Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

A Uniquely Lawrence Book Store

March 19th, 2021
Image of the Spinsters store sign
The Spinsters store sign. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 10, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc., originally named Spinsters Books, was founded in 1979 in Lawrence, Kansas. The store and community center was organized by a group of Lesbians “to meet the social, educational, and informational needs of the Lesbian and women’s community.” When the store opened in March 1980, it consisted of one bookshelf in a private residence before later moving to a storefront.

Image of a Spinsters store flyer
A Spinsters store flyer. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 14, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

Besides selling printed materials, music, and jewelry and crafts on consignment, Spinsters included a free lending library, speaker’s bureau, lesbian archives, and community and resource center and hosted support groups.  

Photograph of the interior of Spinsters
Photograph of the interior of Spinsters
Photograph of the interior of Spinsters
Views of the interior of Spinsters. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 11, Folder 18. Click images to enlarge.
Photograph of a group meeting at Spinsters
A group meeting at Spinsters. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 11, Folder 18. Click image to enlarge.

The collective also worked closely with other community and KU campus groups such as Women’s Coalition and Women’s Transitional Care Services. Not only was Spinsters unique due to the nature of the store and the services it provided, but it was run largely by the organizers, a group of dedicated volunteers, and part-time employees. 

Photograph of the Spinsters Collective
The Spinsters Collective. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 11, Folder 18. Click image to enlarge.
Image of an event flyer
An event flyer. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 14, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

The Spinsters Collective also published a newsletter called the Monthly Cycle. The purpose of the newsletter, as stated in the first issue, was “for sharing skills, services, thoughts, and ideas.” 

Image of a Monthly Cycle newsletter flyer
A Monthly Cycle newsletter flyer. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 2, Folder 2. Click image to enlarge.

Any submission by or for Lesbians was accepted. The goal was to foster communication within the Lesbian community, especially in more isolated areas of Kansas and the region.

Image of a Spinsters sale notice, 1988
A Spinsters sale notice, 1988. Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. Records. Call Number: RH MS 704, Box 14, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

In August 1988, Judy Brown, Elsie Hughes, Dana Parhm, and Paula Schumacher, members of the Spinsters Collective, made the difficult decision to sell or close Spinsters Books and Webbery. A store sale notice was published on August 18, 1988. The asking price of $7000 did not include the contents of the library, archives, and furniture, nor did it include the name. In November 1988, the store’s office supplies, fixtures, and décor were sold at auction.

The Spinsters Collective donated the archives and business records to Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the spring of 1990. Researchers interested in the Women’s and Gay Rights Movements should look at the materials in the Spinsters Books and Webbery, Inc. collection. It contains a verity of information on various women’s issues such as the equal rights, sexual discrimination, abortion and birth control, and domestic violence. There are also numerous Lesbian periodicals and newsletters, as well as other records regarding the LGBTQ+ movement. The newsletters and periodicals are from various local, regional, and national organizations.

Letha Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Oral Histories

October 13th, 2020

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close I would like to draw attention to three oral history collections housed in the Kansas Collection at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. These collections speak to the everyday lives and experiences of the Hispanic communities in Garden City, Emporia, and Kansas City, Kansas.

The collection I’m going to highlight is the Oral History Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas (RH MS 750). The collection consists of interview transcripts, audio tapes, and photographs. This project was funded by a grant from what is now Humanities Kansas.  

For example, in her interview Cipriana “Sue” Rodriquez spoke about the harsh conditions and treatment her father faced as part of the working class in Mexico before coming to Garden City to work for the railroad, originally in 1900. Cipriana also discussed living in a railroad house, her experience in school, the family’s work experiences, and the strong sense of community among the Hispanic families.  

Photograph of a railroad crew in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900
A railroad crew in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.
Portrait of an unknown Hispanic family in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900
A portrait of an unknown Hispanic family in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1900. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 25. Click image to enlarge.

Similarly, Lydia Mendoza de Gonzalez and Louis Mendoza discussed the conditions in Mexico that lead to family members coming to Garden City around 1900. They spoke of growing up in a culturally traditional Mexican household and the discrimination faced by the Hispanic community. A primary focus of this interview was education and Lydia’s efforts to help members of the community get the financial support they needed to attain a vocational education.

Photograph of a Mexican Fiesta in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1950
A Mexican Fiesta in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1950. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 24. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of graduates Angela and Salina Gonzales, with their mother Lydia, at a commencement ceremony in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1970
Graduates Angela and Salina Gonzales, with their mother Lydia, at a commencement ceremony in Garden City, Kansas, circa 1970. Oral history Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Garden City, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH 183, Box 1, Folder 31. Click image to enlarge.

The other oral history collections are the Oral History Project Regarding the Hispanic Community of Emporia, Kansas (RH MS 751) and the Kansas City, Kansas, Spanish Speaking Office Interviews and Slides (RH MS 752).

Letha E. Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

Quantrill’s Raid and Its Aftermath: Anna Soule Prentiss

August 14th, 2020

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago, on August 21, 1863, William Clarke Quantrill and his men rode into Lawrence bent on destroying the town. The results of the dawn raid were the destruction of numerous businesses and homes and 143 deaths. State officials and people from surrounding towns provided aid to Lawrence to help meet the basic needs of the residents and to rebuild the town. 

