question time: staff favorites

Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Many of us work in special collections environments, where we hold hundreds of thousands of unique materials.

What’s something you are proud of holding in your repository, and which might surprise people to know you had (no “greatest hits” please!)?

Here’s an item I highlighted back in 2011 on the Massachusetts Historical Society’s website that helps document the history of anti-feminism and anti-communism in the United States:

In May of 1923, conservative evangelical minister, author, and lecturer Thomas M. C. Birmingham saw a brief announcement in an Omaha newspaper, describing a lecture given by Margaret C. Robinson, president of the Massachusetts Public Interests League, on the “radical propaganda” Robinson and her fellow activists believed was being disseminated in women’s colleges.

Professors at women’s colleges such as Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Wellesley, Robinson argued, were turning “wholesome American girl[s]” away from patriotism and the Constitution, preaching “Communist sex standards,” calling the literal truth of the Bible into question, and exposing young women to the theories of Freud and Marx. As a result, unsuspecting parents sent their daughters off to college and watched in horror as their child was transformed into “an undesirable type of citizen.”

This message resonated with Birmingham, who wrote to Robinson, suggesting that the two activists might find “mutual helpfulness” in an alliance to “stamp out radicalism.”

What do you have in your collections that highlights under-documented histories or surprising connections? Share one of your favorites this week (pictures welcome!).

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