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!