Dancing at Mundelein

Dance has a large impact on my life. I grew up dancing, starting at the age of three. I went through my life, even graduating with a Dance Complementary major. When I stumbled onto dance records working at the Women and Leadership Archives, I became very excited.

I began research on dance at Mundelein College*, combing through files and student newspapers. I came across several photos of co-ed dances as well as finding some photos and articles of Mundelein dance performances. Overall, I noticed three main genres of dances at Mundelein: company dance performances, students in dance, and social dances.

Concert Dance, Inc. was an Artist-in-Residence at Mundelein College beginning in 1982. The partnership began when a member of the dance company visited Mundelein in hopes to hang promotional posters. On a whim, the dancer asked if the college would be interested in having a dance company in-residence. Under the leadership of Venetia Stifler, the company began their partnership with Mundelein.

This partnership allowed Concert Dance, Inc. to use Mundelein Theatre for productions. Their first performance was October 15 and 16, 1982. Featured in this performance was a new Stifler creation, “Mundelein Madness.” The company also offered classes for Mundelein students beginning in the spring of 1983. They started by offering two classes: Dance Technique I and Dance Performance I. Due to students’ interests, the company sponsored a dance club for Mundelein students to work with a performance company.

Fig. 1 Concert Dance Inc. modern dance class, undated.

Concert Dance Inc. had regional recognition. The company worked on multiple collaborative projects. In 1986, Stifler received the Chicago Dance Arts Coalition’s Ruth Page Award for Artistic Achievement of the Year for her work Magic Spaces that was part of a collaborative project with Frank Vodvarka. Vodvarka was an artist affiliated with Mundelein College who had an extensive background in architecture. They also worked on The Chicago Project, which was created to celebrate Chicago’s 150th anniversary as a city.

Fig. 2 Concert Dance Inc. program cover, 1986.

Concert Dance Inc. left their Mundelein Residence around 1988, but the company is still performing today with Venetia Stifler as their director.

Students’ interactions with dance were not limited to artists-in-residence. While browsing through Skyscraper articles and files of photos, I learned about on-campus dance clubs. In 1935, the Social Dancing club decided it was time to step up their dancing skills. In an October Skyscraper article, the club calls out for people wanting to improve their dancing skills to look amazing at the Junior Prom (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Excerpt from Skyscraper, Volume 6 Issue 2.

Dance clubs and drama typically merged. From the resources I went through, I found distinct mentions of various techniques. In 1933, the Skyscraper mentions performances of Interpretative Dance, in which motion accompanied spoken word. Interpretative Dances combine two art forms, poetry and dance, which gives audience members a visual for what is in the artist’s mind. In the 1940s, the Skyscraper mentions ballet dances were performed on campus (see Fig. 4). Ballets are some of the oldest forms of dancing still practiced regularly today. Classical ballets like The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty attract numerous visitors. Photos from the 1950s and 1960s present modern dance classes that practiced in the gymnasium (See fig. 5 and 6). Modern dance differed from ballet by allowing more torso movement appearing less rigid. A Skyscraper article from 1966 mentions an upcoming choreography concert: “In a unique cooperation, the Mundelein modern dance club, Orchesis, will present a concert … with the Judith Scott Dance Company” (Skyscraper Volume 36 Issue 13).

Fig. 4 Photo from Skyscraper, Volume 10 Issue 14.

Fig. 5 Modern dance performance, 1958.

Fig. 6 Modern dance class, 1961.

From the materials left behind to research, it would appear that social dances affected most students at Mundelein. This came as a surprise to me because many Christian colleges and universities disapproved of co-ed dancing. Not only did this thinking spur from movies like Footloose, but also in my own experience growing up Christian and the stigmas I was taught about social dancing. At Mundelein there were Tea Dances, Sophomore Coalition, Junior Prom, Senior Ball, Coke Dances, Swing Dances, and so many others. Social dances were a chance for co-ed interaction, mostly between Mundelein and Loyola students. Cadet Balls gave Mundelein students an opportunity to spend time with the military personnel (See Fig. 7).

Fig 7. Cadet Ball, 1963.

Fig. 8 Tea Dance, 1961.

I was only able to scratch the surface of dance at Mundelein, and I am sure there is a lot that I am missing. From the documents and photos I browsed, I have gathered that social dances were more popular than technique dances like ballet and modern. However, I have enjoyed everything I have viewed in the research I have done. With my life being extremely involved in dance and dealing with battles between Christian denominations and their opinions on dance, it was comforting to see a Christian university that did not ban dancing, but promoted it with classes and events. The date for this post, October 22, 2019, was no accident. It was chosen because of the National Arts and Humanities Month observance day for dance.

