Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Myrtle Shane: Devoted Ally of the Armenian People

April 24th, 2017

“I shall stay here and face starvation with the Armenians.” Myrtle Shane, 1920

One of the rewards of working in a place like Spencer Research Library are the unexpected discoveries you make. While working on a project involving the Shane-Thompson Collection, I came across the courageous story of one of James Shane’s daughters, Myrtle Shane. Her story is especially fitting on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

Myrtle Shane from the Shane Thompson Photograph Collection. Kansas Collection. Call Number: RH PH 500.2.18
Photograph of Myrtle O. Shane, undated.
Shane-Thompson Collection, Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH PH 500:2.18. Click image to enlarge.

War always brings with it atrocities, and World War I was certainly no exception. One of the greatest atrocities during that time was the government-sponsored genocide and deportation of the Armenian people, which took place between 1915 and the early 1920s. The Armenian people were Christians who had made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia since the 6th century BC. Control of Armenia shifted between empires, eventually becoming part of the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. The Ottoman leaders and their subjects were Muslim, yet, in spite of this vast religious difference, the two groups were able to live together relatively peacefully. Still, the majority of Muslims viewed the Armenians as “infidels” and subjected them to unequal laws and unfair treatment. Toward the end of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire began to fall apart, and there was growing suspicion among the Muslim rulers that, if given the opportunity, the Armenians would be loyal to Christian governments such as Russia, and that they would turn on their Muslim compatriots. Consequently, in 1894 Ottoman ruler Abdul Hamid II instigated the first of several pogroms against the Armenians, ordering the razing of their villages and the massacre of the people.

In 1914, Turkey entered World War I on the side of the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and at the same time the Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians. The view they held of the Armenian people as infidels and potential traitors was intensified, and now it included Turkish military leaders. The genocide began on April 24, 1915, when the Turkish government started killing and deporting Armenian citizens. At the start of the war there were an estimated two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Between 1915 and 1923 it is believed that over one and a half million of them died by execution, starvation, exhaustion, or disease. There were many non-Armenian witnesses to the genocide, in spite of government imposed restrictions and censorship of photography and reporting. Foreign diplomats and missionaries gave chilling accounts of the atrocities taking place. Among the missionaries serving in Turkey in 1915 was a woman named Myrtle Shane.

Myrtle was born in Lawrence, Kansas, on August 16, 1880, the seventh of ten children born to James and Missouri Lee Shane. Myrtle graduated from the University of Kansas in 1906 and taught school for nearly eight years. In 1913, at the age of 32, she turned her attention to the mission field and joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Her first assignment was to the mission in Bitlis, Turkey, where she was serving when World War I broke out and the full-scale genocide pogrom began., Certificate of Registration of American Citizenry, Myrtle O. Shane, 1913.
Certificate of Registration of American Citizenry
for Myrtle O. Shane, 1913.
Accessed via Click image to enlarge.

By June 1915 the crisis had reached Bitlis, and the Armenian people began to seek refuge in the mission. Myrtle and a handful of other missionaries took it upon themselves to give the refugees as much protection as possible. They did this at great risk because foreigners had been forbidden to offer any help whatsoever. Not conceding to this directive, Myrtle went to the local governor to ask if he would allow the refugees – by this time about sixty women and children – to remain with her at the mission. She was told no, that there were to be no Armenians left in Bitlis. “In that case I will not give them up,” she replied. After several attempts by Myrtle, the governor finally relented and agreed to leave the refugees at the mission as long as he could.

By the middle of July conditions had worsened in Bitlis, and all missionaries were ordered by the governor to leave because he could no longer guarantee their safety, but again, Myrtle and her colleagues refused to go. Eventually Myrtle was the only missionary left to supervise the mission and the refugees. The others had died of typhus (which Myrtle also contracted during this time), been forced to leave because they were men, or been reassigned to positions in other besieged Armenian communities. Several times throughout the summer and fall attempts were made to wrest the refugees from the mission, but Myrtle always managed to negotiate a way to keep them.

By November, though, Myrtle herself was finally forced by the American State Department to leave Bitlis and go to Harpoot, where it was safer for her. She fought the order as long as she could and went reluctantly. She worked in Harpoot until the summer of 1917, when diplomatic relations between the United States and Turkey were severed and Americans were ordered to leave for good. Myrtle returned to the United States in October 1917. With no one left to defend them, the refugees were eventually overtaken. While back home, Myrtle went on a speaking tour and told her audiences what she had witnessed, encouraging Americans to provide support for the suffering Armenian people.

Letter from the State Department to Herbert Thompson, Myrtle’s brother-in-law. Shane Thompson Collection,Kansas Collection. Call number: RH MS 58:1.12.
Letter from the State Department to
Herbert Thompson, Myrtle’s brother-in-law, 1915.
Shane Thompson Collection, Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH MS 58:1.12. Click image to enlarge.

