Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Transcontinental Journey

Hello there, my name is Margaret and I am a rising sophomore at Mount Holyoke College. I’m class of 2016 so go blue lions! I plan to be a history major with an emphasis in public history (the kind of work I am doing now in the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections.) You can find me in Pratt Music Hall rehearsing for Chorale, in Kendall Fitness Center rehearsing for show choir, or having a tea break in the common room!

Monday, August 3, 1959 
Well, we got started at 7:15 this morning in Kim’s family’s 1954 mercury, mileage 13,770 – pretty much on time since 7 was to be the witching hour – to the tune of last minute reminders such as “Don’t forget the credit card” – “how am I going to get you to remember the clock!” etc.  

So begins the travel journal of four Mount Holyoke juniors the summer of 1959. These four girls drove from New Jersey to California and back in six weeks’ time, staying with friends and family along the way, as well as camping in national parks. What remains of this journey is a journal of postcards, pictures, travel brochures, and typewritten journal entries, weaving the story for us.  I discovered this journal while organizing the Archives’ accessions (collections that are in our database, but don’t have a permanent home yet) and it is easily my favorite discovery of the summer.

When asked about who thought of taking a road trip, Kim Holmquist (née Kimball), Class of 1961 said, “I believe the trip was my idea and my parents, who loaned me their green Mercury, were very supportive, if a bit nervous. I asked around my dorm for people who might be interested, and the other three agreed to join me.” The three women who agreed to join her were Char (Charlotte) Wolter (née Potter), Heidi (Harriet) Zipp (née Vermilya), and Connie (Caroline) Loysen (née Williams). Wolter added that their parents “readily consented to the trip since there would be four of us girls, and we had the itinerary all set before we left.” As a current student, I find this astounding. As much as I love my peers, I would never embark on a road trip for six weeks with three other women I did not know well.

The women began their journey in New Jersey and worked their way west. The writing shows a spunk and humor that is still in the air here at Mount Holyoke. On Tuesday, the fourth of August, Kimball wrote:

“Leaving the Indiana Turnpike we turned to Ellen’s directions for getting to and through Chicago. Of course, Kim the great mapreader led the car the wrong way, but we managed to get on the right road – for a while anyway. The trip through Chicago was somewhat complicated by Heidi’s having lived 20 years without learning her left from her right. When we’d say ‘turn right’ she’d automatically turn left and vice versa, so we just began telling her the opposite and she got along fine.”

"Connie, Kim, and Char [Charlotte] play mechanic!"
It’s this kind of banter that attracted me to the journal. Despite the fact that it was written in 1959, it could easily be the kind of things my friends and I would say about one another today.

"Can we fit it all in?"
"Believe it or not, we made it!"

The women weren’t always treated with respect, judging from the comments in the journal. Wolter adds, “The farther west we got, the more surprised people were, especially boys, who thought we were some kind of exotic creatures.  We had many car problems, so we met mostly auto mechanics and the guys who hung around gas stations.  There were a couple of times when we were stranded in western prairie states when we were a little worried that the drunken boys would follow us once we got on the road again, but that never happened."

Despite numerous car malfunctions, nights they stayed up too late, and mornings in which the alarm didn’t go off, the women made it home safe and sound.

Sunday, September 11, 1959 
Kim left Connie and Heidi off at Heidi’s home and quickly left for home as night was fast falling and she knew her parents would be waiting. Of course she got right in the middle of shore traffic - it took three changes of lights to get through - and finally got home at 7:30, 11,000 miles and 1020 hours from the time she had left - was it six weeks ago? - hardly believing that we had actually been all the way to California and back with  not a scratch and the Mercury (dear old thing, even if we did have to replace practically the whole engine!) all in one piece. A wonderful experience for us all. 

After college some of the women stayed in contact. Zipp and Wolter kept in touch through visits and letters, and were at each other’s weddings. Wolter and the other girls sent sporadic letters, while she and Kim only reconnected on the drive up to their 50th class reunion.

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Also, much thanks to Kim Holmquist and Charlotte Wolter for agreeing to be interviewed. Without their information this post would not have been possible!

