Women and the Written Word: Poetesses in the Archives

For those who do not know, April is National Poetry Month. In celebration of the occasion, I delved into the Women & Leadership Archives’ collections to find records and personal papers concerning women’s contributions to the arts, particularly the written word. As close followers of the Women and Leadership Archives know, our collections feature the creative pursuits of remarkable female performers, artists, sculptors, and patrons, both past and present. In fact, check out the WLA’s digital collection Visions: A Highlight of Chicago Women Artists for a more detailed sampling of the materials we hold regarding these talented female artists.

Along with preserving the records and papers of women in performance and the fine arts, the Women & Leadership Archives also holds the records of famous poetesses as well as numerous poems featured in feminist newspapers. The first, Ruth Lisa Schecter, published several books of poetry including Near The Wall of Lion Shadows, Moveable Parts, Suddenly Thunder, and eight others. Her writings were also published in more than one hundred and fifty journals. In addition to actively writing throughout her adult life, Schecter was also passionately involved in spreading the influence of poetry through Arts Councils and colleges. Schecter served as the poet-in-residence at Mundelein College* beginning in 1969.

The second poet, Renny Golden, combined her love for writing with a passion for social activism. Her best known book of poetry The Hour of the Furnaces articulates the suffering of many citizens of Central American countries in the tumultuous years of the 1980s, when several countries fought civil wars against militaristic regimes. This work earned a nomination for the National Book Award in 2000.

Additionally, the WLA preserves numerous anonymous submissions of poetry from The Feminist Voice, one of Chicago’s first feminist newspapers that began during the 1970s. See below for some examples of these anonymous pieces as well as a sampling of some of the amazing offerings created by our other profound poetesses.

 

ConnieKiosse1

Drawing from the Connie Kiosse Papers, artist unknown. Undated.

This image from the Connie Kiosse Papers was submitted by an anonymous artist and poet. The marriage of words and illustration provide a provocative image of the contributor’s views on romantic love.

ConnieKiosse2

Drawing and poem from the Connie Kiosse Papers, artist unknown. Undated.

Another anonymous submission from the Connie Kiosse papers, this poem with accompanying illustration depicts the author’s personal struggle with a failing relationship and her tumultuous emotions associated with it. The poem makes powerful reference to the role of self-esteem as it intersects with modern womanhood.

Schecter1

Early draft of Schecter’s poem “Suddenly Thunder,” 1972.  Ruth Lisa Schecter Papers.

These two images depict an early draft of Ruth Lisa Schecter’s titular poem for her book, Suddenly Thunder and another one of her poems “Many Rooms in a Winter Night.” Examining drafts of Schecter’s work allows researchers to view the artist’s creative process as she composes a work from beginning to end.

Schecter2

Revision of one of Schecter’s later poems “Many Rooms in a Winter Night,” 1989.  Ruth Lisa Schecter Papers.

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.

 


 

EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Reflections on the National Council on Public History’s Annual Meeting

This past weekend I attended the National Council on Public History’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference revolved around the theme of “Challenging the Exclusive Past”. This theme starts to scratch the surface on the multitude of complexities in doing public history work. Attending the NCPH conference allowed me to draw broad comparisons among a variety of public history institutions throughout the country. Following in line with the conference theme, the main sessions highlighted the need to fill in the gaps in the historic record and tell the stories that have been ignored in the past.

Working at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA), I understand the need to expand the historical narrative to be more inclusive. The WLA first and foremost preserves documents related to women, a group often ignored in the historical record. While the main function of many archives is not necessarily to display or exhibit the collections, the WLA does host events, put on presentations, write weekly blog posts, and create tabletop displays and digital exhibits. These are ways of highlighting not only the WLA’s collections, but women’s history in general. The collections contained within the archives are also open for researchers and the public and they too may utilize the documents to fill in gaps and contribute to the study of women in history.

NCPHProgram

The program for the 2016 NCPH Annual Meeting

After attending the NCPH conference it became very clear to me how difficult it can be for some public history institutions to include materials, stories, and exhibits from marginalized groups. Many public history professionals spoke not just of the people, stories, and histories that have been left out of the historical record, but of the institutions in place to prevent them from telling those histories. The stories ranged from people working in small local museums to the National Park Service and other federal organizations. There were many current and former federal employees and their comments were not always very positive about their past and present work. They brought up limitations they have at current historical sites because of controversial topics and they also mentioned that they struggle with people in positions of power to recognize and promote new sites that would fill in the gaps in the historical record.

