Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

The Search for Women’s Suffrage: Re-Discovering Letters from Susan B. Anthony

September 3rd, 2019

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.

My most exciting find came from the Kate Stephens Collection (PP 43). In Box 2, I came across seven letters written to Stephens by noted women’s suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony.

Image of a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Kate Stephens, May 12, 1884
Image of a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Kate Stephens, May 12, 1884
A letter from Susan B. Anthony to Kate Stephens, May 12, 1884. Call Number: PP 43, Box 2, Folder A-F. Click images to enlarge.

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.

Top: A portrait of Kate Stephens taken during her Greek professorship at KU, 1880s. Bottom: A portrait of Stephens, undated. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Stephens, Kate (Photos). Click images to enlarge.

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 […]

Image of a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Kate Stephens, June 28, 1887
Image of a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Kate Stephens, June 28, 1887
A letter from Susan B. Antony to Kate Stephens, June 28, 1887. Call Number: PP 43, Box 2, Folder A-F. Click images to enlarge.

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

Students’ Adventures in University Archives

June 25th, 2019

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!”

“I didn’t even know this stuff was here!”

“This is SO cool!”

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.

Photograph of a CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall, 1964
A CORE group in front of Lawrence City Hall (now the Watkins Museum of History), 1964. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18 1964 Negatives: Student Activities: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998
Black Student Union students riding in the Homecoming parade, 1998. Photograph by R. Steve Dick for KU University Relations. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1998 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

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.

Photograph of members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982
Members of Students Concerned with Disabilities in front of Fraser Hall during Disabled Awareness Week, 1982. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/27 1982 Prints: Student Activities: Persons with Disabilities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of members of KU's Tau Sigma Dance Society, 1932
Members of KU’s Tau Sigma Dance Society next to Potter Lake, 1932. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 67/100 1932 Prints: Student Organizations: Tau Sigma (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

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 – Round 2!

February 6th, 2019

Color Our Collections logo, 2019

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!

As a preview, here are three pages from the book.

Spencer Research Library image in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Spencer Chemical and P&M advertisement in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Kelmscott Chaucer image in the KU Libraries coloring book, 2019

Happy coloring, everyone!

Emily Beran
Public Services

Spring 2019 Exhibit: “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences”

February 5th, 2019

Who was Kenneth Spencer, the namesake of Spencer Research Library? Why is the library named after him? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions and wondered about the library’s origins, be sure to visit and explore its current exhibit, “Meet the Spencers: A Marriage of Arts and Sciences.”

Kenneth and Helen Spencer in their garden, 1959

Kenneth and Helen Spencer with their dog Topper in the garden of their home at
2900 Verona Road in Mission Hills, Kansas, spring 1959.
Helen Foresman Spencer Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 542. Click image to enlarge.

The exhibit provides a personal look at the lives of Kenneth Spencer and his wife Helen, including:

  • their childhoods growing up in southeastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri
  • their relationship and marriage
  • their hobbies and interests
  • Kenneth’s work as an engineer and accomplishments as a business leader in Kansas City
  • the creation of Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Additionally, the exhibit examines the Spencers’ significant philanthropic work, particularly Helen’s dynamic leadership of the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation after her husband’s death in 1960. The foundation provided funds for major construction projects at many institutions throughout the Kansas City area, including KU’s Lawrence campus. For example, gifts from the Foundation and from Helen personally ensured the construction of Spencer Research Library as well as the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

Photograph of the installation of wall labels for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

Installing wall labels can be a messy business. Shown here is a
timeline of the early history of Spencer Research Library
in the context of KU’s history in the 1960s, part of the new
“Meet the Spencers” exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the installation of items for the "Meet the Spencers" exhibit

The installation of items for the “Meet the Spencers” exhibit.
Library staff try not to open the heavy glass case covers too frequently.
In 1968, Helen Spencer selected and purchased the five large German-made
display cases now located in the Exhibit Space. Click image to enlarge.

