The credit for the success of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States seems to always go to women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other well-known women who fill the history books. While they most certainly deserve all of the accolades given to them, much of the groundwork for equal suffrage was done at the local level. These well-organized suffrage leagues and associations were part of a national network of volunteers, all working for one common purpose. The women, and often men, in these types of small, grass-roots groups were no less passionate about suffrage for women as their more famous counterparts.
The College Equal Suffrage League was a national organization begun in 1900. The mission of the League was to get college students involved in the women’s suffrage movement. The League fostered branches on college campuses around the country. The University of Kansas chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League was organized in January 1909.
Membership consisted of students, faculty, and staff. The first administrative sponsors of the KU league were Dr. William H. Carruth, Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature; Dr. Arvin S. Olin, Professor of Education; and Carrie Watson, Librarian. Student leaders were chosen from among the members. The women shown here were the officers of the KU chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League for 1909. Also shown is the often patronizing write-up that accompanied their senior class pictures in the yearbooks.
Evidence suggests that the KU League only existed until 1912, and disbanded after women in Kansas had been granted the right to vote in national elections. An article in the December 12, 1912, issue of the University Daily Kansan reports that the League met to “decide whether or not to disband, now that suffrage has carried in Kansas.” There is no mention of the KU League in the university yearbook or newspaper after this date, and, unfortunately, there are no known archival records for the student organization.
Smokey Bear recently celebrated his 75th birthday. Rudolph Wendelin, a KU student in the late 1920s and early 1930s, worked for the United States Forest Service and created Smokey Bear artwork over the length of his career.
According to the Forest History Society that houses his archives, Wendelin was born in Ludell, Kansas, and attended the University of Kansas School of Architecture, as well as art schools in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. After serving in World War II, Wendelin “was given responsibility for the Smokey Bear project and proceeded to create hundreds of Smokey representations that highlighted natural resources conservation and forest fire prevention.”
In honor of Mr. Wendelin and Smokey Bear, we would like to highlight some of the examples of his artwork that are housed in KU’s University Archives. His artistic promise can clearly be seen in the samples featured here.
Rudolph Wendelin studied in the department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering. In a scrapbook from the School of Architecture and Architectural Engineering that spans the years 1913 through the early 1930s, there are many examples of Wendelin’s caricatures.
Wendelin captures student life, including the annual Architect’s Party. In 1932 the theme was “Depression.” The description in the scrapbook, most likely written by Wendelin, indicates that “costumes and decorations were in keeping with this feeling [of Depression] . . .” The event featured “singing and dancing by Bob Mann’s chorus, juggling of balls and jokes by Prof. Beal, and tap dancing by Ruth Pyle . . . Refreshments were served the hungry mob, and dancing followed–to depression music–the radio.”
Wendelin’s work was also included in the Humor section at the end of the 1930, 1931, and 1932 Jayhawker yearbooks. In 1931 he depicted the “Hill’s Hottest He,” which features Sennett Kirk as the most desirable bachelor on campus.
Rudolph Wendelin was also an accomplished sculptor. Early in his career, he used bars of Ivory soap to hone his craft. Rather amazingly, the Archives houses a collection of these tiny sculptures, dated 1929.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment (which prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to U.S. citizens on the basis of sex), the Public Services staff at Kenneth Spencer Research Library are exploring the collections to create a list of materials in our holdings related to this historic event.
This summer, I served as a temporary Reference Specialist in Public Services. One of my primary projects in this role was to seek out women’s suffrage-related materials specifically within the University Archives division of the Library, which documents the history of the University of Kansas and its people.
This project required a good deal of patience and persistence, as it is not always clear whether a collection contains suffrage materials based solely on its title or even on its digital finding aid. As a result, often the best way to be certain of a potentially-promising collection’s contents was to go through them folder by folder, item by item.
Stephens, a Professor of Greek at KU in the late 1870s and 1880s, was the first woman to serve as the Chair of a department at the university. Stephens was asked to resign from her position in 1885, a decision she appears to have attributed to her gender, her lack of religious affiliation, or possibly the recent death of her father, a prominent lawyer and judge. However, Stephens went on to become a prolific writer, editor, and proponent of women’s equality in higher education.
Box 2 of Stephens’ collection contains correspondence, though further details (such as dates or senders of this correspondence) were not previously provided in the collection’s finding aid. As such, I was surprised and thrilled to find the box contained letters from Susan B. Anthony.
Written on letterhead for the “National Woman Suffrage Association” and dated between 1884 and 1888, the letters build on an existing relationship between the two women that appears to have begun years earlier when Stephens served as a translator for Anthony’s lectures in Berlin, Germany. In some instances, Anthony’s writing is social, such discussions regarding shared acquaintances or regarding Anthony’s niece, who she hoped to persuade to attend KU.
