Bryn Mawr #7SistersWiki Edit-a-Thon: a Photo Story


EditingCropLast week we successfully hosted our first Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon! After holding a test run and gathering advice from many experienced Wikipedians during early 2014, we convened a group of eighteen on Tuesday evening in Bryn Mawr’s Canaday Library to learn the ins and outs of editing from Mary Mark Ockerbloom and help close the Wikipedia gender disparity in honor of Women’s History Month.

Editathon sources

Sources for editing, heavily featuring the work of Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

Planning began months ahead of time, and in the days and weeks leading up to the event we solicited ideas for new pages and articles to improve from those who planned to attend. We then collected a variety of printed sources to aid us in editing and creating that content, lists of records from Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections that could be linked to existing articles, and web sources for reference.

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Mary introduces Wikipedia

Mary opened the event with an informative talk detailing the key Wikipedia principles and culture, and methods for basic editing. Video footage of the talk is available at the bottom of this post, and slides are available here. After the presentation, we began editing our articles. Experienced Wikipedians moved around the room assisting those who were new to editing.

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Katy Holladay, Leigh-Anne Yacovelli, Joelle Collins, and Mary Mark Ockerbloom editing

Outcomes of the event: the Bryn Mawr Seven Sisters Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon was attended by 18 people, including seven staff members, four Bryn Mawr students, and seven local Wikipedians. Six attendees were new to editing the site.

The content we worked on is listed on the event page: together we created five new articles, two of which are public and three of which are currently in progress. We improved twelve existing articles and uploaded eleven images to Wikimedia Commons. We also created a Commons page for Bryn Mawr, so that all of the official College images we upload to Wikipedia can be centrally gathered and marked with an “institution template” that provides information about Bryn Mawr.

The most important outcome was empowering all 18 users to better contribute to the site as a resource for all. And, of course, Kimberly Wright Cassidy is no longer without Wiki-recognition! The page is very basic right now and we encourage everyone to add information to expand, improve, and interlink the information written there.


Jeff and Elizabeth Guin from PhillyDH edit deviously

Happy editing!

New Exhibit: The Woman’s Column

WC_headerAs part of our celebration of Women’s History Month in March, we published a series of four posts highlighting higher education articles in pro-suffrage newsletter the Woman’s Column, which was printed in Boston between 1887 and 1904. The Column was published by Alice Stone Blackwell, daughter of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, the team behind the better-known suffrage newspaper the Woman’s Journal (1870-1920). Together, the two publications were the printed voice of the AWSA (and the NAWSA, after the merge of the NWSA and the AWSA in 1890), an organization that had a tremendous influence on the suffrage movement.

ExhibitScreenshot2We have consolidated and added to our posts on the Column in a new digital exhibit that is now available to browse on our site. One of a host of digital exhibits that we have curated, this exhibit prefaces the text of the four posts with an expanded history of the two papers, the family who ran them, and the role of print in the fight for suffrage in the United States.

Head over to the The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Higher Education website now to view the exhibit and learn more about the Woman’s Column in the struggle to reform women’s rights!

“College Women Abroad”: Updates on International Education in The Woman’s Column

WC_headerAs part of our celebration of Women’s History Month, The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education is featuring content from The Woman’s Column, a pro-suffrage publication that ran from 1887 through 1905. We have been posting weekly blog entries that feature individual articles from the Column that were published in the month of March and address the matter of women’s higher education, although the publication addresses many other issues related to women’s rights and their access to political life and the public sphere. This post is the fourth and final installment in the series; see our first, second, and third posts to learn more.

In addition to changes in policy at American universities, The Woman’s Column chronicled the state of women’s higher education abroad. Not purely for the globally-minded, such information would have been personally relevant to many American ladies: though the establishment of the women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters had made the BA much more accessible to academically ambitious girls, more advanced degrees were difficult to obtain within the country. Bryn Mawr, which launched in 1885, was the only women’s college to open with a full graduate program. Several coeducational schools offered examinations and tutelage for female students, but were unwilling to confer an official degree, such as Harvard University. Europe, however, became an attractive option for graduate study, housing as it did centuries old universities that offered an array of graduate training. Travel to Europe was also an opportunity to broaden one’s cultural horizons, to see famous monuments, meet important scholars of the day, and to round out an American education that for many readers, may have consisted solely of single-sex environments in sheltered campuses across the country.

