Bryn Mawr Special Collections on Wikipedia…



Staff members participating in the edit-a-thon, January 10th 2013

On Friday, January 10th 2014, Special Collections staff at Bryn Mawr College held an in-house Wikipedia edit-a-thon.  Our goal for this event was to prepare for future edit-a-thons that will be open to other members of the Bryn Mawr Community and to increase the visibility of Special Collections holdings on Wikipedia.  Evan McGonagill has written about this in the Blog of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr College which can be found at:

To view a few of the types of some of the outcomes of this event see the links below:

New records created:      

Links to online finding aids added to records:

Recent Conservation of Peruvian Pottery Courtesy of The Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU

During the Fall 2013 semester students at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts conserved three Peruvian Vessels belonging to Bryn Mawr College Special Collections as part of a course: “The conservation treatment of inorganic archaeological & ethnographic objects”.  Below are before and after treatment photographs of one of the three vessels recently conserved: a Double Spout and Bridge Bottle Depicting Ears of Corn, Nazca, 100 BCE – 750 CE, 69.1.444.


Pre-Treatment Photograph of sherds from: Double Spout and Bridge Bottle Depicting Ears of Corn, Nazca, 100 BCE – 750 CE, 69.1.444.




After-Treatment Photograph: Double Spout and Bridge Bottle Depicting Ears of Corn, Nazca, 100 BCE – 750 CE, 69.1.444.







The Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts is a graduate program within New York University for the study of the technology and conservation of works of art and historic artifacts. The Conservation Center prepares students for careers in art conservation through a four-year program that combines practical experience in conservation with historical, archaeological, curatorial, and scientific studies of the materials and construction of works of art. Students undertake research projects, laboratory work, seminars, and gain intensive conservation experience through advanced fieldwork and the fourth-year internship.



This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to the conservation of archaeological and ethnographic objects created from inorganic materials. Emphasis is placed on the acquisition of visual skills used in assessing condition and treatment problems. Each student examines a variety of objects, learning proper documentation and examination techniques, and then carries out treatment of those objects. The object materials may include ceramics, stone, glass, and metals. In addition to object stabilization and treatment, environmental concerns, storage mounts, and packing strategies, as well as appropriate ethics and standards for archaeological and ethnographic objects are discussed.


Samantha Alderson is a Conservator in the Anthropology Division of the American Museum of History, working with the museums archaeological and ethnographic collections.  In addition she is a lecturer at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University teaching advanced courses in objects conservation.   She holds a BA from St. John’s College and a combined Master’s Degree in the History of Art & Archaeology and an Advanced Certificate in Conservation from the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.  Her research interests include adhesives and consolidants in conservation, and the technology and conservation of Mesoamerican ceramics.

Regarding the new “Beneath the Printed Pattern” exhibition: an interview with curator Anna Moblard Meier

2013 MacPherson Curatorial Fellow Nava Streiter interviews exhibition curator (and former MacPherson Fellow) Anna Moblard Meier on “Beneath the Printed Pattern: Display and Disguise in Ukioy-e Bijinga.”

Utagawa Kunisada II, Mitsuji Near a Carriage in the Snow, ca. 1851 (detail). Bryn Mawr College Special Collections; gift of Margery Hoffman Smith, Class of 1911.

Utagawa Kunisada II, Mitsuji Near a Carriage in the Snow, ca. 1851 (detail). Bryn Mawr College Special Collections; gift of Margery Hoffman Smith, Class of 1911.

Nava Streiter: “Beneath the Printed Pattern: Display and Disguise in Ukiyo-e Bijinga,” is an exhibition of ukiyo-e prints from the Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, on display in the Class of 1912 Rare Books Room in Canaday Library between September 25, 2013 and December 20, 2013. I sat down with the show’s curator, Anna Moblard Meier, who is a third year graduate student in Bryn Mawr’s History of Art department, to discuss what the show says about idealization, eroticism, marketing and politics in nineteenth-century Edo.

N: The written description of the exhibition notes that the bijinga, or beautiful people, who appear in most of the artworks are idealized representations, carefully designed to convey particular messages. It strikes me that many of the images in the show are also constructed as scenes from the everyday life of Edo. What do you think it means to combine idealization and apparent realism in this way?

A: While the images do depict people shopping in the capital city or visiting the famous places of Edo, the “everyday” quality of the works is highly orchestrated.  Every detail of these images, from the posture of the depicted figures to the surrounding context, is constructed in such a way as to create a specific meaning.

The section on famous places makes a good example here. There’s a long-standing tradition in Japanese art of the meisho, or the famous place. This tradition comes out of poetry and painting, and the representation of places tied to the royal family, to natural phenomena (like cherry blossoms).  In ukiyo-e, representations of the famous places of Edo draw from this older tradition. In them, the idea of the meisho is applied to Edo, the capital city, as a group of new famous places, literally marketing the Shogun’s capital.

