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!

Gender, Education and Embodiment

Embodiment, or in this context, examining the physiological arguments made about women’s education in the past is the subject of this blog post, which relates to a previous post by Michelle Smith on the philosophical and theoretical writings expounding the detrimental physical effects education would have on women’s health. This is a theme we are continuously interested in as many of the early entrants to Bryn Mawr and other colleges that permitted women to attend had to battle notions of their physical and mental inferiority to be taken seriously as students and scholars. This topic is also related to project assistant Jessy Brody’s work on physical culture and sports at Bryn Mawr College which will appear as an exhibit on our site in the coming months.

Physical education at women’s colleges became a focus of attention at the end of the nineteenth century. As the Recent HerStory site posting on Senda Berenson Abbott of Smith College by Frances Davey, womanly grace and athleticism were ideas that were trying to be combined when Berenson introduced basketball at the college. As Davey argues, the emphasis on activity – both in a physical sense and a public one – became characteristic of what was termed ‘the New Woman’ at the turn of the twentieth century. Physical education and a more public identity for women were intertwined ideas in society and thus physicality for women was incredibly important in re-imagining roles for women through their acquisition of higher education.

Gender, education and embodiment is a subject of interest not only because the statements made about the physically detrimental effects of higher learning on women’s bodies seem absurd in today’s culture of thriving women in universities, but also because notions of gender appropriate educational behavior changed over time.

Some of this material will form the basis of an exhibit next year which will be shown in the Rare Book Room at Canaday Library. Although I am currently sketching out the exhibit narrative, I’m interested in portraying the debates for and against women’s higher education and in telling the story of women’s progress at third level from past exclusion to present domination. The exhibit will trace the narrative arc of women’s progression from gaining access to being taken seriously as academics and scholars.

Mary Kelley (an advisory committee member to our project and a Professor at the University of Michigan) has completed ground breaking work on women and reading which has shed light on the importance of literacy, education and the cultivation of the mind for women’s ability to enter the public sphere in their own right (in the excellent Learning to Stand and Speak). Yet the struggle of women in the past was not merely literacy but overcoming the embedded social prejudices which posited education outside the home for women as immoral, subversive and socially stigmatizing. As detailed in M. Carey Thomas’ own words, her mother’s friends would have been less shocked had she run away to marry the coach man than over her desire to pursue higher education in Germany.

Serious application of women’s minds to the study of academic works, as opposed to ‘appropriate’ forms of feminine literature, led some to argue that women’s physical health would be severely compromised, as if exercising their brain would diminish their physical capacity. Notions of this kind emanated from gendered ideas of women’s corporeality and greater susceptibility to physical ailments in convergence with beliefs of the diminished intellectual capacity of women. Therefore, following this logic, any ‘over straining’ of a woman’s limited mental capacities would result in irreversible physical damage, or certainly physical incapacities while the woman persisted with such ‘mental strain’.

Dr. Edward Hammond Clarke’s 1873 treatise, Sex and Education (available free online here) made a direct connection between women’s fertility and their modes of study. Clarke argued that the body could not cope with two physical processes at the same time, and applied this to both boys and girls”

 “The physiological principle of doing only one thing at a time, if you would do it well, holds as truly as the growth of the organization as it does of the performance of any of its special functions. If excessive labor, either mental or physical, is imposed upon children, male or female, their development will be in some way checked.” (Pg. 40-41)

Extending this argument to girls at the age of puberty, Clarke argued that the development of women’s fertility organs (referred to by Clarke euphemistically as her ‘organization’) was incompatible with intense scholarly study and he stated numerous cases where women’s fecundity was put at risk or negated entirely by study:

“There have been instances, and I have seen such, of females, in whom the special mechanism we are speaking of remained germinal, — undeveloped. It seemed to have been aborted. They graduated from school or college excellent scholars, but with undeveloped ovaries. Later they married, and were sterile.” (Pg. 39)

There are a number of ideas and assumptions contained within this short quotation that illuminate medical thinking on women’s health and education: firstly, that a person’s intellect and education could affect the physical development of the body to such an extent as to eliminate the growth of sex organs; secondly, that because the brain and the body could not both operate at optimum level simultaneously, girls should abandon their academic studies while going through critical physical development periods; that girls risked their health and future fertility by persisting on studying at the same time and at the same level as boys; and that the natural path for women was as mothers, not scholars.

