The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that…women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves.
—Louise Otto, German feminist, 1849
A new Lupton Library Special Collections spring exhibit Women and the Cultural Record: An Exploration and Celebration is on display until May 5.
“The notion of woman as creator of the cultural record is multi-faceted and can lend itself to woman as historian, author, artist, politician, public servant, or collector. These ideas are explored here in two ways. First we look at women who record our material culture in an intentional way, such as Bayard Wooten, feminist pioneer in photography whose depictions of marginalized people in Appalachia told the story of poverty that plagued much of the region.
“The second idea explores women who have contributed to the greater cultural record without intention. These women simply participated in the simple daily activities of life- journaling, scrapbooking, letter-writing, and the like- never imagining that their outpouring would find purchase in our historical records.”
One of the best portions of the exhibit for Chapel D. Cowden, Archives Specialist, is the collection of letters written by Mary Paroissin, a French girl, to her American pen pal, Jeanne Monefeldt. The correspondence lasted for more than 60 years.
“The collection of letters was given to the foreign language department at UTC by the husband of Monefeldt after her death,” Cowden explained. “The foreign language department transferred the letters to the Special Collections for safe-keeping. Though these letters do offer an excellent opportunity for a foreign language student to work on his/her translation skills, the letters offer us far more than that. It is our fortune to view the evolution of this friendship from schoolgirls to careers, husbands, children, war, and old age. Through this correspondence we are given a new lens through which to view events such as WWII and how those events affected families, women and children in particular.”
Though this exhibit will be interesting and informative for all audiences, it is especially relevant for a female audience.
“It is rather cliché to say it, but we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, at least to some degree,” Cowden said. “We are incessantly reminded of the contributions by men to our historical record, but women were contributing as well (albeit in a less public way). Sometimes these contributions were not even valued by the women who created them, for instance those who kept journals and scrapbooks. Yet to those of us trying to piece together the life experiences of historically marginalized people, including women and minorities, they are invaluable.”
The only woman represented in the exhibit still living today is Marilyn Lloyd, according to
Cowden. The exhibit statement explains:
“She [Lloyd] made her mark as a congresswoman of Tennessee from 1974-1994. During her tenure she chaired many committees and sponsored/co-sponsored many bills.
“On display is a notebook of material from Ms. Lloyd’s campaign, undertaken after her own struggle with breast cancer, to improve mammography standards, create breast cancer awareness, and petition the FDA to keep silicone breast implants on the market.
“Ms. Lloyd’s efforts and her careful attention to detail have left us with an excellent record of the inner workings of the political process.”