Paley Library dusted off some Bibles, cookbooks and the works of some controversial women for its newest exhibit titled “Women’s History: Women in the Literary World.”
The exhibit, which is on display from Feb. 16 to April 16, celebrates Women’s History Month and tackles the legacy of females in print.
Sponsored by Paley Library’s Special Collections Department, the exhibit touches on women’s concerns and preoccupations across three centuries.
The Special Collections library houses Temple’s rare books and manuscripts collection, as well as a vast science fiction library, the Contemporary Culture Collection’s library of alternative publications and the University Archives. These items are too sensitive to be filed in the library’s regular stacks.
“These exhibits are one of the ways to advertise Special Collections,” said Carol Harris, who designed the exhibit and is the bibliographic assistant for Special Collections. “They let us show the different kinds of things that we collect.”
The exhibit consists of eight glass cases on Paley Library’s first floor, which hold artifacts like out-of-print feminist magazines, a treatise on economics, critiques of paternalism and biblical exegeses. Also featured are biographic profiles of Anne Einselen and Gertrude Traubel.
Einselen founded the Ladies Home Journal while Traubel, once a prominent Philadelphia social critic, wrote for her father’s magazine, the now defunct Conservator. Their letters, interoffice correspondence and even handwritten poems are on display.
Thomas Whitehead, Head of Special Collections, asked Harris to design an exhibit dedicated to a piece of women’s history – and sifting through Special Collections’ massive backlog can be a big job.
“What is it women were really involved in?” Harris said she asked herself. Many aspiring females scorned pretensions that the literary world could only accommodate males, she said. Authors like Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan championed female pride via protest and enlightening investigation.
Women have also penned, printed and published works like cookbooks, Biblical translations, encyclopedias and women’s interest magazines.
“The cookbooks are interesting because they combine women’s roles plus feminist aspects,” Harris said.
“The Political Palate,” a cookbook on display that couples vegetarian recipes and feminist politics, has recipes like the Green Goddess Soufflé, a sugary springtime dessert.
Harris also incorporated two Bibles in the exhibit: the first American edition printed by Jane Aitken in 1808 and the first American translation by a woman. Both of them bear the women’s names on their front covers. Also featured is an array of feminist periodicals for lesbians, middle-age women and social activists, among others.
“We specialize in the history of printing and publishing,” said Harris of the Special Collections Department. This, of course, includes the timeless contributions of both genders to the human literary canon.
Jacob Yeager can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org