Djuna Barnes and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

While Djuna Barnes is most known for her fiction writing, she also had significant ties to the women’s suffrage movement.  Djuna’s connection to the women’s suffrage movement started at a young age.  Djuna’s grandmother, Zadel Gustafson Barnes, was a writer, journalist, and poet. Zadel wrote profiles of well-known suffragists such as Frances E. Willard and participated in the National Woman Suffrage Association’s International Council of Women. Zadel was also active in the temperance movement, which was closely tied to the women’s suffrage movement.

Despite Djuna’s familial connection to the women’s suffrage movement, she had no qualms about occasionally mocking it.  In an August 1913 article Djuna portrays the suffragists as making ridiculous statements such as “cleanliness is next to women suffrage.”  These depictions portray suffragists as foolish caricatures.  Djuna continues this approach in her 1913 article, “70 Suffragists Turned Loose.”  Djuna engages with negative stereotypes of suffragists, such as portraying them as figures who emasculate and intimidate men.  However, some of Djuna’s criticism is about the perceived conservatism of some suffrage leaders such as Carrie Chapman Catt.  Djuna portrays Chapman Catt as admonishing aspiring suffragists for the length of their dresses and preparing them for speeches in front of audiences from “the factory world.”  Djuna criticizes Chapman Catt’s focus on respectability politics and her classism, showing a willingness to engage in more nuanced critiques of the suffrage movement.  

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Rebecca Hourwhich Reyher and Women’s Suffrage

The suffrage movement had many national leaders, but it could not have functioned without local figures such as Rebecca Hourwhich Reyher.  Hourwhich Reyher was the head of the National Women’s Party’s Boston and New York offices.  

To learn more about Rebecca Hourwhich Reyher, take a look at the Ferdinand Reyher papers and the Faith Reyher Jackson papers.  Ferdinand Reyher, Hourwhich Reyher’s ex-husband, was an author and journalist.  Faith Reyher Jackson, Reyher and Hourwhich Reyher’s daughter, was a dancer, author, and master gardener.  Both collections contain materials related to Hourwhich Reyher.  For example, the Ferdinand Reyher papers contain a letter from the famous suffragist Alice Paul.  

To learn more about Rebecca Hourwhich and other items in Literature and Rare Books related to suffrage contact us!


Caroline Ackiewicz, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science, University of Maryland.

A “Complex and Multi-Talented Man”: Exploring the Fascinating and Complicated Legacy of Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin speaking at Solidarity Day, September 19, 1981, https://digital.lib.umd.edu/resultsnew/id/umd:687295

As Pride month comes to a close, the Meany Labor Archive wanted to highlight the life and legacy of one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s close advisors and mentors, gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. In one of our last blog posts, co-written with University Archives, we explored the radical legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, specifically his ties to the labor movement. A key figure in the Civil Rights movement, Rustin advised Martin Luther King, Jr on nonviolent protesting, and was a chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. And while the March on Washington is commonly considered one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in United States history, the largest demonstration was actually a system-wide school boycott in New York City, beginning on February 3, 1964. Over 360,000 elementary and secondary students went on strike, with many of them attending “freedom schools” that opened up around the city. And who did local leaders recruit to guide the protests? None other than Bayard Rustin. As the lead organizer for the strike, Rustin immediately solicited volunteers and met with church and community leaders to obtain their commitment to organize their membership for the strike. On February 3rd, 464,361 students did not show up for school. In freezing temperatures, picket lines formed outside 300 school buildings, and over 3,000 students marched with signs reading “Jim Crow Must Go!,” “We Demand Quality Education!,” and “We Shall Overcome!” And although the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) never publicly endorsed the strike, nearly 10% of teachers were absent, and the union supported teachers who refused to cross the picket line. The day after the strike, Rustin declared that it was the “largest civil rights protest in the nation’s history.” Prior to organizing two of the largest civil rights demonstrations in United States history, Rustin also played an important role in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which challenged racial injustice through the usage of “Gandhian nonviolence.” As a member of CORE, Rustin trained and led groups in actions against segregation throughout the 1940s. 

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New Virtual Exhibition: Weapons of Math Destruction in the Archives

A new virtual exhibition of items from University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives related to Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction is now available. In her book, O’Neil presents arguments for how algorithms increasingly control critical functions in our lives and the danger of increasing our dependence on these flawed algorithms. While much of the material in Special Collections and University Archives cannot speak to the issues with present day algorithms, what these collections can help us understand are the “historical data sets” that drive our cultural implicit biases and shape the algorithms we encounter everyday. These items allow us to explore the ways that bias has historically played a role in upholding inequitable systems. Explore material from our collection related to higher education, hiring and employment, credit, insurance, and advertising by visiting the new virtual exhibition Weapons of Math Destruction in the Archives.

Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction was selected as the 2020-2021 First Year Book.

MDHC Reaches Milestone of 100 Transcriptions!

Recently the staff and volunteers in the Maryland and Historical Collections collecting area completed transcribing 100 of its primary source documents in the Maryland Manuscripts collection. This collection of nearly six thousand individually cataloged items bears witness to a wide breadth of Maryland history, primarily from 1750 to 1900. 

This phase of the project focuses on the series “Slavery-related Documents, 1752-1877 and undated.” The documents describe such topics as escape, manumissions, sale, military service, and abolition. Hundreds of these documents are already digitized and available online in our Digital Collections, making transcription the next priority.

While these transcriptions are not yet available online, researchers can reach out to Special Collections and University Archives at AskHornbake@umd.edu for individual access to select transcripts from this series.

Thanks to the small-but-mighty staff, MDHC is fulfilling UMD Libraries’ commitment of increasing access and use to the collections we steward.


Joni Floyd is Curator, (State of) Maryland and Historical Collections in Special Collections and University Archives, UM Libraries.

Spiro T. Agnew Papers Utilized for Research in Bag Man

UMD Libraries played a pivotal role  in the creation of Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz’s new book Bag Man, based on Maddow’s Peabody-nominated podcast of the same name. Both the book and podcast explore the surprisingly lesser-known stories of former vice president Spiro T. Agnew’s various crimes, briberies, and cover-ups. These accounts of Agnew’s vice presidency have  been described as “one of the most brazen political bribery scandals in American history” and “the other scandal that rocked Nixon’s White House.”

Maddow turned to several archival institutions for her research on the project, including UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives and Frostburg State’s Ort Library. When her Peabody nomination was announced, she credited libraries and archives  with making this extensive research possible and helping tell Agnew’s story, tweeting, “God bless you and keep you, Maryland college and university libraries!”

The Spiro T. Agnew papers at Hornbake Library’s Special Collections and University Archives contain roughly 750 linear feet of materials. This collection covers wide swaths of his career, including files from his time as Maryland’s Governor, audio of speeches he gave  as vice president, and additional materials from after his resignation.

Luckily, the bulk of the audio recordings utilized by Maddow had recently been made accessible for patrons to use by the time of her research. Special Collections and University Archives undertook a massive twelve-month digitization project in October 2018 to digitize much of the audio materials in the collection, which number over one thousand items and include both open reel tapes and cassette tapes. They are now accessible online through UMD Libraries Digital Collections

This project involved sending out the tapes for digital processing by an outside vendor, and then painstakingly listening to and taking notes for each tape, some of which are nearly 90 minutes long. With these notes, SCUA employees were then able to upload the recordings and create unique titles and descriptions for each one, cataloging them and making them searchable. 

Large projects like these not only promote accessibility and preservation, they allow new stories and perspectives to emerge from old materials. Without the work of librarians and archivists, deep retrospectives like Maddow’s podcast and book wouldn’t be possible.


Gabrielle Puglisi is a second year MLIS graduate student with a specialization in Archives and Digital Curation. She is a student assistant working in the Maryland Collections at the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives.

AFL-CIO Films on YouTube!

We now have 40 short films from our AFL-CIO film collection uploaded to George Meany Labor Archives playlist on the Hornbake Library YouTube channel! Many of these films were digitized as part of the “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History In America,” exhibit. This post intends to expand and explore upon a selection of films that we not only think are interesting, but also contextually relevant to the present day.

The first of these films is “CORE: Freedom Ride,” 1961, Presented by the Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Narrated by James Farmer, National Director of CORE and founder of the Freedom Rides, this film recounts the experiences of Freedom Riders shortly after the rides ended in December 1961. This film includes footage from the Freedom Rides, and testimony from Freedom Riders Jim Peck, Albert Bigelow, and Genevieve Hughes.

You can view all the videos in the George Meany Labor Archives playlist and explore more from the Labor history collections online. Have a question? Contact us!

New Resource: Black Writers and Artists in Special Collections

Literature and Rare Books in Special Collection and University Archives is a rich resource of works black artists and writers. Explore these items in our new subject guide on Black Writers and Artists!  

Non-fiction writing by black authors covers a wide variety of topics, including pamphlets on politics, racism, activism, and culture in our African American and African pamphlet collection. The subject guide also highlights fiction ranging from children’s books by Chinua Achebe to literary masterpieces by writers such as James Baldwin.  Contributions of black artists and printers to other parts of the bookmaking process, such as illustrators like Cledie Taylor and black owned presses like the Broadside Press, are also included.

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