A Processing Story: The Claire Robertson papers, 1964-2012

The Claire Robertson papers, 1964-2012 are now available for research!

Claire C. Robertson (b. 1944) received her B.A. from Carleton College in 1966, her M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1968, and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1974. She is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles on women, class and gender relations, and African studies. Dr. Robertson was a professor at Ohio State University and a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. Robertson’s teaching and research focused primarily on the history and culture of women in Africa and on women’s studies. This collection consists of a portion of Robertson’s teaching materials, her research materials, manuscripts and writings, and other records relating to her career and professional activities. The collection arrived at the University Archives in multiple accessions between 2010 and 2012 totaling over 60 cubic feet of records.


Boxes from the Claire Robertson papers

Archival processing, a term that encompasses the tasks of arrangement and description for the collections in an archive, can often be a time-consuming task. Depending on the size of a collection, the level of organization that a collection has when it is donated to the archive, any preservation issues, and the level of detail which needs described in a finding aid, processing archival collections can take anywhere from a few days, to a few months, or maybe even years! Processing the Claire Robertson papers took some time between 2017 and March 2018 because of the size and condition of the collection.

Archivists often work on multiple tasks at a time. For student processors (like me!) this provides a great chance to learn how to ‘wear many hats’ so to speak. This project was ongoing while I managed other smaller projects and had the opportunity to learn more about different kinds of processing needs for different collections. The end result is an arranged collection and a detailed finding aid to help researchers access all parts of the collection!

Processing the Claire Robertson papers at the IU Archive
Processing the Claire Robertson papers at the IU Archive

The Claire Robertson papers contains materials relating to Robertson’s time in graduate school, her teaching files from classes taught at places other than OSU, manuscripts and drafts of her many articles and books, items relating to her professional activities, and a large amount of research and data that she created and used while writing her books Sharing the Same Bowl and Trouble Shows the Way. Much of her research involved surveying participants in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya, and then compiling the data to analyze with a computer. But, in the 1980s and early 1990s computers weren’t very advanced. The print-outs of the computer data fill numerous oversize boxes on their own!

Robertson’s collection contains her drafts, manuscripts, research, and other materials relating to her many books and other publications

As a professor and instructor, Robertson taught history, African studies, and women’s studies courses at a number of universities, including Indiana University, Bloomington. She is also the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles on women, class and gender relations, and African Studies. In 1985, she was the winner of the African Studies Association’s  Herskovits Book Award. In 1987-1988, she held a Fulbright Fellowship to study the development of Kenyan trade and market women in the Nairobi area. Robertson was a professor of history and women’s studies at The Ohio State University for over twenty years, and active on numerous committees and projects.

She also served in various capacities at Indiana University throughout her career. Beginning in 1978 she served as a Faculty Research Associate in the African Studies Program and in 1984 she was the Co-Director of the Office of Women’s Affairs. From 1992 until 1993 she was appointed as a Visiting Scholar in the Women’s Studies Program, and she has since served as a Lecturer and been involved in IU’s Fair Trade Bloomington selling artisan-made items to benefit two projects. The Indiana University Press published her books, Sharing the Same Bowl: A Socioeconomic History of Women and Class in Accra, Ghana in 1984 and Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area, 1890-1990 in 1997. Much of the archival collection consists of Robertson’s data and analysis for her various research projects and publications.

Central Accra Market Photos, 1978, Claire Robertson papers, Collection C633, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

In Bloomington, Robertson now works on two projects to provide help to children affected by AIDS and to assist women in Kenya. For each of the projects, Ndethya wa Ngutethya Women’s Group and Spurgeon School for AIDS Orphans in Kenya, Robertson raises funds in the U.S. to buy clothing for African women and children, and then travels to Kenya and brings artisan-made items back from the Nairobi markets to sell at Fair Trade Bloomington and other fundraisers to benefit the Kenyan artists.

Claire Robertson’s papers in the IU Archives are now open for research. Anyone interested in the research process, or in topics relating to African Studies or Women’s Studies will find this collection to be full of interesting material!

In the Claire Robertson papers there are many items that she collected relating to her interests in Africa and women’s studies

In addition to items relating to Robertson’s work, the collection contains some other materials relating to her interests which she collected throughout her career. Contact the IU Archives for more information.

Portions of the collection such as African Newspapers and journals are now part of African Studies Collection here at IU, and  files documenting her teaching activities at the Ohio State University  were transferred to the OSU Archives.

Behind the Curtain: Hannah Vaughn, Bicentennial Graduate Assistant

dsc_0467Role: Graduate Assistant at the IU Archives working on the Indiana University Bicentennial

Educational Background: B.A. in History from Purdue University; current M.L.S. student with a specialization in Rare Books and Manuscripts

Previous Experience: Hannah worked in the Archives and Special Collections at Purdue University for two years as an undergraduate assistant for the Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives.  In addition, she spent one summer at the Indiana State Library through the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. This past summer, she worked with the Loan Archives at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Hannah says working in the Purdue Archives was “the highlight of my undergraduate degree program.  The experiences I had and the people I met ultimately helped me decide on my future career path.  As such, I was greatly interested in working in a similar environment that could teach me even more about working in an archive.”