"Told of Cruelties to Armenian Race" article from the Lawrence Journal World, January 3, 1918.
An account of a lecture given by Myrtle Shane
about the “cruelties to [the] Armenian Race,”
Lawrence Journal-World, January 3, 1918.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1919, at the closing of World War I, Myrtle returned to Turkey, having joined the first expedition of the American Commission for Relief in the Near East, an organization formed to provide humanitarian aid in response to the Armenian Genocide. She worked as the director of an orphanage in Alexandropol, housing nearly 5,000 orphans. Ten of her assistants were women she had protected in Bitlis. The post-war Treaty of Sevres established an Armenian state, but the new Turkish regime did not recognize it and soon atrocities against the Armenian people resumed. Again, Myrtle fought to stay with her charges until the tension eased, resisting orders to leave and dedicating herself to defend the people she had come to love. She went on to serve in Turkey, as well as in Greece and Beirut, for another ten years. She retired from the Commission in 1929. Upon her return to the United States, she went to live with her sister, Ella Gilbert, in Columbus, Ohio, and resumed teaching school. On June 28, 1953, Myrtle suffered a stroke and passed away at age 72.

Armenian National Institute, Washington, DC.

Digital Library for International Research.

Hubbard, Ethel Daniels. Lone Sentinels in the Near East: War Stories of American Women in Turkey and Serbia. Boston: Woman’s Board of Missions, 1920.

Shane-Thompson Collection, RH MS 58 and RH PH 500, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Dedication Edition

April 20th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Next Monday, April 24th, marks the 62nd anniversary of the dedication of the Chi Omega fountain.

Photograph of the Chi Omega fountain dedication ceremony, 1955

Photograph of the Chi Omega fountain dedication ceremony, 1955

Photograph of the Chi Omega fountain dedication ceremony, 1955

Photographs of the dedication ceremony for the
Chi Omega fountain, Sunday, April 24, 1955. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Chi Omega Fountain 1955 Negatives:
Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos). Click images to enlarge.

The speakers, from left to right, are Ethel Murphy Filkin, Jessie Parker Filkin, Nellie Barnes, Mrs. E. J. Wilson (Chi Omega housemother), Dorothea Engel Thomas, Jim Bass, Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy, Gretchen Guinn, Father Andrew Berry, and Rev. A. G. Parker.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported on the ceremony the day after it occurred.

The Chi Omega sorority fountain, located at the west end of Jayhawk Drive at Kansas University, officially was dedicated and presented to the University in ceremonies Sunday afternoon at the fountain circle. Approximately 300 students, Chi Omega alumnae and K.U. officials attended the event.

Gretchen Guinn [KU journalism junior], Delmar, N. Y., president of Lambda chapter of Chi Omga, presented the structure to K.U. and Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy accepted it.

In receiving the fountain Dr. Murphy said, “It represents another step in the beautification of the naturally beautiful K.U. campus. The fountain shows the University is interested not only in utilitarian things but in beauty as well.”

“The fountain was copied from a structure in front of an 18th century manor house in Northumberland, England. It was selected because it harmonized with the Chi Omega house which is of English design.”

Mrs. C. Y. Thomas, Kansas City, Mo., gave the greeting from the alumnae and introduced two of the founders of Lambda chapter, Mrs. Roy S. Filkin, 1800 Ind. St., and Mrs. Walter Filkin, Olathe. She also introduced Nellie Barnes, assistant professor of English who did the research on mythology connected with Chi Omega sorority, and Jim Bass, the man [KU fine arts senior] who designed the mythological figures on the lead tank.

The invocation was given by Rev. Albert G. Parker, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Rev. Andrew W. Berry, Episcopal student minister, gave the benediction.

Sunday’s activities brought to a conclusion a drive which began in the fall of 1952 at the 50th anniversary of Lambda chapter. Mrs. Warren Woody, Wilmette, Ill., originated the idea for the fountain and led the drive for funds. She was unable to attend the dedication.

Actual work on the fountain began last fall and it was completed more than a month ago. Erkins Studio in New York City designed and constructed the structure and Constant Construction Co. installed it.

Total cost of the fountain was $11,793.88. Chi Omega alumnae contributed $5,000 and the remainder of the money came from the Elizabeth M. Watkins fund of the K.U. Endowment Association.

Photograph of workers finishing the Chi Omega fountain, 1955

Workers finishing the Chi Omega fountain, 1955. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Chi Omega Fountain 1955 Negatives:
Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Collection Feature: The 1502 Strassburg Vergil’s Opera

April 17th, 2017

Of the sixteenth century Vergils in the Robert Aitchison Collection of Vergil’s Works in Special Collections at the Spencer Research Library, the 1502 Opera, printed at Strassburg by Johannes Gruninger (also known as Reinhart), is the most impressive and the oldest. It is illustrated with 214 charming woodcuts which reveal many aspects of Renaissance life from field and farm to city and tower. These illustrations, certainly the first to create so illustrious a progeny, form the basis for practically all the Vergilian illustrations of the sixteenth century as they may be seen in the 1517 and 1529 Opera of Lyon, the Giuntine Opera of 1537, and the 1546 Opera of Venice.