In the case of bijinga, picture of beautiful people, as the guest speaker Julie Nelson Davis explained in her lecture at the exhibition’s opening, these images are also filled with markers.  For example, ukiyo-e makes many references to the classical tradition of the Heian court — the heyday of Japanese court culture.  To the contemporary viewer, a woman depicted reading poetry or seated amongst stacks of books would have been recognized as a courtesan of that was not only cultured and hence desirable, but also high-ranking and expensive. (You can see an image of such a woman in the show.) These sorts of references were common, especially because literacy in Edo was extremely high during this period.

N: Could we describe the prints in this show as popular art?

A: Yes, although we could even question whether they would originally have been understood as art. It wasn’t until the Meiji restoration in the late 1860s that a word for art appeared in Japanese.

N: Is there any ideological or etymological connection between the word for art and the word bijinga?

A: The Japanese term for art is bijutsu and I don’t think it has anything to do with bijinga. I don’t think the western aesthetic notion that art and beauty are inherently combined can be applied to ukiyo-e works or the idea of bijinga, which, again, literally translates as pictures of beautiful people. Still, ideas of beauty, the beauty of the natural world, and the ability to represent these beauties are central to all forms of Japanese art — to what, in western terms, would be call the “applied arts.”

N: In light of Japanese ideas of art and beauty, what does it mean for your show on beautiful people to include a section on representation of natural phenomena?

A: In addition to bijinga, the majority of ukiyo-e artists also produced pictures of birds and flowers (or kacho-e). Although they were part of a minor genre, these images of nature drew from long traditions of Chinese and Japanese painting. Like references to classical literature and the Heian court, the formal qualities of these works tied ukiyo-e to a prestigious artistic lineage. I hope the viewer sees a parallel between the attentive detail of these depictions and of the show’s bijinga imagery.  Also, throughout the show, women are depicted in elaborate kimonos, and the textile designs are central to the compositions.  The natural forms of flora and fauna served as a basis for these designs.

N: Speaking of textiles, it’s interesting that the idea of the beautiful person was so tied to the idea of the beautiful garment. I understand many of the images are advertisements for the Yoshiwara, or red light district of Edo, but their eroticism seems very subtle. There’s so much clothing! What am I missing?

A: The eroticism in the prints is subtle to us, but it wouldn’t have been subtle to the original audience. For example, during the Edo period, the back of a woman’s neck was considered incredibly sexy and so were her wrists. Also, the way the kimono is folded in a lot of ukiyo-e drew attention to specific curves. Many of the images would have been read almost like pin-ups to Edo period viewers, although they don’t necessarily read that way to modern western ones. That’s one of the key elements of the show — to give the contemporary viewer access to the ways these images would have functioned during their time period and to recreate a sense of them as complex, legible surfaces containing signs that are very specific.

For instance, there’s an interesting innuendo in a photographically reproduced picture of a geisha that is in the show’s bookcase display.  The image is from a series by the famous artist Kitagawa Utamaro. In it, the viewer doesn’t see the geisha’s patron, but sees her holding a man’s robe. There’s a reference to classical painting on the man’s kimono and, from that image, the viewer would know the patron was a merchant.  Merchants in that period were not allowed to show their wealth, even though they were amongst the wealthiest people in Edo. So they would have a beautiful silk paintings embedded inside their kimonos as a private display of their wealth and prestige.

N: So the only nudity in a show about pleasure district prints is off-stage nudity! That’s great. Would the merchant have commissioned the print? Are the high classical references a form of posturing?

A: In these sorts of images, the patron of the Yoshiwara was represented as a sophisticated, cultured gentleman, but I think that’s more something that’s being sold to the merchant patron than the merchant patron commissioning it as a way of self-identifying.

N: The prints weren’t commissioned? How and why were they made?

A: Several scholars, including Julie Nelson Davis, have suggested that the brothels themselves might have commissioned these works as advertisements, and it’s clear that textile designers and theaters also commissioned prints.  However, there’s a lot we don’t know, because of the complexity of ukiyo-e production.  It was incredibly complicated to make these prints. A publisher would commission an artist to make a drawing. The names we associate with ukiyo-e, like Hiroshige or Hokusai, were the people who made the drawings. Their work would be given to a lead designer, who would transfer it onto a wooden key-block. Then the blocks would be given to carvers. There were two different types of carvers. The most skilled ones would carve the most important parts, including the contour lines and the key-block.  Less skilled carvers would cut all of the additional blocks that gave color and detail to the prints. Next the carved blocks would be given to printers. Printed images would be given to the publisher, who would sell them in the streets and shops of Edo. There were also travelling book salesmen, and shops where you could buy prints.   

