For the NEH…

Historians Joan Kelly, Alice Kessler-Harris, Joan Scott, and Nell Painter, photographer Candacy Taylor, and filmmaker Mira Nair. What do these women have in common? All received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a government-funded agency now more than a half-century old.

Operating under the banner “Because democracy demands wisdom,” the NEH provides funds to “cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars.” These funds help share photos depicting scenes from across an ocean and time (and art and artifacts from the North American continent too), bring books to life, engage young minds at the museum, disseminate knowledge to educators, and tell us what’s in the archives so we can find it later!

Even if you’re not a scholar, you may have come into contact with the NEH. It’s one of those things you might hear about on PBS (This programming is made possible by…). Personally, one of my favorite pieces of NEH work is “The Presidents” on PBS’s American Experience.

As a student, I have come across the work of or had some sort of connection to all the individuals I named above. Joan Kelly was one of the creators of the SLC Women’s History program. Alice Kessler-Harris, who once taught at SLC, was one of the women’s historians whose work I came across while browsing the library of the women’s center where I once worked. Joan Scott and Candacy Taylor’s works were among our readings in our first year as graduate students. Nell Painter presented the keynote address at our “Black Women in White America, Revisited,” conference this year. I wrote about one of Mira Nair’s projects in an undergraduate paper on women-directed films. It is exciting to think that NEH grants helped them on their way to success, on their way to students like us seeing their work and being inspired.

If you are a member of the American Historical Association (AHA) or a savvy observer of the news, you may have heard way back in January about imperiled funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Well, the President’s budget proposal is now out in the open, and the AHA has provided its analysis of the President’s proposal, which is basically to dissolve the NEH.

As a graduate student who wants my fellow classmates and my teachers to have opportunities for research and for the exhibition of their work to the public, I see the National Endowment for the Humanities as an important asset to this country. When grants that can, for example, help us protect our primary source documents or interpret history for techloving audiences are in danger, the professions to which many students aspire are also in danger. It’s important that we protect the NEH!

 

This article reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sarah Lawrence College or the SLC Women’s History program.

A Local Field Trip: AC-BAW in Mount Vernon

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(a) An envelope directed to Miss Lynda M. Smith of the Peace Corps, with an Abraham Lincoln postage stamp (U.S. Government work).

I became a stamp collector when a friend of my mom introduced me to the hobby in third or fourth grade. I already loved history and the idea of finding stamps that had been used for mail decades ago and had come from far away places was especially exciting for me. The images on the stamps showed me beautiful art (introducing me to the many iterations of the Madonna and Child for instance), visages of the presidents and historical figures, various animals and plants, and of course, the American flag.  I never collected anything particularly valuable. My stamps were almost all postmarked, and the basis of my collection consisted of duplicates from hobby collectors who never would have been in the position to pay for something rare or expensive. But for me, that was all fine. Maybe I had a few fantasies of discovering something amongst the cast-offs, but there were no “inverted Jennys” to be found.

I can’t believe it’s been this long, but a few months ago, I visited an exhibit about African Americans on postage stamps at AC-BAW Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon. I found out about the exhibit from the community newspaper. As a women’s history student, I wanted to see how Black women figured on postage stamps and in the exhibit.

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(b) Shirley Chisholm (Wikimedia Commons)

On postage stamps, I had seen Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, aviator Bessie Coleman, singer Roberta Martin, and the illustration of the musical Porgy and Bess. I used sheets of stamps of jazz artist Sarah Vaughan and writer Maya Angelou for my own correspondence. However, I was surprised by the vast number of stamps in the exhibit and the number that I had never seen before! (Unfortunately, I am not finding any public domain images of the actual stamps to show within this post, so I will link to outside sources and show images of the individuals I mention…but you should go to the exhibit to see them all!)

Stamps depicting presidential cabinet secretary Patricia Roberts Harris, gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and actress Fredi Washington (in writing only) were among those I had never cast my eyes on before. There were several people of which I previously had no knowledge at all.

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(c) Fredi Washington from Imitation of Life (Wikimedia Commons)

While I was there, I scribbled the names and years of a number of cool stamps that caught my eye. Ethel Payne, a columnist for the Chicago Defender, and Secretary Harris (named above) figure in my research on historical Black newspapers. I wish I knew about these fascinating women earlier! Congresswoman Barbara Jordan‘s stamp had to be one of my favorites though. There are too few women elected officials who have made it onto the postage stamp (the reasons why are a whole other blog post). Congresswoman Jordan was an awesome person about whom I don’t think enough people know.

