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.
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?
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.
From 1867-1972, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) compiled newspaper clippings scrapbooks, which covered topics relevant to the College, its Hospital (established in 1904), and women in medicine. The Drexel College of Medicine Legacy Center holds 27 of these scrapbook volumes; the first 8 volumes (1867-1920) are digitized for the In Her Own Right website. These scrapbooks uniquely capture the conflicting opinions on women in the medical profession.
The women of In Her Own Right fought not only for their own rights, but also for the rights of those less fortunate. Through working with the Pennsylvania Child Labor Committee, Philadelphia-area women were able to lobby for better child labor legislation before they even had the right to vote.
The In Her Own Right project database, hosted at inherownright.org, is proud to present the fruits of our first harvest to the public. Our record count is now over 1000, but rest assured the focus is on quality over quantity. The new data includes photographs, letters, diaries, school records, and much more. Read a bit about each new collection below, and stay tuned–a website redesign is in our future!
This guest post highlights a women’s charitable organization that made some of the first strides toward protecting children from abuse.
By Margery Sly, Director of the Temple University Special Collections Research Center