Writing from the Library (Spring 2016)

Writing from the Library_book covers

Three books researched at the Schlesinger Library—two biographies and a novel—have garnered a fair bit of buzz in the past few months.

Bell-Scott, Patricia.
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice
(Knopf, 2016)

The friendship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the noted activist, Episcopal priest (the church canonized her in 2012, 28 years after her death), and lawyer Pauli Murray took place over a period of 25 years and is immortalized in their letters. Through the two women’s correspondence, found both at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and in Murray’s papers at the Schlesinger, “Bell-Scott allows these women to speak for themselves, a light touch that works with two heavyweights,” says a review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. The dual biography includes many of Murray’s personal photos.

Fisher, M.F.K.
The Theoretical Foot
(Counterpoint, 2016)

First written in 1939 and published posthumously, The Theoretical Foot is only the second known novel by the celebrated food writer and memoirist M.F.K. Fisher, whose papers are housed in the Schlesinger Library. During the editing process, the Fisher family compared their copy of the manuscript with one in the library’s collections. In its Sunday Book Review, the New York Times said the novel, assumed to be semiautobiographical, “has the unflinching spareness Fisher’s admirers rely on, along with the essential eruptions of sensuality.”

Randolph, Sherie M.
Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical
(University of North Carolina Press, 2015)

This is the first biography of Flo Kennedy, a leader of the Black Power and feminist movements. Randolph drew on an extensive collection—which includes Kennedy’s correspondence, videotapes from The Flo Kennedy Show, photographs, records from her activism and legal work, and much more—to write a biography that is, according to Essence, “bursting with stories of rebellion and triumph, with a backdrop of historical context and, always, a hint of mystery.” The book received an honorable mention for the Organization of American Historians’ 2016 Darlene Clark Hine Award.

But not only outsiders conduct research at the Schlesinger: a number of library staff members have generated scholarship from within its brick walls. Below is a list of papers presented, chapters contributed, and journal articles published in the past year by our very own colleagues.

Jacob, Kathryn Allamong. “Alice Rossi,” American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2016)
Jacob, the Johanna-Maria Fraenkel Curator of Manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library, contributed an entry about the sociologist and feminist to an online collection of biographies, www.anb.org, that tells the history of America through its people. The website and its accompanying print edition are edited by the historian Susan Ware, a former senior advisor to the Schlesinger and a member of the Schlesinger Library Council.

Jacob, Kathryn Allamong. “Hidden Hands in the Archives: Or, the Role of Information Professionals in Literary Recovery,” Society for the Study of American Women Writers, November 2015, Philadelphia
Jacob joined five other archivists at a roundtable hosted by the Maine Women Writers Collection this past November 5.

Murphy, Mary O., and Laura Peimer (with Genna Duplisea and Jamie Fritz). “Failure Is an Option: The Experimental Archives Project Puts Archival Innovation to the Test” (American Archivist, Fall/Winter 2015)
Murphy, an administrative librarian, and Peimer, an archivist, teamed up with archivists from Salve Regina and Brandeis Universities to create a case study of the Schlesinger’s own Experimental Archives Project, which tested direct-to-digital processes as a way of speeding manuscript processing and improving access.

Peimer, Laura. “Trans* Collecting at the Schlesinger Library: Privacy Protection and the Challenges of Description and Access” (TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2015, Volume 2, Number 4)
This paper by Peimer describes how the library has dealt with the unique processing challenges posed by its trans collections.

Strauss, Amanda. “Treading the Ground of Contested Memory: Archivists and the Human Rights Movement in Chile” (Archival Science, December 2015)
A research librarian, Strauss traveled to Chile in late 2011 to interview archivists and human rights activists and to visit various sites related to human rights.

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