About Ellen Gruber Garvey

I wrote Writing with Scissors to tell the story of the amazing scrapbooks ordinary people made from the newspapers they read. Since retiring as an English professor from New Jersey City University, I've been trying to apply what we learn from history to our difficult times.

Speaking on An African American Innovator in the Old Newspaper Business: May 9: 6:30 pm IN PERSON

https://vicsocny.org/calendar/

Robert M. Budd at his business, where he kept millions of copies of newspapers.

If you’ve never been to New York’s Grolier Club, here’s your moment! I’ll be speaking there in person on the innovative African American newsdealer, Robert M. Budd, better known as Back Number Budd. In the business he ran for 50 years, his store was the only place to find thousands of titles of old newspapers, some of which we can no longer find at all. The Metropolitan chapter of the Victorian Society in America invited me, and is keeping attendance to 50 people. I’m hoping some of them will have new leads, since I’m continually thrilled to learn more about Back Number Budd, what it was like to be an African American businessman from the 1880s into the 1930s, and his world.

The elegant Grolier Club is a repository of rare books and printed matter — come see it. Wondering how Mr. Budd would have felt there. Join us.

https://vicsocny.org/calendar/

Talking Scrapbooks April 21: Breslauer Lecture – I’m blushing!

African American attorney Warner McGuinn’s scrapbook included this1911 item on women’s suffrage.

I’ve been finding some great new material for my talk on African American and Women’s Rights scrapbooks for the Breslauer Lecture at UCLA, Thursday April 21, 6 pm ET/3 pm PST.  I’d originally hoped to go to LA to give the talk, but their lectures all went online, so now everyone can come! The incomparable scholar Johanna Drucker who runs the program invited me. I am so interested to meet her students! Scrapbooks and voting will be a particular focus.

Read the full notice to see why I’m blushing:

https://seis.ucla.edu/news/ellen-gruber-garvey-to-deliver-annual-breslauer-lecture

Flyer for African American women’s suffrage rally. Dunbar-Nelson’s friend Mary Church Terrell was also on the speaking circuit.

British Suffragists Used Scrapbooks

Voting and scrapbooks were close associates on both sides of the Atlantic: I’m sharing an article on British suffragists using scrapbooks in their fight for the vote, by Cherish Watson, in The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/ — a follow up to her earlier article, shared here, on the scrapbooks of Alice Maud Mary Arncliffe Sennett.

https://theconversation.com/the-radical-history-of-scrapbooks-and-why-activists-still-use-them-today-172581

Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s Suffrage Scrapbook Showcased at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Suffrage Exhibit

At the Free Library of Philadelphia, I visited an excellent women’s suffrage exhibit, which included recent scholarship on African American involvement in the suffrage movement. I spotted this exhibit case on the African American writer Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s suffrage work –known through her scrapbook.

There’s a larger online exhibit on Alice Dunbar-Nelson which picks up on some of her other scrapbooks, too, but omits the suffrage work. It’s hosted by the Rosenbach Library:  The Authorship and Activism of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. It was organized by Jesse Erickson and his University of Delaware students, using the Alice Dunbar-Nelson materials in the UDel archives. Impressive work!

SSAWW – Zoom Webinar Event – September 22, 2021

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Huge British Suffrage Scrapbook collection

Membership card, Women’s Social and Political Union

Scrapbooks for the vote across the Atlantic! I’ve been delighted to learn more about how British suffragists, too, used scrapbooks to record their work and save their history. One remarkable collection in the British Library of 37 bulging hardback scrapbooks offers a personal history of suffrage activism created by Alice Maud Mary Arncliffe Sennett (1862-1936). This actor turned confectioner/businesswoman and activist public speaker saved plenty of newspaper clippings, but preserved significant memorabilia, too, like the key to the hotel room where her husband stayed when he picked her up from Holloway Prison, either from when she was detained for smashing the Daily Mail’s office windows or an earlier imprisonment.

Cherish Watton’s blog article highlights letters Arncliffe Sennett received about her speeches that she pasted down. Not surprising that she saved letters from movement leaders, but there’s one from her servant Bessie Punchard, who wrote, “Do you know you made a simply splendid speech, I was so proud of you,” and told her she would happily go to prison herself if it would help the cause. Arncliffe Sennett reciprocated Bessie Punchard’s regard, dedicating one of her scrapbook volumes to Bessie, “the only one true and trusted friend I have found…the star to which I have hitched by wagon of loneliness.”

