Here are two of my favorite images of women from the women’s collections at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.
In gathering these images, I’m reminded of how important it is to recognize the value of visual artifacts such as photographs and graphic images. Visual literacy is the foundation of learning — children learn from pictures before they can read text. Images can provide a more immediate connection because they tend to elicit a more emotional response than reading a textual item. Many people already mentally transcribe textual reading into images in order to facilitate their understanding of information conveyed in words. Examining visual artifacts may reveal aspects not apparent from just reading text, making the development of perceptive and observational skills a valuable part of research. In life, visual literacy—the ability to communicate through images and to make sense of them—helps us to better read an increasingly multimedia world, especially when combined with other sensory literacies, including textual and digital literacies.
Try a visual literacy exercise by applying some of the following questions to the photographs shown here. I have provided the barest information about each. See if you can figure out something about the “who, what, where, and why”. Remember: all images are from collections at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Check out the online finding aids for these collections in order to find out more about each woman.
Leola N. King, the first traffic policewoman in the United States, on duty in Washington, D.C. (Cornelius van Engert papers, GTMGamms169, Box 10, Folder 32)
Step 1. Pick an image.
Look at it for a few minutes. Avoid reading any caption or accompanying text.
Capture your first impression in a few words about what the image shows.
Note everything you see in the image.
Step 2. Determine the purpose of the image.
Read any existing information that accompanies the image.
Who made the picture?
Who was the audience?
When was image created?
Why was the image created?
Step 3. Interpret and Communicate
Verify and support your interpretation of the original using reference sources (including the originating collection).
Share the picture with a colleague.
Compare perceptions. See anything new?
Do you agree with each other’s interpretation?
If you were provided with only a written description of the image, what would you miss?
A National League of Women’s Service poster painter in New York City. (Cornelius van Engert papers, GTMGamms169, Box10, Folder 32)
(Questions adapted from Visual Literacy Exercise by Helena Zinkham, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, June 2004).
--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist
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The ability to print and reproduce artwork was the art world's pre-internet. Printing and sharing images allowed artists to study new styles, merge methods of art production and represent old subjects in new media, revolutionizing the art world. Without the capability of reproducing prints, Iowa born artist Bertha Boynton Lum would have never combined the French subjects of Commedia dell'arte in the style of Japanese woodblock prints.
Costume Ball (1924) Woodcut on paper by Bertha Boynton Lum Georgetown University Art Collection 1111.1.653
Born in 1869, Bertha Lum started her career in the design department at the Art Institute of Chicago at the peak of the fin de siècle style. She returned to the Art Institute in the early 19th century to work with Arthur Wesley Dow, who introduced her to Japanese Woodblock printing. While printing was not popularized in Europe until the 15th century, printing was used in Asia as early as the third century. Lum spent a seven-week honeymoon in Japan and sought a printmaker who could teach her the traditional ukiyo-e method (pictures of the floating world).
Untitled [3 Women in the rain, two with umbrellas] (ca. 1783) Woodcut on Paper by Torii Kiyonaga Georgetown University Art Collection 1111.1.5061
Lum’s work is most akin to the bijin-ga (beautiful person picture) genre. One of the great masters of this genre is Torii Kiyonaga, born Sekiguchi Shinsuke (1752-1815), who passed away around 75 years before Lum’s first visit to Japan. He started out making promotional materials depicting Kabuki actors for theaters. Untitled [3 women in the rain, two with umbrellas] is a prime example of the bijin-ga style.
Toward the end of Lum’s trip to Japan, she discovered a shop that reproduced old prints like that of Kiyonaga’s work. She returned to Minneapolis with the woodcutting tools they sold her and began her practice. Four years later, she returned to Japan for a longer stay, and a professor of the Imperial Art School in Tokyo introduced her to engravers and printers with whom to train. She returned to the United States and printed there until she moved to Peking, China during the 1920s. She stayed in China until 1953 when she moved to Genoa, Italy and died there a year later.
While her work is in the bijin-ga style, Costume Ball (1924) alludes to French lithographs that depict Commedia dell’arte (comedy of the profession), such as the work of Jules Chéret (1836-1932) master of the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era).
