Throwback Thursday: VHS Edition

I started at the WLA in January as an undergraduate volunteer intern and was very happy to be asked to stay into this summer as well. I am now going into my senior year and my work in the archive has taught me a lot about how history can be much more recent than I may have once thought.

For the past several months I have been working on processing a collection from the Cook County Treasurer, Maria Pappas. Maria Pappas has been a part of Cook County government since the early 1990s and started off that Cook County-based career with a PhD in counseling and psychology from our very own Loyola University Chicago. Pappas’ longevity in office has been documented not only in news articles, but in TV and radio appearances, which, wouldn’t you know it, have been preserved on VHS, a novelty for this 21 year old intern. Like many bygone technologies, like the CD player, Walkman, Nokia phones, and even an original iPhone, I thought VHS and audio cassettes were a thing of the past that would never cross my path again. Imagine my surprise when the first box that I went through from Maria Pappas’ donation contained nothing but VHS tapes, and not only that, but they were still watchable!

Although I knew what archives involved, in my imagination it always meant that I would be carefully handling decades, if not centuries old, journals and pictures. With this idea in mind, going through VHS tapes and CDs, objects from my childhood that now seem far outdated, has shifted my perspective of archives, and of history as a whole. With Maria Pappas’ progression through her career, the technology used to preserve her experience also progresses and changes, shifting from U-Matic tapes, cassettes, and VHS to CDs and MCRW discs. Being able to physically see a progression of time, not only in the contents of these media forms, but also in the media forms themselves adds another level to the understanding of how quickly history and technology can change. Most notably, it was surprising to come across technologies in the Pappas collection that I knew nothing about, like U-Matic tapes and MCRW discs. These technologies evolved and became outdated quickly, and were used in such small niches that their usefulness was quickly replaced by another form of technology.

Media found in the Maria Pappas papers.

Media found in the Maria Pappas papers.

With the physical evidence of the longevity of Maria Pappas’ career in front of me in these different types of multimedia, actually going through the documentation and reading about her career and outreach programs over the years made the extent of her career seem more emphasized. Maria Pappas began as a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 1990, then ran for Cook County Treasurer in 1998, a position she has held since then, and is the current incumbent for. Maria Pappas is credited with reorganizing the Cook County Treasurer’s office, which had been losing checks and improperly documenting interactions and notices for years before Maria Pappas was elected to the position.

After organizing the Cook County Treasurer’s office, Maria Pappas began her Treasurer’s Outreach Program and Services, in which she published property tax brochures in several languages and reached out to many different cultural communities in Chicago and the surrounding areas in order to make property tax payment information more accessible. Cook County is an incredibly diverse area and one that has $12 billion in property taxes collected annually. With this diversity in mind, Maria Pappas has ensured that she has efficiently informed all of the community members, displaying her understanding of the importance of progress and helping people in what some may see as atypical ways. Her impressive career and record is well documented, on paper, on VHS, and online, displaying the progression of a well-rounded career, as well as the advancement of technology and the advancement a community along with that career.


Amela Kalezic is an intern at the WLA and has been working with the Cook County Treasurer, Maria Pappas’ collection. She is an undergraduate majoring in History and Environmental Science at Loyola and is an avid dog lover who sadly does not have one of her own yet, but will not let you walk past a cute one without letting you know.

 


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.


Mundelein College and Prince the Collie

 

The Art Deco Skyscraper building under construction in 1930.

Mundelein College was founded in the same year that the stock market crashed. In 1929, while the American economy was crumbling, Mundelein College and its unique home, the Mundelein skyscraper, was rising. It took an indomitable person to see that it was done, and the college’s co-founder, Sister Justicia Coffey, BVM, was just such an individual. Sister Justicia had a vision which included a superior Catholic education for young modern urban women. The skyscraper was the setting for that vision, but Sister Justicia knew that an excellent education required exceptional teachers. Sister Justicia approached the construction of both the building and the faculty with equal vigor and procured whatever either task demanded. While blueprints and the careful inspection of steel beams were imperative for the building, the teachers required a rapid accumulation of graduate degrees and for the elevation of their spirits, Prince, a tri-color collie.

This summer, my colleague, Nathan Ellstrand and I have been building “Voices from Mundelein,” a web media portal which highlights the staff, alumnae, and faculty of Mundelein College. It includes oral histories which feature the earliest years of Mundelein College. In her rich oral history, long-time Mundelein faculty member, Sister Irma Corcoran reflects fondly on memories as wide ranging as Sister Justicia Coffey’s unique style of leadership and the college’s pet collie, Prince.

In her 1997 audio interview, Sister Irma Corcoran, BVM, claims that she was a member of the college community for the entirety of Mundelein’s sixty-one year existence. Sister Irma arrived as a faculty candidate in 1929 when the skyscraper was dedicated and left in 1991 when Mundelein affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. She recalls that Sister Justicia created a significant portion of her coterie of faculty members by gathering young novitiates of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) who had completed college degrees, a rare commodity indeed. She then sent them to distinguished universities to complete their graduate studies with an injunction to return to Mundelein and disseminate their new-found knowledge. Sister Irma was one of those novitiates. She was sent to Columbia University to study English, one of the few women, and the only sister in the student body. Ultimately Sister Irma returned, taught, and became a renowned Milton scholar.

When Sister Irma first arrived, the skyscraper was not yet completed and she and her fellow graduate school headed novitiates were quartered in what she calls “the little green house” next door. As did all of the founding faculty members, Sister Irma wore many hats and in addition to teaching, she served as a general porteress for the college. She brokered purchases from coal to eggs and dealt with contractors, visiting clergy, and what she calls insistent BELLS. She especially remembers her fellow porter of the canine variety, Prince. Sister Irma reports that the black and white collie pup had a bark that “would intimidate an army.” Prince took his responsibilities seriously, and guarded the little green house assiduously. One time, Sister Irma recalls, he barked “terribly” and she went to the front door and found the postman pinned to the porch railing with his heels in the air.

Photos of Prince are featured prominently in the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1931.

Guarding the porch was not Prince’s only function, it can be inferred from Sister Irma’s interview that he walked the sisters each day after breakfast, in the company of Sister Justicia Coffey. Sister Justicia made it a point to get acquainted with each new novitiate and the latest to arrive was always the chosen companion for the daily morning walk. They would walk the city streets from Kenmore to Rosemont to Sheridan, and finish by looking over the lake and then turn toward the skyscraper which Sister Justicia inspected with a gimlet eye assessing the days’ construction. Often, Sister Irma recalls, Justicia would chat with the workers, whom she knew by name, inquiring about orders and making suggestions.

Sister Irma’s memories conjure up the image of two habited sisters, one middle aged the other, young, pausing on a Chicago street corner, engaged in deep conversation, perhaps about construction, teaching, or the persistent BELL with Prince tugging at his lead, distracted by the prospect of the postman’s anticipated daily arrival. Sister Irma reveals that Justicia understood the importance of foundations whether they were made of steel or of individual characters. She knew that both required a detailed understanding that springs from the constancy of daily rituals like a brisk morning walk with Prince.

An image of Prince guards the final page of the Mundelein College Yearbook of 1932.

 

More information about Sister Justicia Coffey and Mundelein College is available online through the Loyola University Libraries Digital Special Collections or in person through a visit to the Loyola University Chicago Women and Leadership Archives.


Bruce, pictured here, is the current canine porter and guardian of the door for the author of this blog, Janette Clay. Besides being an inveterate daily walker, Janette is a PhD student in the department of history at Loyola University Chicago and member of the summer staff at the WLA.

 


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.


What’s a Dink?

When my husband and I refer to ourselves as dinks and high five, we are celebrating the fact that our status as a “Double Income No Kids” household means we can spend a little more time and money on our current whims  and less worrying about finding affordable rent in a Chicago neighborhood with good schools (is this even possible?). When I found the term “dink” on an old green song sheet in the Mundelein College Records, I was pretty sure that the students of the 1940s meant something different.

This song sheet from the 1940 Freshman Initiation event features many songs referencing “dinks”.

The songs written and sung for a freshman initiation event hint at the meaning of “dink” and its significance in introducing new students to college life. However, a search of the Mundelein student newspaper, The Skyscraper, failed to bring up a single article giving me more information.

Naturally, I turned to Google to see if this strange term was used in other colleges of the time. I soon found many articles about an interesting tradition that I had never heard of.

Dinks Across the Country

A dink on the 20th century American college campus referred to a beanie cap, often green, worn by freshmen to distinguish them as the newbies. An article on the Penn State University website says that upperclassmen voted in 1906 to require freshmen to wear their dinks at all times on campus and at school events. Freshmen were expected to tip their green caps to upperclassmen and could be subjected to embarrassing hazing if caught without their dinks. Similar antics occurred at many schools in the East and Midwest. In most cases, women on co-ed campuses were not included in the dink tradition, at least at first. Female students at Penn State wore green ribbons in their hair before donning the dink with their male peers in 1954.

The Ohio State University Archives created a fun digital exhibit dedicated to the various freshman beanie traditions found in the colleges of the Big 10. In theory, the beanie was intended to promote school spirit and bonding among freshmen. However, it seems like the real bonding of Ohio State freshmen may have come more from a shared fear of being caught without your beanie by the group of juniors authorized by the Student Senate and the President of the University to throw beanie-less freshman into a nearby lake. It is obvious the beanie did not represent camaraderie to the wearers, as students gathered at the end of their freshman year for the annual “Cap Bonfire.”

In most cases, the cap customs came to an end in the 1960s. However, the tradition lives on in a more benevolent form at Hood College in Maryland. Each class at Hood is given a different color beanie so that the caps are used beyond the initiation period to proudly distinguish each graduating class.

At Hood College, junior students in yellow beanies welcome freshmen students of the class of 2020 by presenting them with blue beanies at the 2016 Convocation. Photo courtesy of Hood College.

 

Dinks at Mundelein

Finding details of the use of the “dink” at Mundelein College was more difficult than my Google search. Although I found a few signs of dinks and beanies being worn by freshmen, the scarcity of information leads me to believe that this was not a continuous tradition at Mundelein. I found a few photos of students wearing the little caps, often at freshman events. However, most photos of freshman picnics and orientations show bareheaded young ladies, so the requirement to wear the cap must have been a rare and unenforced ritual.

Analyzing the songs from 1940 gives us a good bit of information about what the dinks meant at that time. The green hats were worn at all times by the freshmen for some period of time at the beginning of their first semester. Freshmen were expected to give a salute when encountering upperclassmen and perform other tasks. Getting caught without your dink would cost you 2 cents. No wonder the freshmen are singing of how glad they are to remove their caps..

Members of Big Sisters chat at Mundelein College in the 1950s. Are the two students in beanies their freshmen “Little Sisters”?

Most references to the freshman beanie at Mundelein are in connection with the Big Sisters organization. The Big Sisters were nominated sophomores and juniors who took on the job of welcoming and mentoring the incoming freshman class, adopting “Little Sisters” to guide individually. Another song sheet from the Big Sister’s Mardi Gras Tea on February 25, 1941 refers to the green dinks that the “Freshies” wore in their first semester.

 

“Remember the days—
You were but Freshies green,
And dinks you wore
Which made you quite serene.
Freshies, then and still—
But now Sisters too,
My pledge I renew- faithful to you—
I give you my word.”

Whether or not the young pupils actually felt “serene” in their beanies, the records of the Big Sisters point to good intentions of the upperclassmen to use the beanies to identify and offer friendship to new students. An article in the Skyscraper from 1965 mentions that freshmen were given their “traditional red beanies” by the Big Sisters at a reception during orientation week. This description of the red beanie matches up with the one real piece of evidence we have that was recently donated to the collection. By this time, the beanies seem to be more about school spirit and a welcome to the community than about calling attention to the “greenness” of the freshies.

This felt “dink” in Mundelein College colors is the only one in the collection and was likely worn in the 1960s.

The top-ranking freshmen of 1966 pose in their Mundelein beanies. This is the only photo we have of a group of freshmen all wearing their caps.