N: So although it seems like research on ukiyo-e prints tends to focus on prominent artists, the works were really made by a huge number of people. Is the emphasis on individuals a western misinterpretation, or were people in Edo interested in celebrity artists?

A: Julie Nelson’s book, Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty, makes the argument that Kitagawa Utamaro, for instance, was essentially a brand. The publisher who made Utamaro a household name, created a persona for him, which made the prints more marketable. So the name Utamaro carried weight in Edo, but a weight comparable today, for instance, to Coca-Cola or to some other big brand name.

N: Western responses to ukiyo-e prints are fascinating. How has your perspective informed your work on the show?

A: I’m realtively new to the field, but I’ve been studying Japanese now for two years and have heard many of Julie Nelson’s lectures about the Edo period and Japanese art in general. Julie’s been incredibly generous and kind in sharing her knowledge!

My interest, really, has been in considering, from the western perspective, what happens when these prints appeared in western culture. Many ukiyo-e works survived in the west from a time period when, because of natural disasters or the sentiments of the Meiji restoration, many others they were destroyed in Japan. However, in the west, the surviving works were largely decontextualized and misunderstood.

In Japan in the 1870-90s, ukiyo-e was largely censored, and Japan was struggling to promote a new national identity and to avoid becoming a colonized country. In presenting itself to the West, it wanted to promote the new Meiji Japan as modern and industrial, while still preserving the value of its ancient and complex culture. Although ukiyo-e formed the basis of western visions of Japan, it did not fit into the image of “new Japan” that was being formulated and promoted internally. Japan’s new government was trying to figure out how to place the country as a prominent, new force in a globalizing world. For example, during this period, the government realigned its identity with Shinto over Buddhism. A lot of incredible Japanese Buddhist paintings have come to the west because they were not valued during the Meiji restoration.  In viewing ukiyo-e and reading its histories, the first of which were written by westerners, all of these things come into play.

N: Speaking of Buddhism, is there a religious aspect to the works in the show? Is the idea of the beautiful person religious in any way?

A: Not really. The term ukiyo-e, means pictures of the floating world. Ukiyo literally means “floating world” and the –e ending means “pictures of.” There are Buddhist connotations associated with the term ukiyo, for instance, the term references a poem that compares life’s ephemerality to a gourd floating on a river.  In the culture of Edo, interest in and contemplation of life’s transience are replaced by interest in the transience of pleasure.  There was a celebration of enjoyment, rather than a meditation on the fragility of human life. So ukiyo-e, in the Edo period, becomes a celebration of all life’s pleasure, including the pleasures of the Yoshiwara, the pleasures of the theater, and the pleasures of looking at nature’s beauty.


Katsushika Shigenobu, Bathing Scene, n.d., Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, gift of Margery Hoffman Smith, Class of 1911

Katsushika Shigenobu, Bathing Scene, n.d., Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, gift of Margery Hoffman Smith, Class of 1911

There’s a lot of parody in ukiyo-e, especially political parody. There’s as much parody of court culture as there is reverence for it. Some theories set the idea of the floating world as a sort of cultural vent for the Tokugawa shogunate. The shogunate regulated life closely during the Edo period and, in order to maintain its dominance over the rising merchant class – the lowest rung of society, but also the rising wealth of society – the shogun passed all sorts of sumptuary laws. Some scholars have suggested that the Yoshiwara and idea of the ukiyo-e’s celebration of all the pleasures of life is sort of a vent for the pressure those laws placed on the lower classes. However regulated, the Yoshiwara was a place where the merchants and townspeople of Edo could feel free and unconstrained by the strict neo-Confucianism of the day. Still, there are any number of scholars who would say that the Edo period wasn’t as structured as all that, and sumptuary laws were very difficult to enforce.

N: So these pictures are fairly radical?

A: Yes, as much as contemporary advertisement can be. Still, sumptuary laws also applied to them.  Artists and publishers were required to print seals on all ukiyo-e, so those guilty of breaking laws could be punished.  For instance, Kitagawa Utamaro, who I’ve mentioned already, was imprisoned for transgressing these laws.

N: You’ve done a gorgeous job with the show, and it’s appropriately subtle, but, as we’ve discussed, subtlety can sometimes mask surprising content, especially for viewers who are relatively unfamiliar with a visual language. What do you think it does to transplant these prints to our modern, Bryn Mawr gallery?

