Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.
The Bruce McKinney collection at Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds many pieces of LGBTQIA+ materials and memorabilia. McKinney was a Kansas activist for gender and gay rights. His collection of papers ranges from pamphlets for rallies and centers for queer individuals all over the country to stickers and pins.
For example, McKinney’s papers document the work of the Wichita, Kansas, LesBiGayTrans Center, an organization with which he worked closely.
Some items in the McKinney collection highlight the history of the LGBTQIA+ community at the University of Kansas. The documents below focus on LesBiGay Awareness Week events held in 1995.
Additionally, McKinney’s papers includes information to help learn more about the queer community. I was particularly interested in the information written on bisexuality and even a paper about how to defend homosexuality in instances where individuals use the Bible against them.
Some of the more fun things to look at were the many different bumper stickers that McKinney saved!
Not a federal holiday, but a celebration and a remembrance. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th as Flag Day, celebrating the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Flags are a particular manifestation of symbols. A flag can indicate an idea, a group, a place, or an area. With the adoption of an official flag for the United States of America, there was a unified way to signal the influence of the USA. With that noted, maybe we can look at how it and a few other flags have been used through the years!
Here we have one of several KU flags, this one a 1928 design. Used in this manner, it is very similar to a national flag, showing identification and support for the University of Kansas.
Flags sometimes come with the hint of violence. Here we have a photo of students around their flag to fight for on May Day in 1895. Having your flag captured was quite the sign of disgrace!
While flags can be used as positive symbols – representing enthusiasm, identification, etc. – flags can also be used as negative symbols. Here at a KU an anti-Vietnam war Student protest in May 1970, black flags are displayed along with a U.S. flag on a coffin near a U.S. flag at half-mast. The same flags used for celebration here demonstrate shame and loss.
And while a flag can be used to isolate and claim dominion, flags can be used to show hope, alliance, and gathering together as in the dedication ceremony for Allen Fieldhouse in 1955.
Flags have been and are used in many different ways in many different circumstances: in humor, in celebration, in victory, in defeat, in shame, and in pride. Flag Day may specifically celebrate the adoption of a United States flag, but isn’t a bad day to think of all the flags we fly!
April 16th is “National Librarian Day.” In honor of all library faculty and staff on KU’s campuses, here is a look back at Carrie Watson, a librarian at the University of Kansas from 1878 to 1921.
Caroline “Carrie” Morehouse Watson was born in Amenia, New York, on March 31, 1857. The following year, her family moved to Lawrence, Kansas Territory. They did so, like the abolitionist settlers who came before them, to ensure that Kansas would enter the Union as a free state. When she was five, Confederate guerilla chief William Quantrill and his band of men raided Lawrence, killing approximately 200 men and boys. Carrie attended survivor reunions and can be seen in group photographs.
Carrie graduated from the University of Kansas in 1877. Several months later, Chancellor James A. Marvin (whose tenure lasted from 1874 to 1883) appointed her Assistant to the Librarian of the University. At that time, the position of “Librarian” was held by a faculty member chosen annually by the chancellor. The holdings of the library consisted of about 2,500 books – mostly government documents – housed in a room in old Fraser Hall (located roughly where modern Fraser Hall currently stands).
Carrie earned the title of Librarian in 1887, under Chancellor Joshua Lippincott (1883-1889). She had taken courses in librarianship as she could, mostly over summer breaks, and traveled to the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Library, and Boston Public Library to gain additional training. KU’s new library building was ready in 1894, and the holdings were moved from Fraser Hall to Spooner Library (now Spooner Hall).
Throughout her career at KU, Carrie oversaw the expansion of holdings such that when she retired in 1921 the library had about 140,000 volumes, 1,185 periodicals, and 121 newspapers. After her retirement, Carrie continued to serve in the KU Library, mostly as an unpaid volunteer.
Thirty years after moving into Spooner, the library, again, had outgrown its space. A new building was approved by the Kansas Legislature. It was completed in 1924 and named Watson Library, forever honoring KU’s first true librarian.