I found one other way that the green dink impacted life on the Mundelein campus and it relates to the boys next door. From 1949 to 1961, freshmen students from Loyola University and Mundelein College came together at the beginning of the fall semester for a mixer they called the “Beanie Bounce.” The dance, sometimes hosted by Loyola and sometimes planned jointly by both student activities councils, officially introduced the new freshmen to their neighboring students. In early years of the dance, each Loyola boy would give his beanie to a Mundelein lady in the course of the night, but a Skyscraper article from 1960 describes how the game evolved over the years.

Loyola freshmen Joe Doody and Jim Whiting demonstrate the Beanie Bounce tradition, passing their green caps to Mundelein freshmen twins Rita and Louise Kozak at the 1953 dance.

A Skyscraper article from October 19, 1960 recounts the activities of the “Beanie Bounce” on Loyolas Campus.

A 1984 photo of Mundelein College freshmen at orientation shows three students wearing white and red beanies, a sign that the love for the little hats continued in some form for many years.

Three Mundelein College freshmen proudly sport little white caps at freshman orientation in 1984.

I remember being a scared freshman and can’t imagine the added anxiety associated with the dink hazing traditions. However, when used as a symbol of welcoming the next generation into the college community, its hard not to get nostalgic for the chic little freshmen caps.  I vote school bookstores add the vintage felt beanies to their shelves of sporty caps.

Did you have a dink at your alma mater? Are you a Mundelein alumna with a memory of the beanies? We would love to hear your stories and see your photos!


Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Project Archivist at the WLA currently processing the Mundelein College Records. She is a graduate of the Public History Masters Program at Loyola University of Chicago. Caroline has a talent for looking good in almost any hat, but always forgets to wear them.

 


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.


 

 

Getting the Record(s) Right

Carol Moseley Braun

When Carol Moseley Braun was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, she found herself in the middle of a national public spotlight as the first African American female senator ever elected and only the second African American senator to serve since Reconstruction. (The WLA, for example, has at least twelve different magazines all covering her historic tenure.) With that high came a series of lows, though, as the media began publicizing a number of scandals that were emerging during her years in office about everything from Braun’s supposed mismanagement of campaign funds to accusations of her cheating the Medicare system by pocketing money earned from her mother’s family farm. Over time, many of these reports resolved themselves with much less fanfare as either Braun’s name was cleared or the unintentional oversights were corrected. The problem, however, was that her reputation had already sustained some lasting damage.

Magazines featuring stories about Braun

 

This aspect of Braun’s biography struck me because when I started working with the WLA this past summer, I knew that it was going to be an informative experience, but I did not expect to learn so much about the political importance of archival work. As a Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University, I pursued this opportunity via the Black Metropolis Research Consortium because my research explores the founding and impact of early twentieth-century black archives, and I wanted to receive more hands-on training in what it meant to actually process a collection. I was fortunate in being paired with the WLA to help work with Ambassador Braun’s papers because I kept finding new ways to think about the significance of archives beyond just their warehousing of facts from years ago. As it relates to Braun, I realized that archives could also operate as a kind of watchdog in holding public discourse accountable because these repositories form their own delayed checks and balances system with the more current mainstream media.

One of Braun’s campaign posters

For instance, in the decades since Braun’s six years in the Senate, she went on to serve as an ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, run a number of businesses, and pursue public office three more times (including her failed senatorial re-election campaign). Yet with each of these later bids, she also had to contend with what some media outlets would call her “scandal-plagued” past despite her later vindications. In Braun’s papers, it was interesting to note the number of times she wrote journalists and editors trying to correct the repetition of those same stories. In the process, I realized that, as important as journalists undeniably are in keeping leaders honest and transparent, archives, on the other hand, also help to hold the media accountable over the long term. As I worked through Braun’s papers, I imagined the day when a researcher would be able to consult the Carol Moseley Braun Collection as well as records elsewhere in order to tell the story of this important period in our country’s history. This made me appreciate even more the role that archives play in helping the truth to ultimately prevail.


