Thrilled to be heading to the University of Delaware to speak on African American scrapbooks.
April 27 talk
I’m heading there for a meeting of the 19th century women writers study group, and squeezing on a talk about African American scrapbooks along the way. (Listen for a mention of a slaveholding Gorsuch — an ancestor of the new Supreme Court judge? I wouldn’t be surprised.)
This time we’re discussing Alice Dunbar Nelson’s work (okay, the LONG 19th century). I wrote about a fascinating scrapbook Dunbar-Nelson made about her suffrage work in 1915, and will be talking about that for the study group on Saturday, too. (I wrote about it in Writing with Scissors, and again in more detail in Legacy’s special issue on Alice Dunbar Nelson. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/645636) She was a woman of remarkable energy, commitment, and political organizing interests.
I had just taught a class on Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall where I showed the students some of the charming cartoons about “scissorizing” — Fanny Fern’s word for the 19th century practice of copying from one newspaper or magazine to another, without pay — when Lori Harrison-Kahan sent me the poster for my talk, “Activists Repurpose Media: 19th Century Scrapbooks” at Boston College Thursday, October 15, 4:30. The poster uses one of the great “scissorizing” cartoons. This gives out 21st century use of the term “the cloud” new meaning. This editor seems to be receiving his “siftings” from on high — and bringing his readers the good grain, not the chaff.
Baldwin’s Monthly NY, vol 8 no 2 Feb 1874, p 3
Some of the cartoons were more hostile — it makes me wonder about how the cartoonists felt about those snipping editors. After all, cartoonists had to produce original material in an era before easy photographic reproduction. Take a look at “Involution of an Editor,” from the humor magazine Life.
I remembered that in Julia Colman’s 1873 article “Among the
Preface: McGuffey’s Fifth Eclectic Reader
Scrap Books,” a shocked visitor finds a family “using up good printed books!” to make scrapbooks. The mother presiding over the scissorizing explains, “There is nothing in them that we want, and so we propose putting in something, rather than have them stand idle. … Some of them are old school-books, not much worn, but out of date.” I always assumed she meant geography books or science books, not readers. Perhaps this McGufffey’s was simply out of date for the family that owned it, with no more schoolchildren. I may have to see it.
Statue of Nicholas Winton, with a version of his scrapbook. Maidenhead, UK.
The recent death of Sir Nicholas Winton at age 106 brought the story of his rescue of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust back to public attention. How did his heroism originally come to light? His wife found his scrapbook, where he had documented the identities and whereabouts of the children. ” It was only after Mr. Winton’s wife found a scrapbook in the attic of their home in 1988 — a dusty record of names, pictures and documents detailing a story of redemption from the Holocaust — that he spoke of his all-but-forgotten work in the deliverance of children who, like the parents who gave them up to save their lives, were destined for Nazi concentration camps and extermination,” the New York Times reported.
The scrapbook includes maps he collected in Prague, showing Germany’s plan’s for an
Winton’s scrapbook of rescued children
expanding empire, along with cards with photos that Winton showed to prospective foster parents in the
Page 1 of Nicholas Winton’s scrapbook
UK, and other materials seeking to interest Britons in taking in individual children. Like many scrapbooks, Winton’s could easily have been thought too scrappy to save. The Times notes, “After finding his long-hidden scrapbook — crammed with names, pictures, letters from families, travel documents and notes crediting his colleagues — his wife asked for an explanation. He gave her a general idea, but said he thought the papers had no value and suggested discarding them.” More images from the scrapbook are here, and here. Has anyone seen it? Know more about what it looks like?
Page from Scrapbook of Ruth Emerson Fletcher, Class of 1893, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections
Launched! Great new project digitizing documents of women’s education includes scrapbooks as well as letters, diaries, and photos reaching to the 19th century. College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. College Women now covers women who attended the seven partner institutions Formerly Known As the 7 Sisters: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe. The plan is to bring in the experiences of women beyond these elite institutions, and then its value as a resource for both research and teaching will expand exponentially. It’s still very much a work in progress, both technically, in tagging for search terms, and in what has been scanned. Do pitch in with your comments. As someone on the advisory board, it has been fascinating to watch the push and pull between technical questions and ways of maximizing its use for researchers.
Jada Smith’s mother’s scrapbook, with handwritten correction.
Auntie Jean,” about her aunt standing up to oppressive segregationists in Georgia in the 1960s, and her examination of family history. What a surprise to find Jada Smith discovering her mother’s scrapbook, and in it her mother speaking back to the white press — in pink ink, no less. It’s a striking continuation of the tradition of African American scrapbook makers in the nineteenth century, handwriting their corrections on the articles clipped from the white press that they saved in their scrapbooks. John Wesley Cromwell’s scrapbook from the 1890s is a great example of this. And even in the 1960s, an annotated scrapbook corrects what Smith calls the “bland newspaperese” that was content with the white point of view. Her mother’s scrapbook spoke back to the white press within her family, keeping alive a family tradition of standing up and speaking back, in the face of gunfire. Read it!
I’m thrilled to be receiving the book prize of the Institute for Humanities Research for transdisciplinary “socially engaged humanities scholarship.” That my work crosses disciplines is not a surprise — the Library of Congress gave my first book 11 subject headings, I think. But it’s humbling to have Writing with Scissors placed with the work of environmental activists like Rob Nixon, innovative scholars of colonialism and empire, like Claudia Sadowski-Smith and Silvia Spitta, and people who dig into the culture of objects and design things, like Prasad Boradkar, and innovative thinkers about art like Ron Broglio. If you’re in the Phoenix area, do come. I’ll be speaking Oct. 9, 4 pm.