Featured Collections: League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters is a national, non-partisan and grassroots organization striving to expand voting rights and get all people mobilized to vote. The League was founded shortly after the passage of the nineteenth amendment granting women the vote.

Article about the League of Women Voters

In 1921, the Women’s Suffrage League of Maryland affiliated with the recently formed League of Women Voters of the United States. The non-partisan organization has, throughout its history, focused on a number of causes helping to shape American history. In particular, the League has been interested in elections and voting, women’s rights, education, child labor, collective bargaining, food and drug legislation, housing, the Poll Tax, civil rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment. In addition to these concerns, the local Leagues have been interested in local issues, including redistricting and reapportionment, state taxes and expenditures, the Maryland constitution, and state and local election laws, balanced local development, improvement of health services, and the establishment of juvenile correctional facilities, busing, urban planning and zoning, transportation, housing, public health, public safety, voter services, and environmental quality.

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This is a Woman’s World!

Content Warning: This post discusses issues related to sexual assault, abortion, and homophobia.

I just feel like women, they have minds and they have souls, as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty.

Jo March, Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig, 2019)

Mother nature. Lady Liberty. The Divine Feminine. Womanhood and femininity are intertwined with our vocabulary, inherently linked with our everyday interactions, with the way we speak, the way we think, and the way we see the world around us. Maryland and Historical Collections (MDHC) here at SCUA wants to emphasize that intertwining and uplift women and femme-identifying individuals by highlighting one of our collections that centers their voices.

Specifically, this post will highlight MDHC’s off our backs records. off our backs, or oob for short, was a non-profit feminist journal by, for, and about women, published from 1970 until 2008 in Washington, D.C. The journal covered a wide range of radical and difficult topics, moving seamlessly from local to national to international women’s rights issues, extending its broad reach to ensure everyone who opened the journal’s pages felt seen and included. 

Description of the "Thumb Poke," a self-defense tactic that involves poking an attacker in the eye. A black-and-white illustration depicts one person's thumb overlaying another person's eye.

The journal gave readers a uniquely diverse knowledge of where women stood in the midst of worldwide issues, such as highlighting the plight and fight of Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War (Vol. 3, No. 7), while also providing local information to women in the DMV area, such as a full-page spread listing out the pros and cons of different abortion clinics and gynecological offices in the D.C. Metro area, published directly after Roe v. Wade (Vol. 3, No. 10). In addition, the journal included general survival tips that were useful for women everywhere, with one issue laying out different tactics for physically fighting off would-be rapists (a finger in the eye socket seems to do the trick).

off our backs balanced these necessary but sometimes upsetting facts and stories with the inclusion of beautiful art, prose, and poetry, all created by a diverse group of women. Issues of off our backs are easily recognizable, thanks in part to their bold cover art and unique illustrations.

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New Exhibit – Watershed Moment: Celebrating and Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

Spring is finally here, bringing longer days, warmer weather, and flourishing wildlife. Maryland neighbors the Chesapeake Bay, a brackish estuary into which all rivers of the adjacent watershed empty. Did you know the land-to-water ratio of the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed is 14 to 1, greater than any other coastal body of water in the world? This means our actions on land have a big impact on the Bay’s health. While some human activity can pollute or harm the Bay, other human interventions are crucial to promoting and protecting the region’s unique biodiversity and cultural significance.

Introductory panel for the latest Maryland Room exhibit, "Watershed Moment: Celebrating and Protecting the Chesapeake Bay." The panel is blue with an outline of an unidentified bird in flight. A black and white photograph from the Baltimore News American collection depicts a crowd of people along the Bay's shore, watching several ships in the water.

The latest exhibition in the Maryland Room at Hornbake Library, Watershed Moment: Celebrating and Protecting the Chesapeake Bay, showcases the Bay’s vast and varied landscape and efforts to preserve its unique resources. We hope this exhibit inspires a greater appreciation for this region we call home and an awareness of our own responsibility in protecting the environment.

On display are items from Maryland and Historical Collections, including representations of the Bay and advocacy materials from local environmental organizations. A spotlight on the records of the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh demonstrates the importance of community involvement in conserving the Bay and surrounding watershed. The Black Marsh Natural Area (North Point State Park, Baltimore County) is a tidal freshwater-brackish wetland home to a variety of unique shrubs, flowers, and wildlife, including the bald eagle. In the 1990s, the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh, a group of local residents and environmentalists, raised awareness of this area’s vulnerable wildlife and sought to preserve its undisturbed wetlands. The coalition’s records reveal a commitment to education and community-led decision-making. We encourage you to visit to learn more about how we can all advocate for the Chesapeake Bay environment.

Exhibition is open Monday–Friday, 10am–4pm in the Maryland Room at Hornbake Library and on display through May 6th.

To explore more, visit Special Collections and University Archives to view the Coalition to Preserve Black Marsh records and other materials related to the Chesapeake Bay.


Exhibit curated by Jacob Hopkins, an MLIS student and the Graduate Assistant for Reference, Outreach, and Engagement, Maryland and Historical Collections, Special Collections and University Archives.