Melanie Chambliss is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. She earned her Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University in 2016. She has received awards from the Ford Foundation, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the American Council of Learned Societies (declined).


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.

Sharing Religious and Musical Traditions

The WLA is in the shadow of the giant Mundelein Center, formerly a Catholic women’s college run by the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). The school eventually affiliated with Loyola University next door, but in its sixty years of operating, the nuns and their students developed traditions unique to their school. When I started looking through the college’s materials here at the WLA, I didn’t expect to necessarily have much in common with the student of Mundelein College. I should not have doubted, however, because their traditions have many similarities to my K-12 Catholic school upbringing.

Mundelein students and staff had two major traditions over the decades: the Candlelighting and the Cantata. I relate to both of these activities in different ways, as I’ll describe below.

Candlelighting at Mundelein was a ritual welcoming in of the holiday season. As Nancy’s post explains, the students and nuns lit candles on each floor of the college’s skyscraper to form a cross. This cross was visible from the street, making it an impressive sight. In later years, they also lit interior candles as a group and sang carols.

Candlelighting 1962

My favorite photo of Candlelighting shows two students, a nun, and a staff member lighting a large candle alongside a menorah! I’d never seen evidence of Jewish life on Mundelein’s campus, and this representation of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah was a lovely touch to the ceremony. It’s also interesting that the photo’s perspective is focused on the menorah lighting, with the Catholic candle taking a background role. Though it may seem odd that an archival photo could feel special, this one is to me because of my family’s dual faiths. I grew up practicing both Catholic and Jewish traditions, and it’s important to me to find ways to represent both religions. Lighting candles carries across both of them.

Candlelighting with a menorah 1965

Another Mundelein tradition was the Cantata, a kind of holiday pageant based around the story of Christmas. Students wore a variety of costumes and the school choirs performed. I enjoyed the photos of students in interesting outfits – their costumes remind me of the red bow ties our school choir wore in our Christmas pageants!

Some photos of the Cantata choir in the Mundelein papers reminded me of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in choir throughout high school and college. We wore long black dresses (the men wore suit and tie). Each December, my high school’s choirs would perform holiday music in the gym for the whole school. It was always a highlight of the school year to sing all the music on which my friends and I worked so hard. I am sure it was the same for the Cantata choirs.

My high school choir friends at our December 2012 concert – I’m in the front row, second from left

In December of my senior year at the University of Oregon, my choir also performed a holiday concert, which I enjoyed immensely. Maybe I’ll be able to find time to join a choir at Loyola next year – we’ll see!

That’s me in the front! Time for a solo! Repertoire Singers performing at the University of Oregon Fall Concert in December 2016

To close, I’ve inaugurated a new holiday tradition of my own. I go to see a choral concert every December, and the last two years I’ve been lucky enough to see the famous group Chanticleer. In 2016, I heard them in Sacramento when they visited the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and this year I’m excited to see them in Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in River North. It’s fun to have a tradition I can repeat for years to come and share with others, just like the Mundelein students shared with new students each year. Happy holidays!


Angela is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of the MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Originally from the West Coast, she is enthusiastic about swing dancing, choral music, and pub trivia. Angela is also a devoted National Public Radio listener.

 


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.

Marie Curie and the PWAA

One of the best parts of my job at the archives is when I get to help promote interesting and meaningful stories from within our collections.  I’ve recently had the opportunity to do just that as we’ve prepared for an event called Marie Skłodowska Curie: Piecing Together the Historical PuzzleIn honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of famed scientist, Marie Curie, the WLA co-sponsored an evening that celebrates this two-time Nobel Prize winner and talk about the impact of her immense legacy today.


Curie in her lab in Paris and with her eldest daughter Irene, who was also a scientist.

Now, you might be wondering what Marie Curie has to do with the WLA.  Rest assured, her papers are stored at France’s Bibliotheque Nationale (some even require researchers sign a waiver to access, as they are still radioactive – a term coined by Curie!).  The WLA however does have the papers of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America (PWAA), and therein lies our Curie connection.