In a December 1943 article for The Graduate Magazine, author Margaret Lynn wrote:
What Miss Watson had inherited of pioneer spirit went into the library. She did not merely take what was put into her hands and make a temporary best of it. She saw the needs of a University library and fought for them, sometimes with authorities who did not see what an investment a library should be. She faced regents and chancellors and professors. She carried on with a staff too small, and quite untrained except in what she taught it. She managed with inadequate or crude equipment. When in 1894 the library was moved from the rooms in Fraser Hall to the new building, the gift of W.B. Spooner, it was a great day. At last there was enough space! But not one assistant had been added to the small staff. Miss Watson had a share in the development of her state also. She was a pioneer in state library work. She was ready to carry what she had learned to those who were still at the beginning. She assisted in state organizations. She was on state committees. She spoke at conferences. She helped librarians-to-be with fundamental instruction. She lectured [to] high school libraries, to education classes in the University. She lectured on bibliography to history classes. She had not only a task but a mission….The three institutions which in childhood she saw beginning – the State, the University, the Library – she lived to see established and developed. She could not have guessed how important a part she was to have in them.
KU has welcomed women since its founding; female students were admitted from the very beginning. From then on, many women have found KU to be a place of support and growth, and the university has been shaped immeasurably by the women who have made it home, particularly within the ranks of its faculty and administration.
Featured here are just a few of the incredible women who blazed a trail in higher education at KU and beyond – and all have collections here at Spencer Research Library!
Martha Peterson, Dean of Women
Martha Peterson began her career at KU in 1942 as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics. While she pursued her Ph.D. in educational psychology, she was appointed as the Assistant Dean of Women – a position she held from 1947 to 1952. In 1952, she was named the next Dean of Women at the university. In her four years as Dean of Women, Peterson led the installation of the dormitory system for freshman women at KU. Peterson went on to serve as the Dean of Women and University Dean of Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the President of Barnard College in New York before becoming the first woman President at Beloit College in Wisconsin – a position she held until her retirement in 1981.
Learn more by exploring Martha Peterson’s papers (Call Number: RH MS 953) and the records of the Dean of Women (Call Number: RG 53).
Emily Taylor, Dean of Women
Emily Taylor was appointed Dean of Women at KU in 1956. During her almost two decades in that position, Taylor established the first university commission on the status of women, hosted the radio show “The Feminist Perspective,” and worked to establish the Women’s Resource and Career Planning Center – now the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity. In addition to these initiatives, Taylor also was instrumental in the establishment of the Nunemaker Center for honors students and Hashinger Hall for fine arts students. In 1974, Taylor left her position at KU to become the Director of the Office of Women in Higher Education of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. – a position she held until her retirement in 1981.
Learn more by exploring Emily Taylor’s personal papers (Call Number: PP 546) and the records of the Dean of Women (Call Number: RG 53).
Frances Degen Horowitz, Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies, and Public Service and Dean of the Graduate School
Frances Degen Horowitz joined the KU faculty in 1961 as a professor of home economics (child development). She also conducted research in the Department of Human Development and Family Life and was the department’s founding Chair. Horowitz later became the Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences before being appointed as the Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies, and Public Service and Dean of the Graduate School in 1978. During her time as Vice Chancellor, Horowitz worked to establish new research centers at KU, elevating the university’s status as a nationally recognized research institution. She served in this position until 1991 when she left KU to become the President of The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) – a position she held until her retirement in 2005.
Learn more by exploring the records of KU’s Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies and Public Service (Call Number: RG 11).
Kala M. Stroup, Dean of Women
Kala M. Stroup began her career at KU as a Residence Hall Assistant Director for Corbin Hall in 1959. During the 1950s and 1960s, she was heavily involved in the efforts to do away with parental restrictions on female students which included curfews and travel restrictions. Stroup held positions in the Dean of Women’s office and the residential halls system before being named the last Dean of Women for KU in 1975. In 1979 she became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Emporia State University. Stroup went on to serve as the first woman President of Murray State in University in Kentucky and the first woman President of Southeast Missouri State University before becoming the President and CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance in 2002. After her retirement in 2010, Stroup returned to KU as a Dean Emerita and faculty member in the KU Honors Program.
Learn more by exploring Kala Stroup’s personal papers (Call Number: PP 613) and the records of the Dean of Women (Call Number: RG 53).
Deanell Reece Tacha – Associate Dean of the School of Law and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Deanell Reece Tacha joined the KU School of Law faculty in 1974 after being named a White House Fellow in 1971 and working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. and Kansas. She became the Associate Dean of the KU School of Law in 1977. In 1981, she was named the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at KU. Tacha left KU in 1985 after being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. She became the Chief Judge of the Tenth Circuit in 2001. After retiring from the bench, Tacha became the Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in 2011. Tacha also served as the national President of the Kansas University Alumni Association and the Chair of KU Endowment’s Board of Trustees.
Learn more by exploring Deanell Reece Tacha’s papers (Call Number: RH MS 1370) and the records of the KU Office of Academic Affairs (Call Number: RG 10).