Many of the materials included as part of In Her Own Right represent women who fought for equal rights, jobs, and education in a man’s world. However, the Sophia Perry diaries give voice to another overlooked part of the population: (women) patients in mental institutions.
The Young Women’s Union (YWU) was established in 1885 and formally incorporated in 1896 as a community service organization and settlement house in Philadelphia. The YWU was initially led by Frannie Binswanger and thirty other young women from middle class Jewsh families in Philadelphia who desired to provide services for immigrants, including education and recreation. Binswanger, the daughter of a Rabbi, was born in Philadelphia and was an active member at Mikveh Israel, now the oldest continuous synagogue in the United States.
While many of the archival collections that have been digitized as part of the In Her Own Right project tell stories of women advocating on behalf of issues such as temperance and women’s suffrage, the records of the Women’s Auxiliary of the German Society of Pennsylvania tell something of a different story, a story of women’s role in a traditional men’s organization.
In Her Own Right has been working hard to bring to light stories of women fighting for their rights and the rights of others, but we know can do better–and we need your help! Our collections as they currently stand focus primarily on the perspectives of women who are white and middle or upper class. In order to work towards a more complete record of activist women from 1820-1920, In Her Own Right is searching for “hidden voices”. This NEH-funded portion of our project involves seeking out additional Philadelphia-area collections from beyond the PACSCL sphere that document underrepresented or marginalized populations. In some cases, such records are embedded among the personal papers of men, or the papers of organizations whose connections to these women are not readily apparent.
These “hidden voices” might include:
- Women of color, including indigenous women
- Immigrant women
- Women with disabilities/disabled women, including neurodiverse women and women who struggled with mental health issues
- Women in lower socioeconomic positions
- Criminal women, or women who practiced criminalized professions such as sex work
- LGBT+ women (considering the scope of our time period, this should be understood to include any women who practiced non-normative sexual/romantic relationships or gender presentation)
Repositories where we might find these records could include:
- Churches and religious organizations
- Community organizations
- Small schools and colleges
- Historical societies
As part of our search process, once repositories have been identified, our Project Manager communicates with them and (ideally) arranges a visit to take a look at collections that might fit. We’re happy to include materials via a number of solutions–including digitization if the home repository is comfortable, and a collection description if not. While our initial research has identified some potential candidates, we don’t know what we don’t know! If you have an idea of a collection that may fit, please contact Kat at email@example.com.
The following post was originally published in The Chronicle in Fall 2003. The Bates Center’s collections highlight the boundaries women as nurses crossed as well as the empowerment they created for themselves and for the profession. The basic idea of hiring nurses raised profound anxiety about class systems and private versus public spaces. Philadelphia’s nursing pioneers changed the idea of hiring nurses for quality care both at home and in hospitals. The history of nursing, and of healthcare, demonstrates the intersections of race, economics, and society, particularly in the decades leading to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
My work with PACSCL’s grant funded digitization project, In Her Own Right, over the last year has been very rewarding. I worked on several aspects of the project, from scanning materials to transcriptions. The transcriptions of letters of recommendation for the seamstresses who worked at the Schuylkill Arsenal during the Civil War influenced me the most. While working on these transcriptions, I began to think about these women: who were they, how were they able to provide for their families during this time of war, and were black women among the seamstresses?
Bryn Mawr College digitized a portion of the M. Carey Thomas Papers for In Her Own Right, including letters to and from her companion Mary Elizabeth Garrett. They were progressive women who did important work, but they also held and expressed some problematic views.
Have you ever heard the term “romantic friendship”? During the time period covered by In Her Own Right, this practice grew to its height and then rapidly disappeared. Learn more about what they were and why this happened below.
On the evening of October 31st, 1895, an enthusiastic audience gathered at the Wesley A.M.E Zion Church for the opening ceremonies of the newly established Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School. While Philadelphia had a number of medical training schools, most refused to admit people of color. Being excluded from formal medical training, concerned community members gathered to find a way to train African Americans to be able to compete with others and find employment in the medical field. Read on to find out more about how Mercy Douglass Hospital came to be.
As we close out the month of November, In Her Own Right would like to highlight some of the brilliant Native American women who became doctors through the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania: Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte and Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill. After reading, search for “Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania” on our database site to learn more about the college and the women who attended.