The emblem for the PWAA – “Forward together with pride”

The PWAA founded in 1898, at a time when women in the United States had neither the right to vote nor equal access to life insurance.  Stefania Chmielinkska, a Polish immigrant and seamstress living in Chicago, created the fraternal benefit society run by women with the mission of helping their peers become self-sufficient and find financial stability. They helped women support themselves and their families through access to insurance and other benefits, taught them to manage finances and be independent, and celebrated their cultural heritage.  Such benefit societies had traditionally been exclusively male, but Chmielinska and her colleagues empowered women to work towards equality, even publishing their own newspaper entitled, “Głos Polek” or “The Polish Women’s Voice,” which is still published today.

A blank copy of a PWAA insurance certificate from the 1920s

From those bold beginnings, the PWA grew into a national organization and expanded its mission of aid and support to a global level.  In the 1920s, when Marie Curie made several trips to the United States to garner support for her research, the PWAA mobilized and help fund the purchase of radium to give to Curie for her work.  As a fellow Polish woman, the PWAA also made Curie an honorary member of the organization.

A scan of a letter from Marie Curie to members of the PWAA, dated 1923

Just like saying Curie was a scientist doesn’t do credit to her incredible life and pioneering legacy, neither does saying the PWAA is a humanitarian organization do justice to their long history of helping women and families in the U.S. and abroad.  From sending aid and supporting hospitals in Poland during and after the World Wars, to helping to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and establishing scholarships for American students, the PWAA is an organization that takes significant action in empowering individuals and communities.  They reminded me that we can take pride in our roots and our history, while still looking forward and working towards the future. I encourage you to learn more about this special and unique collection at the WLA here.

Dancing at the PWAA Youth Convention 1974


Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the second year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.

 

 


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.

SisterSerpents – Art as Activism

Art is one of the most powerful and important means of communicating that we have as a culture and as individuals. In our collection, the WLA has the records and materials of an organization that used their creativity to fiercely shed light and provoke thought on issues they felt passionately about. SisterSerpents formed in Chicago on July 4th, 1989 and was a group of radical feminist artist-activists, whose mission was to use their art to increase awareness on women’s issues in society. In their own manifesto, they declared themselves “dedicated to working cooperatively to combat patriarchal attitudes through cultural means.” To achieve their goal they utilized guerilla-style tactics, placing provocative posters, and neon-colored stickers with their messages all around Chicago.

SisterSerpents poster on a street lamp, 1991

Stickers for placing on advertisements and products

SisterSerpents also held art shows, exhibitions, and performances. They organized panels and discussions, wrote letters to the press, and printed their own journal, MadWoman. Participation in the art collective was largely anonymous, though a few of the founding members – Mary Ellen Croteau and Jeramy Turner – showed some of their independent work as well as the pieces they created collectively.

A couple editions of “MadWoman” journal – note the SisterSerpents signature combination of anger and humor; Issue #4 promises typos

Their work explored a wide range of themes important to women, including traditional roles of homemaker/mother, rape and violation, misogyny and subversive messaging in the media, power struggles in relationships, body image, the stigmatization of emotions, and barriers in the workplace. SisterSerpents shows and works were provoking, angry, humorous, and challenged cultural and gender standards. They had showcases with titles such as “Rattle Your Rage” and “Piss on Patriarchy” that ran in cities like Chicago, Denver, New York, and Berlin. SisterSerpents did not pull punches when it came to expressing their beliefs, and their exhibits often sought to shock with violent and explicit imagery and themes. While their work garnered some acclaim, it also led to controversy and opposition. For example, in 1990 the American Family Association protested one of their shows that included a “fetus wall” which contained stylized photographs of fetuses and sought to challenge ideas about abortion. For their “Rattle Your Rage” show, a newspaper quoted SisterSerpents with the following:

“We wanted to have a women’s show that wasn’t polite or nice, one that expressed angry attitudes. You know, a lot of women’s art is very decorative and aesthetic. This is not just giving women a voice, but it’s using art as a way of taking a stand. We wanted it to be threatening. We wanted people to be upset. Jolted. And to realize that there’s all kinds of hostility coming from women that’s going to take all kinds of forms.”