In other instances, the contents of Anthony’s letters relate directly to the fight for women’s right to vote. For instance, Anthony asks Stephens to write a chapter in the forthcoming third volume of History of Woman Suffrage (a task Stephens attempted but was not able to complete) and to help organize a Women’s Suffrage Convention in Lawrence (which was held on November 1-2, 1886).
Anthony’s letters also demonstrate her interest in Stephens’ career, expressing congratulations when Stephens becomes a full professor and speculating on the motivations for Stephens later being asked to resign. As to this last event, Anthony wrote to Stephens on June 28, 1887:
The wonder is that a woman was ever appointed & that she remained in that honored & […] office so long as she did – not that when your noble & politically powerful father was gone the woman was dropped – I have no doubt – no matter how many other pretexts were devised – that at the bottom & most pottent of all influences – was the disabling facts – that the woman was not a voter and hence had no political power […]
As these letters from Anthony to Stephens were undocumented in the collection’s finding aid, there was previously no definitive way to learn of their existence. Their re-discovery has been noteworthy, not only for the commemoration of women’s suffrage, but also for prompting a revision of the collection’s cataloguing to help ensure future researchers can find and access them in years to come.
Sarah E. Polo Reference Specialist Public Services
This week’s post was written by Hannah Scupham, an English 102 instructor and Doctoral Candidate in English Literature at the University of Kansas.
“I feel like a detective!”
even know this stuff was here!”
“This is SO
These are just a few of the comments I heard as my English 102 students (mostly freshmen and sophomores) hunched over folders and boxes from the University Archives about past student life and organizations from the past 100 years at KU. For most of my students, this was their first experience in Spencer Research Library, and this experience with archival documents was new and exciting. Although most professors and graduate students use archives for their own research, undergraduate students are often unaware of why archives exist and how they operate. This past semester, I brought my English 102 students into Spencer Research Library and, with the help of University Archivist Becky Schulte, they got hands-on experience doing exciting research with primary sources from the University Archives.
The goal of English 102 is to teach students how to become scholarly writers and researchers and to expose them to scholarly writing genres and research methods. For the past few years, I have always included a unit in my English 102 course that tackles debates and issues in higher education. I want my students to consider the point of their college education as well as learning about issues such as the adjunct crisis, student debt, academic freedom, and increasing administrative oversight. One of the major issues that my students enjoy debating and discussing is student activism. Many students hold the misconception that college campuses have recently become political spaces in just the past five years, yet after diving into the University Archives, we can see that universities and colleges have always been spaces that reflect and respond to the opinions, needs, desires, and politics of its students.
For this assignment, each student was responsible for learning about their chosen KU student organization through archival materials, and they shared their findings with their classmates through presentations that highlighted a particular object from the archive. By examining both the mundane documents of past student life organizations and the media coverage of former student activist groups, my students discovered the lives of past KU students.
Taking all of the student presentations as a whole, the University Archives depict KU’s rich and vibrant history featuring passionate, curious, and community-orientated students. The Archives detail the past lives and struggles of KU student activists like the members of CORE, who fought for desegregation in Lawrence. The archival information about groups such as the Black Student Union, the February Sisters, and Students Concerned with Disabilities also serve as a potent reminder of how students can agitate for change within the university. The University Archives also offers a glimpse into the types of communities from athletics (Tau Sigma [Dance] and Sasnak) to events (KU Medieval Society and KU Home Economics Club) to specialized studies organizations (Graduate Math Women and Wives and the Cosmopolitan Club) that students have made possible throughout KU’s history. My students finished their time in Spencer Research Library not only knowing the basics of how to use archival sources, but also having a larger sense of how their own time at KU will contribute to a long tradition of student life. Many of them noted how much they enjoyed working with primary documents and how they hoped they would be able to return to Spencer Research Library for work in their future classes! (Perhaps there will be a wave of new librarians and archivists in the next four years? Hopefully!)
Personally, I want to give a big thank you to everyone in Spencer Research Library who helped my English 102 students during this process, and a very special thank you for Becky Schulte, without whom these projects could not have happened.
Hannah Scupham, M.A. University of Kansas Doctoral Candidate, English Literature Chancellor’s Fellow Lilly Graduate Fellow
Color Our Collections is back! Started by the New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016, Color Our Collections is a week of coloring craziness where libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world share free coloring pages featuring their collection materials.
KU Libraries participated for the first time last year, and this year we have another coloring book to share! Featuring materials at the Spencer Research Library, this year’s book even includes two pages celebrating the Spencer’s 50th anniversary. You can download and print the book via the Color Our collections website. While you are there, be sure to check out the submissions from our colleagues at other institutions!