The minutes are finished!

A huge milestone achieved today: all of the extant minutes from the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore meetings from 1890-1920 have been transcribed and published to the online WLCB archive!

You can see them in all their glory right here.

This is the work of 14 Loyola students, 10 Baltimore Friends School seniors, 2 volunteers, and yours truly, undertaken over the past 18 months. Over 3000 pages of manuscript, the vast majority handwritten.

As an added bonus, Marina from the Spring 2018 Aperio seminar has been working for me as a research assistant this fall and has begun annotating the names of the members in the minutes, so that we can read them referred to by their actual names, not as their husbands’ wives. She was able to complete the minutes through the first half of 1903. This work helps to restore these Club members to their full humanity. And it also makes the archive much more easily searchable. (1903-1920 still need to be done; I may see if there’s a willing volunteer next semester. Let me know if that person is you!)

Transcribing the minutes is also important because it enables anyone using the site to use keyword searching to find the topics of Club discussions, the names of the members, and titles of works they discussed. Anyone who has done research in manuscript archives knows how huge this is. If you haven’t done this kind of research, you can use your imagination for about 8 seconds and you will quickly understand.

Three cheers for the transcribers!


Sign posted

Christine Ladd-Franklin’s plaque is finally up!

Jon Kucskar, who now lives in Dr. Ladd-Franklin’s former abode, wrote me this week to say that the “Blue Plaque” commemorating 1507 Park Ave. has been installed.

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Jon and his wife Emily learned of this illustrious former resident of their home through the work of Aperio seminar students Sydney Johnson, who was assigned to research and collect publications by Ladd-Franklin, and Marina Fazio, who ran across one of Ladd-Franklin’s scientific contributions to a meeting of the WLCB which she transcribed as part of an assignment. Both students became fascinated by the hard-nosed, iconoclastic “lady scientist” who studied mathematics and psychology, taught courses at Johns Hopkins and (eventually) Columbia universities, yet nevertheless was referred to in Club minutes as “Mrs. Fabian Franklin” rather than as Christine Ladd-Franklin, the name she used in print.

It took some research before we even realized they were the same person! Such is the power of names, and the ease with which they can be effaced.

I collaborated with Sydney and Marina to write an article about Ladd-Franklin for Women’s History Month last March; our piece was published in the Bolton Hill Bulletin, a newsletter for residents of Ladd-Franklin’s former neighborhood. And that’s where Jon and Emily first learned that they lived in the house of someone famous–or, perhaps more accurately, someone who ought to be famous. As it turned out, the Bolton Hill neighborhood was in the middle of selecting a new round of honorees for their “Blue Plaque” program, and Jon and Emily succeeded in getting Ladd-Franklin added to the list.

When Jon wrote to tell me about the installation of Ladd-Franklin’s plaque, he wrote, “We are honored to have Christine recognized on our house.” We are, too.

Summertime Searching

If you had told me last year that my favorite summer job would involve typing citations and searching for historical periodicals about homemaking, I would have thought you were crazy. But here I am, after 10 weeks of work, thankful that I spent part of my time doing this work instead of only doing administrative assistant work at my office job (although the office did give me free chocolate…).

The beginning of the summer started out with a task that seemed a bit overwhelming: writing the provenance note for the book, which gives the original sources for all of the works in the anthology. While citations may seem like an easy task for someone like myself who is constantly putting together works cited pages for papers at school, the fact that I had not personally found all of the sources made things a bit more difficult. My classmates had worked hard throughout the spring semester to gather the works of the authors that they were assigned, and used a combination of different physical and online sources to do so. While this gave us a wealth of information that was more than we could have ever hoped for, it also created some complications for citations. Many works had been published in several places, so I had to determine the original publication. For online sources of periodicals, the page numbers were not always clear or even included, and there is still ONE JOKE for which I have not been able to find a publication date. In addition, Dr. Cole and I had to determine what would be the best way to cite some of our more unique items, such as an unpublished play, in Chicago-Style, because the format is not necessarily made for such works. Similar creativity was employed for our more prolific writers in the anthology: we made detail oriented decisions regarding the manner in which page numbers would be presented in a way that was easy to read without looking cluttered.

In addition to this, I had to opportunity to do more literary recovery for Mary Dorsey, known by her pseudonym Marian V. Dorsey. Dorsey mainly published in periodicals, though much of her writing recovered thus far does not cover current events. Instead, Dorsey focuses on a variety of topics that relate to women’s interests and homemaking: cooking, decorating, and party planning. Many of these would not be out of place today in Real Simple or even Martha Stewart Living, sharing family recipes and explaining how to use plants to decorate a room tastefully. My favorite article, however, is something that would never get past an editor today: “Birthday Parties for Old People.” Though the topic is not something that would be out of place in a magazine today, the title is certainly a product of the time in which it was written.

