The Schlesinger Library is pleased to provide you with an update to our exciting collaboration with the former “Seven Sisters” schools: collegewomen.org. The project began in the spring of 2014 when the library, along with the libraries and archives of Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, and Vassar colleges, received a Foundation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). During this pilot project, Schlesinger archivists worked with their counterparts to create an online portal which would bring together a rich digital collection of student materials from the seven institutions. The portal enables visitors to search across diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and photographs documenting the experiences of women college students from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries.
In May 2016, the seven institutions embarked upon a second NEH grant to further develop and populate this new resource. Through online meetings and in-person summits, the project group has worked to refine the shared metadata schema, work with the developer to create an automated harvesting system, and plan for publicity through conferences, the site’s blog, and other social media efforts. Schlesinger archivists, student assistants, and our collections conservator have been busy preparing items for digitization and enhancing our metadata, including expanding our descriptive information to provide better access to our letters, diaries, and scrapbooks. By the close of the grant in October 2017, the site will provide access to over 60,000 new images from the seven repositories.
During this current grant, the Schlesinger Library is digitizing material from 12 students covering the period 1892–1940. Highlights from these collections include letters home from two generations of Radcliffe graduates, Eleanor Stabler Brooks (AB 1914) and her daughter, Margaret Brooks Morris (AB 1938). Morris and an earlier Radcliffe student whose letters will be digitized, Cornelia James Cannon (AB 1899), both had long careers as political activists after leaving college.
The diaries of Elsie Winchester Coolidge provide a glimpse into the daily life of a Radcliffe College student in 1893–1894. Coolidge, an avid vocalist and a member of the English and Idler Clubs, reflected upon her daily student activities, such as attending a May Day celebration, as well as world events ranging from the death of Lucy Stone Blackwell to the assassination of the president of France. The library is also thankful for the opportunity to provide access to 12 scrapbooks of Radcliffe College students. These compelling volumes document student life in Cambridge through mementos such as clippings, programs, calling cards, and photographs. Preserved also are the concerns of the times; for example, Margaret Young Doyle’s 1940 scrapbook juxtaposes the frivolity of student teas and plays with commencement speeches about a world at war.
Over the coming months Schlesinger archivists will continue to add more images and metadata to collegewomen.org. We look forward to continuing our partnership with our “sisters” while furthering scholarship in the history of women’s education.