In the Digital Archives
In the summer of 1891, Susan Walker (Class of 1893) wrote to her fellow students proposing the system of self-governance that became SGA, the first student-run organization in the country for making and enforcing rules for student behavior.
In response, 33 students endorsed the idea in a batch of thoughtful letters, and, thanks to a collaborative project of the libraries of the former Seven Sisters Colleges, those letters are now available online at collegewomen.org.
A searchable portal of diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and photographs, the site illuminates the experiences of women students, with the goal of supporting new studies in topics such as political reform and women’s rights, sexuality and body image, religion, race and class, as well as major domestic and international events.
Funded through two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project was led by Bryn Mawr, with Evan McGonagill ’10 as project manager and me, Eric Pumroy, as project director. The project was also heavily dependent on the work of nearly a dozen students who analyzed letters and diaries, wrote descriptions of collections, digitized documents, and performed some of the critical technical work required to upload the images to the public site.
By the time the NEH grant project ended in April 2018, more than 75,000 pages of student letters, diaries, and scrapbooks had been digitized, cataloged, and loaded onto the site.
The Student Experience
In Spring 2018, the College Women project got a boost from two college women.
For their Museum Studies Fieldwork Seminar Praxis, Anne Schreck ’18 and Emma Rutenberg ’19 worked on the diaries of Dorothy Burr Thompson ’23, M.A. ’26, Ph.D. ’31. Providing oversight on the project were Digital Collections Librarian Nicole Joniec and College Archivist Christiana Dobrzynski.
The first Bryn Mawr student to attain a degree in classical archaeology, Thompson went on to become a prominent archaeologist best known for her work on Hellenistic terracotta figurines.
The diaries that Schreck and Rutenberg processed encompass Thompson’s entire Bryn Mawr career and provide an inside view of her student experience from first year to her time at the American School in Athens on the European Fellowship.
With each student focusing on one diary, they were able to read, digitize, and describe the entries, as well as reflect with each other on their findings. Their work can now be found on the College Women website as well as Triptych, the TriCollege’s digital library.
In Her Own Right
The ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, did not happen overnight. In the Philadelphia region, as elsewhere, it was the result of a decades-long struggle by suffragists.
To tell the story of the women’s rights movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Temple University has taken the lead in creating the In Her Own Right digital archive.
For its contribution, Bryn Mawr will be digitizing much of the voluminous correspondence between the College’s second president, M. Carey Thomas, and her partner, Mary Garrett, from 1883, when Thomas became dean at Bryn Mawr, through the 1890s. Thomas and Garrett were both active in the suffrage movement.
Also included are the student diaries of Mary Whitall Worthington (Class of 1910), Thomas’s niece and an ardent feminist. Her diaries, both charming and revealing, cover extracurricular activities, the young men of her acquaintance, bickering friends, as well as the issues of the day—suffrage, Free Trade, socialism, and government corruption.
The project received a grant this spring from the Hidden Collections Initiative of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.