This summer was an incredible experience for me to be able to learn more about a career path outside of teaching (which I have studied for the last three years), and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to further explore a topic that struck my interest in class this past spring.

The Celebrities of John Street

To add to the WLCB team publications list, I recently published “The Celebrities of John Street” as the inaugural installment of a new column, Long Ago and Right Here, which will be appearing in the Bolton Hill Bulletin. The piece focuses on a looooong newspaper article that Club member Emily Lantz wrote when she was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, on the supposed “celebrities” living on a quiet little street in my neighborhood (which we briefly visited while on our WLCB writers’ walking tour in April).

Katharine Pearson Woods, whose picture appeared in a 1906 Baltimore Sun piece about writers, artists, and intellectuals living on John Street in Baltimore.

Featured in the article—withhold your astonishment–are several Club members, including Lucy Meacham Thruston (who didn’t actually live on John Street), and Katharine Pearson Woods (who wasn’t living there at the time).

Clearly, Lantz was using her post at the Sun to help make the work of women writers visible and found creative ways of doing so. She continued to feature women writers, artists, and professionals throughout her long career. You can read many of her pieces in the Virtual Library section of the site.

Rereading this piece, I realized that it included a picture of one of the authors we had not been able to locate during the semester: Katharine Pearson Woods. It’s a terrible reproduction (scanned from microfilm, it looks like) but at least we get a glimpse of her. I’ve now included it in her bio on the WLCB website.

Meanwhile, Marina has been working on collecting all the publication information for the Parole Femine anthology into a provenance list which we’ll be including in the book. She also has found a whole bunch of publications from a newly discovered published Club member, Mary (Marian V.) Dorsey, sister of Hester Dorsey Richardson, which I’ll eventually be including in the Virtual Library. Mary Dorsey published recipes and pieces on home decor and entertaining, as well as some pieces on Maryland history and folklore, in newspapers and magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazar. 

And Cynthia is finishing up the transcriptions of the meeting minutes held at the Maryland Historical Society, which Marina will be proofreading to correct the numerous names and titles that may were incorrectly transcribed.

All this is to say, work on the project continues. More anon.

Endings and sequels

With the rush of finals and end-of-semester faculty meetings, I’ve neglected posting some of the final updates from our class this semester. What prompts me to post today is that the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore Wikipedia page is live! I was notified this morning:

Wikipedia acceptance

This page was months in the making—just getting Wikipedia to approve the entry took nearly two months of revision and waiting (mostly waiting). And it is our first outside recognition of the Club’s historical significance. Huzzah!

The Wikipedia entry is based on the Club history that Cynthia wrote up in January, with some nips and tucks from me based on feedback from Wikipedia as well as a few additions to indicate the literary significance of the Club as well as its political leanings (segregated; ambivalent about suffrage). But most of the work is Cynthia’s, so congrats to her!

Other milestones and achievements:

The WLCB archive site has undergone a major revision, with a revised homepage (with archival images discovered this semester), a spiffy new membership map created by Clara Love using the Carto mapping platform and incorporating biographies and pictures collected and written by everyone in the class, and an elegantly written introduction to the site’s Virtual Library by Katie Kazmierski (or Katie Kaz, as she became known to all of us).

We completed selecting works for Parole Femine: The Words and Lives of the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore, which will include writings by nearly 40 Club members, including poetry, short fiction, excerpts from novels, newspaper columns, historical works, and translations. The book still needs to be edited, which will happen next year, with publication slated for fall 2019. But the cover of the book has been designed—beautifully so—by Ellen Roussel.

And we had our Salon! We recorded the entire thing on Facebook Live (you can view the video without a Facebook account). We invited faculty from the department, folks from the Library, and friends and roommates– over forty people came in all– and shared readings, introductory headnotes that will be published in Parole Femine, and the kind of hospitality always offered by the Club to its guests: tea, cookies, and other comestibles. It was a lot of fun, and amazing to see all of the work from the past year come together in live performance (with period costumes, to boot).

EN389 students
Our class, in (mostly) period-appropriate attire, at the Salon, May 7, 2018.

Here’s the program (designed beautifully–as always!–by Megan Hultberg, based on actual programs used by the Club):

This semester was a pretty crazy ride, and I can’t say I’m not glad it’s over. But the work continues: I’m working with Marina this summer and fall to correct errors on the archive site and also to continue preparing Parole Femine for publication, and I’ll be presenting on the class’s work at several conferences this fall. And next spring, a new team–including a few returning members of this past semester’s class, I hope– will be editing the rather large volume we’ve put together this semester, in a new class I’m developing, EN 344 Book, Edition, Archive.

Posts in this space are likely to become few and far between over the next few months, but Marina and I will continue to share discoveries as we come across them. Enjoy the summer, everyone!