* 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.


Miranda Ridener is a Graduate Assistant for the Women and Leadership Archives. She has her undergraduate degree in History and Dance from Anderson University Anderson, Indiana and she is currently pursuing her master’s in Public History from Loyola University.

 


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.


Start of a New School Year

This blog was originally posted on September 9, 2016. As we welcome new students and share in old traditions, we hope you enjoy reading about the new school year activities at Mundelein College!


Universities around the country are now in full swing. Returning students fall into a familiar routine while incoming freshman spend their first days figuring out class schedules and getting the lay of the land. Articles and photographs in the Skyscraper give some idea as to how Mundelein College* students rang in the new school year. Freshman and upperclassmen alike participated in socials, dances, and a Big Sister program.

Students advertising Freshman Day, 1936

Students advertising Freshman Day, 1936

Much information about the new students can be found in the Skyscraper. Yearly, the front page of the newspaper featured a photo of the “First Ladies.” The women featured in the photos were students from the incoming freshman class that were the top students in their high school class. The newspaper recognizes all incoming students with articles containing demographics and statistics of the incoming freshman class. These include what schools, states, and countries the students came from as well as if there was an increase in enrollment. Staff and faculty are also recognized, including one article highlighting that the new faculty studies in seven countries. Continue reading

Coming Soon To The WLA

When a collection comes into the WLA, a staff member looks at all of the records and comes up with a processing plan to organize the collection and make it accessible for users. Depending on the amount of material, type of material, and how much the donor originally organized it, some collections can be processed quickly and others take months. The goal of processing is to make all of the material easy to find for the user.

Here are some of the collections you can expect to see at the WLA soon! Continue reading

Mary P. Haney and the Decade for Women

The beginning of April means that Women’s History Month has come to a close and International Women’s Day has passed, but the WLA works all year round to bring to light the contributions of women that help their communities and impact the world!

In today’s blog post, I am excited to highlight a collection that shows how one woman’s unique experiences led to a career advocating for women through international collaboration. The materials donated by Mary P. Haney document the roles she played in different stages of her life, including her participation in the international women’s movements taking place during what the United Nations called the “Decade for Women.”

Continue reading

A Few of My Favorite Things: Kate’s Top Collections

Over the course of my two years at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of the collections we hold. From academics, artists, homemakers, social justice activists, women religious, nurses, politicians, business leaders – almost any vocation or subject you could name we’ve got a collection in which a woman or group of women were involved and rocking at it. Though I’ve yet to come across a collection that didn’t engage me, I have to admit that I have my favorites. What follows is my “hit parade” of my favorite collections at the WLA:

Continue reading

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 Remembers Them: Alumnae Files in the Archive

Have you ever wondered what happened to your parents’ college materials, or what could happen to your own file from your undergraduate or graduate career? After working with the vast archival collection of Mundelein College (MC), I’m tempted to call my parents’ universities and see if they have archival records.

The Women and Leadership Archives was founded on the collection of MC, which was run by the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In my work as a graduate assistant, my assignment these last few months has been to process certain MC collection series, or topic subsets within an archival collection.

Alumna Molly Milligan wrote to the BVM nuns to express her thanks for what she learned at Mundelein.

One series in particular reminded me that listening is an integral part of learning. While organizing the MC alumnae series, which consisted of files on graduates of the college, I found endless numbers of stories. To my surprise, though it was not difficult physically, it was emotionally draining to process the alumnae series.

Though I tried not to read the materials too closely – that would slow me down – I ended up skimming many of the folders’ contents. As a result, it took me a lot longer than it should have to get through the series. However, I do not regret it: it was incredibly humbling to read these hundreds of folders and learn about the hundreds of lives they represent.

1966: Rosalind Russell and Jane Trahey (’43) on the set of “The Trouble with Angels,” a film based on Trahey’s book, “Life with Mother Superior.”

 

Mundelein College alumnae documented their struggles and successes from around the country. In letters sent to former University President Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, BVM, they related every aspect of their lives. Much of it was sad. Illnesses abounded – they fought cancers, personal injuries, and their families’ diseases. Some divorced their husbands, and wrote about the hurt they endured afterwards. Many women described their pain at the deaths of parents, spouses, and friends.

