Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From the Stacks: Love, Sex, and Women's Rights

Guest post by Sarah Fitzgerald, Book Division volunteer

Ezra Heywood was a feminist and abolitionist who edited an individualist anarchist magazine, The Word.  He was convicted of violating the 1873 Comstock Act in 1878 for mailing 'obscene material,' which consisted of literature attacking traditional notions of marriage, and went in and out of prison until his death in 1893. Heywood's 1877 essay, Cupid's yokes: or, The binding forces of conjugal life. An essay to consider some moral and physiological phases of love and marriage, wherein is asserted the natural right and necessity of sexual self-government mentions the passing of the Act forbidding the mailing of 'lewd' publications. He knew the risk he was taking in writing about his sexual beliefs.

In the essay, Heywood sets out his beliefs that sexual intercourse is moral whenever the couple feels affection for one another and immoral whenever they do not, regardless of whether the participants are married or monogamous, or not. In his words "The kingdom of heaven supplants all human governments; in it the institution of marriage, which assigns the possession of one woman to one man, does not exist." He also felt that any couple who felt affection for each other ought to have children together, regardless of who they were married to. Heywood also advocated sexual education, including how to prevent conception by the rhythm method. It was courageous of Heywood to take a stand for sexual freedom in a time when it was against the law, but not all his statements about women are as modern. One reason he gave for his defense of sex outside of marriages was his belief that insanity in unmarried women (hysteria) was due to the lack of sexual intimacy.

Heywood's feminist convictions have their roots in the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft, who blazed a path for many feminists in her 1792 book A vindication of the rights of woman:with strictures on moral and political subjects. Wollstonecraft was also suspicious of the unequal treatment of the sexes within marriage.  She chose not to marry her lover, Gilbert Imlay, and later she married William Godwin, an anarchist and adherent of the free love philosophy. She had a daughter with Godwin who grew up to be Mary Shelley, another proponent of free love.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Today in History: Thanksgiving

Guest post by Sarah Fitzgerald, Book Division volunteer

Thanksgiving celebrations have often been marked by hymns of thanks in appreciation of the joys of life and plentiful food. Songs of thanksgiving pre-date the first national recognition by President Lincoln of the day we now call Thanksgiving Day. The Thanksgiving: a Collection of Music for the Choir, the Home Circle, and the Singing School from 1857 provides songs of thanks with the hope that "many a heart may be led to praise God with greater ardor through its instrumentality". The lyrics in many of the songs have a serious and reverent tone to them that makes it clear that more than musical lessons are intended to be learned from the book.

Thanksgiving began as a religious holiday to thank God for the bounty of food from fall harvests, but it is also a patriotic holiday which is bound tightly to American identity. In 1792, An Anthem Designed for Thanksgiving Day. But proper for any publick occasion. was published according to an act of Congress. This publication shows how our government's relationship with religion has changed, since it it is difficult to imagine this Christian song would be published under an act by a modern Congress.

Some Thanksgiving songs are meant as a reminder that in difficult times there is still much to be thankful for.
A poignant song called Mamma Says There's No Thanksgiving published 1901tells the story of a child whose father has left for war and a soldier who has been lost to his family, until they meet and discover they are father and daughter and rejoice in thanks at being reunited. The image from the sheet music also pulls at the heartstrings, as the little girl looks mournfully at a display of holiday foods in a shop window, wishing she could partake of the celebratory treats.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today in History: Heroine of Fort Niagara

Post by Brian Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps

The name “Molly Pitcher” and her actions helping to “man” a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778 might strike a chord of recognition among those familiar with the American Revolution.  Much less known is a heroine of the War of 1812, who also helped serve a gun two hundred years ago on November 22.  Betsy Doyle, wife of a US artilleryman at Fort Niagara, New York, stood by the soldiers stationed on a gun platform during a ferocious exchange of cannon fire with British-held Fort George across the Niagara River.

This satirical print, published by William Charles in 1812 or 1813, pokes fun at military life. The large number of women and children depicted in this cartoon only slightly exaggerates the situation in the US Army of the War of 1812.
Betsy, whose name is often incorrectly given as “Fanny,” was the wife of artilleryman Andrew Doyle.  As such, she was one of many married women who accompanied their husbands into the field with both the British and American armies.  Doyle was not present to witness his wife’s heroism; he had fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, where he was taken prisoner.  Betsy was left to fend for herself at Fort Niagara.  She, like most army women, helped support her family by laundering soldiers’ clothing.

