Tag Archives: Philadelphia History

Around North Philadelphia : Progress Plaza

Progress PlazaProgress Plaza is the oldest shopping center owned and controlled by African-Americans in the United States. The two-million-dollar development located in the 1500 Block of North Broad Street opened in 1968, and was a dream realized by civil rights leader Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan and members of the Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. Throughout its more than 50-year history Progress Plaza remains a shining example of the power of self-help through community investment, job training, and entrepreneurship.

Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan became pastor of Zion Baptist Church located at Broad and Venango Streets in 1950. From his pulpit Sullivan organized social and economic initiatives designed to uplift the lives of African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups, including the “selective patronage” campaign which boycotted Philadelphia area businesses that followed discriminatory hiring practices; the creation of the job training program Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC); and the 10-36 Investment Plan.OIC classroom

Rev. Sullivan believed that both social and economic activism must exist to address inequality in America. On Sunday, June 15, 1962, he introduced his “10-36 Plan” to his church parishioners. He asked his members to invest 10 dollars per month for 36 months. The Plan generated much support, receiving 200 membership donations in one day. The Plan would eventually grow to include more than 3,000 shareholders. The 10-36 Plan established two organizations, Zion Non-Profit Charitable Trust (ZNPCT) and Zion Investment Associates (ZIA), which became Progress Investment Associates (PIA) in 1977. With $400,000 dollars in investor’s money and a negotiated deal with the Philadelphia Council for Community Development (PCCD) and the Redevelopment Authority to secure land on Broad Street, PIA received a loan from First Pennsylvania Bank to start construction of Progress Plaza.

Rev. Sullivan at dedication
Reverend Leon Sullivan at dedication

The dedication ceremony for Progress Plaza took place on October 27, 1968, and nearly 10,000 people attended the historic event. The Plaza officially opened on November 19, 1968, and leased space to nine African-American small businesses and six white owned establishments, including an A&P Supermarket. The large-scale project created numerous construction jobs for graduates from the OIC Training Program and, under a negotiated contract, the chain store tenants at the Plaza agreed to offer managerial opportunities to African American applicants. The ZNPCT also secured funding from the U. S. Department of Commerce, the U. S. Department of Labor, and the Ford Foundation to establish at Progress Plaza the Entrepreneurial Development Training Center to instruct 200 African Americans annually on how to start and manage new businesses.

The Plaza attracted many national figures. In 1968, Presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon toured the facility as part of his campaign to encourage “Black Capitalism.” President Barrack Obama held a campaign rally there in 2008, and Michelle Obama visited Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza to promote her “Let’s Move” campaign in 2010.

Progress Plaza struggled to survive amid the urban unrest and mass exodus of businesses and population from blighted areas of Philadelphia to the suburbs. After the SuperFresh Market at the Plaza closed in 1999, it would be 10 years before PIA brought in Fresh Grocer to anchor a 22-million-dollar renovation and expansion of the Plaza. The Plaza was later renamed Sullivan Progress Plaza in honor of Sullivan who died in 2001.Women shopping

In September 2016, the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission (PHMC) erected a historical marker on Broad Street to acknowledge Progress Plaza and its founder Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan’s contribution to this nation’s history.

Progress Plaza celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 27, 2018. It remains a symbol of economic resilience and pride in the surrounding North Philadelphia community.

To learn more about Reverend Sullivan and his work worldwide, view the following finding aids found in the Special Collections Research Center.
https://library.temple.edu/finding_aids/opportunities-industrialization-centers-of-america
https://library.temple.edu/finding_aids/opportunities-industrialization-centers-international
https://library.temple.edu/finding_aids/international-council-for-equality-of-opportunity-principles

– Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist, SCRC



Celebrating Woman Suffrage

Suffragists outside the White House, 1917
Suffragists demonstrating outside White House, 1917

Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the  U. S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Long before August 18, 1920, when the woman suffrage movement brought about the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women were making themselves heard in a variety of ways that broadly transformed the American experience. The Greater Philadelphia region has a strong tradition of women’s initiatives to expand their rights and opportunities through political participation, education, work, property-holding, and cultural activities. The region’s archives reflect Philadelphia’s Quaker origins and the Quaker traditions of women’s equality and outspokenness; the city’s role as a center for African-American politics and culture; and the development of institutions such as the world’s first medical college for women, among many other topics.

Taken together, these collections demonstrate that the campaign for woman suffrage did not happen in a vacuum, but was the result of decades of women of all kinds moving out of the home and into the schools and workplaces of the nation.Suffragettes

In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920, showcases Philadelphia-area collections highlighting women’s struggle leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.  In Her Own Right is multi-phase project organized by members of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL), with generous funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Council on LIbrary and Information Resources, the New Century Trust, and the Delmas Foundation.
 
Mildred Lillian Ennis , Class of 1919, Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School
Participating organizations are digitizing and describing content which is uploaded regularly to the database.  Visit http://www.inherownright.org/ to start exploring that content–which will grow to at least 150,000 frames before the project concludes in Spring 2021.

 

–In Her Own Right project team

Call for Quarantine Mail Art

Mail art flyer, 2020Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) has issued an open call for quarantine mail art. We’re collaborating with our Learning & Research Services colleague, Art and Architecture Librarian Jill Luedke, who has worked closely with the SCRC’s existing Mail Art Collection.  She noticed the reemerging popularity of mail art during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggested that we do a new call for mail art to help document this unprecedented time.

What is Mail Art?

The term mail art was used as early as 1971 to describe a genre of art that had been making its way through the art world for over a decade. In the late 1950s, American artist Ray Johnson began mailing small drawings, collages, and prints to constituents in the art world, including his close friends, mild acquaintances, and even non-acquaintances such as artists, gallery owners, and curators. Through this correspondence, a network of mail artists formed who utilized the postal system as part of the art making process, embracing and often pushing the boundaries of that system. Artists would embellish the envelopes with drawings, rubber stamps, and collages; some manipulated the addresses with creative phonetics. Others experimented with the shipping container by using unconventional materials for postcards and envelopes. In opposition to the mainstream art world, mail artists adhered to egalitarian principles. Their exhibitions were not juried, all submissions were accepted, and no fees were required of the artist for entry.

Mail Art in the SCRC’s Contemporary Culture Collection

1980 mail art solicitation postcardForty years ago Temple University issued its first mail art call for submissions, and the mail art collection began. The original collection was built as a result of two separate calls for entries for Mail Art exhibitions in 1980 at Temple. The Spring 1980 call was part of a class project with Tyler School of Art faculty Bilge Friedlander and her students. Later in 1980, Friedlander invited Paley Library to participate, resulting in an exhibit in February 1981. The collection, now housed in the Special Collections Research Center, contains over 230 separately posted pieces of mail from over 170 artists, not counting anonymous contributions.  Contributors sent pieces from all over the United States, and there are even some international pieces. A selection of the SCRC’s mail art was exhibited in a Spring 2017 exhibit in Paley Library.
Mail art image
We announced the current open call for quarantine mail art on May 18, 2020, and it will run until Labor Day, September 7, 2020. There are no limitations on medium or content; we just ask that submissions be in the mail art genre, specifically small scale works of art sent through the postal service. The call is open to all ages, all artistic abilities, Temple community members, and the general public. All submissions will be added to the Special Collections Research Center’s Mail Art Collection and made available in the SCRC for future educational and research use, including publication. Artists are asked to consider applying a CC-BY license to facilitate long term access and use, but it is not required. We will exhibit submissions in late Fall 2020 in Charles Library around the theme of “Interruption.” 

Mail art EnvelopePlease send your mail art to:
SCRC, Charles Library
Temple University
1900 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

-Jill Luedke, Art and Architecture Librarian, and Kimberly Tully, Curator of Rare Books

 

Alumni Resources for Reunion Weekend and Beyond!

A virtual welcome to all Temple University alumni!

We offer these resources to help celebrate your time at TU, jog your reminiscences, settle wagers, and reinforce memories those great times on campus.

