Women’s History Month: Defining “Normal” Pt.II

Just in case you can’t visit the display in Hornbake Library, Defining “Normal,” here are some of the items we’re featuring to celebrate Women’s History Month!

“Single Blessedness”

Does marriage define a normal woman? Clara Barton never married, but she accomplished great things that have inspired both men and women alike. At the same time, women who look forward to marriage and raising families may face scorn and discrimination, both from the workplace, society, and other feminists.

Clara Barton, 2nd from the left, at Clara Barton House in Cabin John, Maryland. From the Clara Barton Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Clara Barton, 2nd from the left, at Clara Barton House in Cabin John, Maryland. From the Clara Barton Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Clara Barton

Do you think Clara Barton, the American Red Cross founder known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” is “trapped by so-called single blessedness?” (Single Girl, Dr. Brown).

  • Barton established the first free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey
  • She served as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, one of the first regularly appointed female civil servants
  • Until Clara Barton, women were not allowed in hospitals or on battlefields; she provided aid and supplies on 16 battlefields

Associated Women Students

The self-governing body of women students called the Associated Women Students formed between 1953 and 1954. The purpose of the association was to

 “establish and enforce standards of conduct for women students; sponsor cultural and social activities; coordinate women’s activities on campus; and promote the development of leadership, good scholarship, and self-responsibility among the co-eds.”

A 1961 Bridal Fair sponsored by the Associated Women Students, documented in the scrapbooks, includes a list of fashions for the bride marrying a professional man (click for PDF of the Bridal Fashion Show). For example,

SO YOU’RE GOING TO MARRY AN ENGINEER! (…..wear yella for that fella!)

Would this be “normal” for a woman now? What judgments and stereotypes might the Associated Women Students have to face today?

The 1961 Scrapbook of the Associated Women Students, featuring pages about their Bridal Fair on April 18th.

The 1961 Scrapbook of the Associated Women Students, featuring pages about their Bridal Fair on April 18th. http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1679

International Women’s Day Resources from UMD Libraries

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history. We’ll also provide online tools, resources, and information about our displays and women’s history every Wednesday and Sunday this month.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


The exhibit “Taking a Leading Role” offers a sampling of items drawn from Library of American Broadcasting collections. The photo depicts Martha Brooks.

University of Maryland Libraries Resources for the student or researcher of women’s history

Women’s history and the struggle for equality covers a broad spectrum of issues, events, and individuals. To support International Women’s Day and students or researchers of women’s history, here is a list of some online resources (exhibits, collections, and subject guides) available from the Special Collections and other University of Maryland Libraries. If you run into a resource only accessible to University of Maryland researchers, and you need access to something in these guides, we welcome you to contact us for more information.

Online Exhibits

Taking a Leading Role: Women in Broadcasting History

Women on the Border: Maryland Perspectives of the Civil War

Nancy Drew and Friends: Girls’ Series Books Rediscovered

ERA_NOW_UMD

The Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, May 1986. Image may be under copyright.

Collections

Are you interested in the individual voices of women? Are you searching for organizations in history that represented women’s communities or rights?

Here is a list of finding aids for materials at the Special Collections. Some of these items are digitized and available online through Digital Collections (online items will be noted in the finding aids).

You can also search Digital Collections using the terms “woman,” “women,” “women’s rights,” and similar key terms for images and finding aids from our collections.

Subject Guides

These guides provide tips and resources for researching women’s history. Some guides relate to a specific class, but may also have useful resources for your studies.

Women & the American Civil War

Women in Maryland

Women’s Studies Research Guide

Women in the Media

Introduction to Women’s Studies: Women and Society

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies

Maryland Genealogy

International Women’s Day Feature: Mona Kent

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


mona_kent

I think how wonderful it would be if some writer could find a formula for giving women the substance and not the shadow of life.

 Mona Kent, in an interview with Time Magazine. September 12, 1949.

Mona Kent (1909-1990) was a radio and TV script writer. She wrote every episode of radio soap opera “Portia Faces Life.” Kent defines the problem driving the emotion in this soap opera as “a conflict between her wish to be a wife and mother, to keep a neat and cheerful home for her husband, Walter, and raise his children properly–and the ever-recurring necessity of being a lawyer and career woman in order to keep groceries in the kitchen.” Clearly, Kent had identified a relevant, divisive problem: an article in “Radio and Television Mirror” in 1950 asks readers, “Does a working wife cheat her family?” and encouraged women to write in with their opinions.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Kent criticizes the soap opera women for the success and power that derives from a set of self-sacrificing virtues. The writer speculated that “possibly, the American woman feels actually so dependent, economically and emotionally, that she has to appease her insecurity by identifying herself with one or more soap opera heroines.” In her novel, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Kent writes, “how much should a woman sacrifice for the man she loves?” To Kent, a virtuous and self-sacrificing woman like Portia, defined only by her love for her husband and children, lives only as a formula for soap-opera heroines.

International Women’s Day Display

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history. We’ll also provide online tools, resources, and information about our displays and women’s history every Wednesday and Sunday this month.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.

About the display

mona_kent

“Working Women”

March 1-March 17

Script writer Mona Kent and her radio character Portia highlight the challenges facing working women in the 1940s and 1950s, including the social expectation of self-sacrifice in women, and the struggle of a writer to portray women who didn’t fit that code.

The Single Girl book cover

Defining “Normal”

March 17-March 31

Dr. Brown, author of “The Single Girl,” claims that the abnormal woman must “re-channel her existence via adjustment, sublimation, or a return to the normal, in order to find real happiness.” How do women define normal? Clearly, not all of us have identical goals, lifestyles, and beliefs. This month, we celebrate the complex diversity of women and each individual’s right to find her personal definition of “real happiness.”

centredinternationalwomensdayVisit the website for more information about International Women’s Day 2013 and resources for continuing the momentum toward equality.