One of SisterSerpent’s art installations, “Used Boyfriend Auction”, highlighted struggles of power and misogyny in relationships

SisterSerpents remained active until 1998, and their significance was cemented with the inclusion of several of their posters in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s permanent collection. They were undoubtedly controversial. However, regardless of politics, I think one must admire SisterSerpents tenacity and creativity in funneling their passion and anger into art, and then using it to contribute to bigger goals. Working in their collection, I was struck by how they were able to use their art as a means to participate in political conversations.

During the summer months when I have more time, I enjoy tapping into my creative side and one of the ways I express myself artistically is through knitting. Learning about SisterSerpents inspired me to want to do more with my own creative endeavors, and so I researched ways I could use my needles to contribute to social issues. If you’re a knitter like me, I encourage you to check out the Red Scarf Project and find out how you can use knitting to encourage foster youths entering college.


Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.


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 My Time at the WLA

I can’t believe that it has been two years since I began my term as a Graduate Assistant for the Women and Leadership Archives. When I came to the WLA, I had very little experience in an archives outside of research projects I had to perform in undergrad. Now I know the ins and outs of how an archives works, secrets and tricks of the trade of archival research, and best practices for the profession. Oh how time flies! I also had a chance to highlight some pretty special collections through my blog posts over the last couple of years. Here are some of my favorites:

• My all-time favorite blog post tells the history of the Mundelein Riding Club and horseback riding classes at Mundelein College* from the 1930s to 1960s. As a former equestrienne, this was easily my favorite blog post to research. Plus, the WLA have the complete records of Mundelein College so there was an abundance of source material. Read the blog post here or you can take a look at some photos of the Mundelein Riding Club in our Mundelein Photograph Collection.

• I really enjoyed researching the papers of poetesses Ruth Lisa Schecter and Renny Golden to write the blog post, “Women and the Written Word: Poetesses in the Archives.” A close study of their collections reveals not only the professional activities of these amazing artists but also their artistic process.

• My most recent blog post explored the story of Roberts v. Texaco through the papers of Bari-ellen Roberts, the lead plaintiff of this famous class-action lawsuit. Cumulatively, this blog post took me almost an entire semester to write because of the detailed records the WLA holds. There was a lot of research to do! For anyone interested in legal history, the history of race and our justice system, or the history of women in business this collection is a treasure trove of information.

• Even though I didn’t write this one, I need to give a special shout-out to this blog post telling the story of Joan Heath Fortner, an artist and designer whose papers we hold in the archives. As a self-proclaimed devotee of all things fashion, I adore all of her design sketches held at the WLA (one is even the background on my phone shhhhh).

Even though my time has run its course at the WLA, I will remember it fondly. I look forward to reading blog posts from the new Graduate Assistants this fall!


Ellen is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the second 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.


Graduation 2017

It is graduation time at Loyola University Chicago. This is my fourth May here, and the week of graduation is one of my favorite times. The campus is full of happy people who appear in waves during the times of the morning and afternoon graduations. All over campus there are graduates in caps and gowns, some carrying flowers. Family members and friends take pictures of the grad by the lake or other iconic locations around campus, including around Piper Hall, where the WLA is located. The aura is one of happiness, excitement, and fun. Even when grey skies and rain inevitably appear during at least one or two days, the mood still feels jubilant, albeit a bit soggy.

Related to my warm and fuzzy feelings this time of year are the graduation pictures from the WLA’s Mundelein College collectionI am sure graduations at Mundelein carried the same sense of accomplishment and happiness that I experience at Loyola. In my imagination, I see Mundelein’s campus and envision groups of happy graduates and family members everywhere.

1971 Mundelein Graduates posing outside of Piper Hall

Graduation is also an important time at the WLA as the archives is staffed by Graduate Assistants (GAs) from Loyola’s Public History Program. By the time the two year program is over, students (hopefully) have jobs in the public history field. It’s an exciting time for the graduating GA, although it can be stressful, depending on if there is a job to go to. I’m always happy to see a student succeed, graduate, and move on in a positive way.

