Author Archives: Bari Oyler Stith, Ph.d.

Director, Historic Preservation Program, Ursuline College

March 8 is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month.

Since the first United Nations celebration in 1975, International Women’s Day has emerged increasingly as a focal point for reflection on the progress made, changes still needed, and celebration of courage and accomplishments around the globe.  By 1980, it had spawned a National Women’s History Week in the United States that evolved, in 1987, into March becoming Women’s History Month through Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation.

As we know at Ursuline, collaboration can be powerful and International Women’s Day with events at the U.N. and around the globe as well as Women’s History Month are meant to serve as rallying points as we acknowledge the impact we can have when we work together.

That is not to say that individual effort is not equally powerful. There are countless examples of women who worked individually for the greater good and it is important for us to acknowledge and pass on their legacy as part of this larger collaborative effort.

hunter_janeOne such individual was Jane Edna Hunter of Cleveland who battled immense personal, professional, and historic challenges to become an advocate for women and African-Americans.

This young South Carolinian was the daughter of slaves-turned-sharecroppers and was forced into domestic service at the age of 10, then into an arranged marriage.  Even after she received nursing training she encountered extreme prejudice when northern doctors refused to hire her because she was a southern black nurse.  When she moved to Cleveland during the Great Migration, she encountered housing discrimination and was forced to seek shelter in a brothel.

DoorwayPWAIn spite of overwhelming challenges, Hunter turned her entrepreneurial skills to the problem of appropriate housing for single women.  In 1912 she became a local “mother of modern social work” when she founded the Phillis Wheatley Association, which would become the single largest private social service agency in Cleveland as well as the largest residence for single African-American women in the nation.  It is still active today.

Recognizing the increasingly important role that the law played in parity and accomplishment, Hunter managed to graduate from (Cleveland) Marshall Law School and passed the Ohio Bar in 1925 to become a practicing attorney.

Understanding the importance of individual effort combined with collaboration, she helped found the Women’s Civic League of Cleveland, and rose to the vice presidency in both the National Association for Colored Women and NAACP.

It’s a rag to riches story of sorts, if you consider riches analogous to accomplishment and contribution, that takes place during a Great Depression and two world wars.

Tolliveras Hunter (1)You can hear her story for yourself when Sherrie Tolliver of “Women in History” presents a first person living history interpretation of Jane Edna Hunter.   This FREE presentation is sponsored by Ursuline Studies 351 in celebration of Women’s History Month.

When:  Tuesday March 22 from noon-1 p.m.

Where:  Little Theatre, Mullen Building, Ursuline College

Join us for inspiration from a real-life local S/Hero!

 

WALKING AND PONDERING PRESERVATION IN CLEVELAND’S NOTTINGHAM NEIGHBORHOOD

By Gail, Graduate Student, Historic Preservation

Nottingham United Methodist Church is at the heart of this Cleveland-area neighborhood. It's many additionsrecall the expansion of the population in the 19th and early 20th centuries even as conditions in the surrounding neighborhood suggest population loss and significant cultural change in its recent history.

Nottingham United Methodist Church is at the heart of this Cleveland-area neighborhood. It’s many additionsrecall the expansion of the population in the 19th and early 20th centuries even as conditions in the surrounding neighborhood suggest population loss and significant cultural change in its recent history.

Often when we think of historic preservation what comes to mind are beautifully preserved house museums or quaint villages where every building around a central square is on the National Register [of Historic Places].  However, a field study trip to Cleveland’s Nottingham neighborhood, one of its oldest, opened a window to a very different way of thinking about the preservation of our built environment.

Nottingham, located between Lake Shore Boulevard and Euclid Avenue west from E. 200th Street, is recognized as a distinct historic place – there are signs posted that read “Welcome to Nottingham” – but much of it is not a place of preserved structures, historical markers or upscale businesses.  Rather, it is a mosaic of nineteenth and early twentieth-century houses and small buildings in various states of use or abandon, some well- maintained, some in disrepair.