A: I think that’s a difficulty for the show. One of the things I really wanted to avoid was having another show entitled “Ukiyo-e: the Floating World,” because that’s the most common, introductory way people encounter ukiyo-e. The euphemism of the name is often misinterpreted. I think most people don’t understand that ukiyo-e is largely about the brothel and theater districts, and that the theater districts were a places where prostitution was also conducted. So what was bought and sold in the floating world sometimes gets lost to a western viewer. The reason I chose Bijinga as a specific theme was that I wanted to try to begin to unpack one specific type of image in order to provide a deeper understanding of Edo period prints. Whether viewers interact with it long enough to realize what’s there – that’s always a problem.

N: Well they’ll realize it when they read this. They’re going to be scandalized.

A: The number of times the guest speaker said prostitute made me smile.

N: But there are so many words for prostitute!

A: But they’re mostly euphemisms! There’s only one point in the text of the show that I say sex-worker, but I think it’s important to keep that raw reality in mind when we’re using all these terms and descriptions like courtesan and court lady and “elegant woman in a kimono.” There are so many euphemisms in the terminology of ukiyo-e itself. Ukiyo-e is a euphemism for pleasure districts, which were largely run on indentured servitude, which was a harsh reality.

N: What do you want viewers to take away from the show?

A: The purpose of the show is to provide a deeper understanding of the complexity of ukiyo-e. It’s the tip of the iceberg, as far as that goes. Having come to the subject from western scholarship (and the study of late-19th century Vienna and Germany), I’ve seen how these works were appreciated but completely misunderstood. The show is my effort to realign the discussion according to a fuller original context.

 October, 2013.

Home: Departure and Destination

Complementing the 9th biennial Bryn Mawr College Graduate Group Symposium, an exhibition of domestic artifacts and imagery is being held in the Kaiser Reading Room in Carpenter Library on the theme of “Home: Departure and Destination.” Held in honor of Bryn Mawr Professor Emeritus Barbara Miller Lane, the Symposium reflects her notable research on architecture, culture, and the role of the home.

In this exhibition, we endeavor to capture just some of the home’s many iterations in both visual and material culture. In doing so, we also wanted to represent the broad range of disciplines called upon in the Symposium to define the home.

Whether it’s the objects from a local Bryn Mawr home, or those intimately tied to the functions of the generic home, we hope you find a way to meaningfully engage with the diverse range of photographs, artifacts, manuscripts and decorative objects on display here. In our choices, we sought to engage with the ways each object represents the home as a dynamic, multivalent category capable of physically, psychically, and emotionally defining us as individuals and as a society.

The exhibition opens on October 4th and will remain on view through the Fall term.

Welcome to Bryn Mawr…in 1951!

Judith Kate Haywood Jacoby (photograph) Judith Kate Haywood at a party at Bryn Mawr.

Gift of Karl Haywood Jacoby.

At the end of the summer of 1951, Judith Kate Haywood (later Jacoby) (1934-1997) was making preparations to attend Bryn Mawr College for the first time. She had just returned from a tour of Europe, a trip that was a high school graduation gift from her parents, when she received a welcome letter in the mail from a returning Bryn Mawr student. The author of the letter was a rising junior, Barbara Pennypacker (Class of 1953). The tradition of an upperclasswoman sending a letter to a freshman still exists at Bryn Mawr today, but with a couple of modifications. Freshmen today receive welcoming correspondence from sophomores designated “Customs People,” and this correspondence comes by way of email rather than the post.          

A couple pieces of advice Judith received in the letter in 1951, however, may be still relevant for students today. For example, Barbara wrote, “The most important advice I have is to arrive early. The halls open at 8 in the morning and it is wise to arrive then, and I think you’ll understand why.” And, “Try not to make a lot of outside engagements during the first few days as things will be very confusing and you will be very busy.”

But, much of her advice would not help members of the soon-to-arrive Class of 2017: they will not be expected to take a voice test, undergo a physical, or “sign a contagion card” (a card on which each student listed the contagious diseases she had had. Barbara also gave advice to Judith about what she should bring with her. She told her that trunks often got lost and that packing a suitcase with clothing was a good idea

“As for clothes—bring a suitcase with shirts, shorts, sweater, blue jeans, a dress or two and something you can wear to a combination square dance and ballroom dance….College wear is just what you’ve been wearing at school. Don’t believe all that Junior Bazaar or the College Shop at Lord and Taylor’s tells you. We are individuals trying to be comfortable and neat, and we don’t spend hours at our wardrobe. Anything respectable will do nicely…If you find that you are naked or have forgotten something, there are excellent stores nearby…”

(Letter dated August 20, 1951)

Students today seldom fret about lost trunks or bringing a “combination square dance and ballroom” dress, but they can still take the advice that designer fashion and accessories are not necessary for sitting in class. More than sixty years later, it remains true that there is great shopping nearby in case someone should find herself naked!