(Commedia dell'Arte Figures) for Maîtres de l'Affiche (plate 201) (1898) Lithograph by Jules Chéret Georgetown University Art Collection 1996.38.6
In this work, (Commedia dell'Arte Figures) for Maîtres de l'Affiche, we see several figures from the Commedia dell’arte.Commedia dell’arte was a theater production originating in Italy known for its masked typed characters. Perhaps the most famous masked type is that of the Harlequin. In Chéret’s figure his Cherette, possibly a Colombina figure (a perky maid), accompanies two Harlequin figures (servant figure known for colorful clothing) and one Pierrot (sad clown wearing a white flowy costume with large buttons). Lum also depicts a Pierrot figure wearing a black mask and a white frock with a ruff. Coincidentally, Lum’s Pierrot figure playing an instrument is highly reminiscent of André Derain’s painting created in the same year, Harlequin and Pierrot (1924), that is housed at the musée de l'Orangerie, thus underlining the French connection.
Lum’s work speaks to the fluid nature of prints. The print’s ability to travel across the globe allowed for Lum, an American woman, to combine French subjects of Italian theatre in a Japanese style.
--Katie O’Hara, University Art Collection Curatorial Intern and Graduate Student in Art and Museum Studies
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The movie First Man is out in theaters, and we all know quite a bit already about the first man on the moon. But what do you know about the first photographs of the far side of the moon?
Many unusual and interesting objects find safe haven in the University Archives. One of our favorites is a 1967 Soviet globe of the moon, which likely came to the Archives from the Georgetown University Astronomical Observatory.
Professor Yuri Naumovich Lipsky (1909–1978) led the study of the first photographs of the far side of the moon, from the Luna-3 spacecraft flyby in 1959 and the Zond-3 flyby in 1965. The first full globes of the moon’s surface, as well as selenographic maps, were produced under his direction.
Scientists were of course mapping the near side of the moon long before Professor Lipsky and his extraordinary spaceborne cameras reached around it. The map below comes from Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s Almagestum novum (The New Almagest), 1651 (call #80B30 in the Library’s rare book collections). Riccioli (1598-1671), a Jesuit astronomer, introduced a new system of lunar nomenclature that is still in use today.
Many of the names preliminarily assigned to craters and landscapes by the Soviets on our lunar globe would later change to internationally agreed designations. Georgetown’s Fr. Paul A. McNally, S.J., who became director of the Georgetown Observatory in 1928, had a crater named after him in 1970 after this globe was produced. The blue dot on this photo shows approximately where that crater is on the globe. As to the place names surrounding it, Kovalevskaya is the only name in this photo that remains accurate, as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) chose to use the other names displayed for different craters.
The IAU, at its 17th General Assembly in 1979, voted to name a crater in the very center of the far side of the moon in Professor Lipsky’s honor, at coordinates 1.97 degrees S, 179.56 degrees W. Our lunar globe and Riccioli’s The New Almagest are available for study in our reading room.
Stephanie Hughes, Communications and Projects Coordinator, Booth Family Center for Special Collections and Steve Fernie, Library Website Coordinator
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In the early days of Georgetown College, the naming of campus buildings seems to have been a remarkably uncreative activity. Buildings were named for function, like the Infirmary which opened in 1833 (known to us as Gervase) or the Small Boys Building (now known as Maguire) which opened in 1854 to separate the "small" boys or prep students from their older counterparts and the potentially bad influences that they might exert.
And if not named for function, our buildings were named for geographic location. An example is the West Building, or the western wing of the south row, which were both early designations for Isaac Hawkins Hall. The most familiar example of geographic location influencing naming is the North Building, which became "Old" in 1926 when New North opened.
Consideration of our early naming practices seems to naturally raise a question which I get asked far less often than I'd expect: we have an Old North and a New North and we have a New South, so shouldn't there logically be or have been an "Old" South as well?
The answer is that there was indeed a South Building. In fact, that was one of the names associated with our first building, begun in 1788. This was also known over time as the Carroll Building and the Old College. The South Building was razed in 1904 to make way for Ryan Hall, 54 years before work on New South began--or perhaps I should say on the building we call New South today. Because it appears that when Ryan Hall opened in 1905, consideration was given at least briefly to naming it New South. One lone document in the archives testifies to this: the cover of a dance card from the dance held to celebrate the building's opening on February 21, 1905, which identifies the building as New South. However, likely because the University wanted to recognize the financing of the building by Mrs. Thomas Fortune (Ida) Ryan, four of whose sons attended Georgetown, the New South designation did not stick and the building was named Ryan Hall instead. And so, the New South name was still available for use in the 1950s.
--Lynn Conway, University Archivist
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Any Georgetown student or alum can probably sing the "Alma Mater" or the "Georgetown Fight Song" in their sleep. But what about such ditties as the “Hipper Dipper," the “Ray-Cheer," or, my personal favorite, the “Short Yell"? Never fear, dear Hoyas! We in the University Archives are here to help. Below you will find a sampling of Georgetown cheers and yells that fans have sung proudly over the years. It is high time tunes like the “Locomotive” or the “Dirge” make a comeback. Why not learn a new cheer and impress your friends at the next home game!
I'm often asked to name the most unusual item in the University Archives collection. My response is sometimes influenced by the records I've most recently worked with but, more often than not, I say it is a lemon. Now as a general rule, fresh produce and archives do not pair well (we have a strict no eating/drinking policy within our spaces, after all). But this particular lemon is pretty archives-friendly, given that it is entirely encased in an acrylic cube. It is also over 45 years old but looks good for its age, as the acrylic is retarding the decomposition process rather effectively.
Sadly, there is no documentation in the archives as to who preserved the lemon or who donated it (if you have details, please let us know). It was here when I arrived in 1994. The understanding of the Archives staff is that the lemon played an active role in the lemonstration organized on February 2, 1973. A lemonstration is, naturally, a demonstration involving lemons and during this campus protest, students placed around 6000 lemons against the door to the President’s Office while the Board of Directors was meeting inside. The protest was over proposed increases in tuition and board and also rising enrollments. In case you are wondering how 6000 lemons happened to be available, student vendors organized by the Lemon Day Committee sold them in front of Healy Hall for 5 cents each, with the money raised going to a scholarship fund. These vendors hawked their wares by shouting slogans such as Buy a lemon - Show the Board of Directors your education has gone sour. Undeterred, the Board approved the increases.
Many of the items in the Archives require careful handling because of their age and/or format. Not so the lemon, and its virtually indestructible nature has allowed it to accompany me to many student instruction sessions, presentations, and open houses where it has been passed around, held up to the the light, and closely examined for signs of decay. The presence of the lemon elicits conversation, testifies to the ingenuity and creativity of the Georgetown students who shaped and participated in the protest, and challenges expectations of what you might expect to find in an archives.
Visitors are very welcome to see the lemon "in person" in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections on the 5th floor of Lauinger.
While cataloging the University Art Collection’s 509 German movie posters this summer, I came across this 1977 poster for the film The Blue Bird (released in East Germany as Der blaue Vogel). The artistic style makes this poster stand out from the others, and it is also unusual in the collection since it was designed by a woman, Roswitha Grüttner.
Roswitha Grüttner (born 1939 in Heidebreck, Germany) has worked as an artist, illustrator, and designer from the completion of her degree in design and book art in 1964. Although this poster is more representational and realistic than most of her work, it is less so than most poster illustration of the period.
The Blue Bird, a play in six acts, was first published in 1908 as L’Oiseau bleu. The playwright, Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), went to a Jesuit school as a child, where he smuggled poetry books into the school grounds.
People have connected The Blue Bird to socialist ideology, and evidence from Maeterlinck’s other writings suggests that he may have done so as well. The connection between this passage and parts of The Blue Bird is not difficult to draw. At the beginning of the play, siblings Mytyl and Tyltyl look enviously out of their window into the house of the rich children who live next door. Mytyl complains that it isn’t fair for her family to go hungry while others have more than enough to eat. After a dream adventure in search of the Blue Bird of Happiness, they return home to discover that the Blue Bird was in their own backyard the entire time. They unhesitatingly give it to their neighbor’s sick daughter, and learn to be content with what they have.
--Isabelle Raposo, 2018 University Art Collection Summer Intern from Wellesley College
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The year 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass (circa February 1818 - February 20, 1895). Born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland, Douglass boldly escaped from slavery to the North in 1838. For many years, he was active as a speaker and organizer in the abolitionist movement to end slavery in the United States. In 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. During the Civil War era, Douglass published his own abolitionist newspapers and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln on occasion. During Reconstruction, he continued to fight for civil rights for both African Americans and women.
From 1877 to 1881, Douglass served as the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia. On December 17, 1879, Douglass penned a letter to a Mr. Robinson about an image of himself that appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a notable newspaper of the time featuring images drawn from photographs and sketches.1 It seems that Mr. Robinson worked for Frank Leslie’s. That particular periodical published an interview with Douglass, accompanied by an etching, on December 13, 1879. In his letter, Douglass informed his correspondent that he “was more than pleased with your reports of the interview published in the weekly,” but then he weighed in on the accompanying image:
The portrait was satisfactory – about as much so as pictures of the sort can well be to those who happen to be pictured. I do not see myself as others see me and therefore I may be pardoned if I fancy myself a little better looking than your picture makes me. Upon the whole however, I like the picture and recognize the justice of the hand that traced it.