There are old brick streets and asphalt. There are quiet corners with large trees and the noise of St Clair Avenue.  There are remnants of its railroad-connected history for those who are interested and know where to look.

An early community school, built in brick that suggests a level of socio-economic prosperity in the neighborhood, has been adapted into a commercial structure but has lost some of its architectural integrity in the transition.

An early community school, built in brick that suggests a level of socio-economic prosperity in the neighborhood, has been adapted into a commercial structure but has lost some of its architectural integrity in the transition.

For others, it is a place to just survive day-to-day – the neighborhood does not exhibit wealth. Nottingham is layers of history and interconnected, mostly untold stories.

Walking Nottingham I wonder about how to preserve and tell the stories anywhere of those who are usually not remembered because they do not control the wealth or the dominant narratives – how to preserve their stories without changing them into something to be co-opted by those in control.

 

How do we preserve the contributions of rural women?

Farm Bureau Women set up their Dairy Bar booth at the Hartford Fair in Licking County, 1956.

Farm Bureau Women set up their Dairy Bar booth at the Hartford Fair in Licking County, 1956.

October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women, an initiative of the United Nations to recognize “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” [1]

 

According to the United Nations, rural women make up over 25% of the world’s current population.  Imagine how much larger that percentage must have been in past centuries when the majority of Americans were rural residents instead of urban dwellers.[2]

 

Such large numbers suggest a substantial cultural heritage, much of which is lost or masked to us because of lack of source material.  As noted historian Joan Jensen pointed out in her landmark work, With These Hands:  Women Working on the Land, “illiteracy, long and exhausting work hours, scarcity of uninterrupted leisure, and the absence of practical need for written communication–all affected the amount of written material that has come down to us.” [3]

 

This also begs the question – what about the stories and lessons embedded in rural women’s material culture – their objects and their built environment?  Given the dearth of archival sources, these become increasingly important in research and interpretation.  What happens to the physical remains of rural women’s heritage as agriculture continues to modernize and mechanize around the world and as farmland is gobbled up for development?  As the tools and buildings and cultural landscape disappear, so do the connections between their contributions and our current struggles.

How do we interpret the heritage of rural women when their places disappear?

How do we interpret the heritage of rural women when their places disappear?

As Jensen revealed in Loosening the Bonds: Mid-Atlantic Farm Women, 1750-1850, rural women’s economic role in pre-industrial America was far more substantial than usually credited.  That study and subsequent revelation required study of material culture such as butter churns and dairy facilities because of limited archival sources.

 

So as we talk about rural women today, let’s also turn our attention to exploring their historic place in society and encourage methods such as National Register nominations, marker programs, and museum/archives collection strategies, to preserve their own struggles and contributions so that we may benefit from lessons learned and be inspired.

 

As Jensen has said “My study of rural women has helped me when I am tired because then I think how hard they worked and for such long hours. Remembering those women and saying to myself ‘Come on Jensen,’ I can continue at the task before me.” [4]

 

Like to know more?   Explore http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday

[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday/

[2] http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday/

[3] Jensen, Joan M. With These Hands: Women Working on the Land. Women’s Lives Women’s Work. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1981, p. xviii.

[4] <a href=”http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/4664/Jensen-Joan-M-1934.html”>Jensen, Joan M. (1934–) – U.S. Western, Women’s, and Rural History</a>

 

George Masa: A Biography of a Preservationist

May is National Historic Preservation Month!  Thank you to Freshman Historic Preservation major Aly Nahra for sharing this biography she recently wrote on George Masa who inspires her with his commitment to preservation.

George Masa

George Masa

George Masa was an influential person in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Little is known about him before he came to the United States except that he came from Japan in the early 1900s. When he first came to America, he was going to school. Later, he moved to North Carolina and worked a few different jobs there until he opened his own photography studio. He spent much of his time there exploring the Smoky Mountains, which were the subject of many of his photographs. After this, he began promoting the preservation of the Smoky Mountains by selling photographs from his studio. He spent the rest of his life working to preserve the Great Smoky Mountains through his photography, hoping that his pictures would move others the ways the mountains did him.

