Happy Ada Lovelace Day 2016!

Ruth Fulton Benedict (VC 1899)

Ruth Fulton Benedict (VC 1909)

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! On October 11, 2016, we’ll celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, an annual event recognizing achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. This year we’re adding a new reason to celebrate: we are thrilled to announce that the papers of Ruth Fulton Benedict (VC 1909) are available digitally through Alexander Street Press’s Anthropological Fieldwork Online via open access. Though Benedict was a social scientist rather than in a field identified with STEM, her use of the scientific method to learn about others helped her advance her life’s work in anthropology. As she stated during her acceptance speech for the Annual Achievement Award of American Association of University Women in 1946, “I have faith of a scientist that behavior, no matter how unfamiliar to us, is understandable if the problem is stated so that it can be answered by investigation and if then studied by technically suitable methods. And I have the faith of a humanist in the adventures of mutual understanding of men.”

The Papers of Ruth Fulton Benedict are available through a partnership with Alexander Street Press.

The Papers of Ruth Fulton Benedict are available through Anthropological Fieldwork Online.

Over the past year, the Vassar College Libraries have worked with Alexander Street Press to digitize and make freely available more than 8,000 pages of diaries, field notes, articles, teaching materials, and correspondence (much of which is transcribed), as well as photographs.

The papers of Benedict, a renowned anthropologist, are housed in the Archives & Special Collections Library at Vassar. As the finding aid to her papers notes:

In 1909, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, [Ruth Fulton] Benedict traveled to Europe with college friends. Following that, she was a social worker for a year, then spent three years teaching before marrying Stanley Benedict, a biochemistry professor at Cornell Medical School, in 1914.

In 1919 Ruth Benedict began taking courses, first at Columbia University with John Dewey and then at the New School for Social Research with Elsie Clews Parsons whose course in ethnology of the sexes kindled Benedict’s interest in anthropology. Under the guidance of Franz Boas, Benedict received her doctorate in 1923 from Columbia, where she remained throughout her career. In 1948 she was promoted to full professor in the Faculty of Political Science, the first woman to achieve such status.

Benedict’s fieldwork was done in California among the Serrano and with the Zuñi, Cochiti, and Pima in the Southwest. Student training trips took her to the Mescalero Apache in Arizona and Blackfoot in the Northwest. From her work in the field, several of her books were developed: Tales of the Cochiti Indians (New York: 1931); Zuñi Mythology (New York: 1935); and Patterns of Culture (Boston: 1934), which became a bestseller and influenced American life in that it explained the idea of “culture” to the layperson.

open-accessWe are thrilled that these materials are able to reach the widest available audiences through open access.

Wishing you a happy Ada Lovelace Day and best wishes for a wonderful semester for the arts, sciences, and social sciences alike!

Resources about Benedict:

Ada Lovelace Day 2015: Science for the Public Good

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!  On October 13, 2015, we’ll celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, an annual event recognizing achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math.

This year, we’re taking up the challenge issued by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA): to celebrate Lovelace through the vast DPLA digital collections available.  Many notable scientists that were graduates or faculty members from Vassar College have materials throughout the United States, and quite a lot of material can be found through DPLA (http://dp.la).  Inspired by Vassar’s mission, we want to use this year’s Ada Lovelace Day to highlight three of the many Vassar scientists that believed strongly in using science for the public good: Ellen Swallow Richards (VC 1873), Marian Elliott Koshland (VC 1942), and Ellen Kovner Silbergeld (VC 1967).

Want to know more about some of the many alumnae/i who chose careers in science?  Our guide to Vassar scientists (http://libguides.vassar.edu/content.php?pid=661952&sid=5482307) provides a wonderful starting point.  The DPLA has links to the personal, scientific, and professional papers of many of these scientists, including computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper, astronomer Caroline Furness, and anthropologist Ruth Benedict (whose personal papers are at Vassar College).

Wishing you a happy Ada Lovelace Day and best wishes for a wonderful semester for the arts, sciences, and social sciences alike!

The Susan B. Anthony papers: suffrage, abolition, organizing

New digital collection available!