In her first semester at college, Judith was required to pass a Self-Governance exam. Students got an up-to-date booklet of the constitution and resolutions of the Bryn Mawr Students Association. At exam time, the college provided one of those familiar (and dreaded)  blue books in which students answered, in essay form, questions about specific rules. Here are two pages from Judith’s 1951-1952 Self-Government booklet.

Rules Book 3

Unlike students in the Class of 1955, students in the Class of 2017 will not have to take an exam about rules. They do have rules, but infinitely less restrictive ones. Today, Bryn Mawrters can leave the college campus without getting permission from “Permission Givers,” stay in hotels, wear shorts to class, wear trousers “on main roads or in the village,” and sunbathe pretty much anywhere they please (like on Merion Green with speakers blaring before finals week in Spring). Smoking in Taylor Hall in the “Water-Cooler corridor” or in any other building, for that matter, is no longer allowed.

Regardless of whether it is the 1890s, the 1950s, or the late 2010s, all freshmen are bound to experience the excitement and anxieties that come with starting a new chapter of life.

Jennifer Hoit Dawson
Ph.D. Candidate in Greek, Latin & Classical Studies

The Judith Kate Haywood Jacoby papers offer unique insight into what it was like to be a student at Bryn Mawr in the 1950s. The papers date from Judith’s college years and include correspondence from her parents, academic course work, notes on extracurricular activities, appointment books, a diary, some photographs, and ephemera.

Marianne Moore: College Education to Professional Career

MMoore Senior PictureBryn Mawr College Special Collections is in the final stages of reorganizing and cataloging the papers of one of the college’s most cherished alumnae, the poet Marianne Craig Moore (Class of 1909). The Marianne Craig Moore Papers consist of 23 boxes of correspondence, photographs, audio recordings, manuscripts, news clippings, and ephemera. We can also boast that we have in our collection one of Marianne Moore’s cloaks, her briefcase with the monogram “M.M.,” and one of her iconic tricorner hats! These materials were given to Bryn Mawr by many donors including Hildegarde and J. Sibley Watson, Jr., Sallie Moore and Marianne Craig “Bee” Moore, Mary Woodworth, Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius, K. Laurence Stapleton, and many Bryn Mawr alumnae. The collection reveals unique aspects of Marianne Moore’s education at Bryn Mawr.

At the time of her death in 1972, Marianne Moore was well-known as an innovative and witty modernist poet. She won multiple awards for her books of poetry including the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize, The National Book Award, The National Medal for Literature, France’s Croix de Chevalier, and sixteen honorary degrees. Until the time of her final illness in 1969, Moore participated in numerous speaking engagements and graciously gave critical advice to young and upcoming poets. Success had not come quickly or easily for Marianne, however. She faced many challenges in acquiring a college education, being professionally published, and finding a professional position as an editor and writer.

Marianne Moore was born to Mary Warner Moore and John Milton Moore in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1887. Because John Moore suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized before she was born, the poetess never knew her father. Marianne, with her mother and her older brother, moved to Pennsylvania in 1894. While living in Carlisle, PA, Mary Moore worked as an English teacher. A single mother, Mary would continue to hold this job so that both of her children could attend college—John at Yale and Marianne at Bryn Mawr. Details of the financial burden of putting two children through college emerge in the letters Mary wrote to Bryn Mawr. In a letter dated May 2, 1904, Mary Warner Moore wrote: “In replying for my daughter to your announcement that an increase of fifty dollars in the yearly tuition is to be made, I should say that her application still remains good. I am sorry however, that an increase in tuition is necessary. I have been teaching for four years in order to make college education possible for my two children—a son and a daughter, and of course under the new arrangement, the weight is greater…”

And on January 18, 1906, she wrote, “That [Marianne’s] brother is in College, and she likewise, and that I am teaching in order to keep them there, may make apparent the reason of a somewhat frugal ordering of her affairs on Marianne’s part while she is in College, and also of her application for scholarships. The circumstances of our lives have been unusual…”

Their “unusual” family circumstances also made other aspects of attending college difficult for Marianne. In a letter dated September 4, 1905, Mary wrote to Bryn Mawr to ask whether there was any way Marianne could take her English examination on a Monday afternoon rather than in the morning so that Marianne’s brother could escort her to Bryn Mawr. This way, Mary would not have to take off work. Marianne’s mother ended the letter,

“[Marianne] has never traveled alone, however, and I am not willing to have her make the journey, and its several changes, alone.”

Unfortunately, her request was not granted. In the next letter dated September 11, 1905, Marianne’s mother thanked Bryn Mawr for refusing her request politely. Seeming thoroughly embarrassed, she replied, “That I, a teacher, should be guilty of proposing a disorderly act, seems most reprehensible.”

