Horses for Classmates: Horsemanship and Horse Shows at Mundelein College

Imagine a beautiful spring day in one of Chicago’s numerous parks. Perhaps you are jogging, enjoying your lunch break from work on a park bench, or simply strolling down various paths—taking in the landscape and enjoying the stretch of your legs. You view your surroundings and find the usual suspects: birds, flowers, trees, and a gaggle of collegiate women on horseback taking in the sites of the gorgeous day. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Photo of dozens of riders (some from Mundelein College Riding Club) on the Annual Breakfast Ride through Lincoln Park on November 1, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

In fact, up until the 1960s, this would not have been so unusual. Horseback riding was considered a popular form of exercise for many—including many students of Mundelein College. Mundelein College, a women’s Catholic liberal arts college, was founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMS) in 1929. When Mundelein opened its doors to students in the fall of 1930, horseback riding classes became a central part of its athletic program.

How did an urban college, housed in a skyscraper no less, provide the horses for these classes?  A Chicago Tribune article states that during the early to mid-twentieth century, there were approximately 20 stables located near various Chicago Park District riding trails, housing as many as 100 horses. These horses could either be boarded, given a stall paid for by their owner for a monthly sum, or rented from the stable by the hour for riding. Most likely, the students of Mundelein chose to participate using one of those two options.

The first horseback riding classes offered to students began only a year after Mundelein’s opening and continued into the 1960s. The Skyscraper, Mundelein’s student newspaper, reported that 56 students of various skill levels enrolled in the two-hour weekly class. Students with more experience rode park trails while beginning riders held their first lessons in an indoor arena of a nearby riding academy. The journalist wrote that the course, “promises to be a popular one. By personal interview with the young women it becomes evident that there is fascination in the rhythmic hoof-beats of a horse.” The class could be taken for gymnasium credit and in some instances supplemented “regular” gymnastic course requirements.[1]

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Students on Horseback, 1938. Mundelein Photograph Collection

Some Mundelein students elevated the horse-related activities at the college. A student organization called the “Equestriennes,” more formally the Mundelein College Riding Club, planned an annual horse show that challenged members to compete in various events that not only highlighted their technical skill but also promoted showmanship. Events such as “musical chairs on horseback” and a costume race added unique flavor to the more traditional atmosphere of a schooling show.[2] In later years, the Equestriennes opened up entrants to high-school students for a special invitational class and charged admission to the proceedings.[3]

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Horsemanship awards photo of 2 riders with horse posing with their trophies, undated. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Looking through pictures of Mundelein students competing alongside their friends and horsey partners takes me back to my own equestrian past. I rode and competed for 14 years before putting up the spurs to pursue my M.A in Public History. I think it’s time to dust off the old breeches and get back on the saddle!

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

Group photo of Mundelein College Horseback Riding Club taken at Parkway Stables for the Annual Horse Show, 1940. Mundelein Photograph Collection.

[1] “Riding Classes Meet Each Week,” The Skyscraper, October, 15, 1931.

[2] “College Horse Show Includes Riding, Jumping Exhibition,” The Skyscraper, May 31, 1945.

[3] “Riders Vie for Trophies, Ribbons at Seventeenth Annual Horse Show,” The Skyscraper, May 6, 1957.


 

EllenProfilePicEllen 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.


Visiting Nurse Association: Affordable Health Care at the Turn of the Century

Logo for the Visiting Nurses Association

Logo for the Visiting Nurses Association

Affordable health care is currently a serious concern in our country, as it has been for generations. Just like today, people of the past have looked for new ways to provide healthcare services to those who can’t always afford it. Late in the nineteenth century, growing populations, the influx of immigrants, and new infectious diseases began to cause problems in American cities. In 1897, a group of women in Evanston, Illinois became concerned with the spread of disease and the lack of proper health care in their community. They came up with an idea for how to bring free or low-cost health care to those who needed it and those who struggled to afford it.

Mrs. Lelah Lutkin, Mrs. Mary Chandler, and Mrs. Kate McMullen formed a committee that founded the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Evanston, which would later grow to serve a wider community and be renamed the VNA North. Kate McMullen felt especially passionate about the experiment after the death of her daughter, Edna, to diphtheria. In memory of Edna, she contributed four months’ of a nurse’s salary and hired her daughter’s nurse, Frances Faltz, as the VNA’s first visiting nurse in 1898.

Frances Faltz, the association's first visiting nurse, in her nursing uniform

Frances Faltz, the association’s first visiting nurse, in her nursing uniform

In the early years, Frances Faltz visited patients on a bike in the summer time and borrowed a horse and buggy in the winter. This remained the custom until the VNA bought a car for the nurses in 1912.

The visiting nurses provided physical and emotional comfort to people in the community who might not otherwise be able to afford health care. Local philanthropic organizations and churches soon became involved in supporting VNA North’s mission, and VNA North slowly expanded its operations, becoming incorporated in 1912.  Although they had not originally cared for patients with communicable diseases, the visiting nurses began to do so in 1926.

A promotional flyer for the VNA of Evanston

A promotional flyer for the VNA of Evanston.

The VNA continually added services as the needs of Evanston and the surrounding communities dictated. Educating patients about proper hygiene and nutrition as ways of preventing disease became a vital part of the visiting nurses’ role.  They were also involved in issues of pre-natal care, parenting classes, infant welfare, tuberculosis, venereal disease, mental health, polio, physical therapy, hospice care, and other social services.  Looking at the records of the association, you can see the effect of historical events such as the Great Depression and World War II on public health concerns and how the VNA addressed them.

The VNA North collection includes several scrapbooks filled with clippings about the association and local health news. This scrapbook page contains a World War II era ad promoting public health nurses, such as the visiting nurses of VNA North.

The VNA North collection includes several scrapbooks filled with clippings about the association and local health news. This scrapbook page contains a World War II era ad promoting public health nurses, such as the visiting nurses of VNA North.

While visiting nurses organizations became common for a time, the evolution of healthcare later in the twentieth century led to the closing of many of these non-profits. In the 1980s, VNA North merged with the VNAs of Glenview and Skokie in order to serve twenty-nine communities.  Due to the challenges created by the growth in managed care, in 1997, 100 years after its founding, VNA North was fully integrated into Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and was renamed ENH Home Services.

While we still debate about the best way to provide care to the underprivileged, it is nice to think about a group of women one hundred years ago who used their resources to provide services and education that could save lives.


 

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.


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.


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.


#SaveSweetBriarsHistories

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

Mundelein College Classics students, n.d. from the Mundelein College Collection at the WLA.

When I first heard that the Board of of Directors of Sweet Briar College (SBC) in Virginia voted to close the women’s college due to “insurmountable financial challenges,” all I could think about were the similarities of the situation to Mundelein College. As a Graduate Assistant at the Women and Leadership Archives, which holds the Mundelein College Collection, I am incredibly familiar with the plight of women’s’ colleges.

Mundelein was a Catholic women’s college founded and operated by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs). The college opened its doors in 1930 and offered students a liberal arts education for over 60 years. In 1991, Mundelein “affiliated” with Loyola University Chicago. Like many women’s and small colleges, Mundelein ran into financial troubles in the 1980s. Enrollment was steady, but not growing. The college had over $4 million in debts and needed to upgrade buildings and equipment. Salaries were low and had been that way for a while. The college either had to make major staff cuts in an effort to reorganize a more fiscally sound school or consider a merger with a university willing to take on Mundelein’s debt

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

Mundelein College students protest the affiliation.

On March 19, 1991, Mundelein announced that it was in negotiations with its next-door neighbor Loyola University Chicago about a merger or affiliation. While the administrators of both schools emphasized the commonalities of the Catholic institutions and benefits of affiliation, students saw it differently. They marched with banners and signs in front of the Skyscraper chanting “Save our college!” and “60 more years!” A group called Concerned Students for Mundelein initiated a letter-writing campaign to tell alumnae what was going on and ask for their help in preventing a Loyola takeover. At the Board of Trustees meeting to vote on the affiliation, students wearing black with red armbands staged a sit-in.

On April 15, 1991, Mundelein College and Loyola University Chicago administrators signed an agreement that created “Mundelein College of Loyola University.” It happened so quickly that many students and alumnae felt blindsided.

The Mundelein Student Government Statement of Position makes this clear; the students write that the trust between Mundelein students and the administrations and boards of both institutions must be established. Mundelein students had chosen to go to a small, women’s college and were being thrown into a university that resembled more of a state school. Also, as expressed in by Mundelein Student Government representatives in their Statement of Position, many Mundelein women did not feel welcome at Loyola, based on a history of the use of terms like “mundle bundle” and the “girls’ school next door” by Loyola students, creating the perception among Mundelein students that Loyola did not encourage women and minorities to take on leadership positions of power and authority.

Alumnae also felt angry and cheated by the college and its board. Alumna Jane Trahey knew that Mundelein was experiencing financial difficulties, but she didn’t know how bad it was: “I wanted to sue the Board because I think they were negligent. They didn’t pursue all possible avenues. I don’t understand how they could have looked at the financial situation and studied the balance sheets for the last five years and not said ‘Something is seriously wrong here and we have to act now.’ Mundelein graduates never had to opportunity to rally the cause, to raise the money, to keep the college alive. I think we could have done it.”

Protest at Sweet Briar.

Protest at Sweet Briar.

When the Sweet Briar College announced its decision to close to students, faculty, staff, and the world in early March, many of the reactions were similar to those at Mundelein. Students felt blindsided. Both students and faculty took action with a sit-in protest at the President’s house where they waved signs protesting the closing of Sweet Briar. Although many of the students present at the sit-in acknowledged their lack of control over the situation, they felt the need to voice their dissent.

Unlike at Mundelein, alumnae and faculty have taken their cause to the next level. Shortly after the closing was announced, alumnae formed Save Sweet Briar to stop the college from closing and “provide accurate information to students, faculty, and alumnae about the true financial condition of Sweet Briar College and the viable alternatives to closure.” Currently, their goal is to raise money to fight the closure. The fund has had $5.2 Million pledged, $10.2 Million pledged over 5 years, and $1 Million donated.

Also unlike Mundelein, the closing of Sweet Briar College has made it to the courts. The Commonwealth of Virginia filed suit to keep Sweet Briar open. Additionally, a group of faculty and staff filed a motion supporting the lawsuit.

Although Mundelein College no longer exists, its records still do. Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives grew out of the need to preserve Mundelein’s records and expanded to collect the papers and records of individual women leaders as well as organizations. What will happen to Sweet Briar’s records once the college is gone? I emailed John Jaffe, the Director of Integrated Information Systems/CIO at Sweet Briar, and he said that if the college closes “there are plans in place to consolidate all records of the college into the existing archives. In addition, the entire archives will be moved to a senior research level institution in the Commonwealth where they will be preserved and made available to scholars.”

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

The Chung Mungs at Sweet Briar, 1965. Archival Photos from Mary Helen Cochran Library. CC BY-NC

Unlike Mundelein College, Sweet Briar is closing in the digital age and the college’s history is documented online. It has two Tumblrs (one officially sponsored by the Tusculum Institute at SBC and one unofficial site run by an alumna). Papers about the history of the college written by SBC students in courses called “Doing Sweet Briar History,” “History of Sweet Briar,” and “Practicum in Sweet Briar History” are available on the SBC library website. An Omeka site with archival photos from the Mary Helen Cochran Library makes it its mission to provide widespread access to archival photos and similar photos are available on the library’s Flickr. Once Sweet Briar closes, what will happen to these digital resources? The unofficial Tumblr will continue as long as the alumna running it receives material to post, but who, if anyone, will manage the other sites? Will Sweet Briar’s website still exist once the college is gone or will it only live on through the Wayback Machine? If another archive takes SBC’s physical collections, will they also maintain the digital footprint of Sweet Briar?

In addition to its archives, Sweet Briar has a museum and the college itself makes up a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places with 22 contributing structures. The campus also contains a slave cabin that is open to the public and a slave cemetery with 60 graves. While it may not be possible to #SaveSweetBriar, I hope that we can #SaveSweetBriarsHistories.

0a621f2Mollie Fullerton is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is finishing her last semester of her MA in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to sharing authority, she enjoys biking, making/eating pie, and playing the musical saw.


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.