Friday, February 28, 2014

Black History Month in the Archives!

The Archives and Special Collections is proud to have documents relating to many black alumnae of Mount Holyoke College. Here we've chosen to profile a few wonderful and accomplished graduates.

Hortense Parker Attends Mount Holyoke (1879-1883)

Hortense Parker was the first known black woman (and woman of color) to attend MHC. Her father, John P. Parker, was an ex-slave and abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her sixteen classmates remembered her as gracious, tenacious in her beliefs, and a talented pianist. She died in 1938 at age 79.

Martha Rolston Perkins was the second known black graduate of MHC. She majored in literature at Mount Holyoke and expressed pride in the institution. After graduating in 1889, she went on to be an executive secretary in New York City for 27 years. The Betty Shabazz Cultural House was named after her until 1980.

Margaret Claytor Woodbury (Class of 1958)
Margaret Claytor Woodbury graduated pre-med in 1958 with a physiology major. She continued on to be a physician and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. She also was the president of the Alumnae Association and on the Board of Trustees.

Gloria Johnson-Powell (Class of 1958)
Gloria Jonson-Powell graduated in 1958 with a degree in economics and sociology. She was a part of the civil rights movement, where Martin Luther Kind Jr. advised her to stay in college instead of dropping out to recruit more Freedom Riders because "one of these days, we are going to need you." She was the first black woman to gain tenure at Harvard Medical School and now is an Associate Dean and Professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Mary McHenry Teaches at MHC (1974-1999)
Mary McHenry graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1954 and went on to teach English here. She brought the study of black literature to MHC and taught Suzan-Lori Parks, a renowned playwright. She also introduced Parks to James Baldwin when he was a visiting Five College lecturer. McHenry also taught English at Howard University, George Washington University, and Federal City College (Now the University of DC.)

Sheryl McCarthy
Sheryl McCarthy graduated in 1969 with an English major. She was the first woman columnist for New York Newsday, as well as being a former trustee of the college. She has written for Ms Magazine, USA Today, and The Nation. She currently works actively to connect current students with alumnae in the field of journalism.

Gabrielle Gregg (Gabi Fresh)
Gabi Fresh graduated from Mount Holyoke in 2008. She was MTV's first Twitter jockey and currently runs a "fatshion," or fat fashion blog aimed at encouraging plus size women to "take risks and have fun with clothing." She credits Mount Holyoke's all women's environment as empowering her in her life and career.

Tonight, February 28th at 7:30pm, the Association of Pan-African Unity will be putting on a cultural show called "Shamelessly Black." It will feature skits, songs, poetry, and music, all in the Blanchard Great Room. Make sure to stop by and check it out! To see more photographs and documents from the Archives and Special Collections, take a look at our Tumblr! Stay tuned for upcoming information about Hortense Parker Day and other events.

Thanks to Megan Haaga, ASC Assistant, for her aid in the research for this blog post. All images except that of Gabi Fresh come from the Archives Digital Collections. The image of Gabi Fresh can be found on her blog.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Diversity and the Hive Mind: A few thoughts on Wikipedia Edit-a-thons

On Tuesday, Grace Yoo posted about the well-documented gender gap among Wikipedia editors, and I want to add to that with a few thoughts on why I think contributing to Wikipedia is exciting and worthwhile.

A few weeks ago, as we were finalizing logistics for our upcoming Seven Sisters Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, I was greatly inspired to hear about the huge success of the recent Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon. Based in NYC but with satellite locations all over the world, participants created 101 new Wikipedia articles for women artists previously not represented in this popular crowd-sourced encyclopedia. Such a monumental show of effort speaks to what we can accomplish if we all pitch in at once.

A headline about the the Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon caught my eye in The Guardian last week, and I was disappointed when it took me to an opinion piece on an Art & Design blog questioning the value of this effort. The author is cynical about the project of “editing truth” as a collective and asks if Wikipedia is really the best place to promote women in art. To my mind, it’s not exactly a promotional campaign to make sure information is available when people go looking for it, but I certainly think it’s worthwhile (being a librarian, this is pretty much what my career is about). Also, and perhaps most crucially, editing Wikipedia is not an activity that defines truth; it’s an activity that improves a reference source. Wikipedia itself makes clear that it is a place to aggregate knowledge, not to create or publish new knowledge. As is true for any reference source, what information is gathered and how it is presented depends on the editors. We trust scholars in different fields to appropriately aggregate and present important information in the Encyclopedia Brittanica (for an easy example). When it comes to Wikipedia, this responsibility falls to all of us.