Where They Lived

Yesterday, on a rainy, chilly Sunday morning, the seminar went house-hunting.

Devoted followers of this space may recall that last summer, the team made a pilgrimage to Green Mount Cemetery, where we found the final resting places of several members of the WLCB– and not a few names of women whom we had only known, at that point, by their husbands’ first names.

This time, we were looking for where they actually lived. Many members lived in the neighborhoods of Bolton Hill and Mt. Vernon, located in central Baltimore just west of I-83 (the street in yellow that bisects the map below).

This is where we went:

walking tour route
Walking tour of WLCB sites, Apr. 15, 2018. The colored dots on the map, which is currently under construction (so please excuse debris!), indicate residences of WLCB members over the years, color keyed by year (1890-1915).
  1. 1507 Park Ave.  Christine Ladd-Franklin
  2. 1520 Park Ave.  Francese Litchfield Turnbull
  3. 1807 Bolton St. Virginia Woodward Cloud (1890 only)
  4. 254 Robert St. (no longer standing) Lucy Meacham Thruston (1905-1915)
  5. Streetcar tracks on Linden
  6. Linden Ave. apartment buildings, 1910-1920 (no longer standing), many members, including Emily Paret Atwater
  7. 1404 Eutaw Place  Sidney Lanier
  8. 1414 Madison Ave. Elizabeth Meredith Reese (1895)
  9. 1324 McCulloh St. Marguerite Easter (1890-1895)
  10. 1214 Madison St. (now a parking lot) Laura De Valin (1900-05)
  11. Altamont Hotel (now a vacant lot) Clara Newman Turner (1895-1900)
  12. 1100 block Eutaw Place, The Cecil  Clara Newman Turner (1905-1915)
  13. 300 block Dolphin Lane  Club officers Mrs. Jordan Stabler (339 Dolphin), Lydia Crane (313 Dolphin)
  14. 5 W. Biddle St. Louise Clarkson Whitelock
  15. 1037 N Calvert St. Letitia Wrenshall, Katharine Wrenshall Markland
  16. 1004 N Calvert St. Louise C. O. Haughton
  17. 937 N Calvert St. Elizabeth Lester Mullin
  18. 15 E. Eager St. Mary Spear Tiernan
  19. 12 E. Eager St.  Annie Weston Whitney
  20. 1307 Park Ave.  F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is what we saw, in the order we encountered them on the tour:

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Highlights of the trip:

  • Being welcomed into the home of the current owners of 1507 Park Ave. (residence of Christine Ladd-Franklin): walking the hallways and staircases, meeting the family (including Jon Kucskar, Emily Levenson, daughters Caroline and Emma, & dog Truman), who now lives in this house but had no idea of Ladd-Franklin’s existence before the research done by our class was published.
  • Seeing the streetcar tracks on Linden Ave. along which the New Women of the WLCB (and perhaps some of the older ladies of the neighborhood) may have traveled to meetings at the Academy of Arts and Sciences at 105 W. Franklin Ave.
  • Learning about the different kinds of structures– homes, stables, carriage houses, apartment buildings, hotels, condos, and how they evolved over time.
  • Seeing where buildings and homes used to be.
  • Seeing homes of people we’ve read about– including that of Sidney Lanier (room for rent!)–and sites like Friends School, the house where House of Cards was shot.
  • Farmers’ market mini-donuts brought by Bolton Hill neighbor and WLCB fan, Peter Van Buren!! Thank you Peter!

For next time:

Unfortunately, due to rain which became increasingly insistent and wind that grew increasingly persistent, we decided to severely truncate the trip, skipping the following stops (which follow the cluster of dots below and to the right of tour stop #14 on the map above):

  • 875 Park Ave., Mary Noyes Colvin (founding member)
  • 829 Park Ave., Elizabeth King (leader of breakaway contingent & founder of Arundell Club, 1893)
  • 825 Park Ave., Eliza Ridgely (founding secretary)
  • 711 Park Ave. Maud Early (founding member)
  • 708 St. Paul St. Emma Brent
  • 113 W. Monument St. Hester Crawford Dorsey (founder of WLCB)
  • The numerous early members (1890-1895) who lived around Mt. Vernon Place & the Washington Monument

But really, 20 stops was plenty, and the hot bowls of pho and pots of green tea that welcomed us at Indochine were really quite necessary after 2+ hours of walking in the rain.

We’re all pretty soaked–I mean STOKED–about finding 5 W. Biddle St., former home of Louise Clarkson Whitelock, author of Buttercup’s Visit to Little Stay-at-Home. Photo by Peter Van Buren.

Here we all are near the end of our journey, at the former residence of founding member Louise Clarkson Whitelock. We were pretty wet by this time, and cold, but exhilarated by walking the streets on which these women lived, and walking up the steps they walked to their front doors. It was quite an adventure!