OHA Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, October 10-14, 2012

OHA Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, October 10-14, 2012

Sing It Out, Shout It Out, Say It Out Loud: Giving Voice through Oral History”

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The 2012 OHA meeting will focus not only on the many ways that people express themselves within oral histories, but also the ways in which people craft existing oral histories into other means of expression.

Papers, performances, exhibits, and roundtables will encompass broad and diverse interpretations of the conference theme, in both traditional presentations and nontraditional ones with interactive, dialogic formats and creative use of digital media.

Special guests will include, among others, Neenah Ellis, national NPR journalist and oral historian, and Harold B. Williams, former executive secretary of the NAACP in Cleveland. Several special events are also planned to tap the rich history and culture of the Cleveland area and showcase the creativity of local musicians, performers, and artists, as well as the work of regional activists striving to preserve the recent history of struggles for civil rights, labor justice, and social welfare.

Plan now to attend this vibrant and engaging conference.  Register now online at http://a3.acteva.com/orderbooking/go/oha2012


Ever wondered what M. Carey Thomas sounded like? If so, listen up!

We have previously featured a radio broadcast of M. Carey Thomas (available in this post on the issue of single sex education today), but given the significant and perennial interest in her (and particularly her mannerisms) that we’ve noticed through talking to people about this project, I thought I’d feature it again.

Thomas recorded this broadcast in 1935, just a few months before her death. By this stage she was a well practiced speaker, having given public orations on women’s education and suffrage for many years. She also gave chapel speeches to the students at Bryn Mawr which are warmly remembered in students accounts of their time at the college. What many may not be aware of is that Thomas undertook elocution lessons in order to perfect her oratory. As Helen Horowitz has written in excellent biography The Power and the Passion of M. Carey Thomas, she ‘hoped the world would see her [as] a woman of dignity and taste’ (page 227) and her professionalism while speaking was undoubtedly part of this.

Thomas’ regular and memorable chapel speeches to the students ranged from her personal ideas and experiences to more polemical speeches on the importance of the ‘Bryn Mawr standard’ and educational opportunities for women. She clearly had a vision of women in the public world, a role that could only be obtained through higher education and active participation in society.

In the radio broadcast, Thomas spoke about her own journey through education, how she had never come into contact with an educated woman in her childhood, and how her mother’s friends offered expressions of sympathy rather than encouragement when she went to Europe to pursue her educational journey. As Thomas says, they would have been less scandalized if she had run away with the coachman than her decision to obtain higher education! It reminds us of the importance of role models in achieving ambitions; to be able to see someone achieve what you wish for makes it ultimately seem more possible for you and more acceptable for those who see it as out of the norm. Although women’s access to higher education in the US is no longer in question, this sentiment holds true: role models, mentors and successful examples are necessary to envision and realize goals, regardless of what they are.

Thomas also highlights in the speech the objections made to women’s education at Bryn Mawr in its early years, with claims of physical incapacity resulting from the ‘strain’ of undertaking a degree, arguments which existed for centuries before Thomas’ own experiences and referred to in Michelle Smith’s (BMC ’12) post earlier on this blog. The societal expectations of women’s intellectual and physical capacity for higher education were low, and this may explain the detailed monitoring of student’s physical health in the early years of the college, proving that academic study could be combined with physical education to positive effect.

Thomas’ talk is a celebration of how far women had come in 1935 from her own days of education at the end of the nineteenth century, and her spirit of optimism and encouragement is something I feel is imbued in the overall spirit of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. 

Click here to listen to M. Carey Thomas mcareythomas1935 and let us know what you think!

Digitizing Bryn Mawr’s Voices: A glimpse into the lives of students past…

Previous blog posts have mentioned the exciting work we have been doing on the oral history tape collection of materials. Lucy Fisher West, College Archivist, described early the aims of the project as offering those interested in women’s history and the history of the college another source to draw on in addition to the written records the college possesses. From 1981 onwards the oral history project was managed by Caroline Rittenhouse.

The following observations are by Isabella Barnstein, BMC ’14, who has worked on digitizing the collection over the last semester, finalizing an electronic version of the catalog and digitizing the related letters, release forms and transcripts…. important work to preserve this fantastic collection into the future….

Millicent Carey McIntosh, with President Harris Wofford and BMC alum Katharine Hepburn on a visit to campus in the 1970s

Over the past few weeks I’ve been privileged to survey Bryn Mawr’s Oral History Project, a collection of interviews bringing the former college to life.  Recorded in the 1970’s and 80’s, the tapes are remarkable for their candor, depth, and humor:  thorough descriptions of professors and classes, visits by famous personages including President Taft and the Queen of Belgium, exploits of first-president M. Carey Thomas, a first-person account by Katharine Hepburn.A voice bringing M. Carey Thomas to life is that of Millicent Carey McIntosh’20, not only Thomas’s niece but also Barnard College president, distinguished in her own right. McIntosh recalls early memories of her aunt with laughter followed by a vivid account of life as a student under Thomas’s command.We learn that M. Carey Thomas was famous for chapel talks held in Taylor, favorite topics of which were frequent foreign adventures.

M. Carey Thomas

Thomas bribed her way into then-male-only sanctuaries such as the Taj Mahal, and bathed thanks to an always carried rubberized bathtub. Through these tapes, we learn that M. Carey Thomas not only encouraged her young charges to break with tradition in terms of social acceptability, but also acquire passion for learning.  Thomas further believed that educational opportunity is accompanied by social responsibility and tried to instill these values into the students of Bryn Mawr.  Such stories of early women’s education are especially relevant today in light of recent discussion concerning the very existence of women’s colleges.



This work is currently being continued by Special Collections student worker Amanda Fernandez – check back on this blog for another update later in the summer.


Listening to Educated Women’s Voices

Want to hear the voices of women from Bryn Mawr’s past? Interested in hearing personal stories about women’s education in the twentieth century?

I’m very excited to inform you about a new phase of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education…. thanks to the generous volunteer help of current Bryn Mawr undergrad Samantha Saludades and the work of Isabella Barnstein who works in Special Collections we are digitizing the oral history collection held here which includes interviews from many different kinds of people from students and alums to retired hall wardens and professors. We gave you a taste of this in an earlier post with an interview with M. Carey Thomas which you can listen to here mcareythomas1935

This collection includes some interviews relating their time as far back as the early 1900s. The project was shaped by the efforts of former Special Collections archivist, Caroline Rittenhouse, and her work will be treasured by many of you who are interested in hearing about life at the college in previous years.

Beginning with a sample of twelve interviews chosen for their diversity of topics and speakers, we have created digital copies of the conversations and an electronic catalog of all the interviews (there was up to this point only a card catalog with varying details about each of the files). Those interviews that have been legally released will be able to be listened to eventually when we are able to host them online, and a short summary of what was said in the interview has been created for each of the interviews. In some cases we have transcripts of the interviews, often typewritten, and these will also be digitized and released, according to the permissions on the individual interview. This is a lot of work but exciting stuff! I’ll be posting another entry on the blog this week from Bryn Mawr student worker Isabella Barnstein who has been working on this important collection of materials.

Check back on this site for updates on the project, or feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about what we are doing (jredmond@brynmawr.edu)