The great idealistic vision underlying Wikipedia is that if we have a big enough and diverse enough group of editors, we can achieve a level of neutrality and of accuracy unheard of in any other encyclopedia. Diversity in the hive mind isn’t easy, and the recent struggles of Wikipedia illustrate that clearly. But the ideal is a good one. At Mount Holyoke, as at any college, we have privileged access to scholarly information through the library’s collections and databases. Let’s pull out these books and journals and share some of this information with the rest of the world. 

If we keep it up, we just might make a difference. 

I hope to see you at the edit-a-thon on Tuesday!

Event details:

Date: March 4, 2014
Time: 4-8pm (stop in for as long or as little as you like!)
Location: Williston Library, atrium
What to bring: You! Laptops are useful but not necessary.

All are welcome! There will be popcorn and progress!

Check out our event page on Wikipedia for details about concurrent events at Barnard and Smith and events later this month at Bryn Mawr and the Radcliffe Institute.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Join Us March 4 for the Seven Siblings Women's History Month Wikipedia Edit-a-thon!

Next Tuesday, March 4, MHC LITS will be hosting a Seven Siblings Women's History Month Wikipedia Edit-a-thon from 4 to 8pm in the Library atrium! Edit-a-thons will be happening at the same time at Barnard and Smith Colleges, with Radcliffe and Bryn Mawr holding events later in the month. Here's a video of last year's edit-a-thon to get you psyched:

The goal of this edit-a-thon is to promote understanding of the Gender Gap of Wikipedia editors and create a space for women to edit Wikipedia entries. Here is a quick and dirty introduction to the Gender Gap.

What is the Gender Gap?
The discrepancy between the number of people identifying as male and those identifying as female who are active contributors to the Wikimedia movement.

The findings of a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project were that female Wikipedia editors in 2008 accounted for 22.7% of all editors. In 2013, the percentage of Wikipedia editors identifying as female was 16.1%. From this data, it is evident that women are grossly underrepresented among Wikipedia editors(2).

To decrease the gap by increasing the number of female-identifying Wikipedia editors, the Gender Gap Manifesto was created. The manifesto can be found by clicking on link (1).

Why is the Gender Gap a problem?
To us, it might seem obvious why having an overwhelming percentage of male contributors to a crowd-sourced knowledge base is problematic. But let’s spell it out anyways.

First of all, a lot of internet users choose Wikipedia as a source of information when doing research. According to another Pew survey, 42% of Americans used Wikipedia in May 2010. This is estimated to represent about 53% of American adults that regularly go online. So, the information presented on Wikipedia is accessed often and is influential.

Maia Weinstock, a science writer who co-organizes Brown’s edit-a-thon noted, “Most of history has been written by men about men… Many women have contributed important things to history that have been left out of the official records, whether that’s in science or any area of life. Wikipedia is one of - if not the - most popular encyclopedias in the world, so to not have as many women represented in science in particular is a travesty.”

The Gender Gap causes skewed representation of coverage of or emphasis on topics:
Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists...are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-­ranking quality scores.” (3)

This representation of coverage/emphasis on topics also includes the controversies surrounding categorization. For example, the separation of categories: American women novelists from American novelists. The rationale as to why this is problematic is as follows: “As per gender neutrality guidelines, gender-specific categories are not appropriate where gender is not specifically related to the topic. This subcategory also creates the unfortunate side effect that Category:American novelists contains only male novelists.” (4)

The objectivity of Wikipedia is compromised
Because of the skewed nature of topics covered, the quality of Wikipedia is compromised. (Of course, none of you should be using it as a source of information for research anyways…)

But wait… how can an online, collaborative effort be sexist? It isn’t like there is an elite group of Wikipedia editor hirers that are actively discriminating against female editors, leading us to ask this next question:

What is causing and/or perpetuating the Gender Gap?

Overt and pervasive misogynistic attitudes
There have been many disturbing reports about the treatment of women contributors on Wikipedia. Because some of the content is potentially a trigger, I will post links to this information rather than explicitly list them here.
medley of reasons (Personally, I am off-put by #3 and #4 and find #1 and #9 irrelevant)

What are some potential benefits of decreasing the Gender Gap?
Improve the quality of information provided by Wikipedia
At MHC, we know that information is improved by the addition of differing perspectives. We know that the best way to get differing perspectives is to ask people with different life experiences.

Open doors to more groups
Including women will hopefully spur the inclusion of other historically disempowered groups, leading to more diverse perspectives.

I hope that this short introduction has convinced you that participating in our edit-a-thon is important! Hope
to see you there!



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

"We hold these truths to be self-evident..." These words were written in a strongly worded protest letter to Mount Holyoke College's student newspaper in November 1976.  What did these words presage?  An anti-war protest?  No, the Vietnam War had ended a year prior.  A feminist call for the right to choose or equal rights?  Not this time.  A failed promise for ice cream on Founder's Day?  Yes, that's the one...