Current project: Recently Hannah has been working to process the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers, who was a Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures at IU. She also just installed an exhibit drawn from his papers. Visit the Office of the Bicentennial in Franklin Hall 200 to see “Reflections on Diversity: Highlights from the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers” through February 1, 2018.

What she’s learned: The first president of IU, Andrew Wylie, died while in office.  He accidentally cut his foot with an ax while out in the woods and then died a couple of days later from pneumonia.

Lawrence M. Langer: IU Physicist and Manhattan Project Scientist

While Lawrence M. Langer made an impact at Indiana University’s physics department, his contributions to society go beyond his work as a physics professor at IU. Dr. Langer’s role with the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb that hit the town of Hiroshima during World War II, played a pivotal point for the Allied powers.

Langer with three other physic professors in 1940 (from left to right, Langer is the third person) helped create the first cyclotron at Indiana University. P0032291

Lawrence M. Langer was born in New York in 1913. He received his B.S.(1934) and PhD (1938), both from NYU in physics. In 1938, Langer joined the Indiana University faculty in the physics department where he helped create IU’s first cyclotron. As WWII progressed, Langer was excused from his duties at IU to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology radar project in 1941, then moving on to to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1943 to participate in the atomic bomb project. He served as the group leader and was the first of IU’s faculty to be recruited for the project.

1945 may have marked one of the most important years of Langer’s life. Langer supervised the trial drops of dummy bombs by Enola Grey (the plane used to drop the atomic bomb at Hiroshima) at Saipan. He also trained an Army officer for the mission, because the military would not permit a civilian to carry out the mission.

On the night before the Enola Grey mission, Langer wanted to make sure that everything stayed in place. He had feared that the military police and possibly others would become curious and cause problems for the bomb. For this reason, he stayed on the plane, and guarded the bomb on the evening before the mission was to take place. Eventually as Langer became tired, he slept on top of the bomb. In the morning everything was properly intact.

Following the Hiroshima misson, Langer returned to Bloomington and served as faculty member in the physics department until 1979. During his time there, he published many works and inspired his students in the field of science. Langer resided in Bloomington until his death in 2000.

Langer was a beloved faculty member at Indiana University, but many outside of the school community, remember him for his contributions to the Allies during WWII.

If you would like to learn more about Langer, contact the IU Archives to make an appointment to view the Lawrence Langer papers. There is a plethora of materials including WWII military documents, newspaper clippings, and Langer’s academic work.

The Alma Eikerman papers

The Alma Eikerman papers are now organized and available for research! If you don’t remember, the collection came to us in pretty rough shape; you can read about in my blog post from a few months ago.

Born in 1908, Eikerman was a well-respected artist and professor who taught in the School of Fine Arts (now the School of Art + Design) at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. Known for her innovative metalsmithing, she was a vital force behind the development of the program at IU. Her work appeared in numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and now resides in private collections and museums across the country, including the Smithsonian and our own IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Passports of Alma Eikerman
Passports of Alma Eikerman

The Eikerman papers includes a wealth of material documenting Eikerman and her life. Included are papers from her extensive travels such as tickets, maps, itineraries, brochures, notes she took while on trips, and her passports with stamps of the countries she visited.

Her correspondence includes not only professional missivesSome letter sent to Alma but also many personal letters, such as post cards Eikerman sent to her parents while she was working for the American Red Cross and a letter from her grandfather from around 1916. Eikerman also sent annual newsletters to her former students to keep everyone updated on each other, demonstrating her dedication to and interest in her students.

The photographs in this collection are my personal favorites and include slides, negatives and prints spanning her entire life, personal and professional. Also, can we all just agree that Alma Eikerman was incredibly Pictures of Alma photogenic?

Lastly, and perhaps most important to those familiar with her work as an artist, is the part of the collection that relates to metalsmithing. Here researchers can find notes, receipts for materials, price estimates, sale tickets, as well as preparatory sketches of her work in various Sketches from Alma's papersstates of development – some hardly more than doodles while others are detailed sketches of a piece complete with notes.

Contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment to view the Eikerman collection!

Cecilia Hennel Hendricks and the First Woman Governor

With the 2016 elections close—and the possibility of the election of the first woman U.S. president in history—it’s important to remember how far women have come across the frontier of American politics. As you undoubtedly know, women did not obtain the right to vote in this country until 1920 when the states ratified the 19th amendment to the Constitution. It took almost 100 years after that for a woman to be seriously considered for the highest level of office. But years earlier, in the very wake of women’s suffrage, Nellie Tayloe Ross would become the first woman governor of any state.

