Women’s History in the Digital World 2015: Register now!


Join us at Bryn Mawr College, May 21-22, 2015!  Campus photography via Bryn Mawr College Communications.

Join us at Bryn Mawr College, May 21-22, 2015! Campus photography via Bryn Mawr College Communications.

Women’s History in the Digital World 2015, the second conference of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, will be held on the campus of Bryn Mawr College on May 21-22. We aim to bring together experts, novices, and all those in between to share insights, lessons, and resources for the many projects emerging at the crossroads of history, the digital humanities, and women’s and gender studies.

The conference will open Thursday, May 21 with afternoon sessions and a keynote address, followed by a full day of panels scheduled for Friday, May 22.  Claire Bond Potter, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Humanities Action Lab at The New School for Public Engagement, will give the conference keynote address at 4:30pm on Thursday, entitled “Putting the Humanities In Action: Why We Are All Digital Humanists, and Why That Needs to Be A Feminist Project.

A draft program for the two days is now available as a PDF [updated 5/7/15]. We are thrilled to host more than seventy presenters, representing projects from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Conference participants are asked to pre-register by Friday, May 1. Continue reading

Sharing Our Work: Reflections on Digital History for the New Year


Campus may be quiet but the Greenfield Center is open for business.

Campus may be quiet but the Greenfield Center is open for business.

Last week, I returned to Bryn Mawr after nearly a week in New York for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). My meeting was a busy one — catching up with old friends and mentors, checking in with one of my other professional organizations (the Coordinating Council for Women in History), helping to organize THATCamp AHA, and chairing a panel on feminist work in digital history. It was an exhilarating and exhausting week. But despite the conference fatigue, I left New York feeling energized for the work I’ll be taking on for the Greenfield Center this semester: teaching my first course, Higher Education for Women: Bryn Mawr and Beyond; advising students doing archives fieldwork as part of Bryn Mawr’s Praxis program; continuing to work on the NEH-funded Seven Sisters digital project; and planning our May conference, Women’s History in the Digital World 2015.

Building a conversation at THATCamp AHA.

In conversation at THATCamp AHA.

Perhaps because our conference CFP is due later this week, I spent a lot of time at AHA thinking about how conferences bring us together, and about how we can support each other and build audiences for our work. I spent much of my time on Twitter, like my colleague Shane Landrum, who argues, “Live-tweeting #AHA2015 is, for me, a way to turn note-taking into a tiny bit of professional service [and] make what we do more public and visible.” It is also a way for me to promote digital projects that don’t always receive attention (or funding).

So that’s how I found myself, for the first time, live-tweeting while seated as panel chair at Session 159: Can DH Answer Our Questions: Using Digital Humanities to Address the Concerns of Feminist Historians. To audience members unfamiliar with the ways of the #twitterstorians, it would have looked surprising to see a panel chair typing away during each speaker’s presentation, but in a meeting as heavily tweeted as AHA, I wanted the research of our three scholars — panel organizer Kathryn Falvo, Tamika Richeson, and Wendy E. Chmielewski — to be captured and shared as widely as possible. Indeed, the Storify that Kate Moore created to record our session serves as a useful tool for circulating the discussion beyond our conference room.

As the panelists made their remarks, I found myself scribbling down a new conclusion to my comments:

This panel convinces me more than ever before that we shouldn’t have to fear the loss or muting of women’s voices — both scholars and historical subjects — in the rise of digital history, but we do need to continue to be vigilant about getting our work out there. Over the weekend, I’ve been eyeing the digital workshop, sessions, lightning rounds, posters, and proposals coming in for Tuesday’s THATCamp, and I’ve been thinking critically about the digital projects drawing the most attention and conversation. Do they take seriously histories of women, of gender, or sexuality? There’s a reason you may have seen me tweeting during these presentation: We have to be researchers, digital historians, and promoters.

Michelle Moravec, who spoke at AHA about her practice of writing in public, made a similar point:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.55.36 PM

In that spirit, I’d like to share just a few of the digital projects dealing with histories of women, gender, and sexuality that caught my eye at AHA this year:

If you have a project to share, or are looking for possible collaborators and conversation partners, I encourage you to submit to Women’s History in the Digital World this week, and to save the conference dates: May 21-22, 2015. I’m excited that the Greenfield Center can play a role in the work of promoting diverse projects in digital history; in the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing details on scheduling, registration, and accommodations. In the meantime, we welcome your ideas and questions — in the comments below, or via email to greenfieldhwe [at] brynmawr [dot] edu.

“Can DH Answer Our Questions?” Looking Ahead to AHA 2015

aha 2015It’s finals week at Bryn Mawr, which means that campus is getting quieter by the day. But for historians like me, the December break also requires getting ready for the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting, held the first weekend of the new year. On Sunday, January 4, I’ll be chairing a fantastic session organized by Penn State graduate student Kathryn Falvo, featuring work at the intersection of women’s and gender history and the digital humanities. We’ll be joined by new University of Virginia Ph.D. Tamika Richeson, and Dr. Wendy E. Chmielewski, George Cooley Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Set your alarm clocks: we’re scheduled for a 9am start, discussing topics central to the Greenfield Digital Center’s mission:

AHA Session 159: Can DH Answer Our Questions? Using Digital Humanities to Address the Concerns of Feminist Historians

Reflecting on her work on women who ran for office prior to 1920, Wendy Chmielewski questions the gendered aspects of digital research and presentation. Does digital research help scholars craft better or more complex questions about our historical subjects or create a different historiography? As a digitized medium becomes standard, questions of methodology, funding, and presentation are of the utmost importance. Tamika Richeson’s presentation will explore a DH project she has been working on that uses Omeka and Neatline to look at over 450 arrests of black women in Washington D.C. from 1830-1867. Tamika is concerned with placing these black women’s arrests in a larger digital narrative – one which can help historians access the lives of lower class black women in a way that traditional methodologies cannot. Similarly, Kathryn Falvo examines the lives of traveling Quaker women in the nineteenth century by using another mapping tool, ArchGIS. By tracing these women’s lives through their movements, we can better understand the role of female ministers within the Society of Friends and their lived experience as ministers. Here, too, mapping technologies facilitate an understanding of lived experience that more traditional methodologies cannot accommodate. Can DH methods accommodate the questions that feminist historians seek to answer?

digital iconOur session is just one piece of a terrific slate of digital history opportunities at this year’s AHA, and I’m looking forward to a long weekend of good conversation and learning about new projects and tools.The conference has a brand-new smartphone app that will guide users to all things digital (check out the snappy logo, left). And if you’re planning to be in New York, there are still opportunities to present and meet outside of the formal panels: one of the first receptions of the conference is the now-annual reception for history bloggers and #twitterstorians on Friday, January 2, and the AHA recently posted a call for Digital “Lightning Rounds” on Saturday, January 3.

But there’s more!


With the support of AHA Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives Seth Denbo, and historian Claire Bond Potter at The New School for Social Engagement, at the conclusion of the meeting we’ll be gathering for THATCamp AHA on Tuesday, January 6. Along with co-organizers Dan Royles and Shane Landrum, I’m excited to welcome both digital history veterans and newcomers to The New School for a day of unconferencing that will include a handful of prescheduled workshops on topics ranging from social media to social justice. Slots for THATCamp are filling up quickly–register here!

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Speaking of conferences, we’re also busy these days on the receiving end of paper and panel proposals for the Greenfield Digital Center’s next conference, Women’s History in the Digital World, scheduled for May 21-22, 2015. The deadline for submitting a proposal is one month away — Friday, January 16 — so do contact the Center via email, leave a comment below, or catch me at AHA if you have questions or ideas (find our CFP, here). Can DH answer our questions? We’ll have lots of opportunities in the coming months to find out.

Evolution and Tradition: Learning from Digital Culture while Honoring the Past


bmcMost of our past reflections on the relationship between our digital mode and the content we publish have been concerned with how different platforms influence the messages we craft. However, we haven’t given as much space to the equally interesting matter of how the culture surrounding digital tools resonates with aspects of our subject matter.

