My internship and research at the MWWC

May 6th, 2014 by Tegan Talbot

Over the past semester I have had the opportunity to be a student intern for the Maine Women Writers Collection. When I first began my internship, I had a notion that I would be helping Cathleen in digitizing collections. My idea of an internship was that I would be working for the collection and doing anything that they needed. This idea quickly went out the window upon speaking with Cathleen for the first time this semester. 

I had done a little research at the MWWC the previous year for my history research class, so I had met Cathleen before. She remembered that I was interested in women’s political movements in the U.S. and we began discussing some of the collections they had in the library that focused on just that. She went on to tell me that I would get the opportunity to conduct research of my choosing and would have access to all of their collections. She also told me that I would be able to create my own exhibit at the end of the semester.

This was a surprise to me and I immediately began to have a little anxiety. My overwhelming feeling only grew when Cathleen asked me what I wanted to research. I was probably very easy to read as she began to suggest their National Woman’s Party and Suffrage collections as something I might be interested in. I agreed to look through their NWP collection, but still was unsure what I wanted to focus on.

The next several weeks were dedicated to going through the enormous NWP collection, the bulk of which included newspaper clippings, laws and photographs on the women’s suffrage movement, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. My focus constantly changed. I toyed with the idea of focusing on how women were treated differently than men, where the suffrage movement got it’s influence, and even a connection between the temperance and suffrage movement.

It wasn’t until about six weeks into my research that something really sparked my interest. My research would begin to follow the National Woman’s Party and their journey towards becoming one united party. My research began to look at the two factions of the women’s suffrage movement, The National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage. My biggest interest was in these two factions of women working towards the same goal but with extremely different approaches.

 

I was learning new information every time I looked at the collection. My biggest obstacle was that there was so much information to learn in such a short amount of time. Fourteen weeks was truly not enough to learn everything I wished to learn. The biggest shock came in the last two days of my internship. As I was reading information in the collections I discovered that the two factions of the women’s suffrage movement did not begin as two separate entities. They began as the National Woman Suffrage Association, started by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and then later broke off into two factions, due to differing views on achieving goals.

This meant I had to quickly change and research my information in order to display an accurate exhibit.  This proved to be my biggest obstacle of the semester, other than actually deciding what I wanted to focus my research on.

My internship has been an amazing experience and I am so grateful that Cathleen Miller gave me this opportunity and for all her help and patience throughout this process. I have her, Catherine Fisher, and everyone else at the MWWC and UNE Library to thank for making my exhibit and research possible. I could not have ended my successful college career with out them.

 

The exhibit titled, “Two Kinds of Suffs” is currently on display in the Maine Women Writers Collection. Go check it out!

A Valentine from the National Woman’s Party

February 12th, 2014 by Tegan Talbot

With Valentines Day upon us it seemed as though timing was in my favor. I was reading newspaper clippings from the National Woman’s Party collection when a specific article caught my eye. But first, I shall give you a small background into my research at the Maine Women Writers Collection. I am a history student at the University of Southern Maine, interning at the MWWC, and working towards creating an exhibit for the collection at the end of the semester. I expressed my interest in studying woman’s movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, having previously done research on the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. When Cathleen suggested that they had a collection on the National Woman’s Party, I jumped at the opportunity to learn about a different women’s movement.

The National Woman’s Party was first formed in 1916 to fight for women’s suffrage in all states of the U.S. The party gained much of their influence from Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Nation Woman’s Party collection holds newspaper clippings, photographs, pamphlets, and reports of conferences and meetings held by the party. The “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” was the party’s main focus when they first formed. The Amendment would later become the 19th Amendment in 1920, when it was finally ratified and women gained the right to vote.

The clippings I came across in the collection, were Valentine’s Day poems and images. The National Woman’s Party used these poems and images in the hopes of persuading politicians and businessmen to support the women’s suffrage movement. The Image in the clipping is the valentine they sent to President Wilson to gain his support. The women are holding little hearts that say “votes.”

Clipping from a National Woman's Party scrapbook

These valentines are a very different way to look at the holiday most people associate with flowers, chocolate, and loved ones. The women of the 1916 National Woman’s Party were much more concerned with gaining their right to vote than who they would be spending their Valentine’s Day with. The clippings from the collection allow us to glimpse back at a world where women’s live were much different than ours today.

Visions and words: A selection from the Maine Association of Women in the Fine and Performing Arts

April 5th, 2013 by Ashley Sklar

Sarah Knock (Cumberland, Maine).  A Day in June. Photograph.

Medora Hearn Batstone (Addison, Maine).  Hitching.

Edy Bishop (Portland, Maine).  Beginnings. Marble sculpture.

Beverly N. Greenspan (Maine).  Pictures of the Island.

Karen Saum, producer (Union, Maine). Video still from Working Women of Waldo County – Today.

Mary Ann Meade (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts).  A Natural Process.

Maria Jimena Lasansky, dancer (St. George, Maine).  Photograph by Anne Elzas-O’Keefe (Maine).  Featured in the Portland Press Herald on Thursday, April 26, 1979.

Lee Sharkey (Skowhegan, Maine).  progenitor.

