Transcription: Inspiring Thoughts on a Difficult Task!

Some really creative sites have emerged using old letters and transcribing them to illuminate new ways to understand some famous figures of the past. One’s epistolary practices, the care taken in responding personally to messages from fans, and the tenderness revealed in some of the more private transmissions of thought in such letters are some of the great reasons why letters from the past should be studied. Letters of Note is one such site, hosting letters from a range of artists, writers, singers, intellectuals and public figures, as well as some humorous letters from ordinary people. My favorite is a letter from Harper Lee which gives fantastic life advice to a young fan who wrote to her.

This recent blog post about quality control standards and how different projects are dealing with this issue ( was an interesting one for me as I begin the volunteer transcription project.

Volunteers are working in special collections on key aspects of the M. Carey Thomas Collection including the Bryn Mawr College Summer School for Women Workers (which will be linked to an exhibit on the site this year), the relationship between the college and the Shipley School and M. Carey Thomas’ early family life, centering on the key period when she was injured in a fire at her family home.

Keep watching for details on the website progress, we are hoping to launch in June!

The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education hosts its first Advisory Committee Meeting

The project team of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education was joined on Friday February 17th by all the members of its Advisory Committee, an amazing array of professional expertise, knowledge and scholarship on issues of the history of women’s education.

The members of the committee include former Bryn Mawr College president, Nancy Vickers, who is now Treasurer of the American Council of Learned Societies, and current President Jane Dammen McAuliffe also joined the meeting.

Anne Bruder, former CLIR fellow at Bryn Mawr College and editor of Offerings to Athena, now at Berea College, is also on the committee, and is joined by a number of eminent scholars who she collaborated with on the 125th Anniversary conference, Heritage and Hope, held in 2010. These include Helen Horowitz, Professor Emerita at Smith College and author of the biography of M. Carey Thomas, The Power and the Passion of M. Carey Thomas, which many of you will be familiar with, among other excellent books on women’s experiences of higher education over the last two centuries. Also on our committee is Mary C. Kelley, Ruth Bordin Collegiate Professor of History, American Culture and Women’s Studies at University of Michigan and author of many books on the history of women’s education, my favorite being Learning to Stand and Speak.

The Committee also has a range of teaching experts, such as Christine Woyshner, a professor of education at Temple University who worked with us on the National History Day collaboration with Temple students (detailed in earlier posts by Lisa MacMurray and Teddy Knauss). Elizabeth di Cataldo is the archivist at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, which as many of you know was set up by M. Carey Thomas and her associates to provide a high standard of education for young girls wishing to pursue higher education. As was said at the meeting, without the Bryn Mawr School there would be no Bryn Mawr College. An eminent Bryn Mawr College alum, Catharine Stimpson, a Professor in the English department at New York University and founding editor of the preeminent feminist journal, Signs, has also joined us on the Committee (click here for a transcript of her address at the Heritage and Hope conference

The Center aims to have an international outlook and outreach and for this reason Joyce Goodman of the University of Winchester, was invited on to the committee. The past president of the History of Education Society (UK) and the author and editor of a number of books on the international history of women’s education, including the recent four volume Women and Education: Major Themes edited with Jane Martin, Joyce gave us some great ideas on how to expand our research questions into the history of women in the western world.

The Advisory Committee contains members of the Bryn Mawr College faculty and staff, some of whom helped to obtain the original grant funding from The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation, inlcuding Elliott Shore,  Chief Information Officer and Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries and Professor of History and Eric Pumroy, Director of Library Collections and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections. Bryn Mawr colleagues also include David Karen, Professor of Sociology & Chair of the Faculty, Katherine Rowe, Professor of English, Director of the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center, and Director of Digital Research & Teaching and Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, Associate Professor of History.

It was a lively meeting in which the deeper research questions about the Center’s mission were discussed alongside the most important themes in the history of women’s education and we look forward to fruitful collaborations in the future. With our committee members expertise and ideas, we can now move forward with our plans to establish the Center as the primary site of knowledge, discussions and resources on the history of women’s education. We hope to have all the committee back again for the conference we are planning for Spring 2013.

Watch this space for updates! And as always, if you have thoughts, get in touch…

With thanks to our resident technologist and now photographer, Cheryl Klimaszewski, for taking this collection of photos.

Talk in Center City: The Quest to be Educated: the Complicated History of Women and Higher Education, Feb 9th 2012

For any of you interested in hearing more about The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center and the kinds of research we are engaged in, Bryn Mawr College Friends of the Library in collaboration with New Century Trust are hosting the Director, Jennifer Redmond to speak on ‘The Quest to be Educated: the Complicated History of Women and Higher Education’.

The talk will begin at 5:30 pm and is at the New Century Trust building, 1307 Locust Street, Philadelphia. The New Century Trust is an organization that was founded in 1893 to support the social, industrial and educational cultivation and improvement of working girls and women. For more about the Trust, see

At a time when women seem to be outperforming men in many areas of educational achievement, it is difficult to remember that higher education for women was a highly controversial idea just a century ago, and that most elite colleges and universities in America did not admit women until the 1970s. The talk will focus on women’s early struggles to gain access to higher education, the preconceptions of women’s capabilities and roles in society that had to be overcome, and the critical role played by women’s colleges like Bryn Mawr. The activities of the Center will also be announced, including a volunteer transcription project we hope many of you will get involved with.

For additional information about the talk, or to rsvp, please contact the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library:, or call 610-526-6576

We’d love to see you so please consider coming along!

Single sex education in the twenty first century – undergrads of Bryn Mawr College, what’s your opinion?

There seems to be a particularly enduring interest in debating whether single-sex education at any level is beneficial or harmful for students. Does the media attention to this issue reflect real concern, or an ongoing narrow focus on gendered divisions in educational experiences that has existed since before M. Carey Thomas’ time? Whatever your opinion, it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come from the times when a Philadelphia doctor told M. Carey Thomas that students of Bryn Mawr would be physically damaged by studying at college level … if you don’t believe us listen to the woman herself in this extract from a radio speech in 1935…mcareythomas1935

A quick google scan of news articles reveals a steady stream of studies and academic debates about the pros and cons of having separate educational environments for girls and boys. It seems that this discourse knows no geographic boundaries – research has been conducted worldwide with no overall conclusive results being offered. Jaclyn Zubrzycki on the Education Week site discusses a report on the publicly run schools in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which found that while single sex education benefits some girls, it doesn’t prove beneficial to all girls or boys (see and, as previously referred to, our own President McAuliffe contributed an important piece to a series of articles in the New York Times last semester (see President McAuliffe’s recent piece in the New York Times

So what do you think? We’ve come a long way since women were banned from entering the male bastions of higher education and single-sex education emerged as a remedy to counter the prejudiced policies of these all-male institutions. So, what now? Maybe the fact that Bryn Mawr was a single-sex college did not enter your decision making process to attend …. or maybe you specifically wanted to come here because of this. Maybe you never thought about this until you got here…. maybe you think co-education as you experience through the tri-co is a positive experience you would like more of …. If you would like to have your say then we want to hear it! Your essay will be published on the new site of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education (coming soon!) and the winner will receive a $500 cash prize. The competition is open to all current undergraduate students of Bryn Mawr College and the closing date for entries is January 27th 2012 so hurry up and get writing! (see here for the poster originally announcing the competition which you should have seen all over campus Greenfield Essay Competition)


The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education announces its first undergraduate essay competition!


Photo courtesy of the Bryn Mawr College Archives

Want to win $500? Got something to say about studying at a women’s college? Then enter the inaugural undergraduate essay competition for a chance to express your views and win a prize!

Bryn Mawr College was recently awarded funding from The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation to initiate an exciting new venture in digital humanities – the launching of the Digital Center for the History of Women and Higher Education. The Digital Center will comprise of an online portal to promote and support original research, teaching, and the exchange of ideas about the history of women’s education, both in the United States and worldwide.

Given recent media attention to the issue of single sex-education (see President McAuliffe’s recent piece in the New York Times we want to hear what current students think about the impact of studying and living at a women’s college in the twenty-first century. Does it matter whether an institution is single-sex or co-ed? What is the impact for young women attending a single-sex college? What do you think is the future? We want to know!

So, for this competition we invite you to address the following topic in 1,000 words or less:

‘Why single sex education matters today’

Agree? Disagree? Have a persuasive argument either way? Write it down and be in to win.

The winner will receive a $500 cash prize, kindly sponsored by Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library, and the winning entry will be posted on The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center’s website. The deadline is Friday 27th January 2012 and all entries should be emailed to me, the Director, at

This competition is open to current undergraduates of Bryn Mawr College only, but please check back for alum related events and get in touch if you are an alum with an idea for the Digital Center

Get involved! Have your say!