfield Digital Center’s resources with students and faculty across disciplines. Together we look not only at the growing array of resources Greenfield supports on the web – collegewomen.org, Black at Bryn Mawr, and Greenfield’s own collections exhibits – but also at materials housed in the College Archives: scrapbooks, photograph albums, papers, and more. Some classes are an obvious choice for a Special Collections visit, such as Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr,” where students are studying the early stages of development of Bryn Mawr’s campus, exploring the ways in which the founders of Bryn Mawr understood architecture as a key aspect of the institution’s image and aspirations. But I’ve also worked with faculty to integrate archives materials with class sessions on race and photography, or storytelling and digital narratives. If you ask me, the possibilities are endless! Continue reading

“I never knew what I might find in the boxes”: Temple University student David Polanco on Archives and Teaching

This blog post has been written by David Polanco, one of two Temple University students who discovered Bryn Mawr Special Collections last Fall as part of the Greenfield Digital Center’s third year participating in the Cultural Fieldwork Initiative organized by Greenfield Digital Center Advisory Board member and Temple University historian Christine Woyshner. David spent his semester researching the history of women’s sports and women’s colleges — a topic of continuing relevance to both students and the general public.

David Polanco looks through the 1905 Bryn Mawr yearbook (photo by Monica Mercado)

David Polanco looks through the 1905 Bryn Mawr yearbook (photo by Monica Mercado)

My field experience at Bryn Mawr College Special Collections was a great one. They manage extensive collections of art, artifacts, rare books, manuscripts, and photographs, and also have a wide-ranging digital archive on the history of women’s education, and resource guides. The Greenfield Digital Center’s online gateway has digital primary resources, instructional activities, and opportunities for teachers and students.

One of the reasons why Bryn Mawr was my top choice [for the Cultural Fieldwork Initiative placement] was because of the chance to learn more about women’s education. Women’s history usually gets lost in the shuffle when teachers teach U.S. History classes. Women are a huge part of the fabric of American history and Bryn Mawr College is a great resource. Continue reading

Special Collections and “Workable Lessons”: Temple University student Matt Cahill explores Bryn Mawr history

Today’s guest blogger, Temple University student Matt Cahill, reflects on his experiences doing research at Bryn Mawr Special Collections as part of the Cultural Fieldwork Initiative organized by Greenfield Digital Center Advisory Board member and Temple University historian Christine Woyshner. We wish Matt well as he completes his studies and student teaching later this year!

Matt Cahill in Bryn Mawr Special Collections, November 2014

Matt Cahill in Bryn Mawr Special Collections, November 2014 (photo by Monica Mercado)

Prior to this experience, I did not have much experience working in cultural institutions, beyond doing outdoor maintenance for a historic property in Haverford Township. As a result, I was excited that I was going to be spending time during my Fall semester at Bryn Mawr College Special Collections!

Since Bryn Mawr is one of the oldest women’s colleges in the country, they have a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and photos relating to the College and women’s history. I was surprised how many people entered Special Collections just to look at the archives! For example, when I attended a Personal Digital Archiving Day workshop, members of the Bryn Mawr College fencing team came wondering how they can preserve their history for future generations to study. There were also scholars from as far as England who spent time in the Special Collections reading room. Since I live by the College, I take it for granted.

I thought only very large museums and institutions [maintained] special collections. However, I realized that no matter the size of the institution, it is important to maintain collections because they provide a lens for understanding larger events or phenomena.

Photo by Matt Cahill.

On Bryn Mawr’s campus (photo by Matt Cahill)

The best example of this was on my very first day, as I was finding my way to campus. At the entrance of the College’s guest parking lot, there is a historic marker about President Woodrow Wilson. Reading the marker, I found out that Wilson was the first history professor at the College in the 1880s. I lived nearby for years and never knew this! So when I started looking through Bryn Mawr Special Collections, I went straight to the collections of faculty papers. Some of the files I read included syllabi from Wilson’s classes and letters he sent. One letter I found was Wilson complaining that teaching women was below him — he did not see the point. I found this extremely interesting because Wilson later became the President about the time of the woman’s suffrage movement. By reading a letter like this, I was saw Wilson’s views of women before he became a national figure.