In September, Joshua Kim published an article in Inside Higher Ed entitled “Is Digital Culture Changing Academic Culture?” In the piece, Kim reflects on the contrast between “digital culture,” which he characterizes as rapidly-evolving and experimental, and the “solid and stable” nature of traditional academic culture. Each holds apparent value: the agile and non-hierarchical nature of digital culture allows for exciting collaborations to arise, stoking innovation, while the long-reaching histories of established universities lend “a foundation on which to build.” As digital scholarship percolates in institutions of higher education, conflicts (or at least growing pains) can arise, but Kim argues that despite the apparent incongruity, universities could reap great benefits by incorporating some of the aspects of digital culture that initially seem at odds with their tradition-oriented culture.

The article has stuck with me in the last few months as I’ve considered Kim’s point in relation to how schools address issues of social inequality on campus. Academic culture benefits from stability for many reasons, and tradition can be an integral and important part of educational experience (just ask a Mawrter). But there are ways that this constancy can feel like entrenchment that reach even beyond the domain of digital versus analog scholarship. Kim’s reflections on digital culture reminded me of current ongoing dialogues both in and outside of the academy on difficult issues such as race, gender, and sexual assault; issues in which rapidly evolving approaches to inclusion and identity run up against deeply ingrained societal problems.

Continue reading

Call for Papers: Women’s History in the Digital World 2015


Women’s History in the Digital World 2015, the second conference of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, will be held on the campus of Bryn Mawr College on May 21-22.

We aim to bring together experts, novices, and all those in between to share insights, lessons, and resources for the many projects emerging at the crossroads of history, the digital humanities, and women’s and gender studies. Continuing a conversation begun at our inaugural meeting in 2013, the conference will feature the work of librarians and archivists, faculty, students, and other stakeholders in the development of women’s and gender histories within digital scholarship.

Opening keynote, Women's History in a Digital World, 2013 at Bryn Mawr College.

Opening keynote, Women’s History in a Digital World, 2013.

The conference will feature a keynote address by Claire Bond Potter, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Humanities Action Lab at The New School for Public Engagement.

Panels will be scheduled during the afternoon on Thursday, May 21, and on Friday, May 22; a projects showcase and digital lab will offer opportunities for unstructured conversation and demonstrations.

We invite individual papers or full panel proposals on women’s and gender history projects with a digital component, investigating the complexities of creating, managing, researching and/or teaching with digital resources and digitized materials.

All thematic areas, geographies, and time periods are welcome: this is a chance to share knowledge, network, and promote collaborations that locate new possibilities.

To submit a proposal, please send the following information by email to greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu:

  • complete contact information including current email and institutional affiliation, if any;
  • short (150-200 word) biography for each presenter; and
  • abstract (s) of the proposed presentation (500 words for single paper, poster, or demonstration, or 1,500-2000 words for panels of 3 papers)

The deadline for submissions is Friday, January 16, 2015.

For updates, follow the Greenfield Digital Center on Twitter @GreenfieldHWE and the conference hashtag, #WHDigWrld15.

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Women’s History in the Digital World is organized by The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education with the support of Bryn Mawr College Libraries and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

A New Start: Monica’s First Days at the Greenfield Digital Center


On July 1, 2014, Monica L. Mercado joined Bryn Mawr College Libraries as the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow and Director of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education.

Last week, I unpacked my boxes, learned how to read the SEPTA train schedule, and arrived on campus, eager to dig into Bryn Mawr Special Collections and the resources supported by the Digital Center.

Exploring Bryn Mawr's campus.

Exploring Bryn Mawr’s campus.

This month I’m getting up to speed on our NEH-funded planning grant, already underway, which is supporting the development of a collaborative digital portal with the libraries of Barnard College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Vassar College, Wellesley College, and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. [You might have seen the project announced on Technical.ly Philly last month.] This portal will make available materials documenting the first generation of students at the colleges once known as the “Seven Sisters,” and we hope it will offer researchers new access and insights into the experiences of women at our institutions in their founding years and beyond.

I’m also interested in considering how the Digital Center and the College Archives can document more recent histories of women’s education. This summer, we’re lucky to have TriCoDH summer intern Brenna Levitin (BMC ’16) at the Digital Center. Brenna is currently investigating queer histories of Bryn Mawr for a future digital exhibition, mining the College Archives, and beginning an oral history project that we hope will continue after her internship concludes.

Monica's summer reading: A Book of Bryn Mawr Stories (1901)

Monica’s summer reading: A Book of Bryn Mawr Stories (1901)

I’m already energized by sharing a workspace with Brenna and the College Archives’ other student workers, who are happy to answer all my questions about campus! Moreover, advising students like Brenna doing new research in women’s education history has been a terrific introduction to the wealth of materials housed in Bryn Mawr’s archives (and already digitized), but also suggests to me ways in which the Digital Center can be part of a conversation about collections development, and how we document the last few decades of student life.

Although it may be the middle of summer, we’re busy planning for the year ahead. With the greater College community, we’re looking forward to the formal inauguration of Bryn Mawr’s ninth President, Kimberly Wright Cassidy, on September 20, for which I’ll be creating my first digital exhibition. And as I prepare my upcoming course on women’s education history for the Bryn Mawr College History Department, I’ll be reviewing how the Digital Center can serve as a more robust repository of ideas for college-level teaching in women’s history.

We’re also beginning to think about a second conference, building on the success of last year’s meeting, Women’s History in the Digital World. In many ways, my own introduction to digital history was facilitated by the connections I made at that inaugural conference, and I hope to use the Digital Center as a platform to reach audiences new to digital projects in women’s and gender history, as well as to support the work of a growing group of historians, archivists, and digital humanists who are making possible the future of the feminist past.

As part of getting to know the Bryn Mawr community, I’ll be working closely with Digital Center Assistant Director Evan McGonagill to continue to build relationships with College alumnae/i as well as scholars engaged in the growing field of digital history. Through our website, this blog, and other social media,including tumblr and Twitter, as well as events on campus, we hope you’ll continue to follow our work.

The Greenfield Digital Center Announces New Director


Long-time followers of the Digital Center will recall that after her two years of outstanding leadership, our former Director, Jennifer Redmond, elected to depart last fall in order to pursue a position in the Department of History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. After a carefully considered search, we are eager to announce that we have found our next Director and we are excited to welcome her this coming summer!


Monica Mercado at the ASA Digital
Humanities Caucus, November 2013

Monica Mercado will complete her Ph.D. in U.S. Women’s History at the University of Chicago this spring. With a background in women’s history, museum studies, and archives, Monica is already deeply engaged with many of the subjects that are germane to the work of the Digital Center. Her previous topics of focus have included, among others, religious history, feminist and queer history, the history of the book, and women’s educational history and practices. (For examples of Monica’s recent work, see the links at the bottom of this post.) Her work has often interrogated the extent to which marginalized voices are either preserved or silenced both in their contemporary environments and in the historical record, a topic that increasingly informs the work that we are doing here at the Digital Center and which we intend to pursue further.

We first became acquainted with Monica through our inaugural conference last spring, Women’s History in the Digital World, at which we convened nearly one hundred scholars, students, independent researchers, archivist, librarians, technologists and others who were engaged with digital work in the fields of women’s and gender studies. She has remained one of a vibrant group of conference attendees who have continued to converse, through social media and other outlets, about the crucial presence of scholars in these disciplines in digital spaces. Monica agreed to share some words here:

mercadoOver the last year I have found the Digital Center to be an incredibly useful resource for my work with University archives in Chicago. Women’s History in the Digital World introduced me to new colleagues across the humanities, in academic departments, libraries, archives, and elsewhere, who are building exciting new projects in women’s and gender history using digital tools and contexts.

I am thrilled to join the Digital Center as its next Director, and to continue the work that makes Bryn Mawr an important place for taking seriously the future of women’s history. I look forward to organizing programs building on the Digital Center’s inaugural conference, reaching out to both existing audiences — from whom I have learned so much — as well as to audiences new to digital history — students and more advanced scholars who can look to the Digital Center’s online portal as a resource for developing new projects, or figuring out social media in the age of the #twitterstorian. Some of my most rewarding experiences at the University of Chicago have resulted from creating opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved first-hand with archives and community history, and I hope to expand upon these opportunities online and in the classroom at Bryn Mawr, where I will design and teach courses for the Department of History. And as a Barnard alumna, I’m eager to pursue new research and collaborative ventures that further uncover the histories of women’s education in women’s institutions.

See the links below to learn more about Monica and her work. We look forward to welcoming her in July, 2014, and opening a new phase of exciting work for the Digital Center.

Monica’s blog: http://monicalmercado.com

“A Desire for History: Building Queer Archives at the University of Chicago” (2013)

University of Chicago LGBTQ History Project tumblr (2012-present)

Religion in American History blog (contributor, 2013-present)

On Equal Terms? The Stakes of Archiving Women’s and LGBT History in the Digital Age (presented at Women’s History in the Digital World at Bryn Mawr College, March 2013)

‘On Equal Terms’ – Educating Women at the University of Chicago (co-authored with Katherine Turk, 2009)


Blogs, Exhibits and Tweets: Summer at The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education


Marion Park, President of Bryn Mawr directly after M. Carey Thomas. Park was a Bryn Mawr College alum and is the subject of a new exhibit to be developed over the summer for the website

The summer is here and we thought we’d share our plans for developing the Center’s site with you. We will be working hard over the next few months on developing new content, and continuing to reach out to you on social media (if you don’t follow us already, get to it @GreenfieldHWE or find our facebook updates on the Friends of Bryn Mawr College Library page).


See http://omeka.org/ for further details on the platform we use to power our site

We are excited to be making two significant improvements to the site. The first of these is to make the site mobile compatible, so all of you who like to browse on your tablet or phone will be able to do so more easily once the changes come into effect around July. The second improvement is something that more directly affects our experience – we are in the process of upgrading to the new Omeka 2.0 platform, a huge improvement on the previous version from our initial poking around! If you are using the new platform and would like to share your experiences, be sure to get in touch (greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu). The biggest change on the user end will be the search functionality, which will be greatly enhanced from its present version. Aside from the search, users will not notice differences or disruptions (we hope!) but the streamlined back end is definitely an improvement and will help us in our mission to digitize and display in the best way the resources we hold in the history of women’s education.

Marian Edwards Park was President of Bryn Mawr from 1922 until 1942 when she retired. When she came to Bryn Mawr as a student she was among the early generations of women who enjoyed higher education for the first time. A member of the class of 1898, she won the European Fellowship upon graduation, the college’s highest honor at the time. She returned to complete her PhD in classics in 1918. She therefore experienced life at Bryn Mawr from all perspectives: undergraduate, graduate and administrator. She oversaw the school through some dramatic times, namely the Depression and the beginning of World War II, and she was also president during the period in which it first allowed African American students to attend as undergraduates and as members of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers. Park also led the celebration of the College’s 50th anniversary, a major milestone of achievement in the ‘experiment’ of education for women. Because she  followed in the rather intimidating shadow of M. Carey Thomas, her contributions have not loomed as large in the historical record. However, Park will be the subject of a new exhibition this summer, examining in particular her condemnation of the increasingly horrifying events in Europe that led up to World War II. The exhibit will include evidence on her efforts to host Jewish scholars fleeing the Nazi regime. Keep an eye on the site for the exhibit and make sure to let us know what you think.

We hope to continue work on digitizing primary sources, particularly the rich collection of oral histories that we have been engaged in translating from cassette tapes to digitized recordings for over a year. This is slow, meticulous work, but we hope to be able to share them with you eventually on the Tri-College digital collections site, Triptych. If you haven’t seen them already, there are a few examples from the collection that were digitized as part of the Taking Her Place exhibition, available on our site here. This is a fascinating collection, including narratives from student, staff, faculty and alumnae, with memories stretching back to the first decades of the college’s existence. Work will be ongoing for the next year and more, but we will be releasing recordings to celebrate special events or for use in digital exhibits as appropriate when we can do so. There have been a few reflections from students working on this collection over the past while which you may have seen already, the last of which was by our most recent student helper on the project, Lianna Reed ’14.