Students receiving ice cream on Founders Day, 11/7/1964

On November 4, 1976 choragos (aka Mount Holyoke News) ran a front page headline article calling on students to arrive at Mary Lyon's grave at 7AM on Saturday to receive ice cream from the Trustees.  The article quoted Mary Tuttle, Assistant to the College President, who said she had a 'feeling in her bones' that the Trustees would deliver ice cream to the students.

What the editors of the paper did not know was that the Board of Trustees was hotly divided on the issue of serving ice cream on Founders Day.  They even took a balloted vote, which failed to affect a decision on the issue.  Because of the division, the Trustees resolved not to serve ice cream at all.  However, this information was not communicated to the students.  When Saturday morning arrived, approximately 75 students congregated at Mary Lyon's grave to receive their traditional treat, only to found out there would be no ice cream served that day.

The students were furious.  Is there anything that boils the blood more than a false promise of ice cream?  When the next issue of choragos came out on Thursday November 11, it included a letter to the editor titled "Where's the ice cream?"

The letter boldly declared: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that Mount Holyoke women will do anything for ice cream, and that they are endowed by the Founder with a natural taste thereof.  To satisfy these tastes, traditions are instituted among women.  Whenever these traditions are neglected, it is the right of students to register their protest."

It wasn't just the lack of ice cream that infuriated these students.  It was the fact that they had risen early on a Saturday morning and braved the wind chill factor to receive this ice cream, only to be denied.  The letter explained: "Laying at the foundation of this complaint is the bitter cold and disappointment of waiting for a half hour at Mary Lyon's grave for the good to be delivered in order to affect a breakfast there."

While this letter didn't reverse the lack of ice cream for 1976, the Board of Trustees learned an important lesson from the event: don't mess with traditions, especially ones that involve ice cream.  The Trustees would resume their tradition of serving ice cream at Mary Lyon's grave the following year and the tradition has continued until the present day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To Mount Holyoke, With Love

Every year in honor of Esther Howland, Class of 1847 and mother of the American commercial valentine industry, Archives & Special Collections displays its collection of historic valentines that date between the 1840s and 1980s. This year we're also having a valentine-making party in the library atrium! So come join us from noon to 2pm today to be inspired by the historic valentines on display (curated by Maura Anderson, Archives Assistant, Class of 2017!) and to share the love!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love is in the air!

Oh Jorge, always dapper in a bow tie!
No one to snuggle up with this Valentine's Day? Come find true love at the library! Over the past week, we have been working hard on our match making skills. This year's selection of blind dates has something for everyone. Looking for a bit more adventure? How about a mystery? As always, there's bound to be a date for even the most incurable romantic. 

Critters? Mythical Horses!
Pick up a date today! No pick up lines needed.

Love, War, and Idaho- need we say more?
The display will be up through Friday (2/14); be sure to pick up your date before someone else does!

P.S. Please don't forget to check out your date- literally!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

MEWS Open House, Tuesday, February 11, 7-8 pm

Need to produce a digital story for a class? Want to know how to edit your cell phone videos? Need to capture video or audio for your class project?

Jorge and the RISE video consultants are holding an open house in the Mediated Teaching Area in Dwight on Tuesday, February 11, 7-8 pm. Drop by and learn more about how these student consultants and this space can support your multimedia projects. The consultants will be demonstrating video and audio capturing with the equipment in the MEWS. They will show you how easy it is to use iMovie to make videos, and how you can make an appointment for a personal consultation with a consultant. They'll also be previewing a couple of the movies they have created.

Get a start on your video and audio projects for this term.

Please join us for button making, cider, donuts, and fun!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MHC Archives/Asa Kinney Re-photography project

Asa Kinney, 1904

LITS Digital Assets and Preservation Services (DAPS) Digitization Coordinator, James Gehrt, is working on an independent study project involving the MHC Archives Collection. This project is based on the work of Asa Kinney, a Professor of Plant Science at MHC. Kinney was a botanist and a prolific photographer who captured campus scenes, architecture, and group shots around Mount Holyoke from 1898 - 1942. James's project is a part of his Masters In Library and Information Sciences studies at Simmons College. This independent project will involve accessioning boxes of previously unseen glass plates. James will then select 20 scenes to re-photograph and build an online exhibition showing the span of time on the MHC campus.

Most of the images that have not been accessioned are from Kinney's personal collection. These images include family portraits, garden scenes, plant experiments, and copy images. Here are a few samples:

James is keeping a blog that documents his process and discoveries as the project progresses. Feel free to follow along! There you'll find biographical information about Asa Kinney, technical details on the often fragile original materials, and some surprising images long hidden away.