Arncliffe Sennett’s scrapbooks reminds us that while historians may focus on the rifts between different suffrage factions, people inside a movement may not be so concerned with these divisions. Arncliffe Sennett saved membership cards and other materials that show she belonged – sometimes simultaneously – to two different wings of the suffrage movement, the British Library’s page about these scrapbooks explains.

This entry rounds out the Scrapbook History blog series on scrapbooks and voting. When I started the series in the fall, before the US election, I wanted to highlight how important the vote was to African Americans and women’s rights advocates who kept scrapbooks. African American men and women saved evidence of white supremacists trying to keep Black people from voting, and Black people worked hard and brought lawsuits to vote, saved items about their work and honored exemplary voters in their scrapbooks. Since when I post in this blog the items go to my Writing with Scissors Facebook page, I thought I could publicize the articles to present-day scrapbooking enthusiasts who might not realize that there is a real, long history of people being blocked from voting.

I tried to pay to use Facebook’s “boost post” feature to reach groups I wouldn’t know people in otherwise. But Facebook’s algorithms decided that the history of voter suppression and the history of women’s suffrage were politically partisan, and blocked me from publicizing the items, despite my attempts to reason with them. (One objection they or their bots raised was that Facebook users in other parts of the world might be offended by women’s suffrage.) Facebook also blocked me from tagging more than half a dozen teacher and professor friends who might have been interested in using the pieces in class. It was frustrating, but I will try to work out some way to re-engage the blog for the next election.

Please enjoy and share the posts here on how people used scrapbooks to save the history of the struggle for the vote.

How Mark Twain Supported Women’s Suffrage – through scrapbooks

What a pleasure to go back to my old notes on Mark Twain’s Self-Pasting Scrap-Book to explore how women’s rights activists like lecturing platform star Anna E. Dickinson, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, and other women’s rights activists used it for their work. As I read Mark Twain’s review of Dickinson’s speech at Cooper Union, and paid closer attention to the dates, I realized that Twain was just a few weeks into his own long career as a public speaker when he wrote it. He was studying her to learn how to succeed as a speaker!

Anna Dickinson was an extraordinary and energetic writer, speaker, and aspiring actor, not afraid to attack her critics, and to bring a lawsuit after she was shut up in a mental institution. Many of her papers, including scrapbooks, are now digitized on the Library of Congress site.

“Politics is the only dirt we don’t get into at present”: The African American Women’s Suffrage Struggle and Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s Scrapbook

 

African American suffragists like Alice Dunbar-Nelson fought for more than votes for women.

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Photo of Alice Dunbar-Nelson from her scrapbook cover

White suffragists often appealed to “fairness” in seeking the right to vote. But that wasn’t enough for many African American suffragists. When Alice Dunbar-Nelson campaigned for votes for women in 1915, she explained to Black men that Black women’s voting would strengthen the Black community.

Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson was a writer, teacher, poet, playwright, accomplished public speaker, and an anti-lynching activist of enormous energy and vision. But her suffrage work is missing from white-centered women’s rights histories. The scrapbook she kept documenting her speaking tour for a Pennsylvania suffrage campaign in 1915, however, reveals her role in winning women the right to vote. Newspapers wrote down parts of her speeches, and although she did not save full copies of her talks, without the scrapbook record she created, these articles would have been lost, as most have been saved nowhere else.

 

She took a break from her position as a English teacher at all-Black Howard High

Flyer for African American women’s suffrage rally. Dunbar-Nelson’s friend Mary Church Terrell was also on the speaking circuit.

School in Wilmington, Delaware to participate in the suffrage campaign in fall 1915, working with the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s Speaker Bureau. But she wasn’t just any Bureau speaker bringing the (white) suffrage message into Black neighborhoods. Her speeches on what Black women’s votes could do for the Black community show she thought of suffrage more broadly. Her talks reached mixed-race, mixed gender, and all Black audiences. Of course only men were allowed to weigh in on whether women could ever cast a ballot, so she had to persuade men to support women’s right to vote.

The map was classic suffrage swag, showing the growth of women’s right to vote. Like many scrapbook makers, Dunbar-Nelson reused an old book or ledger. Hers was a household accounts book, seemingly never used. When scrapbook makers pasted over other books, they demonstrated that they valued one text over the other: in this case, suffrage self-documentation (and the housekeeping of the community) over close attention to individual housekeeping.

