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Posts Tagged ‘Women’s history’

Amherst College’s records are filled with names that would seem unusual today, like Preserved Smith (grandfather – 1828, grandson – 1901), or Heman Humphrey (2nd college president, 1823-1845). It’s less common to come across a name that stands out because it sounds modern to our ears. I was surprised when I found letters to a Crystal Thompson, curator of the Zoological Collection—written in 1923.

At first, I thought that the name might be an example of a name’s gender association changing, as with the name Leslie1, because the first letter, from Feb. 20, 1923, was addressed, “Dear Sir.”

Milton Bradley Company, Springfield, Mass. Feb. 20, 1923 Dear Sir: We have your favor of the 15th and believe your trouble can be corrected by loosening up the screw, which goes through the adjusting button on the left hand side of the rule, and taking an ordinary carpenter screw, laying it against the straight blade, square up your rule. Be sure the rule sets in position when you tighten the screw in the cam button. We enclose herewith direction card. If this should not overcome your trouble, please advise us further. Very truly yours, G. Falek.

Instructions for fixing a troublesome paper cutter, from Milton Bradley Company

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Margaret Sutton Briscoe Hopkins

Margaret Sutton Briscoe Hopkins, undated. From the Ladies of Amherst photo album.

Margaret Sutton Briscoe was born at the end of the Civil War–December 1864–in Baltimore, MD, the daughter of a wealthy doctor, Samuel W. Briscoe and his wife, Cornelia Dushane Blacklock Briscoe. Although she had no memories of the war or slavery, the War marked an immense change in her extended family’s fortunes (the Briscoe family owned the large Sotterly plantation on the Chesapeake Bay), and she had strong memories of Reconstruction. Briscoe’s father died when she was two years old, and she, her mother, and infant brother moved in with her maternal grandfather and his wife. According to Briscoe, her grandfather and step-grandmother doted on and clearly preferred her brother. She was educated at home by private tutors and later lamented the fact that she had not gone to school or studied at college, something that “wasn’t done” in the circles she grew up in.

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“Ladies at Amherst” editorial in the Amherst Student, February 12, 1870. Amherst College Special Collections.

The theme for National Women’s History Month this year is “Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment.” Reports, newspaper articles and other material related to women’s education at Amherst can be found in the Amherst College Coeducation Collection. The faculty voted overwhelmingly to approve coeducation in 1974, but the debate over the issue already stretched back more than 100 years.

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