The Ant Girls

March 17th, 2014 by Cathleen Miller

My day began on Friday with the pleasure of looking, following the lines and textures of ant-marks, and listening to stories of making.  Rebecca Goodale (one of the Ant Girls) brought tiny books, pamphlet and coptic-bound books, books that came tumbling out of their boxes, books with wings and pieces of leaves, books that spoke of the collaboration created by their colony of four.

The books and all of the other components of this two-year work-in-progress are on their way to the USM Atrium Gallery in Lewiston for the show “Ant Farm: At the Nexus of Art and Science” opening April 11.  The “Ant Girls” (Rebecca Goodale, Colleen Kinsella, Vivien Russe and Dorothy Schwartz) have been working as a group, passing paper and books between them, all members making marks on every piece of work.  The collaboration formed a strong bond among the four women, making the recent passing of Dorothy Schwartz all the more poignant as they prepared for the opening of their show and worked to finish pieces.  You can follow their process on their blog “Ant Girls”.

I am looking forward to the show on April 11, and am especially excited to see the installations of fungus farms and nuptial swarms.

One of the best parts of my job is getting to see fresh work that is still filled with the energy of the creators.  I enjoy hearing the stories of creation, too–the conceptualization of an idea that finds its fruition in something we can hold or look at close up.  It is a deep thrill for me, and an honor, to witness the creative process and its products.  I look forward to housing some of these beautiful creations in our collection to educate and excite students, researchers, and others interested in the intersection between art and science.

Just the Thing: Recent Acquisitions at the MWWC

August 8th, 2012 by Catherine Fisher

“I am a Thing-finder, and when you’re a Thing-finder

you don’t have a minute to spare.”

Pippi Longstocking, in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren


Might you be, like Pippi, an avid collector? Is there a certain breed of stuff that you treasure, and thrill to whenever a fresh one of its kind falls into your grasp? A pristine addition to the classic stamp collection, maybe? A rare bit of Elvis memorabilia? How about fine art at an auction, or fridge magnets on vacation? Or maybe you’re one who likes to bag hurricanes, volcano eruptions, or 4,000-footers. Or maybe you just like BOOKS.

Even if you’re not one to stockpile anything in particular and your home looks more like a Zen temple than the thing-finder pad of Pippi Longstocking, still I’ll bet you can muster an imagining of what the collector’s thrill feels like. To capture and cherish something really special, and then share it with others who are equally (or even more) jazzed by it…it’s a happy pursuit that can be as much about the communion of the likewise-interested as it is about the treasured objects themselves.

Here at the Collection, collecting (and protecting) is, of course, a large part of what we do. And even though that’s the case, and has been so for over fifty years, adding new gems to it never gets old. It’s still delicious to slit the packing tape on a plain, cardboard shipping box, lift out a brown paper bundle, peel away its wrapper and release a beautiful book we’ve been expecting. Sometimes it’s old and rare, sometimes it’s fresh and new, and always it’s the one we’ve been waiting for.

And what could be even better? Picture this, if you will: It’s afternoon in our lovely, sunny space, and an author (or an author’s descendent, or agent) comes in and says, “I’ve got a bunch of boxes in the back of my car. Where should I park to bring them in?” Or, “It’s finally here! The book I was researching here last year finally came out this month. Here’s a copy for the Collection.” Or, someone arrives and announces, “We found these papers and notebooks in our barn. Would you be interested?” These are great moments. And equally as enjoyable is the visit to an author’s home to collect her papers, where we get to listen to her talk about her writing life, her home life, and her plans for her next chapter. Just yesterday we traveled to York where Rose Safran generously passed on to us the archive of her art-related journalism, unpublished book manuscripts, commercial work and teaching materials. What a stimulating morning!

Whether it’s books, notebooks, manuscripts or letters; photographs, memorabilia or all of the above; whether it’s by an author who’s well- or little-known, living or deceased; whether it’s a gift or a purchase acquired in person or by mail…new additions to the Collection always feel to me like the addition of fresh cells to the body, key pieces in assembling the whole of what we can and want to be.