Enjoy these digitized resources on the Libraries’ website:

Aerial view of Temple campus, 1960
Aerial view of campus, 1960


Temple History in Photographs  features faculty, staff, building, event, and other images of campus (and founder Russell Conwell’s life) 

 

 

 

1980 Templar coverTemple Yearbooks includes undergraduate yearbooks, volumes from other campuses, and books published by the professional schools, 1900 – present.

 

 

 

 

 

and coming soon, we will start adding runs of Temple News.  Temple News masthead 2001

 

To see how the Ginsburg Health Sciences Library uses these resources to celebrate reunions at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, take A Walk Down Memory Lane.

–Temple University Archives in the Special Collections Research Center

National Submarine Day

 

Sailors on deck of submarine
Submarine Day, 1960

Did you know April 11 is celebrated as Submarine Day?   In 2020, we salute the day as the 120th anniversary of the United States’  purchase of  its first commissioned submarine in 1900, the USS Holland. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin snapped this image at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard’s memorial service highlighting the day in 1960.

You can hop on deck of a real submarine, the USS Becuna, docked at Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum. Designated in 1986 as a National Historic Landmark for its service in WWII and part of the Independence Seaport Museum’s Historic Ship Zone since 1996, USS Becuna continues to be a popular tourist attraction for the city.

Submarine docking at marinaThe Philadelphia Evening Bulletin captured this image as the Becuna was moved into Penn’s Landing Marina as a new tourist attraction on June 22, 1976.

The SCRC holds many other images of this historic submarine

–Ann Mosher, BA II, SCRC

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: The Sea Captain’s House and the Mysterious Marble Heist

Philadelphia paper manufacturer, Leon J. Perelman started collecting mechanical penny banks in 1958 after visiting a hobby show in Fort Madison, Iowa. Eventually, he amassed over 3,000 banks, tin and cast iron toys produced from the late 1860s through the 1910s. First patented in 1865, mechanical penny banks were designed to encourage children to save money by providing entertainment and amusement with one or more mechanical actions when a penny was deposited in the slot for safekeeping. Perelman’s collection was considered the largest private collection of antique toys in the world by some estimates. In addition to penny banks, Perelman’s collection also featured cap pistols, dolls, cast iron vehicles such as fire engines and stage coaches, and a reference library containing patent papers on mechanical banks. Although there is no mention in the official collection guide, the museum also contained antique glass and agate marbles.

Boys playing with toys

Nathanial McDaniel (left) and Chris Cherubini (right) play with mechanical bank at Cayuga Federal Savings and Loan Association, 11th and Market Streets Branch, 1964Perelman initially used his Merion, Pa., home to display his antique toys, erecting an addition in 1962 to accommodate his growing collection and offer public museum hours. In a 1967 agreement with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, Perelman purchased the historic Abercrombie House near the corner of 2nd and Spruce Streets to create a new museum space. The four-story brick house, named for Royal Navy officer Captain James Abercrombie who purchased the site in 1758 and built the home shortly thereafter, was considered one of the largest Colonial- era homes in the city. The Philadelphia Historical Commission designated the property to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1957. Perelman’s restoration of the building was part and parcel of the mid-twentieth century urban renewal taking place in Society Hill and other neighborhoods throughout the city. Renovations took two years at a cost of $300,000, with John Frederick Lloyd serving as the architect. The new Perelman Antique Toy Museum celebrated its grand opening in January 1969 with the Director of the United States Mint Eva Adams and Mayor of Philadelphia James H. J. Tate in attendance.

Perelman Antique Toy Museum brochure, undated
Perelman Antique Toy Museum brochure, undated