When the cannon began to roar on November 22, 1812, Betsy abandoned her washtub and offered her services to a gun crew from her husband’s regiment.  During the ensuing barrage, she carried red-hot cannon balls from the furnace to the gun where they were fired at Fort George, 1,300 yards away.  Fort Niagara’s commandant took note and reported that Betsy “showed a fortitude equal to the Maid of Orleans.”
The participation of women in America’s wars is recorded in many scattered sources—order books, letters, journals, and official records for all of America’s early wars, and these sources are well represented at the Clements Library.

Friday, November 16, 2012

In the News: "Gift to Clements Library Renews American History Landmark"

This article by Ann Rock, Director of Development at the Clements Library, appeared today in the University Record: "Gift to Clements Library renews American history landmark." On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved a major renovations project for Clements Library. This renovation project will improve the historic building's infrastructure and expand collections space. Construction will begin in early 2014 and will be completed in about 18 months. During that time, staff and collections will be offsite, with arrangements made to continue providing access for researchers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Today in History: Armistice Day

Guest post by Meg Hixon, Project Archivist

The First World War has long been eclipsed in American public memory, but it was, at the time, the "Great War" that affected families across the country and across the world. In honor of Veterans' Day, the successor to Armistice Day, I would like to highlight some of the lesser-known collections in the Clements Library's Manuscripts Division. The library holds a robust collection of World War I material, including diaries and soldiers' letters about the doughboys' experiences in training camps around the United States and along the Western Front.

Stephen Brown, a member of the 103rd Engineer Regiment, collected photographs, ephemera, and his letters home in 4 large diaries, which recount his experiences in the United States and France throughout the war.
Though the United States did not formally enter the war until 1917, members of the American Expeditionary Forces played a pivotal role in the Allied victory, participating in such battles as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In their diaries and letters home, soldiers described a range of reactions to news of the armistice, which ended active combat at 11:11 A.M. on November 11, 1918. On the previous day, November 10, 1918, Stewart Frederick Laurent, a native of Pennsylvania who had been drafted into Company 11 of the 1st Air Service Mechanics Regiment, had shared his pride in the Americans' role in bringing peace:
The French and English and Belgians did wonderful fighting but it seems that after the U.S.A. troops arrived over here that they got new courage and spirit for they are surely walking over the Germans…The world's history is certainly being made. The German envoys have until 11 o'clock tomorrow to decide about signing the armistice. I hope [they] have sense enough to sign. You will know and so will I know the outcome of these negotiations before this letter reaches you.
On November 12, he joyfully exclaimed, "Just think! Peace is at hand!"

Laurent served behind the front lines, but other American soldiers witnessed firsthand the guns' instant silence. Ambulance driver Bert C. Whitney vividly counted down the war's final moments in his diary entry of November 11, 1918, "a day of days and one that we will always remember." With several minutes to go, he reported, "Our whole front is thundering away as if there was a big drive…they are firing like mad." A few minutes later, "a terrific volley from all the cannon ended the firing. Every thing is as quiet as can be except for the tolling of bells can it be. I can't hardly believe that peace can be so near." Though the end of the war caused widespread elation throughout France, Captain Edward Van Winkle of the 24th Engineer Regiment observed a more muted sense of victory. "The Armistice caused no little work," he told his wife in a letter dated November 11-12, 1918. "I am almost ready to admit that the French people don't know how to celebrate, for everything has been serious, calm and…indifferent all day. But that's another story."

