Essay Competition: Submit by the End of the Month

Margaret Bailey Speer at her desk in Yenching

The November 30th deadline is approaching for the second annual essay competition of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education! We would like to remind and encourage both current students and all alumnae to submit essays addressing the topic of:

‘Transformations: How has the Bryn Mawr College experience made you the person you are today?’

Consider how your experience at Bryn Mawr has shaped you, be it academically, personally, professionally, or otherwise. What have been the most surprising challenges? How have the people you met changed you? How has Bryn Mawr served as a lens or an entry point into the world? We want to hear your stories, memories, and reflections.

Prizes have been kindly sponsored by the Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library: the winning student essay will earn a prize of $500, and the alumna winner will receive a gift pack including a copy of Offerings to Athena, among other items related to the college’s history. All entrants will also have the chance to have their work published on the Greenfield Center website. Past entrants Kai Wang, Wendy Chen, and Emily Adams had their essays on the relevance of single-sex education posted on this blog.

Please submit essays of no more than 2,000 words to the Director of the Center, Dr. Jennifer Redmond, at, by Friday, November 30th, 2012. See our earlier post for more information.

How has Bryn Mawr transformed you? Announcing the Second Annual Essay Competition, deadline November 30th

Undergraduates and alumnae of Bryn Mawr College are invited to write an essay on the topic of:

‘Transformations: How has the Bryn Mawr College experience made you the person you are today?’

The essay competition’s theme is ‘Transformations: How has the Bryn Mawr College experience made you the person you are today?’ The competition this year is open to current students and to alumnae; the student prize is $500, the alumna prize will be a gift pack including a copy of Offerings to Athena edited by Anne Bruder and issued for the 125th Anniversary celebrations of the founding of the college. All entrants will have the chance to have their work published on the website.

This is the second annual essay competition of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, and this year we are delighted to welcome alums to join in after the many requests we received last year to hear your voices.

As with last year we have partnered with the Friends of the Library in running this competition. Last year, we asked students to consider the relevance of single-sex education in the twenty-first century. The winner was Kai Wang ’14 and her essay can be read here. Two other entrants to the competition also published their pieces on the blog: Wendy Chen, Class of 2014, published her reflections on the importance of single-sex education in her experience, which can be read here; Emily Adams , also class of 2014, looked at the issue from multiple perspectives, saying she wouldn’t have it any other way (click here to read her post).

We invite you to think about all aspects of your college experience, either presently or in the past:

  • What made you choose Bryn Mawr over other colleges?
  • How has your Bryn Mawr experience shaped your life?
  • Did you learn any surprising lessons? About yourself? Or other people?
  • Was it a culture shock or a nurturing haven, or both?
  • What are your abiding memories of your time here?
  • In what ways has it been a transforming experience for you?
  • What are the key moments of your time at the college?

The essays should be no longer than 2,000 words and all essays must be submitted by Friday, November 30th, 2012 via email to the Director of the Center, Dr. Jennifer Redmond at

Click here for the essay competition poster and be sure to tell all your friends:

Essay Competition Poster 2012 FINAL

Narrative, Visual Autobiography and Digital Storytelling – New ways to tell Mawter stories

We have been strongly considering the importance of recording experiences of education as part of our work at The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. As part of this, we’ve been digitizing oral histories completed with alums of the past, some who attended the college a century ago. We’ve also recently received some audio interviews of women who featured in the Women of Summer film (about the Summer School for Women Workers, which will also feature as an exhibit on the site soon). So we have been thinking deeply about the ways in which people tell their stories, shape their narratives, and for women especially, how they fit the story of their education into the wider narrative of their lives.

How do people memorialize important experiences such as higher education? Have there been changes over time? What is remembered and what is forgotten? What new forms of scrap-booking, such a popular past-time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (with a recent revival in the context of renewed interest in crafts) now exist or can exist in the digital world?

Excerpt from Photo Album of Eva Levin Milbouer, Class of 1933. See this at

As Jessy Brody’s posts in this blog on her work on the Bryn Mawr collection of scrapbooks indicates, they are rich source of material for researching past lives at Bryn Mawr College. They do not, as she has found, always tell you what you would wish to find out, being as they are, silent testimonies to the lives of Mawters in the past, communicating visually but not aurally or orally the myriad of academic and leisure experiences they had during their time here. Jessica Helfand, author of Scrapbooks: An American History has argued that scrapbooks are a form of visual autobiography to record and commemorate things that could not, for whatever reason, be expressed in words:

‘The scrapbook was the original open -source technology, a unique form of self-expression that celebrated visual sampling, culture mixing, and the appropriation and redistribution of existing media” (page xvii)

We are hoping to extend our knowledge about past experiences at Bryn Mawr College by collaborating with alums in creating digital stories, a new form of visual autobiography which melds aspects of scrapbooks with oral history to create unique personal stories. Traditional elements of scrapbooks – photographs, letters, notes, invitations, ephemera and other reminders of past experiences – are scanned and combined with an audio narrative to create an audio-visual file that looks somewhat like a mini-movie. Having been inspired by the pedagogical work in bringing digital storytelling into the classroom at the University of Richmond we have adjusted their principles of creating digital stories to reflect the needs, interests and experiences of Bryn Mawr alums (for some great examples of digital story telling from the Richmond site click here).

I will be working with alums through city and regional Alumnae Club chapters to assist interested Mawters in creating their own reflective pieces on their time at Bryn Mawr. The story you wish to tell is completely up to you: perhaps you would like to represent why you chose Bryn Mawr College above others? Or your experiences at a single-sex institution? Or what you think being educated at Bryn Mawr gave to you throughout your life/career? Was it a special time, a challenging time, or a mix of both? What role does a single sex educational institution have to play in the landscape of higher education today? These are merely suggestions; the digital story is truly yours.  For more information on our approach to creating digital stories, click below to see a poster on the topic.

Bryn Mawr Digital Stories for The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education

If you are interested in creating your own digital story, think about doing so as part of your local alumnae chapter and feel free to contact me any time (

Collecting Bryn Mawr stories is a supplement to our other work of digitizing the oral history interviews conducted in past decades which are currently on cassette tape (for more on this see blog post by student worker Isabella Barnstein on her work on creating a catalog and digitizing the collection).

Capturing the varied narratives and preserving them for future generations is an important aspect of our work and one that we hope will interest alums and the wider community of those who research, teach and simply like to hear about women’s past experiences in education.

As a reminder, you can view the scrapbooks we have currently digitized in Triptych by clicking this link (there are currently 22 albums in the collection with ongoing digitization as part of the Greenfield Digital Center initiatives in digitizing important Bryn Mawr College material).

Happy browsing!