Tag Archives: women’s history month

The Florida NOW Times: Looking Back at 20 years of Women’s History

Page from a 1976 NOW in Florida newsletter.

In 1966, a group of women, frustrated at the failure of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to recognize sex discrimination in the workplace and the failure of the conference they were attending to demand the EEOC do so, started what became the National Organization for Women (NOW). In 1971, Tallahassee gained its own NOW chapter, chartered through the national organization. Two years later in 1973, the Florida NOW state chapter was chartered to help coordinate the local chapters’ activities as well as to organize new chapters into formation. The state chapter’s records reside at the University of Florida.

As March is Women’s History Month, this week the Pepper Library is highlighting the National Organization for Women, Tallahassee Chapter records. The Tallahassee NOW papers contain official NOW correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, budgets, newsletters, and other records which chronicle the development and activities of Tallahassee NOW from its founding in 1971 until 1997. An excellent resource for studying the history of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state of Florida, the NOW material offers a firsthand glimpse into the organization’s efforts to empower and inform. This is particularly on point right now as last Wednesday, the Nevada State Legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, which guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” NPR stated in an article on the ratification that the ERA “was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977.” Florida has yet to ratify the ERA. The NOW records provide a look at the fight to do so in the 1970s.

Page from a 1991 NOW Florida Times newsletter.

Last fall,the staff of the FSU Digital Library digitized and made available online for researchers the Florida NOW Times (1974-1997). Within this statewide NOW publication, the history of the ERA and the activities of NOW chapters throughout the state can be followed over a twenty year period. Providing digital access to the newsletters was a challenge. Each newsletter needed to be reviewed to provide useful description for users to be able to browse and search these objects successfully. The DLC enlisted help from our Cataloging & Description colleagues to catalog the 211 newsletters that range from 1974 to 1997. These items cover the state chapter’s ERA fight, its yearly conferences, legislative and lobbying actions, and the many events sponsored to fight for the rights of women in Florida. You can see all the newsletters in the FSU Digital Library.

Ruby Diamond: 1905 Graduate of Florida State College and Philanthropist

From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.
From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.

Ruby Diamond was born in Tallahassee on September 1, 1886. She was one of thirteen members of the Florida State College’s 1905 graduating class and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Chemistry. Ms. Diamond preferred that her wealth help those in need, and she contributed to many charities in Tallahassee and across Florida and was a generous donor to more than thirty-seven organizations.

Ms. Diamond was also a political activist and fought for lower taxes and racial equality. She and  her brother Sydney, along  with other members of the Jewish community, founded Temple Israel in 1937.

Ms. Diamond and her collection of snuff bottles. Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.
Ms. Diamond and her collection of snuff bottles. Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.

Ms. Diamond was a generous benefactor to Florida State University and established two scholarships for disadvantaged scholars. She supported the Alumni Association and the Department of Educational Research, Development, and Foundations.

In 1970, for her contributions to the university, Florida State University expressed its appreciation to Ms. Diamond by naming its largest auditorium, located inside the Westcott Building, in her honor. In 1971, she donated property in Tallahassee worth $100,000 to the university, and at age 95 in 1981, she donated downtown property assessed at more than $100,000 to partially fund an endowed chair of  “national excellence” in the College of Education. In 2010,  the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall was reopened after a $38 million renovation.

Ms. Diamond was 93 when this picture was taken.  From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 14.
Ms. Diamond was 93 when this picture was taken. From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 14.

The Ruby Diamond Family Papers in our collection include  family photographs, correspondence between Ms. Diamond and her friends and cousins, genealogical materials, news clippings about the Diamond family, and her eulogy. The materials in the collection also contain information about the history of Tallahassee and Florida State University.

In her window

The sweet flypaper of life by Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes, Simon and Schuster, 1955, page 58. Words by Langston Hughes; photographs by Roy DeCarava.

Gloria Jahoda

Gloria Jahoda, an author and Florida historian, was born on October 6, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a B.A. in English in 1948 and an M.A. in Anthropology in 1950, both from Northwestern University. She retired in 1957 to write full time after teaching anthropology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.  In 1963, she and her husband Gerald moved to Tallahassee when he accepted a teaching position at Florida State University’s School of Library Training and Service. Her non-fiction works include the The Other Florida (1967), a social and natural history of the West Florida Panhandle; Trail of Tears (1976), an account of the uprooting of Indians in the Southeast; The Road to Samarkand: Frederick Delius and His Music (1969); and The River of the Golden Ibis (1973), about the Hillsborough River. This book was named by the Society of Midland Authors as the “Best History Book” of 1973.

