Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Cora Downs Edition

March 30th, 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!

In honor of Women’s History Month, we, earlier this month, shared a photograph of Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong, who was active in the women’s suffrage movement. This week’s post highlights another history-making KU woman: eminent scientist and professor Cora Downs (1893-1987). In 1924, Downs became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, in bacteriology. Through her research, Downs developed disease diagnosis techniques that revolutionized doctors’ abilities to identify and quickly combat viral and bacterial infections.

Photograph of Cora Downs on graduation day, 1924

Cora Downs on graduation day, 1924.
On that day she became the first woman to
receive a Ph.D. from KU, in bacteriology.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty:
Downs, Cora (Photos). Click image to enlarge
(redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Cora Downs in a laboratory, 1956

Cora Downs in a laboratory, 1956. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Downs, Cora (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

You can learn more about Cora Downs by accessing additional digitized photographs of her, an oral history interview she gave in 1984, and an article about her from KU’s Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong Edition

March 9th, 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!

This week’s photograph was selected in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

Photograph of Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong in a suffrage parade, 1912

Mary Evelyn Ransom Strong, sitting in the back seat with a dark coat,
campaigning for women’s suffrage in Lawrence, 1912.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/8 Family 1912 Prints:
Chancellors: Frank Strong: Family (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Throughout her life, Mary Strong (1870-1953), the wife of KU Chancellor Frank Strong, was active in the suffrage movement, especially in Kansas. She was “integral” to Kansas voters approving the Equal Suffrage Amendment to the state constitution on November 5, 1912, making Kansas the eighth state to grant full suffrage to women.

Preliminary evidence suggests that the photograph was taken on Vermont Street just north of Tenth, looking east toward Massachusetts Street. According to notation on the back of the print, the “Methodist Church [is] at right and back of car.” In his book Across the Years on Mount Oread, Robert Taft captioned the image by noting that “the photograph was taken on Vermont street and looks towards Massachusetts” (124). These two pieces of information, checked against the 1912 Lawrence Sanborn fire insurance map, suggest that the church in the background is the First Methodist Episcopal Church, now the First United Methodist Church.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Throwback Thursday: Softball Edition

February 2nd, 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!

Good luck to the KU softball team as it kicks off the 2017 season next week. Rock Chalk!

Photograph of Women's Athletic Association softball players, 1925

Women’s Athletic Association softball players, 1925. The women are in the
vicinity of where Haworth Hall now stands. In the background is the
power plant (now the Facilities Administration Building) and, behind it,
Watson Library, which opened in 1924. KU News Bureau photo.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/20/12 1925 Prints:
Athletic Department: Women’s Athletic Association: Softball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Women's Athletic Association softball players, 1927

Women’s Athletic Association softball players, 1927.
Note the wooden base. KU News Bureau photo.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/20/12 1927 Prints:
Athletic Department: Women’s Athletic Association: Softball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

A Nineteenth-Century Woman’s New Year’s Resolutions

December 30th, 2015

According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is “a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people, beginning from New Year’s Day.” In January 1864 Elizabeth Duncan wrote down her resolutions on the back pages of her new diary. Little did she know that 150 years later we would use her resolutions to gain insight into what it was like to be a women in the Midwest during her lifetime.

Photograph of Elizabeth Duncan, circa 1860-1865

Photograph of Elizabeth Duncan, circa 1860-1865.
Ladies of Lawrence Portrait Album. Call Number: RH PH 51.
Click image to enlarge.

Wesley Duncan (1814-1902) and his second wife Elizabeth (1837-1879) became residents of Lawrence, Kansas, in May 1855, when the town was less than one year old. Wesley was in the dry goods and grocery business. In 1867 the family left Lawrence and traveled to California, where they briefly settled in San Jose. Sometime around 1868 they returned to Lawrence, and Wesley opened a hardware store.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds three of Elizabeth’s diaries, covering the years 1864, 1867, and 1868. The 1864 diary, shown here, was a gift to Elizabeth from her favorite nephew. On January 1st of that year she recorded that “This morning was intens[e]ly cold but I think some warmer than yesterday I wished all the folks a happy new year. About noon Fred Eggert…presented me this book which I value very highly.” The next day she wrote, in part, “I am going to try to live a more elevated life this year than I did last.”