Click the image above for an enlarged view and full transcription

Click the image above for an enlarged view and full transcription

A report from an alumna and former teacher at Mount Holyoke College was published in The Woman’s Column on March 11, 1893, stating: “German, Russian, Polish, etc., women, denied the privileges of education in their own countries, are attending the University [of Zurich].” “Lepsic [sic] [Leipzig],” she writes, “is the only place in Germany where women are tolerated as university students….And at Leipsic a woman receives no credit from the University for her work; however, many of the professors are very kind in giving assistance, as far as possible, to women in their studies.”

For those familiar with the early history of Bryn Mawr College, much of this will sound familiar. M. Carey Thomas, the school’s first Dean and second President, followed a complex path through several universities before eventually earning her Ph.D. summa cum laude in linguistics from the University of Zurich. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Cornell, she attended Johns Hopkins University for a single year before departing, frustrated: though she was allowed to study with professors and sit for examinations, she was not permitted to attend classes and therefore found the experience challenging and inadequate. Given the dearth of American schools that allowed women to attend classes with men, she saw the European universities as her only path to a graduate degree. She went on to complete the bulk of her literary work at the University of Leipzig with the knowledge that such study could be only preparatory–for, while the lectures were open to her, Leipzig did not grant degrees to women. Gottingen University, however, seemed to operate with reverse policies: women could not attend classes, but there was no official rule prohibiting them from receiving degrees. Once she had taken her studies as far as she could at Leipzig, she transferred to Gottingen to complete the final hurdle to the doctorate. However, despite the lack of a formal ban, she learned after preparing her dissertation that the all-male faculty had voted not to grant her the doctorate on the grounds of her gender. Thomas, indefatigable, moved on to the University of Zurich, where she successfully prepared, presented, and defended the thesis that finally earned her the Ph.D. she had long sought. Thomas’s convoluted path shows the difficulty, not to mention the required time and financial resources, that stood in the way of the American woman intent on a doctoral degree.1

As we have previously discussed on this blog and in our exhibits, there were many well-documented arguments about why to keep women out of the educational system altogether. Aside from doubts about women’s inherent ineducability, many argued against coeducation for social reasons. For instance, Harvard President Charles Eliot cautioned that coeducation in urban schools could lead to dangerous class mixing and undesirable marriages, as we have previously discussed. But what was the logic of letting them study among men while refusing them the qualification that they had earned by it? Oxford University provides an interesting case that can help us understand the terms of the debate.

Click above for an enlarged view and full transcription

Click above for an enlarged view and full transcription

WC_3-28-1896_OxfordNotReady2A March 28th, 1896 article in The Woman’s Column entitled “Oxford Not Ready” recounts the University’s decision to reject a proposal to open the BA to women. Many female students were already completing the work that would have qualified a man for the degree, much in the style that Leipzig had made its coursework but not its official recognition of achievement available to women. The Oxford motion was struck down by 75 votes, 215 vs. 140. The leader of the opposition, Mr. Strachan Davidson, held thatthe life [at Oxford and Cambridge] stamped a special character on the man, and it was to that that the B. A. certified. Examinations were only secondary, but the degree testified to the man’s career as a whole. The women could participate in the examinations, but not in the life. He did not wish to say one word hostile to the ladies’ colleges, but the life there was not a University life.”

We have spent more time previously discussing societal opposition to women’s education that centered around the female body and the importance of her traditional role in the home. However, another important factor was that the established institutions were having trouble imagining where women would fit into the existing culture of higher education, as indicated in the critique of Davidson at Oxford above; gender appeared to be a barrier to the immersion in campus life. Assuming that women could be educated at all, the issue remained that the degree had come to stand for much more than academic achievement alone: it was the mark of induction into a culture, mutually constitutive with the identity of the elite society gentleman.2 Improving women’s access to higher education was not just a matter of opening doors, as it turned out, but a matter of re-imagining the spaces themselves.