Douglass’s letter derives from the John Gilmary Shea papers (box 2, folder 52), a manuscript collection here at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Shea, the preeminent American Catholic historian of the nineteenth century, worked as an editor for Frank Leslie’s for a time. Shea was also an avid collector of documents and signatures of notable people, so it seems likely that he obtained this letter while working at the newspaper. The document bears the “Shea Col” stamp placed there by an archivist at Georgetown College (now University) after the Shea papers arrived at the Georgetown College archives in 1892.
In the interview in the December 13 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Douglass contends that although some African Americans may find opportunities in the North, others could find opportunities in the South. Douglass was aware of challenges in the South, however, as he said, “There is no doubt that in certain sections of the South, especially in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, violence and intimidation have been resorted to.”
The image Douglass saw in Frank Leslie’s on December 13, reproduced below, depicts Douglass in his role as U.S. Marshal, seated at his desk in City Hall.
Douglass’s letter reflects his gentle sense of humor about his likeness. The etching it references, however, represents just one of the many images of Douglass made during his lifetime. Scholars John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier identified Frederick Douglass as “the most photographed American of the nineteenth century.”2 Through their research, the authors discovered 160 distinct photographs of Douglass. That figure does not include all of the engravings, lithographs, sketches, paintings, and other non-photographic images of Douglass over the years. The image from Frank Leslie’s seems to be an etching.
--Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist
1Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper is available online from Accessible Archives. In the December 13, 1879 issue, the image of Douglass is on page 257 and the interview is on pages 258-259.
2John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Norton, 2015), ix.
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Seven years ago, I curated an exhibition on women travelers at the Booth Center for Special Collections. During my research I was surprised and delighted by the discovery of the trove of women’s papers held in the manuscripts repository: diaries, letters, and manuscript works that, for the most part, had been forgotten or side-lined by the major collecting areas -- my understanding is that this is not an unusual phenomenon unless an archive has been created with a specific focus on women’s collections.
One of the sub-themes of the exhibition was intrepid women travelers to remote and so-called “exotic” locations. Of course the names of Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark come to the fore – and I was rewarded by finding letters, books and photographs to represent them. Then a helpful colleague told me about Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), described variously as explorer, Buddhist spiritualist, writer and anarchist, who garnered fame not only by traveling to Lhasa, Tibet in 1924 when it was closed to foreign visitors, but also as the first woman to do so. Needless to say, I was crestfallen not to have come across anything by her in the repository. My exhibition went on without this amazing and fascinating woman traveler.
Last month, I found myself looking into a box of letters written to Marie-Therese Cosme, wife of Henri Cosme, the French ambassador to China in 1939. There, a few folders from the front were two letters written in the neat, legible hand of Alexandra David-Neel. Both are dated during the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945), at the time David-Neel, aged 69, was trekking through China to Tibet, with all of her research, translation materials and books. The latter items are her primary concern as she appeals in two letters to Madame Cosme for help to locate and secure them at the English and Canadian mission stations in Chansi and Hunan, as well as at her house, where they were stored.
Following are the two letters from Alexandra David-Neel to Marie Therese Cosme. I have provided a rudimentary translation of the first, dated August 1, 1939; you can find the translation at the end of this post. I invite readers to try their hand at translating the other. Better yet, contact me to arrange for a visit to view these in person!
(Click images to enlarge.)
Alexandra David-Neel was born Louise Eugenie Alexandrine Marie David in Saint-Mande, Paris, France, on October 24, 1868. She was the daughter of Louis David, a journalist and teacher. Her mother was from Belgium where the family relocated and resided until David-Neel was six. A precocious and intrepid explorer of her own backyard as a child, David-Neel never outgrew her wanderlust. When she was 17 she took a train to Switzerland, across the Saint Gotthard Pass to Lake Maggiore in Italy. A year later she cycled to Spain and then to London, where she became involved in a study group associated with the Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky. In 1889, David-Neel moved to Paris to audit courses in Eastern religions at the Sorbonne. Women were not admitted for degrees. In 1890, she travelled to India funded by an inheritance from her grandmother. When funds ran out, she joined a traveling opera company as a singer. The company performed in North Africa and Algeria where she met and married a railroad engineer, Philippe Neel. As always, ahead of her time, she hyphenated her surname to include both maiden and married names.
