On the Margins of History

Let me preface this by an acknowledgement of how witty I thought this title was. Not only will I be discussing the metaphorical margins of history (through Bryn Mawr’s Summer School for Women Workers), but through the very physical margins of archived evidence. Where to begin…

I think that one of the most interesting links that I’ve been noting through out numerous pieces of artifacts were the notes written in the margins. In documents, it’s very common for me to find handwritten anecdotes on the original paper. For example, when I was looking at the archives in the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives I came across underlines of words, doodled smiley faces, and handwritten names. What do these hand written notes mean? What was the significant to the original owners? These little things mean nothing to me. I can only guess at what importance they played in the lives of others. In some instances, it seems obvious- a heart next to a name suggest a relationship of endearment. But what about when I can’t read the text? What am I missing?

This was exactly my thoughts when I was reading the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry 11 Letter Boxes 7 feet 2 inches linear 2 Flat Boxes 3 feet linear. On the very first page, on the bottom left margin, is a note that begins with ‘No.’ (1).  The line that was bracketed off reads, “The Summer School syllabi, housed in boxes 4, 5, and 6, were transferred from the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, in February 1985.” (2) The rest of the ‘No’ is unreadable. Does the writer know something that I don’t know? Obviously, they were trying to contradict something within the bracket, and had made a hand written annotation in an attempt to write the wrong. Unfortunately, I can’t read what they had written. Could my understanding of history have been altered by the note that I don’t have access too?

Naturally, this lead me on a hunt. After googling the Sophia Smith Collection, I found two records of Bryn Mawr’s Summer School for Women Workers in their database- Eleanor Gwinnell Coit Papers (1913-1974) and Mary van Kleeck Papers (1849-1998). The Eleanor Gwinnell Coit Papers seem to contain information on her work with the American Labor Education Service, as well as education associations and councils. (3) The Mary van Kleeck Papers seem to include “a significant amount of material relating…(to) Bryn Mawr Summer School for Student Workers” (4). Both sets of papers are available thorough the Sophia Smith Collection. Regardless, the little marginal notes from my organizational box achieve papers led me on a small hunt for missing information- it arrived in the form of two women who had written on the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Student Workers, and were involved with its educational processing. Granted, I never learned what the “No” was in reference to, but I felt like I had made a small discovery instead.

 

 


(1) “File #3456: “Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry Finding Aid.pdf” Omeka RSS. (Accessed February 10, 2016. http://greenfield.brynmawr.edu/files/show/3456.) 1.

(2) “File #3456: “Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry Finding Aid.pdf” Omeka RSS. (Accessed February 10, 2016. http://greenfield.brynmawr.edu/files/show/3456.) 1.

(3) “Eleanor Gwinnell Coit Papers, 1913-1974: Collection Overview.” Eleanor Gwinnell Coit Papers, 1913-1974: Collection Overview. Accessed February 10, 2016. http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss229_main.html.

(4) “Mary Van Kleeck Papers, 1849-1998 : Collection Overview.” Mary Van Kleeck Papers, 1849-1998 : Collection Overview. Accessed February 10, 2016. http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss150_main.html.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *