The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Three Fully Digitized Collections

In 2014, the MHS made available nine fully digitized collections relating to the Civil War. Since that time, we have been at work digitizing more full collections, this time under the topic of "Women in the Public Sphere." There have been two posts on the Rose Dabney Forbes papers and her involvement in the American peace movement of the early 20th century. Forbes was an officer of the Massachusetts Peace Society, the American Peace Society, the Massachusetts branch of the Woman's Peace Party, and the World Peace Foundation. Read the first one here and the second one here. The Forbes collection guide is online.

Continuing our review and promotion of these fascinating collections, this third blog post will discuss briefly some of the smaller digitized collections.  


The Twentieth Century Medical Club records, 1897-1914 contain 270 images of meeting minutes of the Twentieth Century Medical Club. Interestingly, at the club's first meeting, the intention was "to organize a womans club. Its object, mutual improvement and the study of Parlimentary [sic.] Law." Later in this first meeting, which was attended by thirty-two women, a committee was organized to come up with a name. The minutes discuss business matters, finances, and other special occurrences such as the giving of papers on topics ranging from Placenta Praevia by Dr. Stella Perkins, The Importance of Remedies in Chronic Cases by Dr. Clara E. Gary, and Sexual Hygiene by several speakers.


The Society for the Employment of the Female Poor  provided employment in Boston for poor women. Work duties included washing, ironing, and sewing in addition to the operation of a schoolroom. Early in the volume it is noted that "The business of our Institution continues to prosper and has hitherto more than answered our largest expectations." Other recorded information concerns funds received and distributed and tracking new employees. Reports on individual cases are also recorded, such as the hiring of Mrs. Dow, Mrs. Ward, and Mrs. Monteith. Dow was "a widow with 4 children, she has washed & ironed here with tolerable success –." Mrs. Ward they found "difficult to afford aid; she is very poor & sick, but so miserable a seamstress that little work can be trusted to her." Mrs. Monteith "can do just plain sewing tolerably, her capacity & her circumstances are both moderate." Troublesome employees are also discussed.

The Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838 represent the smallest organization in this digitization project at just eleven images. The monthly meeting minutes and member lists offer vital information concerning society business.


Funding for the digitization of these collections and the creation of preservation microfilms was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.


comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Monday, 24 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It's another active week here at the Society, chock full of programs to take in. Here is what we have on tap:

- Tuesday, 25 October, 5:15PM : Drawn from his forthcoming book, Welcome to Fairyland, Julio Capó of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, presents "'A Shiftless, Undesirable Class': The Sexual Policing of Miami's Bahamian Community in the Early Twentieth Century." This Modern American Society and Culture Seminar traces how urban authorities policied the perceived "suspect" sexualities of Miami's temporary and permanent settlers from the Bahamas. Michael Bronski of Harvard University provides comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

- Wednesday, 26 October, 12:00PM : Stop by for a Brown Bag lunch talk, this time Ross Nedervelt of Florida International University. His talk, titled "The Pull of a Revolutionary America: The British Atlantic Island in the American Revolution" focuses on a research project that examines the political, economic, and social influence the revolutionary American colonies had on the British Atlantic island of Bermuda and the Bahamas from 1763 through the 1780s. This talk is free and open to the public so pack a lunch and come on in!

- Wednesday, 26 October, 6:30PM : The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus lists “prudish,” “straightlaced,” and “puritanical” as synonyms. But historical records challenge the stereotype of Puritans’ repressive views and behaviors. In "Ravishing Affection: Myths and Realities About Puritans and Sex," author Francis J. Bremer attemps to dispel the myth and set the record straight. This program will take place at the Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St, Boston. The program is open to the public, free of charge, but registraiton is required. 

- Thursday, 27 October, 6:00PM : Author, historian, and national speaker Jacquline Berger goes behind the scenes with pictures and stories that bring history to life and uncover a remarkable "sorority of women": First Ladies. This talk is open to the public and registration is required for a fee or $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the program beings at 6:00PM. 

- Friday, 28 October, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is presented by Jessica Farrell of the University of Minnesota. "From 'Indespensible' to 'Demoralizing and Obstructive': Education as a Critical Site for the Assertion and Contestation of American Empire in 19th-Century Liberia" stems from a larger dissertation project which investigates what was at stake in the contestations between LIberian sovereignty and America imperial fomations in Liberia and the United States during the nineteenth century. This talk is free and open to the public. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

Rose Dabney Forbes and women’s suffrage (part 2 of 2)

In an earlier post I gave you a preview of the Rose Dabney Forbes papers. Her papers are one of seven collections that have been fully digitized and are now available on our website as part of an LSTA funded project that we are calling “Women in the Public Sphere.” These collections relate to women’s involvement in social issues of  the 19th and early 20th centuries- the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements, education, poverty, anti-slavery and pacifism.

The papers of Rose Dabney Forbes (1864-1947), the wife of businessman J. Malcolm Forbes (1847-1904), are mostly from her work in in the American peace movement of the early 20th century, but I also found some vivid descriptions of the excitement generated by the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote. In a typewritten draft of an address delivered to the League of Women Voters by Mrs. Forbes on 31 March 1921, she described,

that thrilling day in August when we knew with certainty that Tennessee had stepped forward and that political equality was at last in the grasp of the women of the United States. Our headquarters at Little Building held a continuous reception for several days…and all our members who were not too far off, came to talk over the wonderful news and to help Miss Luscomb and Mrs. Stantial put the final marks on the Suffrage map.

 She continued,

...following the proclamation of the nineteenth amendment by the Secretary of State, bells were rung in many churches all over the land, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from Maine to Florida. Five of us had the privilege of ringing the bells at the dear old North Church that Saturday noon, and never shall we forget the thrill of climbing those narrow dusty stairs up to the bell tower, nor of pulling on those big old ropes.



But Mrs. Forbes and her colleagues couldn’t get caught up in the excitement for long.

[A]s we all know voting is a serious business and as soon as our first rapture subsided we had to come down to earth. The work at our office grew more exacting up to the last date for registration in October. By day there were streams of would-be voters coming to the office, or ringing up by telephone, to find out about the mysteries of voting; and we kept open for five successive Monday evenings, in order to give this same opportunity to those women whose duties precluded their coming in the day time-and hundreds availed themselves of it.


It will be fascinating to compare these descriptions with materials from another collection we digitized for this project, one which has the rather unwieldy name of the  Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Extension of Further Suffrage of Women, 1895-1920. We hope that you will take advantage of these newly accessible collections and immerse yourself in the voices and the debates of their time.


Funding for the digitization of this collection and the creation of preservation microfilm was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 17 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

Here we are again with the round-up of events in the week to come at the Society.

- Wednesday, 19 October, 12:00PM : "The Nature of Colonization: Natives, Colonists, and the Environment in New England, 1400-1750" examines how the natural world shaped and was shaped by the interactions between Native Americans and English settlers. In this Brown Bag talk, Nathan Fell of the University of Houston also explores how the dynamics of empire influenced English management of the environment in the colonies. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 19 October, 6:00PM : As we approach an election that promises far-reaching ramifications, we look back at previous periods of tumult in American democracy. "Democracy in Crisis: Four Elections" is a panel discussion that explores the legacies of four previous presidential elections and the question of what this history suggests for our country's current trajectory. This talk is open only to MHS Fellows and Members, and registration is required. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the program commences at 6:00PM. 

- Thursday, 20 October, 6:00PM : Join us for a talk with Nonie Gadsden of the Museum of Fine Arts as she explores and contextualizes the efforts of the Eliot School, exploring how the School related to the rise of manual arts training and the advent of the Arts and Crafts Momvement. "Art, Craft, and Reform: The Eliot School, Manual Arts Training, and the Arts and Crafts Movement" is open to the public for a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the progam begins at 6:00PM. 

- Friday, 21 October, 2:00PM : Come in Friday for a special afternoon public program with Felicity Tsering Chödron Hamer. In a talk entitled "Helen F. Stuart and the Birth of Spirit Photography in Boston," Hamer argues for a more foundational placement of women within the narrative of personal mourning rituals. This talk is free and open to the public. 

Please note that the teacher workshop scheduled for Saturday, 22 October, was CANCELED. Please consider the next teacher workshop taking place on Saturday, 5 November. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 12:00 PM

Mount Auburn: A Guide through the Nation's First "Rural" Cemetery

When friends and family ask me what they should do while visiting the Boston area in the fall, I generally get a strange look after my main recommendation. I tell them to visit Mount Auburn Cemetery, the first landscaped “rural” cemetery in the United States, located between Cambridge and Watertown. It's a beautiful setting year-round, but there's something about this season that brings out the best in Mount Auburn.

I'm tempted to list all of the reasons why I love Mount Auburn, but I'll resist that urge here and tell you what I found out about it while searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL – mainly, that the MHS collections contain a lot more on Mount Auburn than I previously thought. Much of what we have are published materials, including catalogues of proprietors, maps, guides, pocket companions, and anthologies. Then, there are more personal items, such as poems written about Mount Auburn, speeches given at the cemetery, admission tickets, a broadside depicting Mount Auburn "on a delightful day in the Autumn of 1876," and more. Mention of Mount Auburn arises in manuscript collections as well. Search for yourself in ABIGAIL to see what kinds of materials you can find at the MHS connected to this historic cemetery.

For someone whose interest in maps almost rivals her love of cemeteries, I found the fold-out maps in our copies of Dearborn's Guide through Mount Auburn, published by Boston-based engraver Nathaniel S. Dearborn, most interesting. The map in the 1857 edition includes small engravings of the Egyptian Revival entrance and Washington Tower, an observation lookout providing panoramic views of Cambridge, Boston, and beyond. The guide in general is full of useful information about the cemetery as it functioned in 1857. Regulations include prohibition of "discharging firearms in the Cemetery," and a warning of prosecution for anyone "found in possession of flowers or shrubs, within the grounds or before leaving them." On that note, a poem titled "Touch Not the Flowers" by Mrs. C. W. Hunt adds a lyrical emphasis to the rule (and implores visitors with the ominous last line, “Touch not the flowers. They are the dead’s.”). After all, the cemetery was and remains as much a horticultural gem as a place of burial and memorial.

Among the conditions for proprietors, plot owners are informed that any monument, effigy, or inscription determined to be "offensive or improper" is subject to removal by the Trustees. Engraved illustrations present the cemetery-goer with a sampling of must-see monuments of notable men and women (and pets), including a memorial to Robert Gould Shaw, the impressive tomb of William P. Winchester on Narcissus Path, and a marble sculpture depicting the watchdog of Thomas H. Perkins, “an apparent guard to the remains of the family who were his friends.” Beautiful illustrations of the tower and chapel embellish the guide as well.


For the directionally gifted, the guide lists names of foot paths, avenues, and carriage roads, with rather complicated descriptions of how they are situated – “Willow, with two branches, the 1st branch from Poplar Av., northeasterly. to Narcissus Path, then curving easterly for the 2nd branch, to the south, to Larch Avenue.” I think you can see why Dearborn included a map.


Visitors can find up-to-date maps at the cemetery entrance today, so grab one for yourself and venture among the monuments and mausolea. Then, visit the library to see how the cemetery has changed over the years!


Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.)

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Maps

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Pictorial works.

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Poetry.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 14 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

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