Although white suffragists often spoke or wrote as though women were not working for wages, Alice Dunbar-Nelson explained repeatedly that Black women’s work outside the home benefited the Black community as a whole. She argued to a Black audience, “Our women have literally built up [our] race in domestic service, which keeps them out of their home all day long; that means that the majority of our women are out of their homes every day helping the men to accumulate [resources]. If we are good enough to help in all this, it looks as if we are good enough to cast a vote.” When anti-suffragists claimed that politics was too “dirty” for women, Dunbar-Nelson responded, “Politics is the only dirt we don’t get into at present.”

 

Like today’s Black Lives Matter activists who focus on housing inequities as well as

Clipping about Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s talk to a Black women’s suffrage organization.

police violence, Alice Dunbar-Nelson spoke out on how winning the vote would make Black women more effective advocates for better housing. She argued that voters could address the needs of Black families coming north in the Great Migration, who lived in overcrowded ghetto housing. In one talk to a Black women’s group, she “denounced in emphatic terms the fact that colored families in many cities of this country were living in congested sections and that there was not ample room in their homes for the family,” her scrapbook clipping records. Suffrage was not just about the vote itself, but what African American women could change with the vote.

The only item in her scrapbook not directly related to the suffrage campaign concerns her testimony against the film The Birth of a Nation in a court hearing. The popular film showed African Americans as violent beasts that the KKK had to restrain by lynching. She was already an anti-lynching crusader and an early member of the NAACP. Pasting this item into her suffrage scrapbook, Dunbar-Nelson made clear that Black women’s vote and advocacy should be used to combat racism.

 

And so, when women finally won the vote, Dunbar-Nelson was more than ready for it. She organized Black women to cast their votes effectively and not be limited by party loyalty. She first worked arduously for Republicans, which was then the more progressive party. When white Republican politicians failed to support an anti-lynching measure, she switched her party affiliation to Democratic, and worked for Al Smith.

Black women have continued to be leaders in progressive, anti-racist politics, and now even run for Vice President. 

You can read Alice Dunbar Nelson’s complete suffrage scrapbook, “”July 12 – November 3, 1915. Some Records, not all of `An Interesting Campaign'” online at the University of Delaware Special Collections.

 

I’ve written briefly about Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s suffrage scrapbook previously here. My longer article about her scrapbook, “Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson’s Suffrage Work: The View from Her Scrapbook,” is in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, special issue: Recovering Alice Dunbar-Nelson for the Twenty-First Century, Volume 33, No. 2, 2016. It’s better for Legacy if you access it from an academic library, but if you can’t, you can get it here.

African American suffrage advocate and abolitionist minister’s scrapbook in free online talk

“Strengthen and invigorate our souls!”

On Oct. 12, Yale’s Beineke library offers a webinar with Charles Warner, Jr. presenting

Rev. Amos Beman

the scrapbooks that Rev. Amos Gerry Beman, an African American pastor and social activist in Connecticut, made between 1830 and 1858, now fully digitized. 

Amos Berman followed the decades-long struggle for African American voting rights. I have only begun to dip into this trove, and have already seen one item where African Americans wrote passionately about the need for the right to vote. Although slavery had ended in New York in 1827, Black men, but not whites, were required to own $250 in property to vote. African Americans organized and demanded referenda on the issue. Black men got full voting rights only when the 15th amendment, which banned racial discrimination in access to voting, ended New York State’s discriminatory laws.

Amos Beman clipped articles about African Americans who organized against voting restrictions. One eloquent piece in the weekly Colored American pressed for continued agitation, and called for a meeting in August 1841. Signed by Henry Highland Garnet and others, it roused readers to keep up the struggle in the face of the NY state legislature’s failure to act in the previous session:

Brethren, be not discouraged; such disappointments should only act as a stimulus, to strengthen and invigorate our souls, and rouse us to a determination of persevering in the struggle by stronger and still more unanimous efforts, and by the talismanic influence of Agitation!

It was not just in the South that African Americans had to fight to vote. But Black people recognized the importance of having and using the vote. Scrapbooks like Rev. Amos Beman’s show us what a long and multifaceted battle it was.

One of the four volumes concerns Rev. Beman’s work with the Colored Men’s Convention, part of the decades-long Colored Conventions movement that a network of scholars, led by P. Gabrielle Foreman, have brought to light.  The scrapbooks themselves are fully digitized.