Friday, June 21, 2013

I Found It In The Archives: Alumnae Bearing Gifts

Each year at Commencement and reunion, Mount Holyoke rejoices over the generous monetary gifts received from seniors and alumnae. Equally important to Archives & Special Collections staff are donations of materials which help us fulfill our mission of documenting Mount Holyoke’s rich history.

Jane V. Wheeler's Mount Holyoke dog shows his support for Jimmy Carter and Walter Modale in the 1976 Presidential election
Among the many treasurers which we recently received are letters, class papers, notes, College publications, memorabilia, and photographs from Laurie Soojian Woo (1978), Jane V. Wheeler (1978), and Danetta L. Beaushaw (1988) which chronicle their activities and experiences as students.  Thanks to donations of papers, notebooks, and examinations from Carolyn Chesebrough Foster (1958) and graduating seniors Sara Amjad, Sarah Kate Castle, and Ayoola White, researchers will be able to study curricular developments in the College’s teaching of anthropology, art history, biology, chemistry, English, environmental studies, gender studies, history, music, politics, Russian and Eurasian Studies, statistics, theatre arts, and zoology.  Mrs. Foster also donated notes from a chemistry class, a Class of 1914 group photograph, and College publications which belonged to her mother-in-law, Katharine Condon Foster.  Those items will be added to an earlier gift of Foster’s papers described here.

The diary of Faith Harris begins with a description of her arrival at Mount Holyoke
More Mount Holyoke family papers came from Faith Wilson LaVelle (1943), who gave us a wonderfully-detailed diary kept by her mother Faith Harris Wilson (1919) as a student.  Kimberly A. Fletcher (1973) donated scrapbooks full of Mount Holyoke-related letters, notes, programs, snapshots, and memorabilia (including a plastic frog!) which belonged to her mother, June Chandler Fletcher (1942) and grandmother, Florence Tuttle Chandler (1916). 

Katharine Burt with classmates on Freshman Mountain Day in spring of 1908
In addition, we received a scrapbook from Sarah Kimball (1986) compiled by her mother, Ann Weaver Kimball (1953).  And Tom Andrews (by way of his niece, Carson Ellis, 2013) sent us documents and photographs which once belonged to Katharine Burt Andrews (1911).

We were also delighted to receive some College records from alumnae, including:   

  • Class scribe files, reunion booklets, photographs, and memorabilia from Diana Marston Wood (1958) and Nancy Friedman Ross (1973);
  • From Jean M. Luboja (1973), a collection of handwritten notes and instructions which from 1921-1934 provided guidance to officers and committee members of the College’s pre-SGA student government organizations;
  • Program for the 20th celebration of the Mount Holyoke College African and Caribbean Students Association
  • Donations from seniors Ifeoluwa Olokode and Whitney Hughes of records of the Mount Holyoke College African and Caribbean Students Association and The Renegades, Inc. (“a nerd-centric roleplaying club with an emphasis on geekery, friendship, and games”).

All of these gifts gladden the hearts of archivists and researchers alike, but we are always eager to receive more donations! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Presidential Socks: Starting Off on the Right Foot

Hello, I'm Megan, one of the student Archives and Special Collections assistants! I'm a class of 2015 Gender Studies major, and I enjoy playing rugby, long dinners with friends, and discussing feminist and queer issues. I will be contributing monthly blog posts on a variety of objects and stories I find in the Archives.

For this blog post, I'm going to talk about an interesting find from the Presidential Papers of Richard Glenn Gettell.  Gettell was an accomplished economist and professor who worked for Time, the White House, and the U.S. Air Force before becoming the thirteenth president of Mount Holyoke College in 1957. While looking through the contents list for his papers, I discovered that an unusual item is tucked away in one of the boxes- a pair of socks! Curious, I took out the box, and discovered a hand-knitted pair of blue woolen socks, each patterned with a design of a red beer mug and the initials 'RG'. 

According to a clipping from the February 1958 issue of The Mount Holyoke News, these socks were given to President Gettell as an anonymous donation in the President's PO box, along with a poem. The poem explained that this student had knitted the socks for a boyfriend whose initials were R.G., but her boyfriend had "jilted" her, and she hoped that President Gettell would wear the socks instead. The President received the socks the day before his birthday, and wore them to a Tuesday morning assembly of the College.  He also referenced their origins which apparently sparked the interest of the student reporter who wrote the article.