With fresh eyes: The Maine Association of Women in the Fine and Performing Arts

April 3rd, 2013 by Ashley Sklar

Having arrived in Maine last spring with only a vague notion of how I would spend my time, only a few short months went by before I found the Maine Women Writers Collection.  After a couple conversations on archives, life and women with Cathleen and Catherine, I realized this was where I was supposed to land.  I was a two semesters into my masters in library and information science program with Drexel University where I was focusing on archival studies.  As the program was entirely virtual, the MWWC offered a venue for learning the hands-on art of processing an archival collection.  With an art history background and experience working the nonprofit arts world, Cathleen said they had the perfect collection for me.   The papers from an all women fine and performing arts organization had been in their backlog waiting to be fully processed for years.  It was a perfect match.

The Maine Association of Women in the Fine and Performing Arts (MAWFPA) grew out of the energy following the Women in the Arts Workshop held in Augusta in June 1977 at the Maine State Meeting of the Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year.  After attending this meeting, there was a desire by attendees to know more about the activities of women artists around the state.  Later on that same year, Anne Hazelwood-Brady founded MAWFPA as a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission was to support Maine women artists.

In the spring of 1979, MAWFPA organized a three-day arts festival and conference at what was then Westbrook College in Portland called Spectra 1.  MAWFPA received a $5,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) towards their efforts.  With Hazelwood-Brady serving as Director, Eric MacLeod as Artistic Director and Janet Beerits as President of the Board, they put forth a panel of impressive jurors: May Sarton for poetry and literature, Dahlov Ipcar for painting, Andrea Stark for dance and Bernice Abbott for photography.  The Joan Whitney Payson Gallery on campus held the Spectra 1 art exhibition of painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography and film.  Along side the visual arts was a publication of poetry and prose and four performances of music, theater and dance.  There were workshops for artists and a printed catalogue for the fine arts.

As Spectra 1 came to an end, the desire for connection and community among female artists in Maine remained.  After that spring, small regional meetings of MAWFPA were held across the state with the intention of maintaining a shared artistic community in the more isolated areas of Maine.  In addition, MAWFPA organized statewide annual meetings open to all members.

In 1981 with nearly 200 members, thoughts towards another Spectra began to emerge.  In October of 1982, after many months of meetings, planning and fundraising, the month-long arts celebration Spectra 2 opened at the University of Maine at Orono with Anne Elzas-O’Keefe at the helm as Project Director.  Once again Spectra 2 consisted of a multitude of media: a visual arts catalogue, an anthology of poetry and prose and an abundance of performances, workshops and events.

Although MAWFPA elected a Board in 1983, Beerits resigned as President and the activities of the statewide organization seem to have come to an end.  In 1989, Hazelwood-Brady asked Beerits to write a brief history of MAWFPA capturing her time as President from late 1979 through January 1983.  She concludes by writing, “At its peak, about 300 paid members made MAWFPA a real force in the life of women artists of Maine.”

Carrying on the tradition of MAWFPA, the Maine Women in the Arts, one of the original small regional groups, continues to meet in Kennebunkport and can be explored online at www.mainewomenarts.com.

Page 16…and a poem

January 29th, 2013 by Ashley Sklar

Last Thursday, during my processing of the Maine Women in the Fine and Performing Arts (MAWFPA) collection, I had a lovely thing happen.  I am getting towards the end of re-housing all the materials in acid free folders and boxes, working my way through the remaining couple boxes of loose and disorganized papers.  I had been putting off looking through this one overly full folder of items that had a title that I knew had nothing to do with anything else in the collection.  When I opened it, I found it full of papers that made no sense together at all, as if some one swiped this pile off a desk corner (or two) and shoved it in a randomly titled folder.  I checked in with Cathleen and together we decided it should be taken apart and sorted according to the series structure I had carried over from the organization’s filing system.  So I pulled it all out and put financial things with other financial things and the couple artists’ bios and resumes in the right folder.

Also in there was this one piece of paper filled half way with someone’s story.  It was a printed font, but not the typewriter font of many other documents in this collection, as it dates from about 1977 through 1983.  The page was numbered 16 in the top right corner.  For some reason I recognized the font and even a bit of the story or the rhythm of how it was typed out, as I still had not actually read the writing through.  I hung on to it and pulled out the Membership & Submissions series that I knew contained the artists’ submissions to Spectra 2, the organization’s multidisciplinary month-long art exhibition and showcase that took place around the state of Maine in October of 1982.  I located the folder with the poetry and prose submissions (a rather stuffed one) and started to go through page by page.  Each submission is numbered though some are only one sheet with a poem and others are short stories or essays that are any where from a few to twenty pages.

So I kept going page by page and I found this lovely poem entitled Leaving by Rosa Lane.  I had not paused to read anything yet, but I felt compelled to read this poem (see it below) and I quickly fell for it, so much so that I had to write it down for myself.

Turning back, I then kept going through the folder.  I got to submission number 28, a short story called Smoke by Lucy Honig, the last one in the folder amazingly.  I immediately recognized the distinct font and started flipping through the multi-page submission…page 5… page 9… page 15… I added page number 16, the last page of her short story.  Last week, this was my small and pleasing moment in the archive.  I am happy knowing that I put her story back together and will leave it in one whole piece.

Below is the poem I found along the way…