The flip side is that graduation is a mixed bag for me. The WLA experiences turn-over every year as one or two GAs graduate. I come to know, depend on, and become fond of each GA. Over my years as an archivist, I’ve had many student staff members and am familiar with the cycle: they come, they work, they graduate, and they leave. 

I confess, though, the cycle hasn’t become easier as the years roll on. I’m beginning to think just the opposite. The older I get, the more sentimental I become. Perhaps it’s because I have a daughter and the years fly by, giving me a heightened sense of time passing.

A friend of mine jokes that this is one of the times the chorus from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof floods the brain! She’s right. While I didn’t know the GAs as children, they are at the WLA for two formative years of their lives. I become close to students as I hear of their successes and struggles and I feel sad when they leave.   

This year, two WLA GAs graduate on May 9th:  Megan Bordewyk and Ellen Bushong. In addition to working hard at the WLA, Megan, a film buff, provided commentary for new movie releases while Ellen informed us about fashion history. Both are creative and intelligent, each with a wonderful sense of humor. I wish Megan and Ellen good luck and good fortune in the future. And I will miss them.

Graduating WLA GA’s, Megan Bordewyck (left) and Ellen Bushong (right)


Nancy 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.

Mundelein College Fathers Club

Though Father’s Day may still be a couple months away, I’d like to use this post to celebrate a special organization that existed at Mundelein College* during the 1950s and early 1960s: the Mundelein College Fathers Club.

1957 Promotional Flyer & Membership Card

1957 Promotional Flyer

Founded in the spring of 1952, the organization was formed by fathers of Mundelein students to support the College and administration.  Edwin B. Parkes, Chairman of the inaugural Club Membership Committee, described it this way: “We know of no better way to gain recognition for our girls and the Sisters than by organizing and using our talents.  Individually we can do little, but collectively we can accomplish the results desired.”   Through membership dues and fundraising events, these dedicated dads raised funds to rehabilitate the school buildings, including modernizing the classroom light systems, updating the convent section of Mundelein, and otherwise assisting with building upkeep.  In 1961 they funded the purchase of closed circuit television equipment to be used for educational purposes.  They also provided scholarships and loans to students in need.

A dad and daughter duo at a Fathers Club event

Just as important as their good works was the club’s mission to providing opportunities for fun, social get-togethers for their members.  They planned opportunities not only for Mundelein fathers to meet and get to know one another, but also so that fathers and daughters could spend meaningful time together during the college years.  For the dads, each club meeting included some form of entertainment after the business was concluded.  These included some stereotypical, 1950s male interests – such as lectures from a criminal cases columnist from the Chicago Tribune, an FBI agent, a popular sports editor at the Chicago Daily News, and film showings on such subjects as the inner workings of the Stock Exchange, traffic patterns, the Baseball World Series, and one called “Blue Flame” that chronicled the story of natural gas from well head to consumer.  At a meeting in 1960 they arranged to put in a long distance call to the Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where they were able to ask questions of an Air Force Officer about the country’s defense system.

One of the signature events for the club was their annual Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance.   Though it went through a few name and venue changes, the basic idea stayed the same; an evening of father and daughter bonding over music and food.  A 1962 club membership letter told fathers that participation in events, like the Father-Daughter Buffet-Dance, “demonstrates to her [their daughter] that I am interested in her, her teachers, and in what she learns.”

1961 Promotional Flyer

Mundelein dads “twisting” with their misses at the Father-Daughter Dance

1960 Father-Daughter Dinner-Dance

As any educator will tell you, investment from a student’s parents or guardians in their education can make a world of difference in how that student feels about and does at school.  Hat’s off to this dedicated group of dads (and who often worked alongside the “Women’s Auxiliary”, the Mundelein Mother’s group) to support their daughter’s college experience.  To see how the Fathers Club tradition has lived on, check out the Loyola Parent’s page.

1954 – Student Captains of the Fathers Club meeting with the Club President and Promotion Manager

*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.


 

Kate is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and in the first year of her M.A. in Public History at Loyola University Chicago.  A Colorado gal, she enjoys classic films, bike riding, and all things museums.

 


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.