"The Destruction of Lawrence," an artist's sketch from Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863
“The Destruction of Lawrence,” an artist’s sketch from Harper’s Weekly, September 5, 1863. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:L:8.5. Click image to enlarge.

Although her family lived in Lawrence, Anna Julia Soule was a school teacher in Kanawaka, six miles to the west, at the time of the raid. That morning, she saw the smoke coming from Lawrence, and would later recall that “we (the citizens) knew that a raid had been feared but vigilance had been relaxed and, concluding that there was not much danger, the town had stopped keeping guard at night” [1].

When Anna reached Lawrence after the raid, she found her high school teacher among the dead at the first house she stopped at. Upon locating her brother William Soule, Anna learned that her the rest of the family were safe, but that the family’s house had been destroyed. They had nothing except for the clothes they were wearing. The family stayed at the home of prominent Lawrence physician Sylvester B. Prentiss in the days following the raid. 

Anna briefly return to Kanawaka to teach after the raid, but not for long. As she would later write, “the term was nearly out and the excitement made teaching difficult, as even in the country the raid was the only thing in all our minds” [2].  

Instead of completing the term, Anna decided to go to Maine with her mother and sister to live with family and friends for a time. Of the first leg of the journey back east, she wrote,

“We went on the stage to Leavenworth, borrowing bonnets for the trip so far and sending them back on the stage. The people of Leavenworth were very kind, the women meeting daily to sew for the Lawrence sufferers and offering us help, but we only accepted such things as seemed necessary for our journey, as the people in Lawrence were in greater need than we were, for we were going to our friends who gladly helped us” [3].

The ladies returned to Lawrence in 1865 to find the town rebuilt. On June 21, 1866, Anna married Dr. Prentiss. Over the years, she was an active participant in the Lawrence community. She was involved in Lawrence’s temperance organization, was a founding member of the Lawrence No Name Club, active in her church, and took part in the reunions held by raid survivors. Anna was also the proprietor of a home goods store for several years.

Photograph of Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900
Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900. The structure was located at 1105 Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas; Brothers is located there now. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:C15. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Anna wrote about her experiences during Kansas’s territorial period for publications and the various clubs, organizations, and activities in which she was involved. 

[1] Clevenger, Maurine. “Memories of Early Lawrence.” Jayhawk: The Magazine of Kansas, volume 2, number 8, August 1929.

[2] Prentiss, Ann Julia Soule. “From Boston to Kansas in 1855.” Kansas Woman’s Journal, June 1926.

[3] Ibid.

Letha Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

Meet the KSRL Staff: Letha Johnson

July 11th, 2016

This is the eighth installment in what will be a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Letha Johnson is the Assistant Archivist for Spencer Research Library’s University Archives.

Letha Johnson, Assistant Archivist for the University Archives

Letha Johnson in front of Jayhawker Yearbooks which are part of the University Archives
reference collection found in the Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room at Spencer Research Library.

Where are you from?

Salina, KS.

What does your job at Spencer entail?

I am responsible for overseeing the appraisal, processing, management, and accessibility of records in the University archives regardless of physical format.  I work towards expanding the archives responsibility of the University’s electronic records and provide records management, reference, and outreach services across campus and beyond. I also ensure space is allocated for proper storage and order of collections in all formats and that knowledge of locations is maintained. By utilizing recognized standards and methodologies in managing digital collections and electronic records and media, I work towards expanding the availability of digital collections on the library website.

How did you come to work in archives? 

I wanted to do something in the history field besides teaching in secondary education.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?

KU’s first account ledger from 1864 to 1867.  It has the names of prominent figures in KU, Lawrence, and Kansas history.

What part of your job do you like best?

There’s a great deal of variety in my job, so it’s always interesting. I learn something new almost every day.

What are your favorite pastimes outside of work?

Reading and hanging out with my family and friends.

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask questions in general.  The staff is here to help.

Letha Johnson
Assistant Archivist
University Archives

Hawk Week, Nineties Style

August 16th, 2012

In honor of Hawk Week 2012, the festivities that mark the beginning of the fall semester, we bring you some images of Hawk Week events from the late 1990s. KU alumni may recall Traditions Night, Beach-n-Boulevard, Jayhawk Playfest, and the Rock-a-Hawk Dance.

Rock-a-Hawk Dance 1998

Photograph of Dancers at the Rock-a-Hawk Dance, 1998

Rock-a-Hawk Dance, 1998. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/51. Click images to enlarge.

Photograph of Beach n Boulevard, 1998

Beach-n-Boulevard, 1998 (top) and 1999 (bottom).
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/51.
Click images to enlarge.

A poll from August 2011 in the University Daily Kansan listed Traditions Night as the readers’ favorite Hawk Week event. What was yours?

Photograph of Audience at Traditions Night 1998

Photograph of students carrying a torch at Traditions Night 1999

Traditions Night, 1998 (top) and 1999 (bottom).
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/51.
Click images to enlarge.

Photograph of Jayhawk Playfest, 1998

Photograph: More fun at Jayhawk Playfest, 1998

Jayhawk Playfest 1998. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/51. Click images to enlarge.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Letha Johnson
Assistant University Archivist