The exhibit at AC-BAW was originally supposed to close about a month ago, but when I visited, a board member told me that it was extended. So, you should still be able to go see it! If you need a break from your work or perhaps after you finish the semester, go check it out! If you have any particular favorite stamps, share with us!

 

 Image Credits blog post 4.26.17

*Please note that any links to outside sources are for educational purposes. I tried to avoid pages where the stamps were being sold, but some stamps were less visible online than others.

Recent Events

This past week has been a tumultuous one for many. The new President signed an executive order blocking travel into the U.S. by refugees and many immigrants, and people came out to protest this action over the weekend. The executive order has even led our own college president, Karen Lawrence, to send out a message emphasizing support for the impacted people in our college community.

Each day seems to bring a list of new issues to which to respond, so it’s hard to keep up and feel like you’re staying up to date and responding in a timely manner. In light of that, please forgive us for the delay in responding to the Women’s March.

In the coming days, Re/Visionist will post a few responses from our students to the Women’s March on Washington or its “Sister Marches,” which occurred on January 21, 2017. Since the Saturday before last, there have been a variety of responses to this activism across the country, and I’m sure that you’ve been reading about it or watching it on TV.

The responses that we share cannot purport to be representative of all feminists, all women, or all people. We can only attribute the opinion of each writer to that individual writer. However, as we note in the Re/Visionist Mission Statement, this blog is meant to speak to multiple feminisms, and it is important to record the history of the people at our school. So, we will try to share the range of responses as we receive submissions. We encourage other members of the SLC community to share their thoughts by contacting us at revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu.

Thank you!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Amanda Kozar

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in observance of the American civil rights leader’s birthday (January 15, 1929). Some celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through volunteering. Others take the opportunity to learn or teach about the civil rights movement and this particular leader’s efforts and philosophy.

As a historian, I would be remiss if I did not mention the resources available on the King Center’s website. Whether you are researching Dr. King specifically, the civil rights movement more generally, or specific people in Dr. King’s life (such as Mahalia Jackson or Dora McDonald [1]), you might check out the “Digital Archive” from the King Center. You’ll find digitized documents that give you a taste for what is available in the physical King Library and Archives in Atlanta, GA.

Check it out! Have you been to the King Center or the King Library and Archives? Have you researched the U.S. civil rights movement? Let us know if you have any insights to share!

 

[1] Use the search tool on the Archives webpage, as there are multiple documents available.

Using Government Docs for Women’s History

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Over the course of the last semester, I have spent my time researching the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Harmless, right? Well, a lot of people, particularly Phyllis Schlafly and STOP ERA, begged to differ.

Even so, before the U.S. Senate deliberated on this issue, many women and men had something to say about the Equal Rights Amendment and what it meant for them. Given that this debate happened most notably in the 1970s, it isn’t so easy to access first-person accounts or testimonials of the time about the ERA. So, I looked for the text of the legislative hearings. You can’t get that from the Library of Congress online. The earliest mention of the ERA in the C-SPAN video library is 1980, and that is past the height of the debate. Hearings were however printed in a book available in SLC’s Esther Rauschenbusch Library.

You may not have used it, but there is a vast collection of government documents in our library, which includes that book chronicling the ERA hearings. Our library is part of the Federal Depository Library Program. At SLC, we have several bookcases worth of material, in addition to online guides of digitized materials. So, if you are studying American history, these resources might be useful to you!

As women’s history students, we have been taught to read “’against the grain’” (Bartholomae and Petrosky) because history has often excluded women, girls, people of color, and other people who have been marginalized in multiple and intersecting ways. We have been taught to investigate what has been written about women, for example, and what hasn’t. Where do their stories appear and not appear?

Let’s put that to work with our government documents section. In some cases, we may use government documents for basic information to include in our writing. For instance, we may want to know the population of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1980, and we would look at the U.S. Census for that information. However, as historians, we might also want to question that data. What methods did the U.S. Census Bureau use to get its count? Would these methods have led to the exclusion of X or Y group of people? How would their exclusion from the Census count affect public policy and thus quality of life? What questions did the Census not ask that it should have?

Do yourself a favor and visit the government documents section in the basement of our library. A browsing visit may lead you to documents about which you will raise questions, and you may be inspired to find the answers! Perhaps, those answers will become your master’s thesis!

In addition to bound hearings and reports, you’ll also find maps, videos, discs, and other resources! There’s content that covers substance abuse, NASA, foreign affairs, and the nuclear issue, among other things. Check out some of these interesting finds in the stacks!

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Plant and agricultural reference books, such as Silvics of North America, Volume 1 Conifers and Virus Diseases of Small Fruits

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Federal employment reports, like the Study of Employment of Women in the Federal Government: 1967 and Minority Group Employment in the Federal Government: November 1971.

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Videos from events at the Clinton White House, including Millennium Evenings at the White House: Women as Citizens.

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Copies of the Federal Budget galore!

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Foreign Relations of the United States: Paris Peace Conference, 1919.

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Public Papers of the Presidents: Barack Obama. Read the speeches and remarks of our current president, as printed in these volumes.

 

Get Your Women’s History Podcasts…

By Amanda Kozar

If you’re like me, you are still excited to learn about women’s history even when you’re not in school. If you are stuck on a long car ride or flight, it’s always helpful to have a few podcasts loaded onto your cell phone or tablet.*

These podcasts don’t necessarily have a common theme other than “women’s history,” but I think that you might find something of interest to you here.

Do you have any podcast recommendations? Let us know!

“We Real Cool: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks” (The Documentary, 9/30/15)

“Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women and the Freedom Movement” (Farzaneh Milani, Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Stanford University, 5/29/12)

“Conversation with Dorothy Cotton” (American civil rights activist) (Morehouse King Collection Office, 3/18/13)

“The Exemplary Life of Germaine Tillion” (French Resistance activist) (Tzvetan Todorov, Stanford Humanities Center, 7/23/10)

“Lady Liberty” (Latino USA, NPR, 6/19/15)

“Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” (PBS) (Originally, I heard about Noor Inayat Khan on a podcast, but apparently, it isn’t available anymore!)

*You may need to download the iTunesU app to listen to some of these recordings! Check the instructions for your device.

Planning Any Winter Break Travel?

While you’re on your winter break (if you’re a current student), you might have some free time to travel or just to visit a museum in town. I started making a list of some interesting things to see in the New York area over the break, but I soon wanted to expand it to include other interesting places!

I found quite a few art exhibitions that explore gender and other identit(y)(ies) and/or are created by artists (who happen to be women) that have something interesting to say. I have also included some “permanent” sites that offer perspectives of women’s history.

These sites are all located in the U.S., but I recognize that they may not be close to where you live. If you know of any interesting sites near you, please share them with us in the comments! You might also submit an essay about your experience at a historic site or museum related to gender (email revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu).

I haven’t visited these sites yet, but if you have, give us a shout!

 

The NEW National Museum of African American History & Culture

Where: 1400 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

 

In Conversation: The Photographs of Alice Austen and Christine Osinski

When: Now – December 23, 2016

Where: Alice Austen House

2 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY

 

Vinok – An Exhibition by Ola Rondiak

When: Now – December 31, 2016

Where: Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago

2249 W. Superior St., Chicago, IL

 

Maria De Los Angeles Exhibition

When: Now-January 6, 2017

Where: El Museo Del Barrio

1230 5th Avenue, New York, NY

 

NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection

When: Now – January 8, 2017

Where: National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

 

Protests in Print

When: Now-January 18, 2017

Where: NYPL – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

476 5th Avenue, New York, NY

 

Worshiping Women: Power and Devotion in Indian Painting

When: Now – March 26, 2017

Where: Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA

 

A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola – Art Exhibition

When: Now – April 2, 2017

Where: Museum of the African Diaspora

685 Mission St., San Francisco, CA

 

Unconscious Thoughts Animate the World – Art Exhibition

When: Now – May 7, 2017

Where: Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami

1301 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL

 

Harriet Tubman Home

When: By appointment

Where: 182 South St., Auburn, NY

 

Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

Where: 144 Constitution Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.

 

Confluence Project Sites (designed by Maya Lin)

Where: Across Washington and Oregon states

 

Consult the web page of each site for information about cost of admission and open hours and days of the week!