Nellie Tayloe Ross: "The Woman Who Made Good"

Ross became the governor of Wyoming in 1925, easily earning the office after the death of her husband a year earlier. According to many prominent politicians of the time, she was the “woman who made good;” Republicans and Democrats alike agreed, for the most part, that she had done her duty well during her two years in office. With how little effort it took her to get the vote and earn office in the first place, many believed it should have been smooth sailing when the time came for reelection in 1926. A number of women stood behind her and worked the campaign in order to keep her on the Democratic ticket. But the effort proved more difficult than anticipated; enter Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, former IU teacher and alumna, who would see firsthand the obstacles in fundraising for a female candidate.

Cecilia Hennel Hendricks

Hendricks, formerly Hennel, was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1883. She attended IU, performing as an exceptional student and leader both in and out of the classroom, and was even elected as the editor-in-chief of the campus yearbook, The Arbutus, in 1907. By 1908, she had earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. For the years to follow, she held positions on the Indiana University faculty as an instructor in the English department and an assistant editor of publications. So how did an accomplished woman living in Indiana with a career underway end up working the campaign for the governor of Wyoming? The same way anyone would: by marrying a bee farmer.

A marriage to John Hendricks of Honeyhill Farm took her all the way to Wyoming for an interlude in her IU career, and after a few years she would find herself swept up in the efforts for women in politics.

The Election of 1926

The Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers contains a file with a good chunk of the correspondence between Hendricks and others about Wyoming’s 1926 gubernatorial race. Through these papers, it’s fairly easy to discern her role in the campaign and how she managed to become a part of this political movement. It should be mentioned that Hendricks was not only working for Ross’s reelection at the time, but was CHH brochure for Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1926also herself running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction under the same ticket– although, it almost seems as though she became more concerned with Ross’s election than her own. She wrote letters to major political and activist figures (mostly women) to either solicit money, ask for lists of other people whom she could solicit for money, or to ask for advice on Ross’s campaign, all the while using the discourse of women’s rights to make her plea. To Mrs. Ruth McCormick, a U.S. representative from Illinois and activist for women’s suffrage, she wrote:

“…For the first time, a woman is a candidate for governor on a purely business proposition, simply on the record of her efficiency. Heretofore the element of sympathy has entered into every campaign where a woman has asked for high office. If Governor Ross were a man, there would be no question in the world of her re-election. She has demonstrated that a capable woman is just as successful as any man. She has shown that there is no sex in brains and ability. It is unnecessary to say that the whole future of women in politics hinges on their being accepted when, and only when, they prove efficient and capable for the job in question.

From this, Hendricks went on to ask for a donation to the campaign funds.

Not all of her attempts were fruitful. In fact, a majority of the responses Hendricks saved were polite, yet firm rejections to contribute to the campaign. Mary Roberts Rinehart, an American mystery novelist, wrote that she was “not a citizen of the state” and that she “really think[s] it would be an impertinence on [her] part to suggest anyone to them as the party of their choice, or to contribute to the campaign, or to align [her]self on either side of the politics of [Wyoming].” Still, Hendricks remained adamant, writing to a number of other possible donors, including the editor of Good Housekeeping in New York (hoping they would publish an article she wrote about Ross) and Emily Newell Blair, a writer and one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. Blair stated that, although she could not donate, she had convinced others to donate to the cause. Aside from solicitation, Hendricks remained alongside Ross for the majority of the campaign, attending many of her rallies and reporting on the success of her speeches. Her file includes a hefty stack of newspaper clippings that mention Ross’s highs and lows during election and as governor of Wyoming.

The Aftermath of Loss

Nellie Tayloe Ross lost the election to Frank Emerson by a narrow margin. Naturally, her supporters were disappointed by the surprising loss. It might have meant a severe backtracking in the way of women’s rights. Hendricks, however, took it upon herself to write a heartfelt and compelling letter to Ross after the election had fizzled.

CCH to NTR, 5 November 1926

“I feel personally,” she wrote, “in spite of defeat, that there is a good deal of comfort to be derived from participating in a campaign, for when one counts the increased information about her state, the contact with fine people everywhere, the friendships made, and above all, the knowledge gained that will be the basis for better work in the future, one must feel it is all far more than worth while.” Hendricks reminded Ross, and us all, of the true spirit of election season and all of the benefits of participating in American politics.

Sorry to report that Hendricks also lost her race as State Superintendent of Education. Hendricks remained in Wyoming until 1931, when she returned to Indiana University. Back in Bloomington, she continued with her impressive drive. As a member of the Dept. of English faculty, she went on to found the IU Writers Conference, held office as president of the Women’s Faculty Club in 1941, and made an overall remarkable impression upon our school.