By 1911, David-Neel had gained some renown in France through lectures on Eastern religions. She was able to return to India on a grant from the French Ministry of Education to study Sanskrit in Benares. During this trip she met the 13th Dalai Lama, recently fled from Tibet after an incursion from China. David-Neel became the first noted woman to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on spiritual enlightenment. In 1924, David-Neel visited Lhasa, Tibet, in disguise, with her long-time traveling companion, a young Lama named Aphur Yongden. She remained in Lhasa for two months, although she never renewed her acquaintance with the Dalai Lama.
David-Neel returned to France for some years between 1925 and 1937 when she again traveled to China. Unfortunately, this time she was caught in the outbreak of the Second World War and was unable to return home until 1946.
Along with translations of Tibetan sacred texts, David-Neel wrote over 30 published books on Eastern religion, philosophy and spiritualism. From book sales she was able to purchase a house in Digne-les-Bains, France, where she lived out her life with Yongden, who died in 1955. David-Neel lived to her 100th year. In 1973 her ashes and those of Yongden’s were scattered on the Ganges River near Benares. Her house in Digne is now the Alexandra David-Neel Museum. David-Neel was also recipient of numerous honors, including the Gold Medal of the Geographic Society of France, and was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
--Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist
Image Credits and Citations:
1. [Alexandra David-Neel in Eastern garments] Fotograf ukjent, Reprofotografi Meyer, Elisabeth Portrett av Alexandra David-Neels, Tibet 1933. Bildetekst: Vår tids største kvinnelige oppdagelsesreisende, Alexandra David-Neels. Halskjedet er laget av 108 pannebraskstykker og på høire side sees det omtalte magiske lårben. 16 x 10,7 cm Sølvgelatin. NMFF.003380-3-1. Preus Museum. URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/preusmuseum/5268407644/in/album-72157625616058050/
2. [Letter 8/1/1939] Marie-Therese Cosme papers, GTM-940608, Box 1, Folder 3. Booth Family Center for Special Collections.
3. [Letter 5/24/1941] Marie-Therese Cosme papers, GTM-940608, box 1, Folder 4. Booth Family Center for Special Collections.
Translation of first letter:
Catholic Hospital, Kanting-Tetsienlou (Sikang) 1st August 1939
The difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves in China appear to be appropriate excuse for certain importunities. I hope that you share this opinion and pardon me for addressing you on the subject of my personal affairs, even though I’m not known to you.
Charged with a mission, I found myself in the mountains, in Chansi, collecting interesting information on oriental studies, when war broke out. It was impossible for me to return to Peking, and having reached Taiyuan, I had to flee hastily to avoid finding myself in a conquered [zone?] and to ensure freedom of movement. During the escape I lost a part of my luggage; another part was saved and stored at the English Baptist mission in Taiyuan, while what remains at my house in Peking has been secured by the ambassador and Dr. Bussiere.
These recent events: pillaging of the English mission at Sifeng (Chansi) which led to abandonment by the missionaries, burning of the Canadian mission in Hunan and massacre of several Chinese members, make me afraid for the fate of the English mission in Taiyan and afraid about my belongings there. I wish to convey some instructions [information] to the director of this mission that he will find helpful if he has to leave. You will see for yourself what this is and also know what is in the other letters which will apprise you completely.
It is necessary that these letters are transmitted as soon as possible to the Ambassador of Peking who will give them to Dr. Bussiere. Monsieur F. Lacaste is current on this matter anyway and together with Dr. Bussiere he will know the means to reach Rev. Price, whom this concerns.
I do not dare to disturb the Ambassador about this but I think being a woman permits me to appeal to you.
Once again, I wish, Madame, to be excused of my importunity, and express my best appreciation and devotion,
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In honor of absolutely nothing in particular, I'm using this blog post to share one of my favorite photos from the University Archives. We have probably close to 200,000 images, so picking favorites is tricky but this image of the 1901 Junior Yard is always going to make it onto my top five list. I love it because in contrast to an abundance of staged and staid group photographs in our collection, this one exudes a more informal air.
For anyone wondering about the age of the students portrayed, until 1919 when Georgetown Prep moved off campus to its present location in Garrett Park in Montgomery County, Maryland, there were always younger students at Georgetown. Our first student, William Gaston, enrolled at the tender age of 13.
The Junior Yard was the athletic association for the prep students—the Yard was the comparable organization for the collegiate division. Their functions were to oversee athletic and recreational activities on campus. Over time this role broadened into other aspects of student life, and by 1920 the Yard President also served as the head of student government.