For nearly twenty years, the Perelman Antique Toy Museum amused children and adults alike, but on August 5, 1988, Perelman lost his marbles in a smash and grab job that would close the museum forever. Although the local press did not report on the museum heist in the days immediately following the robbery, Maine Antique Digest was able to interview museum curator, Michael Tritz about the day’s events. According to Tritz, he was preparing to open the museum for the day, when the thieves entered the museum, bound and gagged him, and forced him into a restroom. He recounted “I heard one of them upstairs hammering at the display cases. I thought he was getting into all of them . . . but all he could break was the case with marbles in it on the third floor.” The 5/8″ thick bulletproof glass foiled their attempt to steal any of Perelman’s coveted mechanical penny banks. Tritz estimated one of the thieves spent about 45 minutes trying to break the display cases while the other watched the door. Perelman shuttered the museum the day after the robbery. It wasn’t until The Philadelphia Inquirer published a piece on August 31, declaring the “Toy museum is no more,” that antique toy enthusiasts and museum goers learned about the robbery. There is no evidence the thieves were ever caught or the marbles recovered. Within a few weeks, Perelman sold the estimated $3 million toy collection to New York-based art and toy dealer, Alexander Acevedo who dissolved the collection in a series of invitation-only sales to collectors and dealers.

Letter to Leon Perelman regarding museum closing, October 22, 1988
Letter to Leon Perelman regarding museum closing, October 22, 1988

Perelman’s papers, including records related to the operation of the Perelman Antique Museum, and his term as Dropsie University president are now available for research use in the Special Collections Research Center.

Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Walt Whitman and Baseball

Walt Whitman, 1856
Walt Whitman, 1856 Leaves of Grass frontispiece

As we anticipate the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth on May 31, 2019—and the start of the World Series this month—we are reminded of the role the 1988 film Bull Durham played in connecting a new generation to Whitman and his love of baseball.

Exhibits and programming scheduled for 2019 will feature the poet and his writings, his Civil War work, and even the controversy around the naming of the Walt Whitman Bridge. But the Special Collections Research Center has the Whitman-baseball connection well-documented in the Traubel Family Papers.

Horace Traubel, a writer and editor, his wife, Anna, and his daughter Gertrude knew Whitman in Camden, NJ, and worked to preserve his memory after his death in 1892. Traubel was one of Whitman’s three literary executors, and the family prepared much of the material for the multi-volume series, With Walt Whitman in Camden.

The Bull Durham connection comes when Annie Savoy (mis-)quotes  Whitman on baseball. LA Times writer Brian Cronin set about correcting that in a March 28, 2012 article, saying:
“Walt Whitman, the great American poet, essayist and journalist (best known for his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass), is referenced again in Bull Durham, at the very end of the film, as Annie speaks to the audience, saying, “Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up.” “

Cronin points his readers to a quote from Horace L. Traubel With Walt Whitman in Camden, vol. 2 (stated by Whitman in September 1888):

Walt Whitman ,1888
Walt Whitman ,1888

“I like your interest in sports ball, chiefest of all base-ball particularly: base-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by so doing we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!”

Cronin goes on: “Later on,… in Volume 4 (published after Traubel’s death), Whitman spoke more about baseball (this time in April of 1889):
“Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic! That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well—it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere—belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

You could look it up.

–Margery Sly
Director, Special Collections Research Center

 

Problem-Based Learning in the SCRC

Students in reading roomProblem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method commonly used in medicine and science curriculum, but it has also been applied in teaching history.  (See  Stallbaumer-Beishline, “Problem Based Learning in a History Classroom,” in Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 2012.) Stephen Hausmann, an instructor in Temple’s History Department, contacted our Rebecca Lloyd,  History’s library subject specialist,  about using this approach for assignments in his General Education course, “Founding Philadelphia.” He hoped that this method of answering historical questions would increase student engagement and help them to develop information literacy and critical thinking skills. Rather than writing a research paper, the course was designed to have students working together in teams over the course of the semester to learn to think like historians and answer specific questions based on evidence drawn from primary sources.

Librarian Rebecca Lloyd, held instruction sessions early in the semester to show students how to find and use the secondary and primary sources (drawn from her American history subject guide) that they would need to come up with answers to the PBL-based questions. She held follow up sessions to help with research and checked in throughout the semester to see how things were going.

students in SCRC reading roomUsing this same teaching approach the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) hosted a class session in our reading room. This was the last of the seven PBL-based assignments for the semester. Students were encouraged to handle and engage with the materials pulled for the class and use these primary sources to address two historical questions:

Question 1: The 1876 Philadelphia Exposition showcased the city as a modern, industrial, symbol of American strength and promise. This was very much in contrast with the dire economic situation the United States faced after the Panic of 1873. Look at some of the fair materials – in what ways did the Centennial Exposition foster this image? What attractions, items, displays, architecture, and landscape were used to create an American mythology at the event? Compare these with other collections from the 1870s. What contradictions do you see? In what ways was the exposition an accurate portrayal of late nineteenth century American life?