The opening reception for “Meet the Spencers” will be held this Thursday, February 7, 2019. The exhibition will be installed in the third-floor Exhibit Space through June 2019 as part of ongoing celebrations for Spencer Research Library’s fiftieth anniversary. It is free and open to the public.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Marcella Huggard
Archives and Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Exploring the Life and Labor of Edwin M. Hopkins, KU English Professor

January 11th, 2019

Among the personal papers of faculty, staff, and students contained in Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s University Archives are materials connected to the life of KU Professor Edwin Mortimer Hopkins (1862-1946). These materials include photographs, his personal diaries (which span sixty-five years), three paintings, and much more. Hopkins taught at the University of Kansas for his entire career, beginning in 1889 and ending with his retirement in 1937.

A portrait of Edwin M. Hopkins, undated A portrait of Edwin M. Hopkins, undated

Two portraits of Edwin M. Hopkins, undated. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Hopkins, Edwin M. (Photos). Click images to enlarge.

Hopkins most frequently taught courses in rhetoric, literature, and composition, though he also taught the University’s first journalism course. The work of two of his “Advanced English Composition” students, Margaret Kane and Kate Hansen, are featured in a temporary exhibit at Spencer Research Library from December 2018 to January 2019. (Hopkins co-taught the course alongside Professor Raphael Dorman O’Leary.)


Photograph of a KU classroom, 1890s

A KU classroom, 1890s. Hopkins is pictured on the far left. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 17/25 1890s Prints: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:
Department of English (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Hopkins is an important figure in the field of rhetoric and composition. He was a founding member and early president of the National Council of Teachers of English, as well as a founder of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English. At KU, Hopkins was the head of the English Department from 1902 to 1909.


Image of a portion of Edwin M. Hopkins' resume, 1922

A portion of Edwin M. Hopkins’ resume showcases some of his
achievements, 1922. University Archives. Call Number:
Biographical File, Edwin M. Hopkins. Click image to enlarge.

Hopkins is likewise often cited for his labor activism, as he advocated throughout his career for fair teaching loads and working conditions for writing teachers. His empirical study, The Labor and Cost of the Teaching of English in College and Secondary Schools with Especial Reference to English Composition — which scholar Randall Popken calls the “first of its kind in composition history” — was the result of fifteen years of survey-taking and data interpretation (Popken, “The WPA,” pages 7-11).


Title page of "The Labor Cost of the Teaching of English" by Edwin M. Hopkins, 1923

Hopkins’ extensive study of labor conditions yielded this report,
pictured here in its sixteenth edition. University Archives. Call Number:
RG 41/ Faculty publications: Hopkins, Edwin M. Click image to enlarge.

Hopkins’ contributions to KU and higher education were not confined to the classroom alone. Hopkins’ personal diaries, which span from 1873 to 1939, help document his highly busy and productive career. For instance, Hopkins frequently recorded playing the organ for the university chapel within his diary entries.


Photograph of pages in a diary kept by KU English Professor Edwin M. Hopkins

One of Hopkins’ diaries is currently on display in Spencer Research Library’s
“Writing within Required Genres” exhibit. Call Number: PP 73. Click image to enlarge.

Hopkins also served as KU’s first football coach in 1891. Though he had never played football himself (but had seen it played in the East), he led KU to an undefeated season.


Photograph of the KU football team, 1891

The KU football team, 1891. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/14 1891
Team Prints: Athletic Department: Football (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Hopkins also helped found numerous other KU organizations, including the University Daily Kansan student newspaper, the Department of Journalism, and the University’s first literary society, the Quill Club.


Cover of the KU Graduate Magazine, December 1939

This December 1939 edition of KU’s Graduate Magazine featured a
cover photo and story on Hopkins. University Archives.
Call Number: LH 1 .K3 G73 1939. Click image to enlarge.

Be sure to stop by Spencer Research Library to view the exhibit showcasing the writings of Hopkins’ students, Margaret Kane and Kate Hansen, from their 1899 and 1900 composition courses! It is on display at the two entrances to Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery until the end of January 2019.

Works Consulted and Further Reading

Popken, Randall. “Edwin Hopkins and the Costly Labor of Composition Teaching.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 55, no.4, 2004, pp. 618-641.

Popken, Randall. “The WPA as Publishing Scholar: Edwin Hopkins and the Labor and Cost of the Teaching of English.” Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline. Edited by Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mistrangelo, 2004, pp. 5-22. KU Libraries Call Number: PE1405.U6 H55 2004.

Sarah E. Polo
KU Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Spencer Research Library Student Assistant