The article ends on an optimistic note:

“Of course it is only a question of time when this decision will be reversed. Conservatism thaws slowly, but it thaws surely. Meanwhile the women will have the scholarship for which a degree should stand, if they have not the degree; and they can comfort themselves by thinking,

It is not to be destitute
To have the thing without the name”


1. The educational path of M. Carey Thomas is charted in detail in her biography by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. See Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

2. For a thorough exploration of the culture of masculinity of Oxbridge, see Oxbridge Men. Deslandes, Paul R. Oxbridge Men: British Masculinity and the Undergraduate Experience, 1850-1920. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005.

The Woman’s Column: Tracking Women’s Education in a Pro-Suffrage Publication

Alice Stone Blackwell, editor of the Woman’s Journal and Woman’s Column

As part of our celebration of Women’s History Month, The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education will be showcasing content from March issues of The Woman’s Column, a very exciting recent acquisition of Bryn Mawr Special Collections. Published between 1887 and 1905 and edited by Alice Stone Blackwell, The Woman’s Column was a weekly newsletter focused on developments in suffrage and other related women’s rights issues. Its better-known sister publication, The Woman’s Journal (1870 – 1931), is more widely available, but thus far we have been unable to locate a print collection of the Column that is as complete and well-preserved as the one we have acquired. We are currently taking steps to have the entire collection digitized and made available for free on Internet Archive.

The original purpose of the Column was to serve newspapers with a regular source of copy on women’s suffrage, but private subscribers soon became numerous as well: at only 25 cents per year, it was an easy and relatively inexpensive way to keep a finger on the pulse of the women’s rights movement. A quick glance through its collected pages shows that it kept its readers apprised of a wide variety of happenings: in addition to regular updates on the various regional, national, and international legislative battles over women’s rights, the Column also published concise rebuttals to common anti-suffrage arguments, profiles of influential women and career success stories, and opinion articles regarding women’s role in society.

Content about the availability of education to women, especially higher education, was a regular feature of The Woman’s Column. Articles appeared nearly weekly detailing developments in the policies of specific schools, changes in legislation, updates on women’s education in specific regions or abroad, and profiles of notable college women. Occasionally the magazine would publish a piece collecting tidbits from many different institutions, such as the one featured here.

Click on the image above to view the article “In Schools and Colleges”–transcription attached

This article serves as a very broad account of the happenings of various American institutions, ranging from fund-raising updates and a notification of new fellowships to be offered by Bryn Mawr, to the lighter recounting of the Women’s Medical College of Chicago’s first celebration of “University Day” since becoming a department of Northwestern University. The Column describes the festivities as lively indeed, “characterized by college songs, college yells, college pranks and college jollity,” but also assures the mindful reader that “as it was conducted on the co-educational plan, nothing discreditable occurred.”

What does this article tell us about the publication, about the way women’s education was approached in the late 19th century, and about the culture of the women’s rights movement? It is notable that the article does not contain any direct mentions or links to suffrage, which was seen as the key motivating issue of the publication. The frequency and scope of the education-related content in this issue and others speaks to the degree to which women’s higher education was considered to be germane to the women’s rights movement, since education-related content did not need to directly reference suffrage to be considered worthy of inclusion in the pages of The Woman’s Column. Both suffrage and education were important sites of leverage for increasing women’s role in the public sphere, and for giving them greater capacity to shape their own lives.  It also suggests that the readers of the magazine, and women interested in suffrage in general, would be invested in the cause of women’s education perhaps because they were largely college graduates themselves. If The Woman’s Column audience did not have a personal background that included college culture, it seems doubtful that the items focused less on legislation and more on social events, such as the account of the “University Day” celebrations, would have been featured.

We will be featuring a different excerpt from The Woman’s Column every week throughout March to celebrate this important new acquisition and to mark Women’s History Month. For further reading on the history of the publication, or on Alice Stone Blackwell and her mother, Lucy Stone’s influential role in shaping the voice of the women’s rights movement, the following sources are recommended:

Women’s Periodicals in the United States: Social and Political Issues, edited by Kathleen L. Endres, Therese L. Lueck

Lucy Stone: Pioneer of Woman’s Rights, by Alice Stone Blackwell