Question 2: One job of a historian is to piece together the basics of daily life in the past for different groups of people. Find two sets of documents that catalogue two different people from Philadelphia’s history. How were their economic and social situations different and similar? Describe their daily lives as best as you can and explain how they compared with one another. What did they eat and drink? What about their leisure activities or family life? What about the work they did or how they otherwise earned their pay?

Hart manuscript
Hart, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, 1849

The SCRC materials used in this exercise were the Nathan S.C. Folwell Scrapbook, the George D. Shubert Diary, the Civil War Enlisted Slave Documents, the William Beatty Civil War Correspondence, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Scrapbook, the History of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, and selections from the Young Men’s Christian Association Records, the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Philadelphia Branch Minute Books, and the William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company Records.

At the end of the semester, Stephen Hausmann shared the following comments about his class’s experience in the SCRC working with primary sources:

“I had spent much of the semester training my students to use online databases. The visit to SCRC was a chance for them to use their skills in an “active” archival setting. One of my major objectives was to teach information literacy and ways of “reading into” a document, and I hoped that viewing archival material in the flesh would give students an opportunity to use those skills.”

Actively looking at documents in groups led his students “to draw many conclusions about the materials at hand in a way that never really happened during the usual, online, archival research sessions I held in class. Being able to walk around tables and pick up documents, turn pages, and discuss with their peers what they were seeing made for an archival experience I didn’t really foresee.  in short, the visit’s collaborative nature achieved what I had been trying to get my students to understand all semester.”

“I think maybe faculty think a session like this will be extra work for them, while on the contrary it actually lessened my burden by allowing me to walk around and talk more with students substantially about the documents they were looking at. I couldn’t have been happier with how things went and some of my students told me it was their favorite single class of the semester.”

students in SCRC reading roomWe intend to encourage instructors to try PBL-based assignments in their courses, as a hands-on alternative to the traditional research paper. The SCRC is uniquely suited to collaborate on just such an approach.

–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services, SCRC

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: the JCRC and Gun Control

In the late 1960s, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) saw it a priority to take a public stance regarding gun control legislation. While cases of local antisemitic incidents often included violence, they did not generally include firearms. However, in June 1968, gun control legislation was on the JCRC Board of Directors meeting agenda resulting in the board adopting a policy in support of stricter gun control legislation. The primary motivating factors appear to have been two-fold. First, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy had just occurred. And second, there was concern for Jewish merchants and surrounding neighborhoods due to an increase in violent crimes in historically Jewish neighborhoods.  This had produced increased fear and a call for action from the community. The JCRC argued the solution was to address wider, systemic problems and that an escalation of violence and vigilantism could only beget more violence. In a statement by Executive Director Albert Chernin:

Remarks on Jewish Self Defense October 27,1969
“Remarks on Jewish Self Defense presented by Albert D. Chernin, Executive Director,” Annual Dinner Meeting, October 27, 1969

[W]hat we must do is to forge with others a national consensus to persuade the federal government to carry out that massive program that we have postponed for more than 25 years to deal with our massive social, political, and economic problems….That, my friends, is Jewish self-defense. Jewish self-defense is better schools…full and fair employment…full and fair housing….In short, Jewish self-defense is a dynamic, thriving democracy.

Between 1968 and 1971, the JCRC did very little beyond releasing public statements. Their involvement in the gun control debate began again in earnest in 1972. Motivated by a desire to reduce violence in their community, the Old York Road Suburban Division of the JCRC reminded the board of their 1968 opinion and called on them to renew their public stance advocating gun control. While reassessing their position, the JCRC solicited advice from the Philadelphia Crime Commission, the criminal justice expert at the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Executive Director of the National Council of Responsible Firearms Policy on the question of the constitutionality of private hand gun ownership. JCRC counsel concluded that, “The United States Supreme Courts and lower courts have consistently interpreted the Second Amendment as a prohibition against federal interference with the state militia and not a guarantee of an individual’s rights to bear arms.”

