Dr. Emma J. Phillips: Lifelong scholar

Emma Phillips
Emma Phillips, 1923

Emma Julia Phillips just couldn’t keep herself away from Indiana University.  Over a period of nearly 50 years, Emma earned a BA, MA, and PhD from IU.  Her parents, John Wilbur Phillips and Arvia Phillips, were both school teachers and perhaps this explains her love of learning.  Emma graduated from Alexandria-Monroe High School in Alexandria, Indiana in 1918 and enrolled in Indiana University shortly thereafter.  As an undergraduate, she was involved in the French Club, elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and inducted into Pi Lambda Theta, an honor society and professional association for educators. In 1923, she graduated from IU with Distinction and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages.

Upon graduation, Emma taught French and English at high schools in Alexandria, Indiana and Alton, Illinois.  During her summer breaks, Emma attended classes at IU. She received a Master of Arts degree in English from Indiana University in 1934.  Her thesis, The Technique of George Whyte-Melville’s Novels is an analysis of 28 works of Scottish novelist George Whyte-Melville.

Emma Phillips Thesis
Emma Phillips’ master’s thesis, The Technique of George Whyte-Melville’s Novels

Upon completion of her master’s, Emma took a leave of absence from teaching to study French in Grenoble, France for several months in 1936.  She wrote a lengthy letter that was published in her hometown’s newspaper, The Alexandria Times-Tribune, that details the political situation in France in the 1930s.  She offers her opinion on politics and writes, “I may say, however, that I am not quite so sure as I used to be that the United States ought to be in a great hurry to join the League of Nations.”  Never one to rest on her laurels, Emma returned to teaching while simultaneously taking graduate level courses through correspondence from the Indiana University Division of University Extension.

Emma returned to Bloomington to complete her Ph.D. coursework in the 1950s.  In 1967, she earned her Ph.D. from Indiana University in English with minors in American Literature and Comparative Literature, 44 years after she earned her Bachelor’s.  Her thesis is titled Mysticism in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson.  At the age of 91, Emma died on April 11, 1991 in Alexandria.

The IU Archives has many notebooks and assignments related to Emma’s studies as well as her commencement materials and theses.  Contact the IU Archives to learn more about Emma’s life.

The Frank C. Mathers papers

Frank Curry Mathers was born February 11, 1881 in Monroe County, Indiana to parents John Thomas and Elizabeth (Bonsall) Mathers. He graduated from Bloomington High School in 1899 and went on to attend Indiana University, graduating with an AB in Chemistry in 1903 and an AM in 1905. Mathers then attended Cornell University and graduated with his PhD in 1907.

Professor Frank C. Mathers (left) watches an experiment with I.U. alumnus Dr. Paul F. Isobe and I.U. professors H.G. Day and Oliver W. Brown.

Dr. Mathers began as an Instructor in Chemistry at Indiana University in 1903. After receiving his PhD, Mathers returned to Indiana University as an Assistant Professor in 1907, becoming an Associate Professor in 1913, and receiving a full professorship in 1923. He served as Interim Chairman of the Department of Chemistry from July 1, 1946 to June 30, 1947. Mathers’ primary research interest was in electrochemistry, especially electroplating, and he published prolifically, with over 100 research papers of his own authorship or co-authored with graduate students. He was an active member of the Electrochemical Society, including serving as President of the Society in 1940-1941. His most important discovery was a process for the preparation of fluorine gas by electrolysis using carbon anodes, discovered while working with the Chemical Warfare Service during the First World War.

Dr. Mathers combined his dedication to scientific research with an equal dedication to teaching. He held his students to high yet fair standards, and also supported them wholeheartedly in obtaining opportunities to research and gain employment. Of his over 100 research publications, many were co-authored with graduate students. Dr. Mathers was also an advocate for students outside the chemistry classroom, writing impassioned letters about curriculum change at IU, particularly with regards to the physical education and foreign language requirements.

Letter March 29, 1944, to Mr. P.S. Sikes, Chairman, Foreign Language Committee:

“The best interests for the greatest number of students should be the aim of all University requirements, and this should apply to language requirements…As many languages as possible should be offered, but all languages should be made optional…I think that foreign languages are the least valuable courses in the whole University for the great percentage of students. Language requirements are just holdovers from the earlier requirements when Greek and Latin were almost the only courses offered in the colleges.”

Letter November 26, 1945, to Dean H.T. Briscoe, Dean of Faculties and Vice President: “The most common cause of scholastic failure is too little time devoted to actual studying. Some people have the time but do not use it; others lack the necessary time due to other requirements…This school is supposed to be primarily for actual scholastic education. Everyone knows that these active physical exercises, besides the actual time consumed, incapacitate the individual for a considerable time for efficient mental effort…It is the business of the administration to see to it that the University is run for the best interests of the students and not as some group, i.e., Physical Education Faculty, wants it done.”

In addition to his work in chemistry, Dr. Mathers was a shrewd businessman and investor. He was involved in cattle and lumber, and owned several rental properties in Bloomington. He worked closely with companies to ensure the highest mutual benefit from the manufacture of his patented products.

The Mathers family is closely tied to IU. Dr. Mathers met his wife, Maude, in class at IU. The two married in 1911 and together raised two sons, both of whom attended IU: Thomas Nesbit Mathers (A.B. 1936, J.D. 1939) and William Hammond Mathers (AB 1938). Tragically, William became ill with skin cancer in his final year at IU, passing away in September 1938. It is after William that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is named.