As with other arguments, much of this rhetoric overtly or covertly referred to women’s fertility and its potential to be impaired by academic study or even engaging in thought or reading deemed to be too taxing. This was Mary Garrett’s experience; Garrett, although wealthy and from a prominent family, was not allowed to study as M. Carey Thomas had, and yet her physical ailments (such as headaches, piles and an irregular menstrual cycle) were blamed on her wide ranging reading material. Her hopes to recover by following doctor’s orders are revealed in the following poignant passage in a letter to Thomas in December 1880 which Garrett wrote while on a trip to Cannes:

“From my general condition the history of the past few years, my loss of memory, +c., he [the doctor] should have thought that there was some internal trouble, (displacement of the womb or something of the sort) and wants me when we go back <to the U.S.> to be examined again + assure my self that this is not the case_ (Of course I told him of my having been examined by Dr. Jacobs + the little that I c’d remember of what she said was the matter)—He thinks I sh’d simply go on leading as healthy a life as I can + attempt no study or work for certainly one or two years, perhaps longer but thinks that the chances are that I will eventually, although it may not be for ten years, get recover what mental power I ever had + that I need not be hopeless as to having by that time lost the power of using it _ not a brilliant prospect you see but something to look forward to _ You have never known the horror of not being able to think or to follow an argument or even remember one for a half hour_ Some bright Sport there are, however for what w’d I be if in this condition without the knowledge of the glorious things + thoughts there are + with out having gotten into the right path, although following it so feebly + haltingly. With such friend as I have + having their full sympathy and knowing a good deal of the true + the right, and with some appreciation at least of beauty, I ought not to kick too much against the pricks and <think> that the Fates are altogether cruel to me _ So you see you will have but a very stupid friend for perhaps ten years, and possibly to the end of my days, I wonder whther yr. patience will stand such a test!”*

The ‘prescription’ for Garrett’s health troubles are to exclude all level of study and reading of the materials she liked so much (they were a very literary circle of friends) for a period of one to two years or perhaps longer, which again points to the connection made by those such as Clarke that mental strain caused physical strain, particularly in women it seems. Garrett’s last words in this excerpt are poignant – she fears that her intellectual and memory capacities will be affected for many years ahead and possibly for the rest of her life and refers to herself as ‘stupid’, a designation none who knew her or have assessed her since would ever assign to her.

The fusing of the physical and mental was of course a gendered construct – no such fears existed about men damaging their virility because of their educational attainment. This was, in the logic of such arguments, because education at a higher level was a natural part of a man’s life and indeed would elevate him socially, spiritually and mentally. Embracing the ‘unnatural’ role of an educated woman was therefore met with resistance as well as courage by those women, M. Carey Thomas included, who pursued their desire for higher learning in the late nineteenth century.

What we can learn from this history is that women have overcome many obstacles in achieving access to education, surmounting real and philosophical challenges to their intellectual capacity and their physical health. Without these pioneering women it is doubtful that the bountiful array of opportunities for women in society would exist today and for that legacy we are truly thankful.

*With thanks to Amanda Fernandez, Special Collections student worker, for her work on transcribing the Garrett-Thomas letter quoted above.

“People today wonder whether a single-sex education is still a relevant institutional environment…” Wendy Chen, BMC ’14 reflects on single-sex education in the 21st century.

In this post, guest blogger Wendy Chen, BMC ’14 reflects on the issue of single-sex education in the twenty-first century. Drawing on an essay she wrote for The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education Undergraduate Essay Competition, Wendy reveals why she thinks it’s important to keep reflecting on single-sex education and studying at a women’s college today.

As an undergraduate student majoring in the History of Art and minoring in Economics, I decided to enter this essay competition as a way to reflect on what I’ve learned from attending a single-sex institution. When I look back on the period prior to the emergence of radical feminist movements in the 1960’s, women today have attained more rights and liberties compared to women who lived through the historical period of patriarchal dominance. People today wonder whether a single-sex education is still a relevant institutional environment, as some may think that single-sex institutions merely exacerbate gender stereotypes and inflate sexist attitudes. But I believe that is a general misconception people have about single sex institutions, and that the option of being able to choose single sex schools should still be available for individuals interested in learning about existing gender norms and female empowerment.

A single sex institution is a unique environment where one is made aware of the heterosexual dichotomy between males and females, femininity and masculinity. This past semester I had an extremely rewarding experience in Professor Saltzman’s contemporary art history class where we talked about the body politic in relation to performativity. We had the privilege of reading Gender Trouble and listening to Judith Butler’s enlightening theories on the “gender performative”. It changed my notion of “gender” as an irreducibly, fixed truth and I began to view gender as of more of an expression, a social performance. Butler defines gender to be a “repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being” (Butler, Gender Trouble, 45). I now understand “gender” to be socially constructed and linguistically reinforced. The societal practice of vicious regulating gender norms can sometimes lead to the victimization and discrimination of individuals who do not conform to the binary categories, and are in the end deprived of their rights. It is why women in many impoverished, developing countries are still oppressed by men and why homosexuals and transsexuals are deemed as secondary citizens. For example, in Afghanistan, women are still considered deeply inferior to males to the point where parents have to masquerade their girls as boys because sons are more highly valued in society. Obama’s recent announcement for his endorsement on gay-marriage is being criticized because society’s notion of gender is still heavily influenced by the regulatory systems of the heterosexual dichotomy.

In art history class, Butler’s readings break down these gender binaries by conveying the need for a permanent end to the policing and ordering of gender. Even in Professor Rock’s environmental economics class, I learned the importance of combating gender norms and promoting women’s empowerment and education. Countries such as Afghanistan have been shown to have a problem of overpopulation due to young marriage ages and high fertility rates which affects women’s chances for education. It is through being in an institutional environment that advocates female empowerment, and taking academically enriching courses that help me learn about the pervasive nature of gender ordering, that I realize at Bryn Mawr College we are not celebrating the differences between genders. I feel that we are unraveling the social construction of ‘gender’ and throwing it out the door completely.


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“Educate a man for manhood, a woman for womanhood, both for humanity. In this lies the hope of the race”

As a student worker in Special Collections, I get the opportunity to do a lot of interesting research. Presently, I’m working on research that will contribute to an exhibition in 2013, and as part of this I have been reading about different topics from the late 19th century on women and education.

I’ve done some relevant coursework, Professor Elliott Shore’s History of Bryn Mawr being the most relevant, but also a sociology course entitled “Women, the Body, and Society”. But I never really delved as deep into the research as I have for this exhibition. For instance, did you know that many 19th century doctors were convinced that women were incapable of developing their brains and their reproductive organs simultaneously? Perhaps it’s a sort of hold-over from the more medieval concept of balancing humors.

There are two major contemporary texts on the issue that I have been reading side by side: Dr. Edward Hammond Clarke’s Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for the Girls, published in 1873 and the provocative reply by Julia Ward Howe entitled Sex and Education, published in 1874. (Special Collection owns copies of both- in excellent condition- but they can also be found online using Google Books and a digital archive of Julia Ward Howe’s works and letters can be found here

Dr. Clarke’s book came first and was a leading text used in the fight against women’s higher education. Clarke argues there are physiological reasons that boys and girls cannot be educated together, in the same way: “The physiological motto is: Educate a man for manhood, a woman for womanhood, both for humanity. In this lies the hope of the race.” (Clarke 19) A good portion of the argument revolves around reproduction – if women do not develop their sex organs properly, they cannot continue making babies.

But don’t men have sex organs that need developing too, Dr. Clarke? “The growth of [the uterus and ovaries] occurs during the first few years of a girl’s educational life. No such extraordinary task, calling for such rapid expenditure of force, building up such a  delicate and extensive mechanism within the organism, — a house within a house, an engine within an engine, — is imposed upon the male physique at the same epoch.” (Clarke 37-38) The modern day equivalent, I think, would be a mansplaining, backhanded compliment: women are too complicated, too delicate, and we should just let the men take care of difficult matters.

Howe’s book is a rather clever response to the seemingly simple argument posed by Dr. Clarke. For her book, Howe collected the views and opinions of male and female writers, doctors, and academics on the subject of women’s education, reasoning against every one of Clarke’s arguments. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, one of the contributors, systematically criticized Clarke’s lack factual evidence and faulty methodology, calling for “facts as to American-born women of different races” (p. 38), “the comparative physiology of different social positions” (p. 39), “an extensive record of individual instances” (p. 40), and an “account of the physiological benefits of education for women” (p. 41). He, and other authors included in the text, were sure that if studied without bias, no differences across gender lines would arise.

One of the most interesting moments for me in reading this text was Howe’s assessment of social causes for the physiological disorders that Clarke cites. “… By far the most frequent difficulty with our women arises from uterine displacement, and this in turn comes partly from the utter disuse of the muscles which should keep the uterus in place, but which are kept inactive by the corset, weighed upon by the heavy skirt, and drawn upon by the violent and unnatural motion of the dancing at present in vogue.” (Howe 29) She briefly discusses the idea of challenging the norms, but relents: “[the opinion that] ‘we are only women, and it does not matter,’ passes from mother to daughter. A very estimable young lady said to me the other day, in answer to a plea for dress-reform, ‘It is better to look handsome, even if it does shorten life a little.’ …” (Howe 28) I think what shocked me most about this was how little things seem to have changed: I suppose there always has been, and always will be, a desire for everyone (women in particular) to look a certain way as dictated by society, regardless of the health effects.

It has certainly been an interesting endeavor for me to think very critically about the position of women and women’s education, and how it has changed. At the time these texts were written, most women did not have access to higher education, and those who did often were criticized heavily for their pursuits. Now, women comprise the majority of college students, though are still underrepresented in many professional fields and graduate level education. But the feminist argument of the time was to support co-education of men and women to ensure that women received the same quality education that men did.

Yet here I sit: the product of four years of a women’s college, a female-dominated environment, and I don’t feel that I’ve been cheated out of any quality where my education is concerned. Could Clarke have been onto something when he counseled against co-education? In my opinion – Howe, Higginson, and any of the others in Howe’s text would have been more than happy to attend a women’s college as long as the quality of education could be guaranteed to meet the same standards as men’s education, (something of great importance to M. Carey Thomas). And besides, it helps to create a positive learning environment for everyone, regardless of gender, when there’s less mansplaining and more collaboration.

This post was created by Michelle Smith, soon to be a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and one of the students who regularly works in Special Collections.


The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center Celebrates the History of Graduate Education – check out today’s poster session!

As part of the Graduate Student’s Appreciation Week we have created a poster to chart the history of graduate education at Bryn Mawr College

The poster is currently being displayed in Thomas Great Hall along with posters from current graduate students. I will be available to talk about this poster tonight at 5.30pm along with the graduate students at a special event to be held before the talk by Professor James Wright of the Archaeology Department on ‘Graduate Education Through the Years’.

On Friday there will be a networking reception with current graduate students and alumnae/i and for this I have prepared a series of images which will be projected while the event is happening. This includes images of former graduate studies deans, students and facts about graduate education at Bryn Mawr College that you may be unfamiliar with. Be sure to check it out! The event is happening at 5pm in the Ely Room of Wyndham.

For more information on the events happening tonight and throughout the rest of the week check out

Celebrating National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day!

Courtesy of the Bryn Mawr College Archives

Happy International Women’s Day from The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education!

This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month is (aptly for us) Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment. This connects strongly with one of the major themes in the history of women’s education – that of women’s higher education as a tool of empowerment, propelling women into the public world in meaningful and lasting ways. We’ve been working hard this month on finalizing the designs for our new site, which will be launched in the next few months. However, in celebration of Women’s Day and as a preview to some of the wonderful images we will have on the site, I’ve created a special  Tumblr which you can access here to see them. Enjoy!

Today is International Women’s Day, the theme of which is CONNECTING GIRLS, INSPIRING FUTURES. This reminded me of the exciting new initiative happening at Bryn Mawr College which links students here with peers in four women’s colleges in Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Japan. The President’s Seminar is a series of four IT-facilitated, internationally linked conversations that explore higher education for women as an engine for social change and progressive leadership. Having observed the first seminar with students from Effat University in Saudi Arabia, I was impressed with the articulate and intelligent contributions and the connections students were able to make between their lives in very different places (for more on the seminars click here). Although there are lots of sites dedicated to International Women’s Day, this site  gives you a truly global perspective on the ways in which it is being celebrated across the world. For some, it’s a day of commemoration and celebration, for others, it’s a crucial time for awareness raising for issues affecting women in society today.

International Women’s Day has its roots in the labor movement and women’s demands for better, more equitable pay and conditions and has been celebrated on this day every year since 1911. The Summer School for Women Workers at Bryn Mawr College was established in 1921, aimed at working class women factory workers who otherwise had no opportunity of experiencing higher education. A history of the School is available through Triptych and can be found here. The School was the first time many of the women had ever entered a college and was a profound moment in the college’s history of reaching out to the community and providing empowerment through education. As the history of the School says, ‘President M. Carey Thomas went far beyond educational events of the past and gave impetus to a dynamic experiment which has had far-reaching results’.

Although our website isn’t ready yet to view, Special Collections has a lot of inspiring material that it has digitized already which is intimately connected to the history of women’s social movements. If you haven’t already, check out the Carrie Chapman Catt Suffrage Collection which was digitized by Bryn Mawr College Special Collections here. One of my favorite images is of a float from 1918 which demonstrated the countries that allowed women to vote which you can see here

There are exciting events happening all month to mark Women’s History Month, many of which are advertised on the National Women’s History Project site ( and I have been posting many links to relevant events and projects on Twitter (follow me @RedmondJennifer) with a special emphasis this month on role models and heroines of the past we can acknowledge and appreciate for their exceptional work and the path they laid for women today.

Whatever you do to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month don’t forget to acknowledge the progress women have made, as well as the challenges we face. Happy Women’s Day!

Courtesy of the Bryn Mawr College Archives

Updates on the Essay Competition!

Many thanks to all who entered the recent Greenfield Essay Competition for undergraduates at Bryn Mawr College. We received some really interesting, thoughtful entries and look forward to announcing who gets that cash prize soon.

The judging panel will be meeting on February 29th 2012 to decide on the overall winner. The winner will be announced in March as part of the Digital Center’s Women’s History Month activities (for more on this annual event, see

As the the Women’s History Month site says, our history is our strength, and part of the impetus behind the essay competition was to give students the opportunity to reflect on the history of women’s education in a single-sex environment and what this means to them today.

Many of the essays mention the importance of role models, of how seeing a woman being able to achieve something is inspirational, and allows for others to imagine their own success.This strikes me as one of the most important aspects of higher education for everyone.

Keep an eye on this blog for the winner’s essay, and other updates, including the first Advisory Committee meeting, the launch of the website and other exciting events!




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)


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.

The findings are fascinating!

My name is Lisa MacMurray and I am a student at Temple University studying Secondary Education – Social Studies.  This semester our Social Studies Methods class wanted Temple students to help fellow history institutions in showcasing the importance of National History Day to both teachers and students throughout the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania region.  Sam Perry (my classmate) and I interviewed with several institutions; however, we were thrilled to have been chosen to intern with Bryn Mawr College’s Greenfield Project and the study of women in education.  This is an area of history in which both Sam and I are very much interested.  Jennifer Redmond, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow and Project Director, The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, has been our mentor throughout the semester and has helped guide us through the research process.

Part of our research has been to get a clear understanding of how hard it was for women to achieve higher education in a college that was not simply a “finishing school” but one that would demand more from them and help expand their knowledge and intellect.  Additionally, Sam and I have been reviewing entrance examinations from the late 1800s through 1920 from several Seven Sister colleges, as well as, men’s Ivy League schools.  We started by comparing and contrasting the examinations between Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe and Wellesley.  Additionally, we have since looked at Yale, Harvard and University of Pennsylvania’s men’s colleges to compare their requirements to those of the women’s colleges.  The findings are fascinating!  The women colleges required just as much as the men’s colleges; yet, they were not allowed admittance to the men’s schools.  Originally, we focused on large segments of the examinations; however, since we are Secondary Education – Social Studies majors, we decided that the primary focus should be on the History/Geography sections of the examinations.  I have noticed that Bryn Mawr College has the hardest requirement with regard to History/Geography questions as compared to the other women’s colleges.  Bryn Mawr’s History/Geography sections are compatible with Yale and Harvard.  I could not compare University of Pennsylvania’s examination to Bryn Mawr as they had no examinations available for review, yet, we were able to gain much insight into the University of Pennsylvania’s discrimination against letting women into the university to earn a degree.

Now that our time at Bryn Mawr College is coming to a close, we will be making a lesson plan, along with test questions and, adding Bryn Mawr College’s entrance examination online so that teachers will be able to teach a lesson to their students to show how women did whatever they could to gain a higher education and, to have the students take the test so that they will see how difficult these examinations were.  For one, Bryn Mawr required perspective students taking the examination to have enough knowledge to be able to translate Greek, Latin, French, and German, along with extensive knowledge in the English language.  Students taking this examination online will most likely fail the test since they do not possess knowledge in all the language areas, let alone all the other content criteria that is included in the examination.  I also feel that teachers can give their students (both males and females) better insight into the challenges that women had to overcome in order to earn a college degree and that no matter the inequality, they overcame and endured and many became influential women in society.

I have enjoyed my time at Bryn Mawr College and I am going to miss Jennifer and the program.  I will begin Student Teaching in January so my time at Bryn Mawr will soon be finished; however, I have gained much knowledge during my internship and, if I have any available time, would love to help Jennifer with any other projects that the Canaday Library may be focusing on with regard to the Greenfield Digital Center.