On display right now at the Collection are some of the items we’ve recently acquired, both manuscript material and books. Here is a brief synopsis, with hopes that you’ll visit and enjoy them for yourself.

Manuscript material and artist’s books

Theodora Kalikow

This new collection of professional papers of the recently-retired University of Maine, Farmington president, spanning 1974-2012, includes her scholarly articles, presentation papers and organization materials; published reviews and newspaper articles; correspondence; awards; interviews with Kalikow and a bound student thesis on her. Kalikow is taking over as the next president of the University of Southern Maine, just a day or two after her retirement from Farmington!

Rachel Carson

These additions to our Rachel Carson collection, dated 1951, 1962-1963, include correspondence between Carson and literary agent Joan Daves; a photograph of Carson by Erich Hartmann; 2 Carson postage stamps; a copy of her commencement address to Scripps College; and an exhibition catalogue.

Grace M. Calvert

A 1915 daily diary of Grace M. Calvert of Park Street in Portland has been added to our Manuscript Volumes collection, which includes diaries, ledgers and daybooks, copy books, scrapbooks, albums and other personal volumes of unpublished women writers of Maine.









Lael Morgan

Adding to the wealth of books and periodicals previously given by this journalist/photojournalist who has covered Alaska since the early 1960s, this extensive new acquisition contains over fifty years worth of clippings, notebooks, correspondence, sailing logs, book manuscripts, photographs, videos, slides and memorabilia, including her gold pan!


Sissy Buck

We acquired this beautiful artist’s book, She Tells Me, from Cumberland Foreside artist Buck along with another of hers entitled Scarlet Strawberry Runners (Angus). These join a third already in our collection, In Her Memory Garden.


Barbara Goodbody

We received Salutation to the Dawn as the generous gift of this Cumberland Foreside artist. The accordion fold book contains original text and eight vibrant photographs of the sunrise.









Katy Perry

A large amount of new material has been added to the collection of this Hallowell columnist and spans the years 1966-2012. Included are manuscripts and clippings of her articles in the Capital Weekly, Hallowell Register, Portland Press Herald and other publications.


Rose Marasco

Two framed photographs from Marasco’s “Domestic Objects” series have joined the sizable collection of her work already gracing our walls. We hope to follow the acquisition of Egg Diary and Sink Diary with more pieces from the series in the future.




















The earliest volume on display at the moment is the 1921 Journal of the Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the Department of Maine Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic at Portland, Maine, June 15 and 16. This slim book in a soft red paper cover records the general proceedings of the convention as well as the detailed reports given by various office holders, with a photograph of each woman accompanying her account.



Annette Vance Dorey’s Maine Mothers Who Murdered 1875-1925: Doing Time in State Prison explores the incarceration of 3 dozen female murderers in the Thomaston prison. Dorey, of the Androscoggin Historical Society and University of New Brunswick, presented on this topic at our Spring Academic Conference in March.



Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasures on and Off the Ice, by Erica Rand, Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Women and Gender Studies at Bates College, is Rand’s depiction of her experience as a queer femme participating in the sport of ice skating, “a sport with heterosexual story lines and rigid standards for gender-appropriate costumes and moves.”



Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland 1900-1940, is a beautiful book by Libby Bischof, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Maine, and Susan Danly, curator of graphics, photography and contemporary art at the Portland Museum of Art. This companion piece to their show at the museum last September explains how forsaking New York pressures for summers on the coast of Maine influenced personally and artistically modern artists such as photographers Paul Strand and Gertrude Kasebier, painters Marsden Hartley and John Marin, sculptor Gaston Lachaise, and others.


Pionierin der Arktis: Josephine Pearys Reisen ins ewige Eis might not be destined for repeated use by visitors to the Collection given that it is in German, but it was very exciting for us to receive it in the mail one day, as its very personable author Cornelia Gerlach traveled from Germany to explore the Josephine Peary Collection at the MWWC for her research. We had such a great time with her.



Three books of poetry are included in the display, just a fraction of those we have added in the last six months. The language of Alicia Fuller’s Tenants is gritty and real as it comes up against and embraces daily life in all its raw imperfection; Drift: A Poem by Kirstin Hotelling Zona is a meeting of the pulsations of the earth body and the body human; and When No One is Looking, by Red Hawk pipik-w-ass (Carol Dana) paints the Indian Island experience of this Penobscot teacher, historian and conservator with both personal and universal strokes.


The three food-related books in the display add to the deliciousness factor of collecting in a more literal way. Baker’s Notes, published by the Scratch Baking Company in South Portland, discloses a few of their recipes and brings the reader into the warm, yeasty atmosphere of the bakery in the wee hours of the morning. Wilma Redman’s Neal Street Cookbook achieves a near-complete compilation of her old New England recipes that have stood the test of time and make one proud to be from around here. And Notes from a Maine Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes by Kathy Gunst is a literary cookbook that combines personal essays, recipes, cooking tips and foraging information. And in addition to some fun food activities, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule offers fresh, creative activities families can enjoy in harmony and connection with nature.


Of course, a display case and side table only allow us to exhibit a small sampling of the treasures that have been gathered into the Collection in recent months, but we’re always more than happy to pull out other precious gems from the archives and let them shine. Because after all, show and tell is definitely one of the best parts of thing-finding, don’t you think?



Always the younger sister

March 29th, 2011 by billie

Our latest exhibit at the Maine Women Writers Collection is a family tree of sorts, showing the family ties among ten of the writers in the collection.

The exhibit features the mother-daughter pairs of Josephine Peary & Marie Stafford, Elizabeth Coatsworth & Kate Barnes, and A. Carman Clark & Kate Flora; and two sets of sisters, Mary Ellen Chase & Virginia Chase and Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith.

I had the opportunity to process Nora Archibald Smith’s (1859-1934) papers last semester and through that began to learn about who she was as a person, writer and school administrator.  Many of you may know her sister’s most famous work: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but did you know that together they opened the California Kindergarten Training School?

Both girls were born in Philadelphia to Robert Noah Smith and Helen Elizabeth (Dyer) Smith.  Their father died shortly after Nora’s birth and their mother then moved the family to Portland, Maine.  She soon remarried and the family moved into Nora and Kate’s stepfather’s (Dr. Albion Bradbury) house in Hollis, Maine.  It was in the farmhouse called “Quillcote” that both Nora and Kate grew up, and to which they would later retire.  In 1873, while Kate attended finishing school in Andover, Massachusetts, Dr. Bradbury moved the family to California.

Nora Archibald Smith graduated from Santa Barbara College, which she referred to as “an impermanent institution which never before had conferred similar honors (and never did again)” (Smith, 1925).  She then took a job in Mexico where she taught for a year.  After that she went on to Tucson, Arizona to teach for two years while her sister opened the first free kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains on Silver Street in San Francisco, California.  In 1880 they founded the California Kindergarten Training School together.  Nora Archibald Smith went on to become the superintendent of the free kindergarten on Silver Street and later to take over the running of the California Kindergarten Training School in 1889.

Ms. Smith was president of the California Froebel Society, an executive member of the committee of the International Kindergarten Association, and the vice-president (1891-1892) of the kindergarten department of the National Education Association.  Nora Archibald Smith collaborated with her sister to write or edit fifteen books.  Ms. Smith, a writer in her own right, also published many serial stories and academic journal articles.

The Nora Archibald Smith papers include scrapbooks of her writings in publications such as Kindergarten Review, The Outlook, Primary School Popular Educator and New England Magazine.  The collection contains correspondence to Kate Douglas Wiggin collected by Smith while writing her biography of Wiggin; correspondence with her publisher; Houghton, Mifflin and Company; and Smith’s private correspondence.  One of my favorite pairs of letters is one written in Spanish offering Smith a job and a reply letter from Smith, accepting the job and promising to try to learn some Spanish before she gets there.

Her papers also include many newspaper clippings that inspired Smith’s stories.  Photographic portraits of Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith, as well as photographs of their friends and places in their lives, are also a part of this collection.