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures

The Frank Curry Mathers papers at the University Archives contain materials as diverse as Dr. Mathers’ interests. His research correspondence is extensively represented, as are his original lab notebooks. The series of teaching materials represents Mathers’ interactions with his students both in and outside of the classroom, giving insight into pedagogy as well as personal relationships. One can trace major changes at IU and in Bloomington through Mathers’ opinionated letters on subjects ranging from the installation of Bloomington’s third traffic light to the athletic program at IU. Mathers’ meticulous investment records and extensive business correspondence could be of particular use to those interested in economic history or business and investment practice.

The IU Archives also holds the papers of his two sons, Thomas Nesbit and Williams Hammond.

 

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Helen Keller

William Lowe Bryan – Indiana University alumnus, professor, vice president, president, and finally, president emeritus – had a dazzling array of correspondents over the years. Included on the roster were presidents, entertainers, writers, scientists….the list goes on. They are all fascinating but when I first stumbled across the below in his presidential correspondence a few years ago, the writer’s evident pain rather took my breath away:

Helen Keller to William Lowe Bryan, December 31, 1936

Most American schoolchildren learn the story of Helen Keller but just a recap: as a toddler, Keller fell ill and once recovered, had lost both her hearing and vision. As she grew, she developed a method of communicating with her family but in 1886 her parents sought additional help for their daughter and found themselves at the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The school’s director asked 20-year old teacher Anne Sullivan, who had herself become visually impaired due to a childhood illness, to work with young Helen. Thus began a lifelong friendship between the two. In October 1936, Anne suffered a heart attack and died five days later at the home she shared with Helen.

British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s Visit to Bloomington, May 3, 1916

IDS May 3-2, 1916

100 years ago Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), the British political activist and leader of the suffragette movement, spoke to a packed crowd at Indiana University Bloomington. Women in Indiana women still did not have the write to vote. Raised by politically active parents, in 1879 Emmeline Goulden married Richard Pankhurst, a barrister 2 years her senior known for supporting the women’s right to vote. A staunch advocate of suffrage for both married and unmarried women, Pankhurst’s work became known for physical confrontations, window smashing and staged hunger strikes and is today recognized as a crucial component in the fight for women’s suffrage in Britain.

Emmeline Pankhurst, ca. 1913 - United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b38130 (Public Domain)
Emmeline Pankhurst, ca. 1913 – United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b38130 (Public Domain)

In the lead up to her visit to campus, the Indiana Daily Student reported on April 29, 1916 that

“Mrs. Pankhurst can boast no masculine element in her make-up; she is all woman, in spite of her strenuous activities several years ago. Emmeline Goulden, as she was in her maiden days, was remarkable for the girlish prettiness that time and hunger strikes have not effaced. After the death of her husband, it became necessary for Mrs. Pankhurst to do something to earn a livelihood for herself and children, so she became a member of the School Board and the Board of Guardians in Manchester. Her experience on the later board taught her much of the pressing needs of the poor, and the bitter hardships of the women’s lives especially. Although always active in many reform movements, she found her efforts so much thwarted and limited by her sex, that she finally resigned all other work to devote her life to the winning of votes for women. She organized and managed the great suffrage association of England, the Woman’s Social and Political Union, known as the W.S.P.U.”

Sponsored by the Women’s League of the University and the Bloomington Woman’s Franchise League, Pankhurt’s lecture was much anticipated, with the student newspaper noting that “This is to be the only lecture by Mrs. Pankhurst in the State and because of the fact that she is so well known, due to her activities in advocating women suffrage, it is likely that there will be a large crowd to hear her speak. The admission will be twenty-five cents. Tickets are now on sale at the University and City Book stores.” Others in the university community likewise expressed enthusiasum for her visit. Professor James A. Woodburn of the History Department, when interviewed concerning the lecture, said

“I have long desired to hear Mrs. Pankhurst. She is one of the most prominent women of the world, and one of the most capable and influential. I heard two of her associates and co-workers in Hyde Park several years ago, and though they were not so effective in speech and leadership as Mrs. Pankhurst is, yet they held more than a thousand standing men in close attention for two full hours. It was a heckling rather than a friendly audience, but the women were so forceful and eloquent, of such quick wit and repartee that they were more than masters of the situation. They carried a resolution overwhelmingly from that crowd in favor of Mrs. Pankhurst, who was then a political prisoner. These English suffragettes are women of education, gentility and refinement. Many of them are of high social standing and most agreeable manners, though some of them may be convinced that to break an Englishman’s head is about the only way to get a new idea into his cranium…whether we agree or not with what they did we must recognize the courage, devotion, and self-sacrifice of their fight.”

Reportedly only in Bloomington for a total of eight hours (she spoke in Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee the day before and Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois immediately following), Mrs. Pankhurst and her secretary Miss Joan Wickham were entertained by IU Professor of Political Science Amos Hershey during their visit.

IDS May 3-3, 1916Introduced to a packed crowd in the Men’s Gymnasium by IU English Professor William E. Jenkins, Pankhurst’s remarks, according to the May 4th issue of the Indiana Daily Student, included a summary of the political conditions in England. She noted that “We did not hunt notoriety. Mere notoriety hunters would have been snuffed out at a very early state of our career. Women do not invite the experiences which we have had unless they feel very keenly their abuses. The difference between a militant and an ordinary suffragette is that we realized a little sooner and a little more keenly the work that women must carry on. There is no excuse for violence until ordinary means are exhausted.”

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act in England granted votes to all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30. In 1928 the vote was extended to all women over 21 years of age. Nationally, women in the United States gained the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment.