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

“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.

March 29 2020 scrapbook talk in Clifton, NJ

Historic house museums appeal to our desires to imagine ourselves into different lives, lived in different surroundings. It’s always complicated – in extreme cases, when plantation recreations invite us to enjoy the spoils of slaveholders, and ignore the slave quarters, for example.

Scrapbook House, Strong Museum collection

Schoolroom in scrapbook house, Strong Museum collection

Scrapbook house parlor, including black servant, Strong Museum collection

But wandering through someone else’s house is intriguing. Nineteenth century children played with the desire to try out different homes in their house scrapbooks, where they created rooms and scenarios in them from catalog and magazine pictures.

On Sunday, March 29, 1 pm, you can visit a 19th century farmhouse and hear about historic scrapbooks. And if you have old scrapbooks in your family, bring them. I’ll bring some from my collection, too – and of course, lots of great pictures of how our ancestors used their newspaper clipping scrapbooks to save women’s history, black history, and more.

I’m looking forward to the first of my New Jersey Council for the Humanities scrapbook presentations, Sunday, March 29, 1 pm, at Hamilton House, Clifton, NJ 971 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013.

https://www.hamiltonhousemuseum.org/events-1

Speaking in Wilmington, DE – University of Delaware April 27

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.

Scissorizing, and speaking at Boston College Thurs. Oct 15, 4:30

bc garvey poster 2015-page-001I 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

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.

Involution of News Editor - Life, Oct 25, 1883.

Involution of News Editor – Life, Oct 25, 1883.

Ohio State University Oct. 1 Visit and McGuffey’s Scrapbook

I wasn’t planning to look at scrapbooks in Ohio State University’s Special Collections when

Poster for OSU talk

Poster for OSU talk

I go this week to give a talk on scrapbooks on Thursday, October 1, and lead a graduate seminar in the English Department on archives on Friday. But I couldn’t resist looking in the catalog, and found that they have a scrapbook where poetry and vignettes are pasted into an 1866 McGuffey’s Fifth Eclectic Reader! A scrapbook anthology on top of a school anthology!

I remembered that in Julia Colman’s 1873 article “Among the

Preface: McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader

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.

A scrapbook revealed a rescuer’s efforts to save children from the Holocaust

Statue of Nicholas Winton, with a version of his scrapbook. Maidenhead, UK.

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

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

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?

Winton statue, detail.

Winton statue, detail.

Women in College — Major scrapbook project

Page from Scrapbook of Ruth Emerson Fletcher, Class of 1893, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections

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.

This announcement of the launch that explains more about the project.

I started to read Jada F. Smith’s terrific op ed in the New York Times, “Don’t Mess With

Jada Smith's mother's scrapbook, with handwritten correction.

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!