From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3
From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3

In honor of  Women’s History Month, I wanted to feature this author since The Other Florida, is a favorite book of mine. I read it before I lived in North Florida but read it again after I moved here, which made it all the more interesting. We have books written by her in our Florida Collection, and we also have  manuscript collections that have been either donated by her or by her husband. Included in the manuscript collections are biographical information, family and personal papers, correspondence, writings, photographs, galley proofs, and original book jacket designs.

Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317
Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317

Ms. Jahoda was president of the Tallahassee Historical Society and was elected as a registrar of the Creek Indian nation. In 1973, the Florida Senate passed a resolution honoring her for her works depicting the history and culture of Florida. In 1975, she was presented with the D.B. McKay Award by the Tampa Historical Society for her contributions to Florida history.

The last paragraph of The Other Florida ends with this: “The Other Florida’s pines will survive too, I think. Often among them I remember the person I was before I came to them and what I thought was important then, and the landscapes I have since known, and the history I have since learned, and the friends I have since made. Whatever the fates may take me in the years to come, I shall not be the same again”.

Florida State College for Women Scrapbooks in the Archives

Mary Cobb Nelson.

Compiling scrapbooks was a popular pastime for those who attended the Florida State College for Women.    These students filled their scrapbooks with the miscellaneous items that they thought significant and representative of their day to day lives. Working in the archives, we specifically look for these ephemeral objects that people often threw away. These items, when compiled together in the form of a scrapbook, paint a historic picture of what life was like in previous years.

One of my favorites that I have had the opportunity to process was created by Mary Cobb Nelson during the mid to late 1920s. Filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, invitations, and even bridge game score cards, she kept a detailed record of what it was like to participate in groups and student events at the college. Most of the students at FSCW led active social lives and were very involved in athletics, sororities, and other types of extracurricular activities.

KD page from the 1926 Flastacowo.

Mary Cobb Nelson took great pride in being a sister in Kappa Delta sorority, and that aspect of her college life defined her more than anything else and is reflected throughout her collection. She and her sorority sisters frequently traveled to Camp Flastacowo and attended bridge games, luncheons, and even fraternity events and football games at the University of Florida.

The collection also includes photographs from her college years.  Some of her classmates had their own cameras which resulted in numerous candid photographs. These are some of the best items we can receive because they give life to the people who we are studying while processing their collections. It is, in fact, much like getting to know them personally.

Another interesting item in her collection is her 1926 Flastocowo yearbook, generously signed to her by sorority sisters on the Kappa Delta page. Affectionate inscriptions from her friends wish her “loads of love” and exemplify the type of sisterhood that surrounded Mary during her college years.

Mary Cobb Nelson and her friends at FSCW.

While this scrapbook and other items that we have provide valuable insight into her life at FSCW, Mary Cobb Nelson still remains a mysterious figure to us at the archives.  Although she was popular among her fellow students and sorority sisters and obviously made her mark on the college, we are still unable to determine if or when she graduated. We believe she had a twin sister, Rebekah, and a best friend, Winnifred Neeld, but information beyond her social involvement at the college in the 1920s is still missing from our records. Through donations and contributions, we can often recover missing pieces regarding the people who make up our archives.  It is hoped that, in time, we will learn more about the popular — but mysterious — Mary Cobb Nelson.

A book for Christina of Markyate

Christina of Markyate lived a span of sixty or so years in early twelfth century England. This Anglo-Saxon woman was born into nobility but chose a path contrary to the conventions of her inherited social class.

At some point in her young life, Theodora (“gift of God”), Christina’s birth name, found herself at a crossroads facing the reality of her times — that of not having a choice about whom she was to marry — and her own inclination toward a dedicated spiritual life sewn by the movements in her heart as she reflected on the life of the monks at the Benedictine monastery of St. Albans, which she had visited with her parents. In the end, Christina chose to make a private vow of perpetual chastity.

One of two golden clasps securing a facsimile of the St. Albans Psalter

Christina went on to thwart the rather barbaric advances of Ranulf Flambard, to whom her aunt was mistress. Fired with humiliation, Ranulf, who had become Bishop of Durham, was eager to assist Christina’s parents in securing her betrothal to a nobleman by the name of Burhed. The betrothal occurred, but consummation did not. Christina, intent on remaining faithful to her private vow and living her heart’s desire, took off and found safekeeping with a hermit. With this hermit, she lived as an anchoress, received spiritual instruction from him, and prayed the psalter for a few years, until her marriage was finally annulled.

Christina then moved to Markyate and lived as spiritual leader for a small group of women religious. St. Albans monastery, the monastery she had visited as a young girl, was nearby, and soon enough Christina became friends with its leader, Geoffrey. From her hagiographic Life, it seems she gave Geoffrey counsel in a matter, or a scheme as some might have called it at the time, which proved wise, and just what Geoffrey needed to hear. She became his go-to person thereafter for discussion on similar matters.

The esteem for which Geoffrey held for Christina may have led to the transfer of a psalter-in-production at St. Albans from a regular psalter to a special gift book for Christina. In medieval times, some Western women preferred fine garments and jewels, others psalters. Christina certainly had a taste for psalters alone.

Decorated initial, St. Albans Psalter, page 285

It is suggested by some scholars that, moved by his feelings for her, Geoffrey had a decorated letter “C” made by a different artist, perhaps one who would have understood his intentions. This specially decorated initial, with what may be an illuminator’s view of Christina and Geoffrey themselves linked to Christ, was then pasted-in at the beginning of Psalm 105 of the psalter.

A light line of shading viewable near the start of the text of Psalm 105 provides evidence for the illuminated initial having been added after the book was in production. Some scholars wonder why a dedication to an important woman religious would be placed in the middle of such a book. Janet Geddes raises her own questions about it in her book, St. Albans Psalter: A Book for Christina of Markyate, on page 123.

The insertion of the pasted-in initial on page 285 is crucial to our understanding of the book. If it represents Christina, one must ask why it appears in the middle of the book, by Psalm 105 and why is it by another artist. Surely a dedicatee, a living saint, would be honored at the beginning or perhaps grandly at the end.

My “wild-goose theory” (a theory-type Ms. Geddes thanks an editor of her book for helping her rein in) goes like this: If Geoffrey was seeking to honor not the person Christina, but rather the friendship between himself and Christina by giving her a book for her private use, a book he knew she would enjoy, then the choice of dedication location would have been something personal, a place chosen for its special meaning for both giver and receiver. In the Christian tradition, Psalm 105 is a psalm that speaks of God’s inexhaustible love and about taking delight in God’s name. This delight Christina would have touched each time she prayed Psalm 105, on levels besides the obvious. For two Christian religious and one private book, Psalm 105 is by far a grand place for Geoffrey and Christina’s friendship to be celebrated.

Come check out our facsimile of Christina’s book, the St. Albans Psalter, and perhaps dream or craft your own wild-goose theory about it and the characters involved in its creation. The book is a beauty!

The first programmer

Ada Lovelace
Augusta Ada (Byron) King, Countess of Lovelace, painting by Alfred Edward Chalon

In these times where computers are nearly ubiquitous, nearly one in every household, it seems especially important to remember one of the first women of computers, Ada Lovelace.

Ada poem
One of Lord Byron's poems, regarding Ada, from the John Shaw collection

The only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, with Anne Isabella Milbanke, she was age 9 at the time he died in the liberation of Greece. Seeking to counter any of the girl’s father’s madness in her daughter, Ada’s mother pushed her towards mathematics and science — and in turn away from poetry and the arts. She would eventually marry William King, who would go on to become the Earl of Lovelace, and they would go on to have three children.

Ada letter
Letter from Lord Byron, to his sister Augusta Leigh, regarding Ada, from the John Shaw collection

She would correspond and meet with Charles Babbage many times throughout her married life. Babbage is credited as an early creator of computers, with his Analytical Engine and his Difference Engine. With her background and continued interest in mathematics, Ada would eventually write out a method for calculating Bernoulli’s Sequence on the Analytical Engine. In the 1950s, over a hundred years after her death, it was proven that, had the Analytical Engine been built, Ada’s method would have worked. In effect, this has come to be considered the first computer program.

The US Military has named their computer language Ada after her. Also, October 18 has been named Ada Lovelace Day, in celebration of women in the maths, sciences, and technology.

17 February 1940: Eleanor Roosevelt visits FSCW

From the 23 February 1940 Florida Flambeau:

Know Government Says First Lady

Women Urged to Take Interest in Democracy

“Girls, take a vital interest in government in all its details,” Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt advised Florida State college students when she spoke on “Citizenship in a Democracy” here last Saturday.

She cautioned, “You won’t like it very much. You may think it isn’t a clean game, but we women, if we keep to our ideals, can do much to improve politics.”

Mrs. Roosevelt pointed out the great responsibility of the United States in a world at war to find the answers to some of the many problems of the day which, she said, we can only do with full realization of what the problems are. She urged her audience, especially the students, to “know the whole situation of the whole community.” She said these problems are just now being thrust on us as in the past we had a great deal of new country to settle. Now we are building a civilization. To do that we must know our community and from there go out with our minds to the state and to the nation.”

She touched on one of her favorite topics, the position of women in local and national affairs, urging them to participate in finding a solution for such national problems as health and education. To help in these problems Mrs. Roosevelt said women must study the tax problems of their local, state, and national governments as each thing we do depends on tax money.

She closed her 45-minute address by advising students “to work hard, keep an open mind, understand the problems of the whole people, and be willing to pay the price of real democracy which means being willing to see all people share in the good life which will security for all.

“If we can keep our ideals alive in the youth of this generation, I think we can safely leave the future in their hands.”

After the speech, Mrs. Roosevelt was escorted to the home of Mrs. Frank D. Moor, president of the Alumnae association, for a dinner party. Guests at the dinner party included President Edward Conradi, Mrs. Ernest Ekermeyer, Mrs. Charles O. Andrews and Mrs. Fred P. Cone. After dinner Mrs. Roosevelt left by car for Jacksonville.

Mrs. Moor, Marjorie Jessup, and Katherine Graham escorted Mrs. Roosevelt to the stage. Mortar Board members and the 1939 and 1940 usher committee members served in the auditorium.

The college auditorium was filled to capacity for the occasion and hundreds of other students and townspeople packed the gymnasium and the Augusta Conradi theater, where public address systems were installed to carry the address.

The Flying Lady

Last year in March, when preparing for The Women For FSU event, I became familiar with the Betty Wood McNabb Collection and was intrigued by it.  In celebration of Women’s History Month I thought it was a perfect time to highlight an extraordinary woman and this collection.  The collection of memorabilia from her life and career includes scrapbooks from 1950-1989, appointment books, flight logs, daily diaries, medals, pins, and charms.  The scrapbooks include photographs, correspondence, cards, letters, certificates she received, and articles and poems written by her.

Betty Wood McNabb was born on August 5, 1909 in Spring Lake, Michigan.  She attended Florida State College for Women and received her B.A. in History in 1930. She went on to receive an M.A. in History from the University of California.   She and her husband, Harold McNabb, both served in World War II efforts, volunteering for the Albany (Georgia) Civilian Defense Corps and the Red Cross Motor Corps.Little Red Hen article

Betty enlisted in the military in October 1944 and her basic training was at Fort Ogelthorpe, Georgia Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.  She graduated in December 1944 as a WAC Private.  As a Sergeant in 1945, she wanted to go overseas, but WAC married members were not permitted to travel.  She then went to work at Albany Putney Hospital and progressed in her career as a Medical Records Specialist.  When the state of Georgia hired her as a consultant to set up a statewide Medical Record System she traveled from hospital to hospital and enjoyed the driving.

ListBetty had always dreamed of learning to fly and began lessons in 1951 at age 42. She bought a plane after three weeks of lessons, and joined the Ninety-Nines, an organization for women pilots  founded by Amelia Earhart.  Betty began writing for various newspapers, and published a book, Medical Record Procedures in Small Hospitals, in 1954.  She joined the Civil Air Patrol and became a Major in 1958.  She attended the Air War College, and in 1964 she became the first female officer to receive a diploma.  She was a pilot for the Coast Guard Auxiliary from 1969 to 1991.  Betty flew until she was 82 years old, when her deteriorating vision caused her to hang up her wings.

It is clear in looking through the scrapbooks that she lived a full, interesting and adventuresome life while making great strides in women’s aviation history.

Civil Air PatrolBetty with plane standing