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, front cover

The front cover of Elizabeth’s 1864 diary. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, inscription

The inscription on the inside cover of Elizabeth’s diary reads
“From Fred to his Aunt Bettie as a New Years Present Jan 1st 1864.”
Elizabeth Duncan Collection. Call Number: RH MS A26.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, title page

The title page of Elizabeth’s diary. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Elizabeth began writing in this diary four months after Quantrill’s Raid, an event that took place in the turbulent years of strife between Kansas and Missouri during the American Civil War. Writing in her diary faithfully throughout 1864, Elizabeth primarily spoke of her family, daily life, and the people she knew. She only occasionally mentioned incidents and issues concerning the war and politics of the time.

In January 1864, Elizabeth (age 26) and her husband Wesley (age 50) had been married for almost ten years. Their household included two daughters, two-year-old Katie and one-year-old Cettie; seventeen-year-old William (“Willie”), Wesley’s son from his first marriage; and Ella Jackson, a nineteen-year-old domestic helper.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, New Year's resolutions

Elizabeth’s resolutions for 1864. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Elizabeth wrote her New Year’s resolutions on the volume’s back pages, dating them January 21, 1864. They are transcribed here.

Jan 21st 1864

Today I have determined more fully to live an humble and devoted Christian and so [illegible] that I may make more steady progress in the good way I have determined to pass the following 1st resolutions which are as follows.

Resolved that I will let no day pass without reading two or more chapters in the Bible or Testament.

2nd Resolved that I have stated times and place for secret prayer and if I am hindered in any way so as I am not possible attend to it just at the stated time I will improve the very first opportunity after.

3rd Resolved that I will be more firm with the children and not let my temper get control of me.

It appears that Elizabeth added another resolution later that year.

4 Resolved that by the grace of God assisting me I will do all in my power to make those around me happy especially our own family. July 22nd, 1864

To learn more about Elizabeth, her diary, and her life in 1864, check out Katie H. Armitage’s article in Kansas History; see also Armitage’s article about Duncan’s 1867-1868 diaries.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Housing the Zodiac Club Doll Collection

July 13th, 2015

One of my favorite group of objects that has come to Conservation Services for housing is the Zodiac Club peanut doll collection, housed in the Kansas Collection. As the name implies, it is a series of dolls made from shelled peanuts for heads, with wire bodies and intricate, period-appropriate dress.

The Zodiac Club was founded as women’s studying group, organized on February 5, 1878, by nine women from the Lawrence, KS area. Over the years the club met in members’ homes every Tuesday to read and discuss items relating to “cultural improvement.”

In 1943, when the Zodiac Club celebrated its 65th anniversary, twelve dolls were made to represent the original members of the Zodiac Club. The dolls are made of a frame of covered wire with peanuts for faces and dressed in costumes from the 1870s. Besides the dolls, the collection includes miniature period furniture, as well as leather-bound books, a tea service, spinning wheel, tintype photographs, needlepoint, and braid rug.

Zodiac Club doll collection,before rehousing, Kansas Collection      Furniture from Zodiac Club doll collection, Kansas Collection

Left: Zodiac Club doll collection before housing. Right: Examples of the other items housed with the dolls.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.

 

All the dolls, furniture, and other items were wrapped in paper towels and placed together in a box, making it difficult to tell what was in the box and to access particular items. A museum studies student intern was assigned to rehouse the collection into a more usable form.

Doll in paper towel from Zodiac Club doll collection, Kansas Collection

Peanut-headed doll wrapped in paper towel. Note the fine detail in the costume.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.

 

I asked her to create a housing that would keep the dolls and the other items in one box. She devised an ingenious two-tray system: the furniture and other items that are less frequently accessed are on the bottom layer, and the dolls are in a removable tray on top. Featured on the outside and inside of the box is a diagram that indicates how everything fits in the housing. Now the peanut ladies will be better protected and more easily displayed for many years to come.

Zodiac Club doll collection, after rehousing, Kansas Collection  Zodiac Club doll collection, after rehousing, Kansas Collection

Left: Top tray with dolls and housing guide. Right: Bottom tray with furniture and other items.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.

 

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services