While hearing about these challenges and struggles can be disheartening, I choose to take a more positive stance on the matter by applauding all those working to change current attitudes. Many of these people have been working for years to have their work recognized and have yet to succeed, but what they are doing is making a difference. My time spent at NCPH was very valuable to me in terms of understanding how I might proceed in the future with public history work. I am also thankful for institutions like the WLA that are dedicated to preserving the history of marginalized groups. These institutions are necessary because they open their doors to people who will be part of researching and writing the histories that have yet to be told.


 

Megan Bordewyk
Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Erin Go Bragh: St. Patrick’s Day blast from the past

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let’s take a look at an invitation in the Mundelein College Skyscraper Newspaper for a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner held March 17th 1956.* The Women’s Auxiliary planned the annual event as a benefit for the College expansion fund. Note the “harp and shamrock motif” and “lilting Irish melodies.” How I wish they noted the menu, although I assume the meal consisted of the typical Irish American fare of corned beef, cabbage and soda bread.

How fascinating that a Women’s Auxiliary and Mother’s club raised money for Mundelein. I wonder if Loyola would be interested in this fund raising idea. Probably not!

Front page story from the March 5, 1956 issue of the Skyscraper

Front page story from the March 5, 1956 issue of the Skyscraper.

Here are two of the participants of the dinner. The photo caption reads “Mrs. Cahman and Mrs. Popp (pictured left to right) are seated at the Mother’s Club St. Patrick Day Dinner.” The Skyscraper notes the members of various committee and Mrs. Popp helped as part of the Arrangements Committee. How I wish for a color photo to confirm my bet they wore something green.

Two women enjoy the St. Patrick's Day Dinner, 1956.

Two women enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, 1956.

As you read the newspaper article, did you notice that all women are referred to as Mrs. and by their husband’s name? This is almost unheard of now, however, was standard practice back in the day.

It’s good to see some traditions haven’t changed from 1956. To celebrate March 17th, wear some green, listen to “lilting Irish melodies” and eat corned beef!

 

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.


IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Colors of the Season: Lent and Spring with the Art of Virginia Broderick

We are FINALLY beginning to see some sunny skies and warmer temperatures in Chicago and I’m sure everyone is ready to see green grass and blooming flowers again soon. Along with the spring also comes the season of Lent. Lent is a forty day period of time during which Christians devote themselves to prayer, fasting, and works of compassion as a way of preparing themselves to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter. This year, Lent began February 10 and ends with Easter Sunday on March 27.

What better way is there to celebrate the coming of beautiful spring and Easter than with the artwork of Virginia Gaertner Broderick? A Catholic convert, Virginia developed her own artistic style she called “cloisonism” and used traditional Christian symbolism to create vibrant and unique art. Her pieces were published in many forms of church publications and even converted into stained glass, mosaics, and other forms that can be found all over the world. Read more about her fascinating life and career in the finding aid for her collection.

In her collection, I found a variety of publications used in the Lenten season. I hope you enjoy the colorful art that Virginia created to honor the solemnity of lent and the beauty of Easter

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

In Virginia's collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

In Virginia’s collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

Broderick Lent booklet 1982002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Broderick Lenten offering folder 003

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


On The Campaign Trail

With the weekly primaries and Super Tuesday right around the corner, I have the 2016 Presidential Campaign on the brain. As advertisements play on TV and friends on Facebook voice their opinions, I am reminded of Patricia Caron Crowley and her family’s work campaigning for Eugene McCarthy during his bid for President in 1968 and 1972. Her collection illustrates the strong involvement of a woman in campaigning for a Presidential candidate. Crowley hosted parties and luncheons with her husband and kept a significant amount of newspaper articles and memorabilia from the campaign trail. Patricia and her husband Pat were ideal candidates to run McCarthy’s Illinois campaign because of their previous experience organizing and raising funds for various organizations. The Crowley’s also had connections with Chicago politicians. While McCarthy never made it to the White House, Patricia’s collection at the Women and Leadership Archives highlights the hard work and effort that goes into campaigning and politics.

Campaigns can be very visual from the TV advertisements, newspaper articles, and yard signs to how a candidate holds himself/herself or what he/she is wearing during a debate. Below are some of the images and visual materials used in the McCarthy Campaign. As you view the images, think about how political advertising has changed and how it has stayed the same. The Crowley’s were a well-connected and well known family in Chicago. How is their support similar or dissimilar from celebrity endorsements today? There are many things that have not changed in the 44 years since the 1972 election but those things that have changed are important for understanding current political thought and the priorities of the American public.