The Slavery question is the All-absorbing one of the day…

— Susan B. Anthony to Bestey Voorhees, June 28, 1854 [1]

Susan B. Anthony, n.d. Bain News Service, publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.30124

Vassar’s Susan B. Anthony digital collection, containing 100 items (and more than 300 pages) of writings to and from the famous suffragist and abolitionist, is now available online.  While Anthony is perhaps best known for her work in obtaining voting rights for women, she was also heavily involved in anti-slavery efforts, and Vassar’s collection provides insights into Anthony’s work in the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement.  It also shows Anthony’s incredible talents for organizing political movements and bringing their causes to the forefront of local, state, and national conversations.  Materials include letters to and from noted abolitionists Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who, similar to Anthony, worked for abolitionist and suffrage causes).

Those interested in political organization, grassroots movements, funding, and networking will be particularly interested in Anthony’s writings.  For example, her March 8, 1859 letter to William Lloyd Garrison describes her goal to organize and inspire abolitionists in New York through better connection to voters and legislators.  As she writes from Albany, N.Y.:

“I have written Greely [Horace Greeley, the editor of the New-York Tribune] & asked him if he would not publish the petition & tell the readers of the Tribune of the fact that their noises should be heard at the Capitol … We must have some working centre here in New York – Gerit Smith [Gerritt Smith, see 3] says he has been giving time & money, in a quiet way – & so have others, but the trouble is it is so very quiet, nobody knows or feels it – We have the Material to be worked up into genuine anti Slavery – We lack only the faithful, earnest home workers -” [2].

Closeup of page 1, Anthony, Susan B. -- to William Lloyd Garrison, [Mar 8, 1859]

Closeup of page 1, Anthony, Susan B. — to William Lloyd Garrison, [Mar 8, 1859]

Anthony’s early letters are filled with similar references to organization, “working centers,” and creating networks and media outlets to make others aware of abolitionist movements in New York.  Her later letters shift focus to suffrage, but continue to show her incredible political organizing skills.  For example, she delivers persuasive speeches about suffrage and continues to publish as widely as possible about votes for all, but also writes to congressman Thomas C. Powell on Oct. 22, 1876:

Closeup of page 2, Anthony, Susan B. -- to Thomas C. Powell, Oct 22, 1876

Closeup of page 2, Anthony, Susan B. — to Thomas C. Powell, Oct 22, 1876

“Because of my United States citizenship I am entitled to a voice in the government of the nation, the state, the county, the town & the city in which I chance to reside… and I hope you will see this point & thus urge it in your debates- – and when you shall see a form of petition to Congress for a 16th Amendment I hope you will circulate it and collect a great many names.”[4, emphasis added]

She later writes to “Dear Sir” (by context, most likely another congressman) in January 1884 in a similar vein, asking politely but pointedly about preparing for a national vote on women’s suffrage:

Anthony, Susan B. -- to "Dear Sir," Jan 18, 1884

Anthony, Susan B. — to “Dear Sir,” Jan 18, 1884

“Will you kindly tell me if you would have voted for the resolution for a Select Committee on Woman Suffrage, had you been in the House when the vote was taken Dec. 20? Or rather- would you vote for a Committee if another motion were brought before the House? By answering the above questions you will greatly oblige.” [5]

The collection contains materials from 1854-1905.  Most letters are handwritten and have an accompanying transcript, while others are typewritten. All are full-text searchable and available at http://digitallibrary.vassar.edu/collections/anthony-susan-b.  Vassar’s digital collection provides access to a very large set of Anthony letters.  Other notable collections include the selected documents available through the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project at Rutgers University, the Library of Congress, and of course the extraordinary collection of women’s suffrage materials available at the Schlesinger Library through the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.  See an excellent writeup about the Schlesinger’s online Susan B. Anthony materials, and read more of Susan B. Anthony’s documents through their site.



[1] http://digitallibrary.vassar.edu/islandora/object/vassar:46737

[2] http://digitallibrary.vassar.edu/islandora/object/vassar:46740

[3] Gerrit Smith was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s cousin, “a founding member of the New York Anti-Slavery Society and a station master on the Underground Railroad.”  National Park Service, “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Underground Railroad” http://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/elizabeth-cady-stanton-and-the-underground-railroad.htm

[4] http://digitallibrary.vassar.edu/islandora/object/vassar:46766

[5] http://digitallibrary.vassar.edu/islandora/object/vassar:46774