Continue reading

Greenfield in the Classroom: Teaching the History of Women’s Higher Education


Bryn Mawr College classroom, undated, via Triptych.

Professor Samuel Clagget Chew’s Bryn Mawr College classroom, undated, via Triptych.

This semester I’m back in the classroom, teaching a History Department seminar “Higher Education for Women: Bryn Mawr and Beyond.” With apologies to Professor Samuel Claggett Chew (pictured left), my class of smart Bryn Mawr third- and fourth-years looks absolutely nothing like the lecture class of old. We divide our time between the classroom, Special Collections, and a course blog** linking past and present.

That blog, along with links to my syllabus and digital resources, is now live:

HIST B332 Higher Education for Women: Bryn Mawr and Beyond

Although my students aren’t tweeting this semester, I’m tracking my class prep on Twitter (reviving the hashtag #bmchistory) and I look forward to using this space for reflecting on teaching the course and the research that it inspires. But today I wanted to put a call out to historians of education — how do you teach women’s higher education, in the U.S. and abroad? Similarly, how do women’s historians include the history of education in their teaching? Might we begin sharing our syllabi and readings with each other, online?

“Syllabi show how scholars put together a whole field,” reminds historian Lincoln Mullen in a recent Religion in American History blog post. “Yet unfortunately teaching documents are shared less routinely than our research, so we are much more likely to know a scholar’s books and articles than her syllabi.” This year I’m planning to overhaul the “Classroom” section of the Greenfield Center website, which currently focuses on high school lesson plans, by adding college-level syllabi and resources — much like the CLGBTH does for teaching histories of sexuality. [The Open Syllabus Project offers another intriguing model for analysis and visualization of what we teach.] In part, I’m curious to learn if and how women’s education history is being taught these days, but most of all, I continue to hope we can be more vigilant about sharing our work in the classroom, as much as we remember to share our research and digital projects.

** Students were given the option to blog anonymously, although no student has yet to choose this option. On student privacy and class blogging (or other instances of student work online that may be publicly visible), I’ve consulted this list of resources collected by Whittier College DigLibArts.

Registration Continues for the Women’s History in the Digital World Conference

Registration continues for the Women’s History in the Digital World Conference, March 22nd -23rd 2013.

The conference brings together scholars, archivists, technologists, librarians, graduate students and those involved in the arts, heritage and cultural sectors to discuss their work on women’s history in the new realm of the digital world of research and teaching. Our keynote speaker on March 22rd, Professor Laura Mandell is Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture and Professor of English at Texas A&M University. She will speak on ‘Feminist Critique vs. Feminist Production in Digital Humanities’ at 5.30pm in Wyndham and will be followed by a reception, also at Wyndham. Consecutive panels and a roundtable, featuring over 50 speakers, will happen on Saturday March 23rd.

We have developed a separate conference website where you can find directions to the campus, the registration form and the full conference schedule. This site also acts as a repository for conference related materials after the event, so if you can’t make it be sure to check back for copies of the presentations you missed. Registration is completed online, with the $30 registration fee to be forwarded separately via check.

For access to the official conference website go to http://repository.brynmawr.edu/greenfield_conference/

Please email greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu if you have any questions.

We look forward to seeing you!



‘Primary sources have the potential to help teachers in the classroom’: Temple student Adrian Wieszczyk on her experiences at Bryn Mawr

This blog post has been written by Adrian Wieszczyk, a student at Temple University who is currently completing her training to become a high school teacher. Adrian is one of three students this year who used our collections as part of the National History Day Philly Cultural Collaboration Initiative. As with our other participants, we thank Adrian for her hard work and wish her all the best with completing her studies!

My name is Adrian Wieszczyk and I am a student at Temple University. I have had the pleasure to work with Bryn Mawr College this semester through a field work internship. Through my experience I have felt very welcomed and aware of the resources and tools that Bryn Mawr provides, due to the helpful staff. As a result, I have discovered primary documents within the special collections that have potential to help teachers use primary documents within their classroom. The intended outcome of this internship through Temple was to introduce me to working with museums or archives as a future teacher and become more aware of resources provided. As for Bryn Mawr, my project was to create a lesson plan for their website using documents within their special collections. I believe that this project is very helpful for teachers, considering many teachers are unable to look through the rich resources and documents that institutions carry.

My particular focus was the female culture and role in the Prohibition era. I chose this topic because I found a few interesting documents that were published in Bryn Mawr’s Lantern of 1922-24 that discussed different perspectives and beliefs about the Prohibition. Unfortunately, I was unable to discover all of the documents and resources on the prohibition because of the time restraint but I was still able to take advantage of the documents I did find. My finalized project is a lesson plan called women in the prohibition. This lesson teaches the different organizations and cultures of females during the prohibition. For instance, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Women’s Organization for Prohibition Reform, and the cultural perspective of a “Flapper“. I really enjoyed researching these organizations as well as creating a lesson plan to further student’s knowledge of the female role in the prohibition.

Overall this experience has furthered my knowledge and skills as a student and as a future teacher. I have enjoyed developing relationships with the staff at Bryn Mawr as they have been extremely welcoming and helpful. I have learned a great deal about Bryn Mawr and other institutions in regards to getting involved as a future teacher. This knowledge will help me as I create lesson plans for my classroom and use the resources and primary documents that institutions, like Bryn Mawr College, carry and provide. I look forward to keeping in contact with Bryn Mawr College and using their digital archives to improve my upcoming lessons.



Early Entrance Exams: Could you get into Bryn Mawr in the nineteenth century?

As we welcome the new class of Bryn Mawr College students and greet the many established Mawrters we have already met, I began to ponder an aspect of our research that might be relevant to all those who have recently completed the admissions process…. examinations!

As part of our collaboration with Temple University students last year (see the blog post by Lisa MacMurray on her time as part of the National History Day Cultural Collaboration project) we examined entrance examinations from the past at Bryn Mawr College and the other Seven Sisters. Lisa and her colleague Sam Perry also sourced some examinations from Ivy League colleges in an attempt to compare the different types of exams across the male and female colleges at the end of the nineteenth century. What we found amazed us: most of us would never be able to get into these colleges if those exams were used today! Why so? Knowledge (with a capital ‘K’), or what is deemed sufficient knowledge to obtain and exhibit in order to describe oneself as educated at a higher level, is both culturally and time specific.

Many of the early entrance examinations for the Seven Sisters colleges had an emphasis on religious, bible-based history and candidates were expected to be familiar with the Old and New Testaments. While this may appear odd in today’s more secular educational cultures, it must be remembered that many colleges – both men’s and women’s – were founded on religious principles and were meant to cater specifically for students of particular denominations. Bryn Mawr College and Haverford were, as you will be familiar, founded by Quakers to be places where younger members of the Society of Friends could study within a religious atmosphere accordant to principles consistent with their beliefs.

Courtesy of the Wellesley College Archives http://new.wellesley.edu/lts/collections/archives

Others were founded on the same principles, and their examinations demonstrate their expectation that students entering their institutions be familiar with religious histories. Take this extract from the entrance exam for Wellesley College, generously supplied to us by their Archives department (click on the image to view an enlarged version) from June 1888

As you will see, the questions ask the students to analyze and give opinions on episodes from Biblical history, for example: ‘Outline the career of Noah’ or ‘Give in detail the covenant with Abraham and under what circumstances it was made’. I would venture to guess that given the diverse nature of students today and the diminished emphasis in the school system on learning religious histories as part of examinable courses, many students would struggle to answer such questions.

Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives http://barnard.edu/archives

The exam paper on the left is from Columbia College c.1890s and was kindly given to us to display by Barnard College Archives. The topics of ancient geography and ancient history were ones expected by that institution to be familiar to students wishing to enter. Perhaps you specialized in these topics as part of your high school education, but I would certainly have found it difficult to answer ‘Give an account of the legislation of Solon, and the form of government of Athens to the time of Philip I’ (granted, I did my education in Ireland which focused on different kinds of topics for senior high school history, but even still, the nature of these questions seem both specific and difficult).

What about Bryn Mawr College? The first college program (which is available online as part of Bryn Mawr College Archives collection on Internet Archive) specified the entrance requirements as the following:  a candidate must be at least sixteen years of age, and give ‘satisfactory testimonials of personal character’. In addition, they would be examined in the following:

  • English: spelling, grammar and composition
  • Modern geography
  • Mathematics
  • Latin
  • Greek or French or German
  • If omitting Greek, candidates had to be examined in one of the following: the elements of physics; the elements of chemistry; the elements of physiology

So this is what you needed to be considered to enter the college …. what about the entrance examinations themselves? Again, Latin and Greek appear as important subjects and exams were conducted for both; in addition, mathematics, English, History, French and German and Natural science.

Bryn Mawr College Arithmetic Examination 1890

As you can see from the exam from Bryn Mawr College, students wishing to enter had to display a broad spectrum of knowledge in the examinations, from arithmetic to Greek, English to Geography, a particularly challenging array of subjects given that many girls did not go to formal secondary schools in the nineteenth century but were educated at home, either by tutors, governesses or themselves (or a combination of all three if they were lucky to have the resources).



Bryn Mawr College Latin Examination 1890


The Latin examination illustrates the importance put on classical languages in the college’s early years, with every entrant expected to have a base knowledge in order to progress in their studies. In this examination candidates were asked to translate selected passages from English into Latin, and others from Latin into English. The difficulty of completing all the requirements is indicated in the fact that an instruction appears at the end that candidates who ‘found the paper too long’ were advised to focus on the first three questions and divide the rest of their time in answering other parts. Are there any readers who would find the task easy? If so, provide us with translations in the comment box below …

Candidates for entrance to the college were also expected to have a knowledge of physical geography and be able to competently describe, for example, the leading physical features of both North and South America as in the example below (as with the other images, click on the exam image to see it appear larger in another window).

Bryn Mawr College Physical Geography Examination 1890

Looking at exams brings us also to analyze the nature of that kind of learning, or what is more commonly referred to as strategic rather than deep learning; in other words, ‘cramming’. This is not a contemporary observation, indeed a writer in the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly (Vol. VI January, 1913, No. 4, available online here).

“But there are other reasons why students entering the course are unequally prepared. You will say, ‘all the students have to stand the same entrance test.’ This is true, and that brings me to the third cause for the bad composition of our classes. We have evidently not the right test: our entrance examinations are not of the right sort. The students can ‘cram,’ which means they can make a show when really they know very little” (187).

Studying for exams is an essential part of college life, and for many one of its most challenging aspects. Next time, however, you think of how difficult you are finding your test questions to answer, remember that this was an experience shared by students in the past as well as your peers now, and do your best to keep calm and Mawrter on!

The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education participates in second year of award winning Cultural Collaboration Fieldwork Initiative

The National Archives at Philadelphia Education Program, as part of its leadership of National History Day Philly, partnered in 2011 with Temple University’s Secondary Social Studies Certification Program. The idea behind the collaboration is to inspire pre-service teachers to work with primary sources and thus encourage their students to create projects for National History Day.

Student participants in National History Day Philly at a reception at City Hall with Mayor Michael Nutter

Bryn Mawr College Special Collections became involved in this through The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. The Director, Dr. Jennifer Redmond, mentored three Temple University students, Lisa MacMurray, Sam Perry and Teddy Knauss. The students were given the chance to collaborate in designing a lesson plan on the history of women’s education aimed to encourage high school students to research this important topic. Based on the archival material held at Bryn Mawr, the fieldwork experience collaboration allowed the student to create their own lesson plans based on letters, speeches, photographs and pamphlets from the nineteenth and twentieth century, all of which illuminate the lives of women educated at Bryn Mawr. The lesson plans will appear on The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women and Higher Education’s new website which is due to launch soon and will constitute one of the key resources developed to publicize the project and reach out to teachers and students alike.

We were among a range of institutions involved in the collaboration, which developed different ways to engage the students to think about the use of primary sources in their classrooms. The 2011 Participating Partners included the following:

  • American Swedish Historical Museum
  • Athenaeum of Philadelphia
  • Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries
  • Bryn Mawr Special Collections Department, Mariam Coffin Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College
  • Cliveden of the National Trust
  • The Drexel University Archives and Special Collections
  • Legacy Center for Archives and Special Collections at Drexel University College of Medicine
  • Fairmount Waterworks Interpretive Center
  • Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Historic St. George’s UMC
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Independence Seaport Museum – J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library
  • National Archives at Philadelphia
  • National Constitution Center
  • Pennsbury Manor
  • Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL)
  • Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Philadelphia City Archives
  • Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Special Collections Research Center at Temple University Libraries
  • Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons at WHYY

Pre-service history teacher Teddy Knauss worked on a lesson plan designed for AP students, focusing on issued of diversity. As part of this he examined materials relating to the Bryn Mawr Summer School of Women Workers and critically analyzed issues of race and diversity in the history of women’s education. The Summer School, and those held at other college campuses across the USA, is the focus of an exhibit on our site which will be live soon.

Samantha Perry worked with fellow student Lisa MacMurray in producing a lesson plan on women’s struggle for access to higher education in the US. They looked at the entrance exams for the Seven Sisters colleges and compared them also with those of some of the men’s Ivy League colleges.

The Cultural Fieldwork Initiative recently won two awards for its work on this program: the Innovative Teaching Award from Temple University College of Education and an Outstanding Program of Excellence Award from the Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies. Members of the initiative will be contributing an article, “Textbooks and Teaching” to the March 2013 special edition of the Journal of American History.

The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education will again be participating in the program when it launches in September. We hope to find more exciting areas of research to work with Temple students in producing lesson plans. In the meantime, if you are a teacher and would like to use our collections to create your own lesson plan, be sure to get in touch (jredmond@brynmawr.edu).

Below, Director of the Center Dr. Jennifer Redmond (third from right) at a ceremony at City Hall to mark the achievements of students at the National History Day Philadelphia competition at City Hall. With thanks to the Mayor, Michael Nutter, and to Ang Reidell and V. Chapman Smith (right and left of the mayor respectively) for their hard work on the Cultural Collaboration Initiative and their continued work on the program.

For more information on the initiative contact:

Andrea (Ang) Reidell,
Education Specialist
National Archives at Philadelphia

I have gained the privilege of learning more about a topic that I knew little about beforehand…..

My name is Teddy Knauss, and like Lisa MacMurray and my other colleague Sam Perry, I am a student at Temple University studying Secondary Education – Social Studies. My experiences interning at The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, Byrn Mawr College so far have been enlightening and educational to say the least. In the process of creating a lesson plan pertaining to the history of women’s education in America, I have gained the privilege of learning more about a topic that I knew little about beforehand. I have enjoyed looking through various folders of primary documents to find writings and pictures of women who attended the Bryn Mawr Summer School, an innovative program to encourage working class women to gain experience of college life and education. As I have been doing this, I have found interesting photographs and writings that shed light on the various perspectives that these women workers had regarding education and school. Furthermore, it has been eye-opening to see the various perspectives of the minority women who attended Bryn Mawr College and how they grappled with the racism and prejudice that characterized that time period. All in all, this internship has helped me become more knowledgeable about a topic that I believe is important and in need of a closer look within high school history classes. It is my hope that the lesson plan I am creating will help high school students become more interested in the topic of women’s education.