Campaign Sticker

Campaign Sticker

PatandPatricia

Pat and Patricia Crowley examining a poster for McCarthy

Patricia kept several newspaper articles in a guestbook that contained signatures from luncheon and party attendees

Patricia kept several newspaper articles in a guestbook that contained signatures from luncheon and party attendees

Press release about a speech by McCarthy at a luncheon hosted by Pat and Patricia Crowley

Press release about a speech by McCarthy at a luncheon hosted by Pat and Patricia Crowley

Pamphlet for the 1972 primary in Illinois

Pamphlet for the 1972 primary in Illinois

A personal favorite from the Patricia Caron Crowley collection at the WLA is this white and blue campaign hat for McCarthy. The hat includes the word “PEACE” as McCarthy was refered to as the peace candidate in reference to his thoughts on the Vietnam War.

A personal favorite from the Patricia Caron Crowley collection at the WLA is this white and blue campaign hat for McCarthy. The hat includes the word “PEACE” as McCarthy was referred to as the peace candidate in reference to his thoughts on the Vietnam War.

 


Megan BordewykMegan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


#ColorOurCollections: social media and the archives

Social-networks logoSocial media has become an important and valuable tool for cultural institutions such as archives, libraries, and museums. Technology has changed the way people seek information and relate to the world around them. This means that archives that make connecting with the public a priority must stay informed with how their audience is communicating and get creative with their outreach.At the WLA, we use this blog and our Facebook page, along with our website, to share news and cool things from the archives in order to inform the community about the useful and interesting collections we have here.

This year, I have been in charge of running these pages, which has been quite a learning experience. Finding what your audience will think is interesting and will want to engage with is definitely a process. Photos that I think are fascinating, may be downright dull to our followers.

For a recent class assignment, I looked at how archives and museums use Twitter to connect with the public. Although this is a social media platform that the WLA does not use at this time, as the social media coordinator here, it was interesting and helpful to see the ways other institutions use Twitter to connect with people, especially younger groups. It reminded me that social media is not only a tool useful for reaching your audience, but also for connecting with other institutions to share ideas and learn from each other.

During my exploration, I came across a really awesome event called Color Our Collections week, which took place February 1-5. Museums, archives, and libraries turned historic photos, artwork, and images of artifacts into coloring pages people could print and color. Anyone could (and still can) search #colorourcollections and find coloring pages and even whole books from all over the country. I thought this was a very fun way to share collections and get kids and adults (hey, coloring is cool for adults now) to engage with history, science, and art.

An example from the United States National Archives

An example from the United States National Archives

Of course, I couldn’t let the WLA be completely left out of the fun, so I tried my hand at turning some of our photos and artwork into coloring pages! Turns out, I’m not so great at it. However, here are a few for you to try out! I hope you enjoy coloring the WLA collections! I know I will!

If you or your kiddos color our pages, please share your creation through Facebook or email it to WLArchives@luc.edu!

 

Virginia Broderick coloring pageVirginia Broderick coloring page

 

Mercedes McCambridge Coloring pageMercedes McCambridge coloring page

 

Mollie West coloring pageMollie West coloring page

 

MC Drama 1935 coloring page

Mundelein College Drama, 1935 coloring page

 


Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Valentine’s Blast from the Past

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I went in search of something from Mundelein College.* I found this ad in the Skyscraper, the College’s weekly student-produced newspaper.

1968-01-26 (4)
Newspaper ads are a fascinating window in time and this one from January 26, 1968, is no exception. Note the name of the company, Psychedelic Photo Company. The word psychedelic came into being in 1956 from the Greek psyche- “mind” + deloun- “make visible” from delos “visible, clear,” + dyeu- “to shine.” Popular use began in 1965 referencing anything producing effects similar to using a psychedelic drug or enhancing the effects of said drug.

Over the years, I’ve heard the term psychedelic innumerable times, however, this may be the first time as the name of a business. I Googled the company out of curiosity to see if it still existed and alas, no.

Notice the details of the ad. What a bargain price for a black and white or color poster. (How I wish current shipping prices cost 25 cents.) If you hurried after January 26th, when the ad came out in the Skyscraper, you could get a poster in two weeks, in time to give to your Valentine!