A photocopy of the article was donated to the Archives by the same woman who gave Gettell the socks - Carol Sweeney Benson, née Carol Sweeney, class of 1961, a freshman in Mead Hall. In 1986, Benson sent the article to the Archives, along with a note explaining that she had knitted the socks for Robert Graham, and that over 25 years later, they were still good friends.

Carol Sweeney Benson later mentioned this experience in a recollection of her Mount Holyoke years in the Alumnae Quarterly: "And I certainly remembered the Tuesday morning assembly in Chapin when he [the President] wore my anonymous gift of initialed socks I'd knit for another R.G. who jilted me" (Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, Spring 1992, pg. 21). As of 2011, Carol Sweeney Benson was still an active member of the Mount Holyoke community, recently attending her 50th class reunion. 

Today, many Mount Holyoke students are active knitters, as can be evidenced by the student organization Knit Happens!  We at the Archives wonder if President Pasquerella has received any such unusual gifts. Feel free to comment on your memories of Mount Holyoke presidents, or the most astonishing gift you've ever received!

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Friday, June 7, 2013

You're from the Seventies, But I'm a Nineties Grrrl

You're from the Seventies, But I'm a Nineties Grrrl

First, let me introduce myself! I'm Jennie, one of the new summer Archives and Special Collections assistants. I'm a Gender Studies major in the class of 2015, and I can usually be found gardening, in the discus circle at Mount Holyoke, or drinking tea and talking about social justice with friends. I'll be writing monthly blog posts about topics ranging from athletics at MHC to some of the amazing things in the Archives having to do with feminism. Today, I'm going to write about a set of zines (if you don't know what a "zine" is, don't worry!) I stumbled across in the stacks. I'd love your comments and critiques- let me know about your experiences with the riot grrrl movement, zine making, or the 90s at Mount Holyoke College!
One of the pages from Margaret Rooks' "Quit Chumping" Zine, 1993 

In the early nineties, right at the beginning of what is typically called the third wave feminist movement, punk rock women had had enough. Whether it was sexism in the lyrics of popular punk rock songs or increasing reports of violence and assault at concerts, the punk scene was in no way a safe space for women, both physically and otherwise. Then, in 1991 in Washington, DC, a group of girls started riot grrrl, a punk rock feminism dedicated to a "Do-it-yourself ethic of self-empowerment and independence from authority." The founding members used the term "grrrl" to reclaim what many use as a derogatory term (girl) with an added growl (Rosenburg 1998).

The movement took off at Mount Holyoke College as well, with the help of Margaret Rooks. She was influential in organizing meetings on campus, inviting "all interested grrrls and wmn" to discuss "punk rock feminist issues, creative endeavors, vegan cooking, and sharing of knowledge." One of the "creative endeavors" included zine making. A zine is a magazine/fanzine, often handmade, that includes some original work and has a small circulation. During the riot grrrl movement, zines were incredibly popular forms of dialogue and Rooks herself traded and made her own. Today, zines are gaining popularity again and Mount Holyoke even has its very own Zine Club. Check out their tumblr here: Mount Holyoke Zine Club!

Another page from "Quit Chumping"
To find out more information about Margaret Rooks' zine collection and see her handmade originals, come visit us on the ground floor in Dwight or explore our online resources.

Works Cited:
Rosenberg, Jessica, and Gitana Garofalo. "Riot Grrrl: Revolutions From Within." Signs 23.3 (1998): 809-41. Jstor. Web. 6 June 2013. <>.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Return of the Class Flags

As promised, the class flags have made their way back to the library courtyard!  Time-lapse video of Facilities Management hard at work hanging the flags and doing some aerial cleaning of the courtyard's upper reaches posted below.  You may notice that the red Pegasus flag is absent, but fear not!  It needs a little TLC before rehanging.  The hardware has already been installed to receive it, and we'll post pics (hopefully video as well) as soon as it's ready.