Aitchison D2. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Publii Virgilii Maro[n]is opera. Strassburg, J. Gruninger, 1502.
Call number: Aitchison D2. Click image to enlarge.

Aitchison D2. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries  Aitchison D2. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Woodcuts and text from the 1502 Opera. Click images to enlarge.

Written by L.R. Lind
Adapted from The R. T. Aitchison Collection of Vergil’s Works at the University of Kansas Library, Lawrence

Throwback Thursday: Student Election Edition, Part II

April 13th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

With Student Senate elections taking place today, this week’s photograph highlights the election for class officers that took place at KU during the fall semester in 1919.

Photograph of student election posters, 1919

Student election posters, 1919. Strong Hall is
in the background. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1911 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

An advertisement for the Loyalty ticket ran in the Daily Kansan student newspaper on October 16, the day before the election: “Loyalty stands for class spirit, student government, faculty student cooperation, [and] better athletic support.”

On October 18, 1919, the day after the election, the Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported the results in a story entitled “Big Vote Was Out at Hill Election.”

The “Status Quo” Senior ticket at K. U., meaning “As It Was Before the War” went “over the top” in the class elections yesterday. Wint Smith being elected president of the senior class with a majority of twenty-five votes over Basil T. Church. Both are Lawrence men. Smith’s whole ticket carried, Eileen Van Sandt of Chanute for secretary running high with 200 votes. Fred Pausch was elected vice-president on the ticket and Warren Blazier of Lawton, Okla., was elected treasurer…

A larger per cent of the students voted in the elections Friday than in any previous year and showed a great amount of interest where there was a contest. Of 350 seniors 320 voted…

In 1947, senior class president Wint Smith was elected to represent Kansas’s (now obsolete) 6th Congressional District. Voters sent Smith to Congress for six more consecutive terms, and he served until 1961.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Workshop Recap: Basic exhibit supports at MAC Omaha

April 10th, 2017

Last week collections conservator Roberta Woodrick and I, together with our colleague Sonya Barron, conservator at Iowa State University, had the pleasure of presenting our half-day workshop Exhibit Support Basics: Solutions for Small Institutions and Small Budgets at the 2017 annual meeting of the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) in Omaha. We had a lot of fun bringing this hands-on workshop to our colleagues in the allied professions, all of whom kept the session lively with their curiosity, great questions, and good humor.

This workshop originated from our wish to share basic exhibit preparation skills with archivists and museum professionals who work in smaller institutions and are responsible for mounting exhibits but who have limited staff and resources to devote to their exhibit programs. Our participants were archivists, librarians, and curators from a range of institutions across the Midwest: small college and university libraries and archives, historical societies, local museums, even corporate and congregational archives.

Our morning began with a brief presentation covering the exhibit support structures and materials we would be working with that day, along with some related variations on those structures meant to inspire participants’ creativity and boost their confidence. As instructors, we wanted to emphasize that effective exhibit supports don’t have to be complicated or costly.

Midwest Archives Conference workshop

Sonya demonstrates how to make flat supports.
Click image to enlarge.

Following the presentation, Sonya demonstrated two simple methods for mounting flat artifacts. As she worked, she also discussed some basic tool safety tips, and we talked about the different materials we were using. After her demonstration the participants tried out the mounting methods for themselves; we three instructors observed their progress and offered guidance as needed, but this was a very focused group – they immersed themselves in the task and were very self-directed!


Midwest Archives Conference workshop

Our students watch Roberta’s book cradle demonstration.
Click image to enlarge.

By this time we were ready for a quick break before regrouping for Roberta’s demonstration of a basic mat board book cradle. With all of her years of experience training student employees, Roberta is a pro at demos! The group watched and took notes intently as she built one cradle, and then they worked on their own cradles along with her as she made a second one. As with the morning’s first activity, our students jumped right in. Despite their claims of having little experience working on such projects, they impressed us with their hand skills and adaptability, and everyone completed their projects with time to spare for discussion at the end of the session.

Midwest Archives Conference workshop

Workshop participants hard at work.
Click image to enlarge.


Midwest Archives Conference workshop

Samples of finished cradles from the workshop. They did an excellent job!
Click image to enlarge.

As instructors, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of participants; they were a cheerful and engaged group who worked very well together and created a friendly atmosphere in the room. Roberta, Sonya, and I are grateful to MAC for the opportunity to bring this workshop to their members, and we are hopeful it won’t be the last time we are able to work together!

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services