 

*Mundelein College, founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), provided education to women from 1930 until 1991, when it affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. The Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) at Loyola holds the records of Mundelein College.


 

IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy was an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not at the WLA, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Preserving the Paris Attacks

On November 13, 2015, Paris experienced a shocking series of attacks that resulted in the deaths of one hundred and thirty innocent people. The entire world joined Paris and the whole of France in their grief, expressing their anger, sadness, and aspirations for peaceful reconciliation through outpourings on social media, news coverage, and more tangibly, by leaving letters, drawings, and other tokens of mourning at the sites of the tragedies. Three months after the events, Paris archivists continue the lengthy process of preserving these mementos in the city’s archives.

This semester, the WLA Graduate Assistants are taking the Archives and Records Management class offered by Loyola’s History Department as part of our degree program. As an assignment for the class, we were asked to pick an archives-related story in recent news and examine the questions about archival practice it inspires. The ongoing preservation of the relics left behind at the memorials of the November 13th attacks, and the issues raised concerning the archivist’s responsibility to objectively preserve documents for future generations while balancing the obligation felt by society to honor the memories of victims of traumatic events, fascinated me to no end.

Photo by Francois Mori/Associated Press (image url: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/arts/design/in-paris-archivists-preserve-tokens-of-grief.html?_r=0)

Photo by Francois Mori/Associated Press (image url: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/21/arts/design/in-paris-archivists-preserve-tokens-of-grief.html?_r=0)

 

In light of the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris last November, archivists working with city cleaning staff and volunteers for the city of Paris archives are preserving the surplus of notes, drawings, cards, and flowers left at the Bataclan concert hall, La Belle Équipe, and the remaining targets. A Huffington Post article reported that the process of preservation began a week after the attacks occurred but picked up in significant force by December. Teams of city employees and volunteers collected hundreds of thousands of items while photographing the changing appearance of the memorials.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 17: Flowers and candles are seen at the memorial for the victims of Paris terror attacks in front of Bataclan, Boulevard Voltaire in Paris, France on November 17, 2015. Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images (image url: http://fox61.com/2015/12/15/paris-to-save-notes-and-drawings-left-after-the-attacks/)

PARIS, FRANCE – NOVEMBER 17: Flowers and candles are seen at the memorial for the victims of Paris terror attacks in front of Bataclan, Boulevard Voltaire in Paris, France on November 17, 2015. Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images (image url: http://fox61.com/2015/12/15/paris-to-save-notes-and-drawings-left-after-the-attacks/)

In order to preserve these precious materials for the future, they must be removed from the open elements in front of the memorials themselves and transferred to the archives where they undergo professional care, or risk natural decay that could irreparably damage the items. In these circumstances, the archivists’ role as a preservationist not only necessitates the safekeeping of the products of these memorials, but also indirectly affects the maintenance of the physical memorials themselves. Their safe removal creates more space so that more visitors may express their condolences and mourn. Yet, the removal of those artifacts may appear insensitive to the memory of the victims of the attacks.

Striking the balance between being emotionally supportive of the grieving process and being objective for the sake of future researchers is a tricky thing for the archivist to navigate. The concept of preserving the memorabilia related to tragic events is not a new one. In the United States, archivists collected materials from sites such as the ones at the Paris memorials in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Both sets of archivists have to navigate a nebulous line between what is considered commemorative and what is considered burdensome to the natural course of everyday life.

There are no definitive solutions to the problems raised by the conservation of memorabilia related to tragic events like the Paris attacks last November; however, there is no question that the items should be preserved by archivists. Although a difficult process, it is ultimately a worthy one. I am confident the Paris city archivists will accomplish their goal of preserving the sensitive material while honoring the memories of those lost in the tragedies.

Photo by Christophe Ena/AP (image url: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/death-toll-in-paris-attacks-hits-129-another-352-hurt-1.2658389#)

Photo by Christophe Ena/AP (image url: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/death-toll-in-paris-attacks-hits-129-another-352-hurt-1.2658389#)

 


EllenProfilePic
Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before moving to Chicago, Ellen was a Kindergarten teacher in Louisiana. She enjoys brunch, procedural dramas, and pugs.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Construction Paper

Imagine you are assigned the task of building a skyscraper in Chicago. Your task, should you choose to accept it, would be to make the major decisions for the project by keeping in touch with the architects and major contractors. The catch? The year is 1929 and you are located in Dubuque, Iowa, some 175 miles from Chicago. You will also have very limited access to the telephone. I sure hope you know how to use a typewriter!