In Fall of 1905 Marianne arrived at Bryn Mawr. She wanted to be an English major; her love of reading and writing had started at a young age. She was thwarted, however, by her English professors who said that she was obscure and unclear in her writing and that she often disregarded rules of grammar and language. Ironically, these characteristics would be hallmarks of her famous, modernist poetry. Marianne continued to write while at Bryn Mawr, publishing short stories and poems in Tipyn O’Bob and The Lantern. She also wanted to major in biology but was apparently discouraged by her mother who thought that being a biologist was no profession for a lady. Nevertheless, flora, fauna, and the sea were frequent subjects of her poetry.

Marianne graduated from Bryn Mawr with a B.A. in history, economics, and politics in 1909. It took six years after graduating Bryn Mawr before she was published professionally. After moving to New York with her mother, she befriended J. Sibley Watson, Jr. and Scofield Thayer, owners of The Dial, a popular magazine which served as an outlet for modernist thought, art, and literature. Watson and Thayer were so impressed with Marianne Moore that they made her acting editor of their magazine in 1925 and editor-in-chief in 1926. She was editor until 1929 when The Dial ceased publication.

Jennifer Hoit Dawson
Ph.D. Candidate in Greek, Latin & Classical Studies

Students and Alumnae Meet, in Special Collections

Dr. Jeannette Ridlon Piccard was a pioneer on several fronts in her lifetime. She became the first woman to reach the stratosphere with her husband, Dr. Jean Felix Piccard, in a high-altitude balloon in 1934. In 1974, she became one of the first women ordained as priests by the Episcopal Church. Although she professed little talent for academics, Piccard was a dedicated student. In a letter composed in 1942 as a supplement to a job application, Piccard claimed to have chosen Bryn Mawr College because her high school diploma decreed that she could go to any college in the country except for Bryn Mawr. She wrote, “So I decided to take Bryn Mawr exams so that no one could say there was any college to which I could not go.” Piccard graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1918 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology, and went on to earn a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1919, finally receiving her Ph.D. in education from the University of Minnesota in 1942.tag1

The task of organizing her papers, which were donated to Bryn Mawr College by her granddaughter Ruth Elizabeth Piccard, has occupied the bulk of my summer in Special Collections. When I began sorting through the five boxes, I found Piccard’s extensive correspondence mixed with receipts and travel vouchers from her time as a Special Consultant for NASA; drafts of essays on topics ranging from the significance of head covering in various religious denominations to the ethics of modern medicine; evidence of her decades-long campaign for the ordination of women jumbled up with the original research for her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Minnesota; and even a rough copy of the first few chapters of her unfinished autobiography. The collection was disorganized, to say the least. However, over the past several weeks, I have managed to consolidate the assorted papers into a formal structure that will guide the more complete organization and description of the collection in the future.

By her own account, Piccard lived an eventful and unconventional life. Born in Chicago, Illinois, on January 5, 1895, she was the next-to-youngest of nine children. At three, she watched her twin sister accidentally set herself aflame and burn to death. By the time she was eleven, Piccard had resolved to become a priest, even though at the time there were no female priests in the Episcopal Church. She was also deeply invested in the sciences; even though her majors were philosophy and psychology, she took all the college courses in physics and chemistry she could. Upon entering graduate school at the University of Chicago during the First World War, Piccard chose to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry, partly to “replace a man for the front,” but also because she believed her degree might lead to permanent employment after the war, as opposed to the temporary positions most of her fellow female students expected. It was as a graduate student that Jeannette met her future husband, Swiss national Dr. Jean Felix Piccard. “We were drawn to each other the first time we met. We had the same name. We were [identical] twins.” They married shortly after Jeannette received her degree and promptly left for Switzerland.

Drawn into aeronautics by her brother-in-law Auguste, Piccard qualified as a pilot in 1934. In October of the same year, she and Jean ascended by balloon to an altitude of 57,559 ft, reaching the stratosphere through a layer of clouds. Contemporary accounts hailed Piccard as the first woman in space. She and her husband became popular lecturers as a result of their successful flight and toured for many years, until Jean secured a teaching position at the University of Minnesota, one of the first universities to have a department devoted to aeronautical engineering.

A year after Jean’s death in 1963, the director of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center hired Jeannette as a consultant. She held the position until it was eliminated for reasons of economy in 1970, the same year the General Convention of the Episcopal Church opened the Diaconate to women. From that point onwards, Piccard devoted herself to becoming a priest, a vocation she had never abandoned. She was finally ordained in 1974 alongside ten other women, who together formed the “Philadelphia Eleven”, the first female priests “irregularly” ordained by the Episcopal Church. After extensive debate, the ordinations were regularized on January 1, 1977.