Special Collections is also hosting a number of interns for the summer, two of which have been awarded brand new internships through the Pensby Center to focus on tracing histories of diversity at Bryn Mawr College. Lauren Footman ’14 will be examining the experiences of the African diaspora on campus, including sourcing participants to create new oral histories to add to our collection, a most welcome addition to our work at the Center in trying to uncover stories from that past for which we have little or no documentary evidence. Her fellow intern, Alexis de la Rosa ’15, is looking at Latina histories and will be surveying current students and alums later in the summer. Alexis and Lauren’s work will be available as a digital exhibit on our site at the end of the summer, and they will also be writing blogs about their experiences doing this important research. Both Alexis and Lauren are also jointly engaged in cataloging the papers of Evelyn Rich, class of 1952. Evelyn Rich was one of the first African American students to live on campus, and her extraordinary achievements span education, the labor movement and politics. We are lucky to have acquired her papers.

WHDW home pageThe popularity of the Women’s History in the Digital World conference repository continues – there have been over 300 full-text downloads from the repository so far. We are so proud of our wonderful contributors for sharing their work and hope anyone who hasn’t done so already will be inspired to. Plans for the next conference will be going into gear in the fall, so keep an eye out for updates and think about submitting an individual paper or a panel if you have been working on a collective project. You can also follow the recording of the conference by visiting our blog post which detailed the Twitter archive, Storify and blog posts on the conference and you can listen to Professor Laura Mandell’s inspiring keynote here.

As some of you know, I will be going on maternity leave for this summer, so if you wish to get in touch with someone about the work, please contact the Center’s Research Assistant, Evan McGonagill, who will be managing communications throughout the summer (you can contact her through the general email address: greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu).  There will be more blog posts and updates so don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and to visit the Educating Women blog. You can comment on any blog post you see, and we always look forward to hearing your comments so stay in touch, and happy summer!


Thoughts on feminism, digital humanities and women’s history


M. Carey Thomas, Bryn Mawr College’s first female president, is the subject of a new digital exhibit to be launched soon

I have been exploring my thoughts on women’s history, digital humanities, and feminism through two separate presentations in recent months, the first at the conference organized by The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, Women’s History in the Digital World (March 2013), and the second at the Five Colleges Mediating Public Spheres: Genealogies of Feminist Knowledge in the Digital Age conference (April 2013). In a presentation at the latter conference, titled Open Source Technology and Feminist Perspectives: Translating Sources on the History of Women’s Education to the Digital Age I explained my feminist approach to my work at the Digital Center, focusing on a digital exhibit on M. Carey Thomas that is underway and will be launched soon. This blog post represents a synthesis of the two papers, based on work and thoughts in progress… all comments and feedback welcome as I work through some of the concepts I’ve been grappling with.

My thoughts on the trifecta of feminism, digital humanities and women’s history are largely drawn from my experiences using the open source software platform, Omeka, and our institutional enterprise version of Word Press to populate different areas of the Digital Center’s site, in addition to my training as a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow. While I assume that neither of these tools were designed with feminist notions in mind, I’ve come to believe that they have large potential to be utilized for feminist outcomes, particularly Omeka, as I will explain further in this post. Primarily, the Center’s site aims to tell stories in the history of women’s education that emanate from different perspectives. As Hermione Lee has said in her collection Virginia Woolf’s Nose: Essays on Biography, “We all want stories”, and the demand for such stories in the digital age is no less (possibly more, in fact) than ever before.[1]

The digital age and the tools it provides allow for a different mediation of knowledge than standard forms of scholarly communications. As noted by Abby Smith Rumsey these new methods have brought “fundamental operational changes and epistemological challenges [that] generate new possibilities for analysis, presentation, and reach into new audiences”.[2] The exhibit format in Omeka is designed to allow for the easy presentation of original historical material, such as images, transcriptions and audio files. This allows for the greater sharing of primary source materials, itself a way to decolonize and break down barriers to research and access to rare materials. We have created a number of exhibitions on our site, some of which have been generated as a result of student work from a class I teach on the history of women’s education, some of which come from collaborations with other colleges, and some drawn from our own collections and created by me and my team (see here for the full range of exhibits we have developed so far).

Our endeavor to produce digital source material comes from a desire to transmit knowledge and awareness of women’s history to the broadest audience possible: fellow researchers, students, teachers, alumnae, digital humanists and those simply with a desire to learn more about the topic–in essence, the public sphere has expanded in the digital age, although there are still challenges to be faced in greater online access morphing into another form of the ‘digital divide’.

Upon learning the new software platform and becoming familiar with its characteristics, possibilities and constraints, I realized that the Omeka exhibit format allows for the subject matter to be presented in a deconstructed narrative, due to the free form it provides for creating the digital exhibit. This struck me as having strong feminist potential: while the structure allowed by the Omeka format is cohesive in terms of form and flow, the sectioning of a biographical narrative allows for the fragmentation of the story, and in my efforts, for the development of a kaleidoscopic view, or, to paraphrase Henry James, to let the “swarm of possibilities” that nebulously make up a person’s biography to emerge, rather than a “few estimated and cherished things”.[3] This is, in my view, one of the pivotal means by which to incorporate digital media in feminist scholarship and practice.

Image by klmontgomery licensed under a Creative Commons license and available here http://www.flickr.com/photos/klm_digital_snaps/1444968874/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Image by klmontgomery licensed under a Creative Commons license and available here http://www.flickr.com/photos/klm_digital_snaps/1444968874/sizes/m/in/photostream/

In a feminist postmodern tradition, this approach posits that there is no ONE person for us to study, no One Truth we can ascribe to a person or their life history.  In this case, M. Carey Thomas, born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 2, 1857 to a prominent Quaker family. Thomas was the first Dean and later the first female President of Bryn Mawr College and a national leader in women’s struggle for access to higher education and the suffrage movement.  My feminist approach to her biography aims to be cognizant of the privilege in stories such as hers: the history of women’s entry into higher education is an elite history, and recognition of this is necessary so that the histories we tell are not merely celebratory without being interrogative.
Here I am focusing on Thomas as she was seen from different perspectives: her own (for example, her ambitious articulations for her education and career in the letters and diaries that span her time at Quaker boarding school, on to Cornell, Johns Hopkins and eventually a summa cum laude PhD from the University of Zurich), those of her contemporaries, lovers, friends and family, the public and the way in which she was memorialized after her death in 1935. I am focused here, however, not on the details of her biography (although this will be in the exhibit) but rather on examining the potential of an open source software tool to present critical historical analysis of this fascinating person. The ability to juxtapose different opinions by placing them on the same page is more visually and comprehensively impactful in a digital exhibition format than would be the effect of a written paragraph: in traditional biographical accounts such as an article or monograph, editorial and stylistic conventions would view such jumping around as incoherent, and yet it can be seamless in an online presentation.

Making sure our metadata is harvested by the major search engines and databases and using social media to reach both scholarly and public audiences will both be crucial in building up a new body of feminist genealogies and for tracing feminist work in the digital era. The metadata itself also needs to be cognizant of feminist principles in describing women’s identities in digital databases, as was mentioned by Professor Laura Mandell in her keynote speech at the Women’s History in the Digital World conference. 

It is also imperative that as we do work that mediates the public sphere in the digital age we think about its long term preservation. This requires that choices be made, funding be sourced and policies be formulated now – it would be the greatest tragedy of all if we found ourselves unable to trace back the exciting developments in feminist work that have been produced in online public spaces. The familiar academic mantra of ‘publish or perish’ might be usefully adapted in this context to be ‘archive or perish’. And, as I remarked at the Women’s History in the Digital World conference that was held at Bryn Mawr College, I believe fundamentally in the idea that the ‘add women and stir model’ for any kind of initiative, social, political education or anything else, rarely works.


Photo courtesy: www.hbdi.com

In the new era of digital humanities, women need a seat at the table while it’s still being set, not after the main course has been served. As I researched for this paper, I discovered that others in the digital humanities community have also used the “table” to describe the need to collaborate, critique and engage in new developments. Alan Liu has argued that digital humanists need to be equal partners at the table, not just a servant, when critical conversations are happening about the way forward for the humanities and cautions that digital humanists need to include more cultural critique in their work.[5] Moya Bailey extends Liu’s concerns into more explicitly feminist territory with her arguments that the “ways in which identities inform both theory and practice in digital humanities have been largely overlooked” and that moving from “the margin to the center” gives the opportunity to “engage new sets of theoretical questions that expose explicit structural limitations that are the inevitable result of an unexamined identity politics of whiteness, masculinity and ablebodiness”.[6] Alan Liu’s point was that the “digital humanities have a special role to play today in helping the humanities communicate in contemporary media networks”.[7] I would extend this argument to say that feminists have a special role in mediating the present and future public spheres, through their research, pedagogy and activism. Here the words of M. Carey Thomas are apt: reflecting on the success women had made of educational attainment in the first twenty-five years of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, she stated “The fearsome toads of those early prophecies are turning into pearls of purest radiance before our very eyes.”[8] Let’s hope it’s the same for us as we feminists navigate the new public spheres and create our own genealogies of knowledge.