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FRANCES PAYNE BOLTON’S “PLACE” IN PRESERVATION

For Women's History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

For Women’s History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

Meghan O’Connor of the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently reported “only 8% of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places embody underrepresented communities, including women.”[i]

Women, however, are approximately half the nation’s population. Further, they have historically been integral in promoting preservation of historic sites at the national level as well as state and local levels.

American women have historically asked questions about their role, their “place,” in American society as well as American history. We would do well to also ask with increasing vigor about women’s “place” in preservation and at historic sites. These are the most noticeable, nonverbal cues about our cultural values and legacy that we can offer to our population.

And so, in the spirit of introducing one woman’s “place” in preservation, I ask: What do former Ohio Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton and our first President George Washington have in common besides public service in national politics?

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Votes for Women on Trial

susan-b-anthonyVotesForWomen2On June 17-18, 1873, pioneering feminist Susan B. Anthony stood trial. The previous November, Anthony led a group of women who attempted to exercise their rights as citizens by voting in the presidential election in Rochester, New York.  Since voting for women was then considered illegal, Anthony was arrested on the charge of “criminal voting,” tried the following June, then fined $100, which she refused to pay.

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Celebrate a Monumental Act on June 8

teddy

What do starry skies, a rising monolith, Teddy Roosevelt, and a revolutionary federal act have in common this June 8th?

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Choosing Preservation: a major decision

Choosing HiP

“Historic preservation was something I knew I could be passionate about and love working with.

By Sarah Rosso, Historic Preservation major

Choosing a college major is hard enough, but how would you feel if when you finally made your decision no one supported you? My friends and family were wary of my decision and probably would have been more accepting if I had chosen a more typical, “reliable” major like business or nursing. Your college education has nothing to do with your family members opinions and it is the first step to adulthood independence. The only person you should worry about liking your field of study is you. I chose to be a historic preservation major after years of evolving interests in high school.

Historic preservation was something I knew I could be passionate about and love working with, but I really knew little about it. However, that’s a chance you have to take when going to college. No matter how much you research schools, programs, careers, etc. there is no way of knowing what will be the best fit for you, and that’s ok! After my first year of college I have grown and changed a lot personally, so it only makes sense that students change their majors so commonly- because people change. Once you start taking classes it will be clearer to see what you like best, and if you find that you are in the wrong major, changing isn’t hard.

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Preservationists reading the cultural landscape

CulturalLandscape1

What was originally the tallest building on Public Square?  What is NOW the tallest building on Public Square?  What does that suggest about the changing function of Public Square and the changing values of the community?

By Karl Brunjes, M.A. Candidate, Historic Preservation

For those of us who are interested in Historical Preservation, old things seem to catch our attention. Almost always it is a structure of some type. As a student, we are taught to look beyond just the structure or the area in which it is located. We need to see the structure in its environment and then break it down into parts. “Reading the cultural landscape” helps with understanding the nature of cities and neighborhoods and the changes that have occurred through the passage of time and the effects on the people that live there.

With the detailed architecture of the older buildings, they stand out from modern design. In some cases, you can see decades of architecture from building to building as you walk along city streets. Now you have your sense of place. Now that you know where you are, today’s technology will allow you to take the next step: A sense of time.

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This Place Matters: Preservation Research in Cleveland

 

CPLHiP1
by Tara Smith, M.A. candidate, Historic Preservation

I have lived in the Northeast Ohio area almost my entire life. Trips to Cleveland were kind of a special event but I was stunned when we visited the Cleveland Public Library for a Historic Preservation field trip and realized that I had been missing out on a beautiful piece of the city. For those of you who have never seen the CPL from the outside or inside, I highly recommend it for either your future scholarly needs or just to experience a gem of Cleveland history and architecture.

The CPL now consists of two buildings, the first of which was built in 1925 as part of the Group Plan to develop the area of downtown Cleveland. The Beaux Arts architectural style has many beautiful details and shows how influential and thriving the city of Cleveland used to be. I, as well as other historic preservationists, believe that these buildings must be protected and their legacies maintained.

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