Although Piccard dedicated her life to two fields in which I otherwise have little interest, I have found a great deal to admire in this woman whom I came to know through the papers she left behind. Piccard was a life-long advocate for gender equality in two areas traditionally closed to women: the church and aerospace. Unapologetically committed to eradicating institutionalized sexism in both space exploration and the church that was so dear to her, Piccard was one of those fortunate people who actually managed to make something of her ambitions, making significant progress in both arenas during her lifetime.

In a letter to a colleague dated March 30, 1970, Piccard noted that she had a number of badges from her time as a Special Consultant for NASA that no longer held any value following the expiration date. “I’ll stick them in the file to edify future generations!” she wrote.

Consider me edified, Reverend Dr. Piccard.

Eileen Morgan, class of 2015Eileen

Spending the Summer with Special Collections


With my final year of college rapidly approaching, I have been thinking immensely about how I would apply my History of Art degree after graduation. Because attending a liberal art college has equipped me with a wide variety of skills, narrowing the list of potential careers is rather arduous. Thank goodness for my position this summer in Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections, as I have had the opportunity to explore a myriad of job types surrounding the visual arts.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, I devote my time to working in the Arts and Artifacts Collection. This summer, the department is gathering items around campus that once belonged to President M. Carey Thomas and her partner Mary Garrett in hopes of creating an exhibit about the Deanery, the women’s residence for many years. They collected an astounding number of precious items for their home—chairs, tables, dressers, prints, vases, lamps, and much more. Working alongside fellow students, both of the undergraduate and graduate levels, has provided me with a great amount of experience handling art and decorative objects. Additionally, we’re responsible for photographing, measuring, and inputting information to be viewed on TriArte, the TriCo’s art database. Our responsibilities, particularly photographing, are exciting and new, and I’m ever-so-grateful for the experience.

My focus shifts on Wednesdays and Thursdays towards digitization, the process of converting information and works into digital formats. Another position of mine is within the Digital Archives to reorganize its expansive collection of alumnae photo albums and scrapbooks. This mostly involves cataloguing, crafting custom boxes, and rehousing. My favorite benefit of this position is the ability to explore each of the scrapbooks and discover how Bryn Mawr College has—or hasn’t—changed over the years. Gazing at the personal words, photographs, and Bryn Mawr memorabilia conjures a connection within me to the school that completely lacked at the start of the summer. It’s refreshing to reflect upon how I contribute to the college’s legacy.

I utilize Fridays to complete what is both the most challenging and exciting task entrusted upon me this summer: completing a digital exhibit for the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. I spent the earlier half of the summer acquainting myself with the website and easing accessibility for visitors. Currently, I am researching and organizing information regarding lesser-known aspects about the college. An incredible amount of work goes into planning an exhibit, but I find the process enthralling. It implements many of the practical and critical skills I’ve honed at Bryn Mawr and newly acquired this summer. Creating this exhibit, in addition to working within the Digital Collections and Arts and Artifacts, has provided me with amazing insight towards potential library- and archive-related careers following graduation. While I’m sad that this experience is coming to an end, I’m eager to apply what I’ve learned towards my future art historical endeavors.

Written by Samone Rowe, Class of 2014

Exhibition posters in BMC’s special collections

Today’s post is by one of our summer interns, Elizabeth Reilly:


Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections has an interesting set of posters and prizes from many world’s fairs, but the bulk of the posters come from the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition of 1904 held in St. Louis. You might recognize this fair’s name from the movie musical, Meet me in St.Louis, starring Judy Garland.This fair commemorated the centennial of the 1803 land purchase, focusing on themes of imperialism and technological advancements. It was also the first fair to have an entire building dedicated to education and social issues, the Palace of Education and Social Economy, which is where Bryn Mawr’s installation was. The fair spanned 1,272 acres and ran from April – December of 1904, attracting approximately 20 million visitors.

In this day and age, fairs and expositions seem obsolete, so what’s the big deal about Bryn Mawr at a fair? Today, thanks to social media, ideas, writings and images can be spread around the world in a matter of seconds. But in the past, World’s Fairs and Expositions served as gathering places for these ideas, inventions and people from all over the globe, so it was important to have an exhibit at one of these international fairs. M. Carey Thomas helped to carefully design Bryn Mawr’s exhibit for the fair to promote the value of women’s education. I use the word ‘carefully’ intentionally, for Bryn Mawr was trying to convey a particular image of what a women’s college was and why women’s education should be supported. In Thomas’ letters, she explains that the St. Louis exhibit was going to be much more elaborate than any of Bryn Mawr’s prior World’s Fairs exhibits. Thomas was also chosen to be a speaker at the fair’s Congress on Education, which she viewed as an “important occasion because not only so many American scholars but a large number of European scholars will be present.” Below is a picture of what Bryn Mawr’s exhibit looked like in the Palace of Education and Social Economy.