Perdita Huston: Global Passion, Local Action

December 17th, 2010 by Catherine Fisher

Hooray! Our new online exhibit, Perdita Huston: Global Passion, Local Action, is now up and running!  As an expanded version of Huston’s featured writers page, the site is rich with images, text, documents and excerpts to illustrate her remarkable global career as a journalist, activist and author; and her life as a mother and inspiring mentor to many. Take a trip around the world, and through time, with this extraordinary woman to learn about her passionate devotion to improving the plight of third world women and the planet as a whole.

From the Vote to the ERA: Feminist Waves

December 15th, 2010 by Cathleen Miller

In the 1970s, women fought for property rights, equality in credit, fair divorce laws, wages for housework, and urged the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ramona Barth

Flo Kennedy

The ERA was first proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul under the name the “Lucretia Mott Amendment.”  This amendment was introduced in every term of Congress thereafter, finally winning passage in 1972.  Indiana was the last state to ratify the ERA in 1975, leaving the amendment three states short of ratification.

Because the ERA has not been approved as an amendment to the nation’s constitution, women still lack full protection under the law.  Supporters of the ERA continue to introduce the amendment in congressional sessions, and strategize to win its passage.

from the Nancy Dibner papers

The 1980s marked a backlash against feminism, and many debated the value of, or need for, the feminist movement.  In the 1990s, the “third wave” of feminism began to find its voice, calling for a deeper understanding of the intertwining of oppression based on race, class, gender, and sexuality.  Third wave feminists have worked to examine popular culture and politics, and have looked deeply at the notion that the “personal is political,” a slogan made famous by their mothers’ generation, who argued that the choices women made in their personal lives were absolutely connected to the inequalities in society.

About the collections included in this exhibit:

Ramona Sawyer Barth papers
Ramona Barth (1911-2002) was a feminist activist, author, spokesperson for the National Organization for Women (NOW), and teacher.  She was one of the founders of Maine NOW, but participated in protests and actions in many cities along the East coast.   The photographs here represent a small portion of the materials she collected.  These photos document actions, and highlight some of the activists who Ramona Barth worked with during her years in the feminist movement.

Nancy Cushman Dibner papers
Nancy Dibner (1926-2007) was instrumental in the formation of the first Maine chapter of the National Organization for Women.  She served as the chapter’s secretary from its inception. In her own words, she stated that her significance in the NOW organization was her diligence in reminding people of the “necessity in chap[ter] and state of adequate record keeping and files [of the] communications within chap[ter] and organization, [and] press coverage of day-to-day activities as well as actions.”  Dibner was appointed by Governor Ken Curtis to serve as council member from Portland for the Governor’s Advisory Council of the Status of Women activated by the 106th Legislature.  Nancy Dibner became president of the Southern Maine chapter of NOW in 1973 and represented Maine at the 8th NOW National Convention.  She was also the co-editor with Anne Hazlewood-Brady of Mainely Now.

Anne Hazlewood-Brady papers
Born in Sloatsburg, NY in 1925, poet and playwright Anne Hazlewood-Brady graduated from Vassar College in 1946. She completed graduate work in literature at NYU, Columbia, and the University of Maine. She now lives in Arundel, Maine.  She became increasingly active in the women’s movement upon moving to New York City in 1969. Her activities there included the founding of the Women’s Interart Center and involvement in the organization of the Women’s Strike for Equality (1970), which commemorated the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Anne Hazlewood-Brady’s papers document her writing and the production of her work, as well as her personal life and activism.

National Woman’s Party collection
While these papers primarily document the Massachusetts chapter of the NWP, the influence of these women was felt across the country. The suffragists held bold pickets, confronted state and national government officials with the reality that women were being treated as second-class citizens, and were jailed and physically assaulted for their actions. This collection includes photographs, campaign books, journals, records of members and officers, copies of laws affecting women, membership forms, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks.

We hope you have enjoyed this online exhibit.  These collections offer wonderful resources on the study of feminist action in the United States in the twentieth century.  If you are interested in viewing material from any of these collections, please contact the curator for assistance.