[1][1] Hermione Lee,  Virginia Woolf’s Nose: Essays on Biography, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2005: 1.

[2] Smith Rumsey , New-Model Scholarly Communication: Road Map for Change (2011: 2).

[3] As quoted in Hermione Lee,  Virginia Woolf’s Nose: Essays on Biography, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2005: 1.

[4] Anne Balsamo, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work, Duke University Press: 2011: 51.

[5] Alan Liu, ‘Where is Cultural Criticsim in the Digital Humanities?’ available from http://liu.english.ucsb.edu/where-is-cultural-criticism-in-the-digital-humanities/

[6] Moya Z. Bailey, ‘All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave’, Journal of Digital Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 1 Winter 2011, available from http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/all-the-digital-humanists-are-white-all-the-nerds-are-men-but-some-of-us-are-brave-by-moya-z-bailey/

[7] Alan Liu, ‘Where is Cultural Criticsim’.

[8] Thomas, Women’s College and University Education:  Address delivered at Quarter-Centennial Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, Boston, November 6, 1907.
Available in digital form on the website of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education by clicking here. You can view the original by visiting Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Conference Presentations Available Online: Women’s History in the Digital World Repository

Courtesy of SiForesight, siforesight.netOn March 22nd and 23rd, 2013, a compelling group gathered for the Women’s History in the Digital World conference to discuss an array of the fascinating projects that are emerging at the crossroads of the digital humanities and women’s and gender studies. The conference sparked dialogues across both the physical and the digital realms, as animated exchanges took place on Twitter alongside those that were ignited in person (viewable as a Storify of tweets using the conference hashtag, #WHDigWrld, thanks to the creative ‘wordsmithing’ of presenter Michelle Moravec). One of the most exciting outcomes of the event is the extension of those conversations beyond the spaces in which they originated: we are now looking to gather the presentations from the weekend in the form of speaking notes, slides, links to project and social media pages and other supplementary materials, to make them available to all on our conference website. For the many who were not able to attend in person, this resource will provide an opportunity to engage with the work and see the variety of research endeavors that are currently underway in the field. For those who were present, the repository offers a new chance to view presentations that conflicted with other panels, or to revisit work that may have stirred thoughts that called for deeper inquiry. We hope that the site will serve to sustain the conversations that emerged at the conference, as well as foster new dialogues with a wider participatory base than those who were able to convene in March.

Several participants have already sent in their materials. In addition to the abstracts and bios we have uploaded the conference related materials we have been given so far. You can search all of this material on the conference website using the search box in the upper right hand side as seen in the screen shot below. WHDW home page

The conference repository can be searched by keyword, presenter name, institution etc., whatever term you would like to use to draw together material from the many different conference presentations. We encourage all presenters to send us their materials – you will not be able to upload the documents yourself, this must be done by us.

Update: presentations with materials uploaded are now marked on the Saturday schedule with a red “presentation available” indicator to make browsing easy.

Among the work that has been uploaded so far are the presentations on DYKE, A Quarterly: Blogging an Online Annotated Archive; Mining Hymns: Exploring Gendered Patterns in Religious Language; Digital Diaries, Digital Tools: A Comparative Approach to Eighteenth-Century Women’s History; and The New Hampshire Historic Dress Project. These and others can be found on the conference site as described above, or you may click the images below to view the materials directly.

Many thanks to those who have shared their work in this open access forum. If you participated and would like to make your presentation materials in any form available to the public, please send them to greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu and we will make sure to post them for you! Don’t forget to include your website and/or social media information. You may direct questions to our Director, Jennifer Redmond, at jredmond@brynmawr.edu. Or find us on Twitter @GreenfieldNHDPHWE


DYKE: A Quarterly


Mining Hymns


Digital Diaries, Digital Tools