Genevieve Thompson expo picture

The entry way is reflective of the many archways that decorate Bryn Mawr’s campus. Archways are symbols of power and the design of the exhibit help to frame the perception of the space as more important, or impressive, to visitors.



A portion of the posters from 1904 are dedicated to marriage rates of alumnae and from the Department of Physical Training. An award winning chart from the fair is an Anthropometric chart that measures girth, height, depth, breadth, and length of students over the course of their undergraduate career at Bryn Mawr. Weird, right? Can you imagine if this was a part of Customs week: move in to your dorm room, awkwardly talk with your brand new roommates and then head over to the gym to be measured together! I’m pretty sure the student body would riot. But you know what’s even crazier? The fact that the Bryn Mawr administration included posters about female students’ physical well-being in efforts to prove to the world that women were physiologically capable of receiving an equally rigorous education as men and that they, as some believed, would not become infertile and die.
Let me explain more. In 1873, Havard and University of Pennsylvania educated Dr. Edward Hammond Clarke wrote “Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for Girls.” In this controversial but widely discussed essay, he promoted the idea that women will become sick, weak, unable to become pregnant and possibly die if they receive a similar education to men. Here’s a sample from his essay: “Those grievous maladies which torture a woman’s earthly existence, called leucorrhoea, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, chronic and acute ovaritis, prolapsus uteri, hysteria, neuralgia, and the like, are indirectly affected by food, clothing, and exercise; they are directly and largely affected by the causes that will be presently pointed out, and which arise from a neglect of the peculiarities of a woman’s organization. The regimen of our schools fosters this neglect. The regimen of a college arranged for boys, if imposed on girls, would foster it still more.” Click here to read his essay in its entirety. Warning: May cause you to throw blunt objects at your computer screen. Read with caution.

Clarke goes on to refer to puberty as a “critical voyage” for women and he finds it ludicrous that America’s educational structure doesn’t pay attention to the fact that this passage takes place during a large portion of a girl’s educational life. Basically, Clarke thought that the female body was not strong enough or wired correctly to receive an education while also experiencing puberty. This idea was prevalent in the educational world for quite some time. But M. Carey Thomas and other people at Bryn Mawr were trying to turn this notion on its head by providing ample amount of evidence to prove that not only could women thrive at college, but they continued on to graduate school, received fellowships and some even got married, too! The Anthropometric chart won a bronze medal award at the 1904 Exposition, serving as validation that the International Exposition committee was receptive to Bryn Mawr’s assertions that women could succeed in academia without it affecting their physical well-being. According to the charts, many women even improved their physical health while at school. Although, the marriage rate of Bryn Mawr alumnae was down to 18.9% in 1903 from 40% in 1889…Uh-oh, better warn the patriarchy! (hey, hey, ho, ho…)

Over 70 posters about the graduate school program, the Self-Government Association, all of the academic departments and plans for the residence halls were displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Bryn Mawr College received a grand prize for its general exhibit illustrating courses of instruction, and methods and results of college work in various departments as well. Below is part of a letter to M. Carey Thomas from Evelyn Winchester, a student native of St. Louis who had been chosen to oversee the exhibit, informing the President about the award of the Grand Prize. Next to it is an image of the photogravure Grand Prize.Untitled-1_MG_2498

There are also several posters that have students blue book exams mounted on the poster. In true honor code spirit, the names are cut out and yes, these blue books look almost exactly like the ones we still use today. Even through 109 year old posters, I can still feel a connection with Bryn Mawr students of the past who also stressed over their finals and were constantly trying to prove their intelligence and validity of their presence in the academic world.

Pottery Analysis of Late Bronze Age IIA (LB IIA) pottery from the site of Tarsus-Gozlukule

Steven Karacic is currently working on a dissertation is addressing the Late Bronze Age IIA (LB IIA) pottery from the site of Tarsus-Gozlukule.  The pottery, specifically the so-called Hittite Monochrome Ware (HMW), is often used as evidence for the Hittite political expansion into the region of Cilicia in the latter half of the second millennium BCE.  The broader historical narrative interprets HMW as the standardized product of an economy centralized under Hittite imperial bureaucracy.  His dissertation will test this narrative by way of mineralogical and geochemical analyses that speak to the production locales of the LB IIA pottery.  At present, he is conducting geochemical tests with a portable XRF machine in special collections at Bryn Mawr College.