Pamphlets for Progress: Uplifting the Voices of Black Women

February is Black History Month, and coming up soon in March is Women’s History Month. In Maryland and Historical Collections (MDHC) here at SCUA, we’re approaching these important occasions as opportunities to uplift collection materials that represent the lived experiences, struggles, and accomplishments of Black women. First up in our review is the Women’s Studies pamphlet collection (0274-MDHC). This collection was first established by Susan Cardinale, UMD’s Associate Librarian for Special Collections, in the early 1970s, and has continued to grow. In total, the collection takes up 13.5 feet of shelf storage space in our stacks. Arranged alphabetically by subject, the pamphlets in this collection cover a variety of time periods and topics, including the experiences of Black women and women of color.

Black and White Image: Two women; one looking at the camera, one looking to the side. Text on top left side reads, 'Black Women’s Liberation' (the O in Liberation is a female sign [♀]). Text on bottom right reads, ‘by Maxine Williams and Pamela Newman’
Black Women’s Liberation (1971) by Maxine Williams and Pamela Newman

But what exactly is a pamphlet? In its most basic format, a pamphlet is a small, unbound (or loosely bound) book. Pamphlets are generally used to promote an organization’s mission or goals or to raise awareness for a campaign, social issue, or political movement. A well-known historical example is Common Sense, Thomas Paine’s 47-page pamphlet that circulated around the onset of the American Revolution and advocated for independence from Great Britain. Pamphlets can condense complex ideas or large movements into concise arguments that can be easily shared with others.

From the Women’s Studies pamphlet collection, we want to spotlight some pamphlets that are written by and for Black women. With titles like The Status of Women of Color in the Economy: The Legacy of Being Other, Black Women’s Liberation, and Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female, these pamphlets discuss a range of social issues and are written for both readers with similar lived experiences as well as those seeking to be better allies. These pamphlets scrutinize obstacles, both historical and contemporary, that Black women have faced in the fight for justice, respect, and equal treatment and pay.

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What’s in a place name? Exploring the history of Piscataway Park and Accokeek Creek Site

Before European settlers invaded their lands in the seventeenth century, Indigenous communities of different sizes, languages, and cultures existed throughout present-day Maryland. Algonquian peoples, including the Piscataway, Conoy, and Mattaponi tribes, lived and traveled along the Potomac River, from the Chesapeake Bay to present-day Washington, D.C., including in nearby Accokeek, Maryland. Early travel accounts of white colonizers, like the journals and maps of Captain John Smith, identify geographic names that designated the Native peoples, cultures, and languages of those places. Many of these Indigenous words, such as Chesapeake, Patapsco, and Wicomico, still mark the landscape today. Accokeek, for example, derives its name from the Algonquian word for “at the edge of the hill,” and the neighboring Potomac River is named for the Patawomeck tribe that lived along the waterway’s southern bank.

Black and white photo of entrance sign: "Moyaone Reserve." A forest of trees is behind the sign and an unpaved road lays before it.
Entrance to Moyaone Reserve, circa 1957

Just as Native place names endure, so do Native communities and sites of their local cultural heritage and historical significance. Accokeek, Maryland is home to Piscataway Park, named after the local Piscataway tribe and divided into seven areas, including the Moyaone Reserve, a present-day residential community. In 1922, husband and wife Henry and Alice Ferguson purchased the land upon which Moyaone Reserve rests as a rural getaway from their daily lives in Washington, D.C. Interested in the history of the land, the Fergusons initiated archaeological digs beginning in the 1930s. These digs unearthed evidence of Indigenous presence in the area extending back thousands of years and gave the area its name. Moyaone (pronounced Moy-own) translates to “home place” and was an important village of the local Piscataway tribe, which John Smith visited in 1608 and is believed to have been situated near the present-day Moyaone Reserve.

Black and white aerial photo of the Moyaone Reserve mid-excavation, circa 1936. The land is mostly untouched except for a crescent strip that appears to have been stripped and excavated.
Aerial view of Moyaone excavation site, 1936
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Celebrating American Archives Month with Maryland & Historical Collections

October is American Archives Month, a month-long celebration of historic documents and records and the people that make them available for use. In Maryland & Historical Collections (MDHC), we know that people give our collections purpose. These people include the subjects represented in our collections, the students and researchers who use our materials in person and virtually, and the staff and volunteers who innovate ways of sharing Maryland history and culture with the public.

I recently spoke with two MDHC student assistants, Susannah Holliday and Matt LaRoche, to learn their thoughts on archives and the work they contribute to Special Collections and University Archives. Susannah is a graduate student in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, and Matt is a graduate student in the dual History and Library Science (HiLS) program. Working in MDHC gives them opportunities to apply what they learn in their classes to the everyday practices of a real archive. As the archivists of the future, Susannah and Matt offer great insight into the value of the historic record and the possibilities that exist when more people are involved in archives.

Susannah Holliday (left) and Matt LaRoche (right) stand outside on UMD's campus, each maneuvering a dolly stacked with several records boxes.
Archives everywhere! Susannah Holliday (left) and Matt LaRoche (right) transport archival materials across campus to their new home at Hornbake Library.
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