Tag Archives: Women’s History

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

Metadata Nerdvana

Metadata enhancement 2017 05 12Fueled by pizza, cookies, caffeine, a love of description, and the desire to expose more content about women’s history to interested users, 25 archivists, librarians, and graduate students gathered at Temple University Libraries on Friday, May 12, 2017, for a metadata enhancement event.

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries is concluding a one-year NEH planning grant, “In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920.”  This pilot  project is designed to identify and aggregate material documenting the early struggle for women’s rights in the collections of PACSCL’s members, focusing on women’s efforts to improve the lives of women, children, and families in the 19th and early 20th century, leading to passage of the 19th Amendment and suffrage for white women.  When completed, collection metadata and representative images will be accessible through a single interface–all in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary suffrage in 2020.Metadata Enhancement

Our project surveyor reviewed 45 nominated collections from 8 PACSCL institutions around themes of the woman suffrage movement, work-related rights and professional opportunities, education, civic activism, and related issues. And from those, the steering committee identified ten collections from seven institutions for the pilot interface. These collections are centered on three themes: 1) Nineteenth Century Work and Friendship Across Racial Lines, 2) Philanthropy or Self-Determination in the Progressive-Era City, and 3) Medical Women Confront Race, Professionalism, and Respectability.  Member institutions scanned content, but a tight time frame did not always allow for robust description.

The brain child of Margaret Graham, Scott Ziegler, and the InHOR project Tech Group, this metadata enhancement event was designed to add searchable data for the letters, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, publications, and pamphlets that tell the story of women working for their and other’s rights.    With the additional data, students and scholars will be able to make maps, timelines, network graphs, and other visualizations. This is an experimental approach to enhancing library records for unique items.  For students, this was a great way to get started understanding metadata and its role in visualization and digital scholarship, to meet people in the field who share these interests, and to build their resumes. For digital humanists, archivists, librarians, public historians and everyone, this was a great way to come together as a community to ensure this material is as useful as possible for us all.sign up spreadsheet

And the results, after almost 4 hours of concentrated work:

Number of items with subjects added: 94

Number of items with names added: 99

Number of items with geospatial info added: 71

Number of items with transcriptions added: 40

Thanks to all the participants for their hard work (four hours of almost silent concentration)! The results are impressive and will make the end product infinitely more useful for us all.

 

Friendly Visits

Women and children of League St., 1899
Women and children of League St., 1899

The Octavia Hill Association was incorporated in 1896 to improve working class housing conditions through the sympathetic management of dwellings which it purchased and renovated. The association’s activities were modeled after the work in London of Octavia Hill, with whom one of its founders, Helen Parrish, had studied. Helen Parrish who served as secretary for the association, kept a diary in 1888, and created correspondence, notes, reports, and other publications describing the associations’ work, (1888-1943).  The OHA archives are housed at Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

Parrish Diary Cover
Parrish Diary

Parrish’s 1888 diaries (in three volumes) were recently digitized and describe her “friendly visits” to OHA’s  tenants.  In common with other social welfare activists of the era, Parrish and other agency staff members believed that part of their role was to police tenants’  behavior.

Dr. Christina Larocco who surveyed the collection as part of the In Her Own Right grant project, notes:  “It is rare for historical figures to lay out their thoughts, influences, and goals so explicitly. Helen Parrish emerges as a figure as complex and compelling as Jane Addams, one whose life and work encapsulate the central paradox of Progressivism as both altruistic and coercive. This collection adds new evidence to the perennial debate over which characteristic more fundamentally describes this movement. Moreover, these papers reveal Philadelphia to be a city as important to Progressive reform as New York and Chicago, not only within the U.S.but also as a hub in the transatlantic circulation of Progressive ideas.”

In addition to the diaries, many of the images in the OHA archives have been digitized, illustrating housing interiors and exteriors before and after renovations, court yards, and street scenes around Philadelphia.

Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920
Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920

Additional material from the Octavia Hill Association archives is in the process of being digitized and will be available both through Temple Libraries and through a pilot site “In Her Own Right:  Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920,”  being built as a part of a NEH planning grant received by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries which looks toward commemorating the 100th anniversary of women receiving the vote in 2020.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, SCRC

 

Votes for Women

Woman with ballot
Woman with ballot, c. 1920

August 26, 2015, marked the 95th anniversary of the Woman Suffrage Movement’s great victory, the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This campaign, which lasted 72 years, was pursued by thousands of persistent women and men who believed that women should have the right to vote in the United States.  That right was first won in various states and localities, sometimes on a limited basis. The Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Here some are of Philadelphia’s suffragettes heading to Harrisburg to celebrate victory in the state in 1919.  Pennsylvania was the seventh state to ratify the national suffragette amendment. While the photograph was taken on June 24, 1919, a 1940 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin caption states “Scenes like this were common in Mother’s day as members of the League of Women Voters explained the mysteries of the ‘Mark X in left hand column’ to the newly enfranchised sex.”

1919 suffragettes
Pennsylvania suffragettes in 1919.