James Leonard Sturgeon, a pilot cadet in the Canadian Royal Flying Corps, received a proclamation from King George V commending the Royal Air Force for its work during the war.
Along with these and other collections pertaining to soldiers in France, the Clements' collections include descriptions of life at training camps around the United States and, in the case of pilot cadet James Leonard Sturgeon, in Canada. Alfred Schaller spent most of the war at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, with Troop F of the 14th Cavalry Regiment. Though he did not go to Europe, he, too, was elated by the end of hostilities. His letter of November 12, 1918, provides a detailed look at the unusual celebrations in San Antonio, Texas (the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, except ellipses, are all present in the original):
Did you know that the war is over?…Yesterday morning I woke up at four o;clock and I heard a lot of yelling and whistles blowing so I knew that it must be that GERMANY had accepted the U. S. terms,: At 5 O,CLOCK there was an extra out to that effect; Then the fun started; At CAMP TRAVIS the drafted ones started to raise (TEXAS) or rather H___...Of course I went to town after supper; And some night; Talk about noise; And powder; and paint; every body was buying face powder and throwing it in every body's face and red and black shoe polish dobbing it over every bodys face and they all took it good natured; and those that did not was given another dose; I never saw such a sight: HORNS "BELLS" WHISTLES "POWDER" PAINT "CONFETTI" And every thing imagineable.
For some soldiers, the end of the war meant an eerie, disconcerting quiet on the front lines. For some, the armistice led to a few extra months in France or Germany with the Army of Occupation. For some, such as Brewster Littlefield of the 101st Engineer Regiment, who was killed by a piece of shrapnel on November 3, 1918, the end came too late. November 11, 1918, marked a pivotal moment in the shape of the modern world, one that lives on in the words of those who witnessed it firsthand, and one that we continue to honor and remember 94 years later.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In the News: "Exhibit Celebrates Key Stage in Emancipation Struggle"

Kevin Brown's article, "Exhibit celebrates key stage in emancipation struggle," is in this week's issue of the University Record. Co-curators Martha S. Jones and Clayton Lewis developed this exhibit, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Newspapers, broadsides, photographs, and letters document the effects of the proclamation and its impact on visual culture. This exhibit is a collaboration between the Law School's Program in Race, Law & History, the William L. Clements Library, and the U-M Library. It is on display in the Hatcher Library's Room 100 Gallery and Audubon Room until February 18, 2013.

Related videos on YouTube:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recent Acquisition: Vermont Historical Gazetteer

Guest post by Sarah Fitzgerald, Book Division volunteer

The library has recently acquired the Vermont Historical Gazetteer, compiled by Abby Maria Hemenway. This five-volume set is a remarkable accomplishment for a 19th century woman. Hemenway's goal was to create a record of Vermont's unwritten past. Those interested in Vermont history will find rich details on all counties except her own, Windsor County, because unfortunately she died before she could complete it.

Portrait of Abby Maria Hemenway, Vermont Historical Society.
Abby Hemenway was born in Ludow, Vermont in 1828 and taught school in Vermont and Michigan for many years. Beginning in 1859, she worked for more than 30 years to recruit authors to write about early Vermont history, edit their work, and publish it in the Gazetteer. She persevered in her effort despite objections from the Addison County Historical Society, which complained that it was an improper role for a woman. 

Hemenway funded the Gazetteer by getting women to sell subscriptions, but few people were willing to pay 25 cents per issue, so she struggled to publish issues each quarter. She moved to Chicago, but continued to face problems in meeting her publishing costs. She died in 1890, and her sister Carrie Page published Volume Five after her death. The editing of Volume Six was taken over by Hemenway's friend William Portus Baxter, but he died in 1911 and the notes burned in a house fire the same year, leaving the last piece of Hemenway's ambitious endeavor incomplete.

The pages of the index volume are warped and water-stained. That is because the State of Vermont printed them up and stored the unsold copies in a Montpelier basement when the catastrophic 1927 flood put eight feet of water on Montpelier's State Street. It is rare to find an index for the set that doesn't exhibit signs of having been submerged.

Further Reading:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lecture by Martin West, "Benjamin West and the French and Indian War," November 15, 2012

Lecture by Martin West
"Benjamin West and the French and Indian War"

Thursday, November 15, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
Great Hall, Clements Library

Martin West was executive director of Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania, 1981-2011, where he curated the international exhibition, The World Ablaze: An Introduction to the Seven Years' War, and developed a permanent art gallery of sixteen original works by artists Reynolds, Ramsey, Copley, West, Peale, Pine, Penney, Van Loo and Knapton. His article, "Benjamin West in Bath," will appear in the British journal, Bath History, in 2013. Martin West is a collateral descendant of Benjamin West.

Free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Library at (734) 764-2347 or visit our website: www.clements.umich.edu.

William L. Clements Library 
909 S. University Ave. 
Ann Arbor, MI