The story of how Mundelein College was constructed unfolds in the letters and telegrams housed in the Mundelein College Collection located at the Women and Leadership Archives. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) kept the letters they received and carbon copies of the letters they sent. In-between the letters are lists of the cost of building materials, contract bids, budget reports, and general plans for the college. A majority of the letters are between Nairne Fisher, architect, and Sister Mary Realmo and Reverend Mother Isabella, head of the Order of the BVM.

An example of a copy of a letter sent by Mother Isabella.

An example of a copy of a letter sent by Mother Isabella.

 

Example of Nairne Fisher answering a question posed to him in a prior letter and an example of suggestions for substitutes in building materials

Example of Nairne Fisher answering a question posed to him in a prior letter and an example of suggestions for substitutes in building materials

 

Many of the letters are fascinating because the content of the letters can be as short as a text message or a quick email today, but others are several pages long and include additional materials related to construction. Phone calls appear rare and some letters are in response to a message left after a missed phone call. In person visits were few and far between. Without the use of today’s technology, communicating decisions about Mundelein College through letters was very important. A simple question may have taken days to get an answer. Another thing to keep in mind is that construction of Mundelein College happened during the Great Depression after the stock market crash of October 1929.

The correspondence between the sisters and the numerous people contracted to build the college, shows the dedication of the sisters to the school as well as the frustrations of planning and budgeting. Many letters are spent on managing finances and the costs of construction materials. The sisters were meticulous about ensuring quality products at reasonable prices. They ask questions for clarification and constantly crunch numbers to see where the finances stand. Some letters highlight the problems with building the college. Prices for materials sometimes went up during construction, altering the budget, or there were a few miscommunications about how something was to be done. Some of these issues may have been exacerbated by the time it took to communicate back and forth via letters.

Letters2

Very few letters were handwritten.

Looking at Mundelein College building today, I am amazed that most decisions that went into building the institution can be found in a series of letters. Nearly everything from the materials used on the exterior to the classrooms inside were decided upon without the architect or the sisters talking in person. The letters remind me to be a little more grateful that I can communicate with friends and family miles away in a matter of seconds!

A few of the letters highlighting the construction of Mundelein College

A few of the letters highlighting the construction of Mundelein College.

 


Megan Bordewyk
Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Caring for Mental Health at Deborah’s Place

Helping the homeless isn’t just about providing a roof and a bed. The Chicago organization Deborah’s Place has understood this since they began providing services to women who were currently or had previously experienced homelessness. Deborah’s Place recognized homelessness as a trauma and the formation of relationships as the road to healing. Beginning as an overnight shelter in 1985, the organization grew to include Irene’s Daytime Program, Marah’s Place transitional housing, and other programs that provided women with basic needs, education, job training, and the support needed to help them gain self-sufficiency and confidence.

The women coming to Deborah’s Place had not only suffered from not having housing, but had also often struggled with domestic violence, sexual assault, addiction, and mental illness. Along with a health services coordinator and case managers who helped each woman on her own individual journey, Irene’s Daytime Program employed a full-time art therapist. Just as showers, laundry facilities, and food provided for the physical health of participants, art therapy and classes became an essential part of caring for the mental health of these homeless women. Deborah’s Place believed these opportunities for socialization, creativity, and self-expression were just as vital to the participants’ well-being.

Several photos of art classes and projects were found in the Deborah’s Place records.

Deborah’s Place programs allowed participants to work with a variety of media.

Deborah’s Place programs allowed participants to work with a variety of media.

The participants at Marah’s, a transitional housing program, created this quilt together and submitted it in a Deborah’s Place art show.

The participants at Marah’s, a transitional housing program, created this quilt together and submitted it in a Deborah’s Place art show.

Deborah's Place004

Quilt squares made by participants at Marah’s.

Along with the health of participants, Deborah’s Place cared for the mental and emotional health of program staff. Employees were provided with opportunities to process the challenges of working with participants on a daily basis. A 1996 annual report from the Clinical Director also acknowledged that several staff members were former participants in the program who would benefit from further support in dealing with the transition in roles.

The records of Deborah’s Place reveal the building of a community based on relationships in which burdens were shared and the physical, emotional, and mental needs of all were met.

This is just one facet of this organization’s inspiring story.  To learn more about Deborah’s Place, take a look at the collection’s finding aid here.

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.