 

 

1964: (l to r) Sr. Ann Ida Gannon, B.V.M., Cardinal Albert Meyer, Honorary Degree Recipients: Claire Booth Luce, Dr, Bernice Cronkhite, Maude Clarke, and Dr. Virginia Woods Corbett-class of 1935

On the other hand, many of their stories were positive: they told of their families’ growth, their personal and professional work, and their memories of the college. All of these women loved their college and remembered it affectionately. One graduate and her husband raised ten children and sent regular Christmas cards (with updates) to Mundelein’s nuns. I felt as if I got to know the family through their formative years! Several women started their own businesses, both in Chicago and elsewhere. Helen Sauer Brown (‘44) and Jane Trahey (‘43) both launched successful careers in the business world. Still others achieved extraordinarily high academic honors. Virginia Woods Callahan Corbett (‘35) was Mundelein’s first student to obtain a doctorate, and Jacqueline Powers Doud (‘62) rose to become the president of Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles.

Time after time, these folders reiterated to me that these women inspired love. The folder often began with a woman’s Mundelein student report cards and progressed through her life. But reaching the end of a folder always hurt: it usually concluded with an obituary. The obituary was often formal, but it became personalized through a letter to Mundelein nuns from the deceased’s grieving husband. In short, this series gave me little glimpses into the lives of Mundelein graduates and the deep care they inspired. They were academics, doctors, artists, and homemakers. They were parents, siblings, and – most importantly at the college – friends.

Virginia Volini Marciniak obituary, October 29, 1990

The funeral of one alumn will stay with me for a long time. After a long and involved life, Virginia Volini Marcinak (‘51) died of cancer in 1990. I learned all about her husband Ed – the president of Loyola Chicago’s Institute of Urban Life – and her daughters Christina, Claudia, Catherine, and Francesca. Virginia had a background in choral music and founded an art collective that served the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods.

The “Salve Regina” sung at Marciniak’s funeral

Someone sent the Mundelein Archives a copy of the funeral sermon. Though it’s unclear who wrote it, the writer read it aloud at Virginia’s funeral. That person sang a “Salve Regina” to Virginia in her last hours. The last page of the sermon included the words of that song and requested that the attendees join in singing.

Perhaps I should have read fewer of the files, which were often as much about the families and spouses as the women themselves. However, I think I did the right thing. These women lived incredible lives connected by one college and its nuns. Someone should bear witness to those lives, even in a small way.

After reading hundreds of alumnae files, this woman’s tribute brought tears to my eyes. But I think that’s a good thing. Someone needed to bear witness to these lives in the archives, and that day, it was me.


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.


Christmas Collections and the Archives

With Christmas Day fast approaching, it seems an appropriate time to roll out the WLA’s collections featuring images of the season. Here are some of our favorites!

Virginia Broderick Papers:

Virginia Broderick was a successful artist that specialized in illustrating religious imagery in a style she called “cloisonism”. Influenced by famous Impressionist artists, Broderick employed bright, bold colors to highlight the subjects of her work as well intermittent use of bold lines to outline their shape. You can learn more about Virginia Broderick in this blog post from last Easter. See some of the beautiful Christmas cards she illustrated below:

broderickcards001

Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas Card, undated. Virginia Gaertner Broderick Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

Eleanor Foundation Collection (Unprocessed):

Founded in the early twentieth century by Ina Law Robertson, the Eleanor Foundation provided housing for working women and single mothers as the industrialization of Chicago opened opportunities for women in wage work at the turn of the century. The Eleanor Foundation also provided social programs for the benefit of its women. At its height in the early 1900s, the Eleanor Foundation boasted a junior league, a summer camp in Lake Geneva, and hosted several events supporting the various pursuits of its members. The organization’s vast outreach efforts were not unlike the famed Hull House founded by Jane Addams. Here are some photos of Christmas celebrations hosted by the Eleanor Foundation through the years:

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Group photo, ca. 1918. Eleanor Foundation Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Holiday on Ice Celebration, 1962. Eleanor Foundation Collection. Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas celebration, 1962. Eleanor Foundation Collection. Women and Leadership Archives.

I don’t know about you, but the bunny in that picture will haunt my dreams.

Legion of Young Polish Women Collection:

This Chicago-based ethnic non-profit works to promote the heritage and traditions of Poland while organizing charitable efforts for the sciences, education, and literature. Founded in 1939, the Legion is still an institution for the Polish community in Chicago to this day. For more about the Legion of Young Polish women, check out their digital exhibit.

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Legion representatives at a Christmas market, ca. 1940. Legion of Young Polish Women Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Christmas celebration, ca. 1980. Legion of Young Polish Women Collection, Women and Leadership Archives.

Fun fact: In Poland, December 6th is known as Mikołajki (or St. Nicolaus Day). On this day Mikołaj, or Santa Claus to Americans, visits good little boys and girls and doles out gifts dressed in either bishop’s robes (as seen above) or in the red suit so many associate with the Santa image.

Mollie West Papers:

Labor reformer Mollie West wasn’t all work and no play! Although she came from a Jewish family, Mollie enjoyed the Christmas holiday with her many friends. Here’s a great photo of Mollie at a Christmas shindig. To find out more about Mollie West and her remarkable life, check out the WLA’s newest digital exhibit here.

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Mollie at a Christmas party, undated. Mollie Leiber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

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Mollie at a Christmas party, undated. Mollie Leiber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives.

 


EllenProfilePic

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.


Women and Leadership Archives Summer Reading List

Buildings_Piper_Hall_Library-2

A Mundelein College student picking out books from the library in Piper Hall.

We at the Women and Leadership Archives love summer reading.  If you’re like us, see below for a summer reading list inspired by the WLA’s collections!

For the movie-goersAll the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of southern lawyer Willie Stark and his transformation from an idealistic man of the people to a corrupt politician who pays a high price in his pursuit of power. This loosely fictionalized account of Governor Huey Long of Louisiana boasts two movie adaptations. The first, released in 1949, features actress Mercedes McCambridge—whose personal papers are held in the Women and Leadership Archives! In her collection there is an original script of the film, movie stills, and newspaper clippings describing her Oscar-award winning performance as Sadie Burke.

Collections: Mercedes McCambridge Papers

For the time-travelersMundelein Voices: The Women’s College Experience edited by Anne M. Harrington and Prudence Moylan.

Founded in 1929 by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mundelein College offered its all-female student body a comprehensive and rigorous Catholic liberal arts education. But Mundelein College, despite being run by nuns, had its share of hijinks! Readers can fully immerse themselves into the goings-on of the student body, and see what it was really like to be a Mundelein student, by reading this anthology of essays. I highly recommend the chapter by Joan Frances Crowley, B.V.M on her eight-year tenure as the director (then dean) of residence life. Anyone that has lived in a dorm will appreciate Crowley’s retelling of what it was like to live on-campus during the 1960s.

Collections: Mundelein College Collection

Joan Frances Crowley, B.V.M Papers

For the thrill-seekersRed Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley by Kathryn S. Olmstead

Fans of John Le Carré (of Tinker Tailor Solder Spy fame) will love the fascinating life story of Communist Party and Soviet Union defector Elizabeth Bentley—called the “Red Spy Queen” by tabloids and newspapers in the late 1940s. Interestingly enough, Elizabeth Bentley actually worked as a professor of Political Science at Mundelin College from 1949-1950. Imagine having a spy for a teacher!

Collections: Mundelein College Collection

Marjorie Rowbottom Frisbee Papers

For my fellow feministsTidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century’s End by Sara M. Evans

Historian Sara Evans is an authority on the subject of women’s history and their continued journey to equality. Her first book Born for Liberty (1989) is a comprehensive look at the history of women from the sixteenth century to modern times. In Tidal Wave, Evans establishes the essential foundation necessary to introduce readers to the histories of second and third wave feminism and their lasting importance to the present day. The Women and Leadership Archives holds numerous records of artists, academics, women’s groups, and writers that can add additional context to this groundbreaking time in women’s history.

Collections:  Feminism in Chicago: Connie Kiosse

Feminist Forum Records

SisterSerpents Records

For the scientistsHeadstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby

This quick colorful book is for anyone who is curious about women’s contributions to the sciences. Divided into disciplines, this encyclopedic book provides brief entries about notable female doctors, biologists, environmentalists, mathematicians, astronomers, inventors; the list goes on and on! When you’re done, feel free to check out some of the WLA’s collections about women scientists

Collections: Mundelein College Collection—Sister Therese Langerbeck Files

Miram P Cooney, CSC., Papers

Alice Bourke Hayes, PhD., Papers

Katherine DeLage Taft

For the mischief-makersThe Trouble with Angels by Jane Trahey

Originally entitled Life with Mother Superior, this fictionalized memoir by Mundelein Alumnae Jane Trahey describes the shenanigans of two rebellious young women attending a Catholic all girls boarding school. The book was made into a feature film in 1966 starring Hayley Mills as the main troublemaker Mary Clancy and Rosalind Russell as the domineering Mother Superior. If you can get your hands on this book (it’s out of print), you’re in for a light-hearted, nostalgic comedy perfect for laying out pool-side.

Collections: Mundelein College Collection – Jane Trahey Files

For the hopeless romanticsLetters from Home – Kristina McMorris

Sometimes all you want from a good summer read is a juicy historical romance novel. Based in Chicago during World War II, this love story highlights a couple whose only way to communicate with one another is through letters. To add a Shakespearean twist, the main character, Liz Stephens, falls in love with her pen pal while pretending to be someone else! If love letters are your thing, come in and look at the Mollie Leiber West Collection. The WLA holds scores of letters from Mollie to her husband Carl Leiber when they were separated by WWII. Their own tragic love story is not unlike one you would read in an especially romantic novel!

Collections: Mollie Leiber West Papers

 


 

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.


Found in the Archives: A Message From Your Man in Service

This summer, I am working on the Women and Labor project, a new collaborative project in which I’m using the Mollie Lieber West Papers to create an online exhibit about the life of Mollie and the contributions of women in the labor movement. While I research the history of labor unions, women in the workforce, and Chicago in the 20th century, I am also learning more and more about Mollie West and finding so many cool things in her collection.

Along with Mollie’s many amazing accomplishments in the labor movement and endless stories of her bravery and dedication to social justice, her life included a beautiful love story that is told through letters, objects, and other materials in the collection.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered for the Army in 1943.

Mollie and Carl Lieber met while working for a newspaper and were married in 1940. Carl volunteered to join the Army in 1943.

Among Mollie’s papers, there is a small vinyl record. The label has an old Pepsi-Cola logo on it and says, “This is a recorded message from your man in service.” This 78 RPM record holds a sweet audio message from Carl Lieber, Mollie’s first husband, sent to her while he was serving in the Army.

During World War II, Americans joined together to help each other and the servicemen fighting overseas, including companies like Pepsi. From my internet research I learned that Pepsi ran canteens in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. that provided meals, showers, and other services to military men and women. They also set up recording booths in these canteens and sent a traveling recording booth to other military camps where millions of soldiers were able to create these wonderful audio letters to send to their loved ones. Online, I’ve found people talking about records they’ve found that were recorded in Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.

(Note: This blog post is not an endorsement for Pepsi. While this service they provided likely brought joy to many, companies also benefited from creating a patriotic image and connecting their products to the idea of victory in the war.)

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

The envelope in which the vinyl record was mailed.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

These records were sent from bases and training camps in the United States while soldiers waited to be sent to the war.

 

Thanks to a grant from Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, we were able to have this record and the other audiovisual materials in Mollie’s collection digitized. This gave us the opportunity to hear Carl’s voice and his message for the first time!

We also made another discovery with this digitization. A second record, with a label in Italian, turned out to not contain Italian music as we had expected. This record also held a recorded message from Carl that he had made while on leave for a day in Rome! The touching audio messages on both records reveal a lot about the couple’s relationship and the complex experiences of the war.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

This mysterious Italian record turned out to hold another audio letter from Carl. It was able to be digitally preserved despite being very warped from age.

Carl’s messages and the others I listened to online contain words of encouragement to loved ones not to worry and descriptions of the good things about life in the training camps.

Here is the audio from the first record that Carl sent while in Washington, D.C. I did my best to transcribe Carl’s message, and you can find the transcript below!

“Hello, honey. I thought this would be a very nice way to bring us closer together on my birthday. Although we’re many miles apart, I want you to know that I feel that you are as near and dear to me as you have always been. I’ve never been much at making speeches of this kind, but I’ll try as hard as I can to convey my love to you. I’m making this record in Washington, D.C. I got here on a 12 hour pass. I wrote you a letter about it all. We’ve been married a little over 4 years now and I know you must be going through a pretty trying experience, with your condition and things as they are. But I want you to know that you’ve gotta keep up your morale, and it’s up to us in the armed forces to keep up the civilian morale. That’s why I felt I should make this record and give you a chance to hear my voice so you can celebrate my birthday, even though I’m not there with you to celebrate it together. I love you very much and feel that you should be with me, but I’m sure that as soon as we’re victorious in the war, we can be together and have a fine time together and do all the things we planned to do. Well, I’m getting …my own monotone, so don’t worry about it. I’m not going to sing a song for you, but I want to say now as I close that I love you very much and want you to keep healthy and keep well and do everything possible in order to see that you have a nice life in the future, and that means take care of that baby that’s comin’ along. So long, honey. I love you.”

The Women and Labor digital exhibit will feature the audio from both of these records, as well as more documents, photographs, videos, and artifacts that tell Mollie’s incredible story and the story of women in the labor movement. Follow the Women and Leadership Archives on Facebook to learn more and don’t miss the launch of the exhibit this August!


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and has just completed 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.


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