Sign up for the webinar here.

What Makes a Good Judge? An African American Scrapbook Weighs In – Warner McGuinn

Warner T. McGuinn, in an article celebrating his victory against a segregation ordinance, saved in his own scrapbook.

African Americans in law and politics have known to keep a close eye on the courts, as the scrapbook of Warner Thornton McGuinn, an African American lawyer, shows. In an era when newspapers rarely published their indexes and libraries did not always save dailies, scrapbooks stored up evidence of politicians’ past activities and positions and were a tool African Americans in law and politics used to keep a close eye on the courts. McGuinn was an 1887 Yale Law School graduate who moved to Baltimore in 1891, and began his scrapbook at the turn of the century. His scrapbook tracks his law career and the public offices he held. He worked against a Maryland law mandating racial segregation in housing. He clipped items about Black life in Baltimore, such as the founding of a Negro theater company in 1916, and on issues in other cities, including an article on a textbook controversy in New Orleans – a white writer objected because it

Clipping on Black theater company in Baltimore.

assigned students to write an essay on Booker T. Washington. When newspapers wrote about him, he saved the article, such as when he gave the main oration at a local memorial gathering for Frederick Douglass in 1905.

McGuinn collected news items about the suppression of Black voting in Maryland. His clippings from the white press were ammunition against politicians who had supported any of the three early 20th-century bills aimed at stripping the vote from African Americans in Maryland. He could bring them out as evidence of a politician’s earlier actions. In a copy — very possibly a facsimile created to circulate — of his own typed 1915 letter to the Baltimore Sun, complaining of their endorsement of Robert Biggs for Chief Judge in Baltimore, which he pasted into his scrapbook, he refers to an article he’d saved from six years earlier. Biggs had supported the Straus Amendment, “WHICH AMENDMENT WAS DESIGNED TO TAKE FROM COLORED VOTERS IN THIS CITY

Warner McGuinn’s letter pointing out that a nominated Chief Judge had supported suppression of the Black vote.

AND STATE THE RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE,” as is evident from a 1909 newspaper clipping from the Baltimore Sun. “IF MR. BIGGS, IN 1909, WAS IN FAVOR OF DISFRANCHISING US, WHAT RIGHT HAS HE NOW TO ASK OR EXPECT OUR SUPPORT?” McGuinn continues in all caps. He concludes with a plea for a nonpartisan judiciary, and support for his candidate, Morris Soper. It was important to stop the appointment of judges who opposed Black people voting.

Warner McGuinn connected Black and women’s disenfranchisement, and fought for women’s suffrage, speaking out for it and collecting pro-suffrage songs and poems in his scrapbook.

Item on women’s suffrage – who knew that there were ballot songs?

Like many other scrapbook makers, he glued his materials onto the pages of an old book. The book’s title is covered over, but columns of statistics peep out from behind his pasted down clippings. He did not use a Mark Twain self-pasting scrapbook, though Mark Twain fans remember Warner McGuinn because Twain helped pay for a portion of McGuinn’s time at Yale Law School. McGuinn was a law student and president of the Law School’s Kent Club, which hosted talks and debates on social and political questions. When the club invited Mark Twain to speak in 1885, McGuinn greatly impressed Twain when he showed him around the campus.

McGuinn was working his way through law school – first as a waiter, and then in a law

Label inside the Mark Twain Self-Pasting Scrap-Book gives instructions for use.

office — when Twain offered to pay for the final year and a half of his studies. Twain’s action has become part of the long history of exaggerating white benevolence. William Dean Howells says, by way of explaining that his friend was a “desouthernized Southerner” that he paid “the way of a negro student through Yale.” A handwritten note on McGuinn’s scrapbook in the Yale Library collection says it was made by “the black put threw Yale Law School by Mark Twain.” Twain’s largesse is thus exaggerated, and McGuinn’s status lowered.

Thurgood Marshall, mentored by McGuinn.

But when McGuinn reached out to help others, he left a mark, and his decades of activism stretched farther into the future. He mentored the groundbreaking civil rights attorney and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who established the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Justice Marshall continued McGuinn’s work of fighting voter suppression. One of its early cases established the right of Black voters in Texas to vote in Democratic primaries. Thurgood Marshall said Warner T. McGuinn should have been a judge himself.

Warner T. McGuinn’s scrapbooks are in the Yale Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (MS 1258). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.