Response from Wilmot Fleming, November 26, 1973
Stanley Tauber to Wilmot Fleming, Board of Directors records, Officers Files, November 26, 1973

The board then sanctioned the petitioning of elected officials and public advocacy groups, supported most notably by the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission. Though they received positive responses from the community, the responses from elected officials were tepid. For instance, in response to the JCRC’s suggestion that gun control legislation be advanced at a federal level, the Pennsylvania Senate’s minority caucus chairman Wilmot Fleming called the JCRC’s petitioning of Congress “somewhat meaningless.” The JCRC continued to lobby Fleming to push a total ban on handgun ownership, but he remained unmoved, citing the belief that, “The problem with any gun control measures, either state or federal, is the fact that a criminal who wishes to obtain a firearm of any kind to be used in the commission of a drime [sic] will get it regardless of any law on the statute books.”

In 1975, after failing to make any headway, the JCRC’s focus on gun control legislation began to wane. A change in the executive directorship brought a reassessment of priorities and a focus on Soviet Jewry and the defense of Israel.

Casey Babcock, Project Archivist, SCRC

This is the fourth post of an occasional series highlighting the work of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The records of the JCRC, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, are currently being processed and will be available for research in late summer 2018.

 

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: 19th Century Sister Diarists

Just as the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was captivating visitors in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, Fannie and Amelia Allen began chronicling their social and intellectual pursuits in their diaries. The Allen sisters filled their diaries with short summaries of the day’s events and longer, introspective passages that revealed their personal ambitions and struggles to find a mate who was both desirable and an intellectual match.

Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen Diaries
Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen Diaries

In an entry dated April 20, 1876, Fannie (age 21) writes: “I am trying to school my thoughts and make myself contented with the blessings, and not wish for others, but it is hard, and it is only now and then, when I see some others not, as I think, situated happily as I am so I feel thoroughly contented. It is hard to see others happily mated, and neither Amelia or I is so, or likely to be…”. Amelia (age 22) expresses similar sentiment in a June 18, 1878 entry: “Years do not bring what I long for as every girl I suppose at my age wants – a lover whom I can respect. Times are either different now or we are hard to suit. I know not which but certain it is never have I seen the person I could care for in that light.”

Already working as a teacher, Amelia frequently writes about the challenges she experienced in the Hebrew Sunday School Society and Philadelphia Public Schools. Despite her desires, Amelia never married. She dedicated her life to education and social service. In 1885, along with other like-minded Jewish women, Amelia founded the Young Women’s Union, where under her tutelage adolescent girls learned domestic skills and in 1894 helped organize the women’s branch of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.

Fannie Allen Diary, 1875-1885
Fannie Allen Diary, 1875-1885

As Fannie approached her late twenties, she spent less and less time recording her thoughts in her diary, but on August 25, 1884, she (age 29), made the following revelation: “I reopen this to say though I’m not married, I hope to be. It seems too wonderful. Not only do I expect to be a physician, but I hope to wed a Mr. Moses De Ford. A man who though younger than I, is my ideal in almost every particular. We were engaged Aug. 17 but expect to keep our betrothal a secret, even from my dear Mother until after I graduate and he is a physician, then as soon as he gains enough supporters, we hope to be married partners, no fear of deficient love on his side and mine.”

Nearly three years later on June 8, 1887, at the age of 32, Fannie married Moses De Ford, eight years her junior, but not before graduating from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Fannie practiced medicine alongside her husband for over 30 years in the Kensington neighborhood, providing medical care to the immigrant population that worked in the textile mills and shipyards nearby, and advocated for better hygiene and sanitation for the working poor.

To learn more or request access to the diaries of Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen in the Special Collections Research Center, view the online finding aids here:
https://library.temple.edu/scrc/fannie-allen-diary
https://library.temple.edu/scrc/amelia-j-allen-diary 

–Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC