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Mirabile Dictu: The Bryn Mawr College Library Newsletter

Fall 2009 Issue 13

From the Director

The Friends of the Library are taking the lead in the celebrations that will mark the college’s 125th anniversary in 2010. Teresa Wallace 1979, our Chair, suggested as we began to plan for the year of celebration, that a course be taught on the history of the college that would engage students in thinking and writing about Bryn Mawr, and could help us all formulate questions that might inspire a history of the college focusing on the last 50 years. I had the privilege and pleasure to teach that course with Teresa’s support, with Stephanie Wujcik ’08 as the teaching assistant and the enthusiastic participation of many members of the Bi-College community. Not to mention the students! Just to list the guests who joined us or what we did together in the class might take up this entire column. We travelled to Baltimore to visit a number of the sites of importance to the origins of the College—places connected with the family of Mary Garrett, the great early benefactor of the College; we heard a speaker on the Bryn Mawr Farmerettes, we watched a never-before-seen 1972 film by Katrina Thomas 1949 on Bryn Mawr College and attended by eight of the faculty members she interviewed!

And the guests—Presidents McPherson PhD 1969 and McAuliffe, Dean Tidmarsh 1971, Professor Maria Luisa Crawford 1960, and alumnae from many eras—from Peggy Oneil 1947 to Michelle Mancini 1991, from Jane Unkefer 1955 to Teresa Wallace 1979, Louisa Dubin 1959 to three Haverford grads who lived on the Bryn Mawr campus—Mark Colvson, Paul Sokolar, and Steve Emerson. And Eliza Cope Harrison 1958 and Liz Schneider 1968 joined us via Skype.

One of the members of the class, Evan McGonagill, has shared in these pages (see page 6) some of what she learned. One of the assignments that she drew on may be of special interest to Mirabile Dictu readers: we have gathered over the years “letters home”—collections of letters written by the students to their families. Students used these collections of letters from between 1890 and 1930 to write a paper in two parts: the first half described how the life that the students led one hundred years earlier did—or did not—reflect the Bryn Mawr College of its press notices and stated aspirations. In the second half of the paper, the students compared their concerns and dreams with those of the students from whom they were separated by a century. What had changed? What seemed to be the same over the generations? Evan, and many of her student colleagues, found much that resonated over the years: a desire to succeed under a heavy load of work, the development of lasting friendships, and a connection to the College built through traditions. And much more—as we work this year to produce a history of the college (under the direction of Anne Bruder; see “Bryn Mawr by the Books”, page 4), we will be guided by what the current students of the College found in the College’s Special Collections. We hope we can continue to rely on your help in supporting the library in these efforts.

Elliott Shore

Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries

On 30 March 2009, a group of Friends of the Library joined members of Elliott Shore’s class on the History of Bryn Mawr College on an incredible trip to Baltimore to retrace the lives of Mary Garrett and M. Carey Thomas. Our merry band, pictured here, was treated to a talk by Kathleen Waters Sander, Mary Garrett’s biographer, at the Garrett Jacobs mansion on Mt. Vernon Place in downtown Baltimore and then walked down the street for a tour of the Peabody Library with Gabrielle Dean. We also explored the Evergreen Mansion and Library with their Special Collections Librarian Earle Havens, and capped off our day at the Bryn Mawr School with a tour, a fabulous tea, and a presentation by Elizabeth DiCataldo, the Bryn Mawr School’s archivist.

Those of us who had not been on a “field trip” in many years were reminded again of the value of experiential learning—Mary Garrett and M. Carey Thomas came alive in new ways even to those who knew their history well. For me, the greatest treat was the opportunity to spend time with the students in Professor Shore’s class. These incredible young women with their insightful questions and enthusiastic responses reminded me again of why Bryn Mawr is such a special place, and how our support of the library brings tangible benefits to the students there. - Teresa Walllace 1979