Truth and Perspective at the Berkeley of the South

A newspaper photograph of Students protesting on University Avenue

Blog post by Discovery Fellow Aron Ali-McClory

Hello! My name is Aron Ali-McClory, and I am an organizer and student who has been using the University Archives to explore the history of the student movement at the University of Florida, prompted by a manuscript which had been given to me known as Berkeley of the South. The student movement, consisting of intertwining lineages and legacies of student protest and activism, is something that is usually viewed through its most memorable events. My research through the Discovery Fellowship has sought to understand the context in which the student movement exists at UF – especially as there is no widely known or available resource which documents the movement at all its intersections.

The University Archives contains an almost overwhelming array of material on the student movement, much of which has not been digitized, and almost none of which is consistent in format. Many of these materials were housed in ‘vertical files,’ which were topical in nature and could hold any array of documents and ephemera inside. Unlike many archival collections, in which each individual document is organized and listed on an inventory, the contents of each vertical file need to be explored piece by piece, with many documents still in the order they were submitted to the University Archives. From student-made zines to hand-edited messages from the president’s office, student papers and more, I quickly discovered that I had to narrow down my scope if I wanted to begin to do justice to the student movement as I intended, and ended up deciding to center my Fellowship research on Black Thursday for this semester. Black Thursday was a critical event which occurred in April of 1971, and involved a well-supported and militant Black Student Union (BSU) facing off with the cautious presidential administration of Stephen C. O’Connell over demands like establishing an Institute of Black Culture and increasing Black student enrollment.

A newspaper clipping found in a vertical file covering a statement from BSU thanking supporters during Black Thursday

What I began to understand as I worked my way through the extensive vertical files is that modern depictions of Black Thursday and the context in which it existed lacked the historical context which could perhaps only be found in the very documents I was reading through. I found that student government, a historically neutral institution at UF, placed itself firmly in support of BSU against the administration, led by insurgent student body president Steve Uhlfelder. Furthermore, I pieced together a narrative spun by the administration that isn’t much talked about, namely their attempt to minimize the voices and actions of those protesting on Black Thursday by garnering large amounts of support from the state government, parents, and parts of the faculty.

After reviewing many of the items in the vertical files, as well as accessing digital editions of the Florida Alligator from the time of Black Thursday, it became clear that only with this kind of thorough review and analysis would one come to understand the student movement in full. As I continue to branch out forward and backwards in time from Black Thursday, I intend to keep a similarly keen eye on how perspective shapes ‘the truth’ as it relates to student protest and activist activities on campus, especially as it relates to administration, community actors, student government, and the students themselves.

Featured image credit: Students march down University Avenue from a newspaper file photo, c. 1971

Raising the Game

a figurine with a wizard hat and a gun stands next to a three-tiered pop up castle made by folding a single sheet of pink cardstock 90 degrees.

By Discovery Fellow Ziad El-Rady

As a paper artist, I was drawn to the Special Collections by the treasure trove of pop-up and movable books found in the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature. As a game designer and D&D Dungeon Master, I knew these 3-D structures had great potential to immerse players into the environment and bring blind and low-vision players to the table. These players have no problems joining in on your average D&D game. Narration that includes details about things like smell and body language help for roleplay, but when battles take place, much of the information is conveyed on drawn or printed maps. My guiding question for this fellowship: How can paper be used to introduce tactile elements and raised surfaces to tabletop games?

While intricate, illustrative pop-ups designed for children brought me to the collections, pop-ups designed for books aren’t made to meet the needs of game spaces, and my focus has since shifted to materials found outside of the Baldwin Library. The maps library has preserved an out-of-use volume of tactile map of Gainesville and UF’s campus, created by the Disability Resource Center in the 1990s. Plain printed material is overlaid with a formed plastic sheet that gives shape to braille, raised paths indicating roads, and bumpy textures representing lakes. 

A Braille-overlaid map of the Plaza of the Americas. These maps were both loaned to students and available for reference at library and office desks across the campus in the 1990s.

Understanding what isn’t represented on the map is almost as important as understanding what is; our senses of touch do not understand detail at the same level our eyes do. Therefore, direct translation of a map’s visual information into tactile information is unhelpful. I consider this source as I create paper tactile maps, a process as simple as perforating the page using sharp objects like thumbtacks or pens.

Accessibility has many different meanings. One of paper’s strengths over something like 3-D modeling is its widespread accessibility through its low cost and ease of access. To play towards this strength, techniques that can be done with readily available materials are my priority. A cutting mat, cardstock, and a craft knife are the only things necessary to begin creating Origami/Origamic Architecture (OA), and the results can be impressive. Cutting, scoring, and delicately folding the cardstock on the crease line is all that’s necessary to bring the structure into the third dimension.

Chatani’s paper models include structures and standalone objects. The terraced surfaces of fortifications would lend themselves to playable structures on a game board.

Masahiro Chatani’s Origami Architecture: American Houses Pre-Colonial to Present (1988) offers an introduction to the art form as well as specific patterns designed to recreate American architectural styles. I’ve found OA’s artistic capabilities enchanting, but at a more practical level, it represents a direct way to bring buildings and elevated ground to more tabletops. If this is my aim, then creating a basic guide for the process only makes sense, and Chatani provides a great starting point in his pattern/template creation process. During the latter half of this fellowship, I hope to gain a better understanding of the process by creating patterns of my own.

Featured Image credit: A prototype paper model of a castle with a wizard minifigure (Ziad El-Rady)

Rooted History and Indigenous Plants

By Discovery Fellow Gregory Nobleza

When I began the Discovery Fellowship, I really wanted to look at the indigenous plants and landscapes of Florida, such as what information related to plants has been cataloged throughout the centuries and how indigenous people continue to use plants in the digital era. The P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History contained many different approaches to this topic.

            One of the first things that I looked at were writings by John and William Bartram.  They recounted their encounters with native flora and fauna in Georgia and Florida, with detailed accounts of what existed in Florida in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. I was pleasantly surprised by John’s and William’s writings; John wrote methodically, giving exact details of native landscapes, whereas William wrote poetically, painting a vivid picture of Florida at the time.

This engraving was created by Theodor de Bry to capture Europe’s imagination of the New World. The plants in this engraving contain plants that are not native to America with a scenario based off of stories from voyagers to the New World. (Image from the Harn Museum of Art)

I then looked into Theodore de Bry’s engravings on indigenous Americans and the landscapes in colonial America. I learned that de Bry was never in America and was, at best, a third hand source. His intentions were to simply install the image of the “New World” into Europeans, using random plants and imagined scenes to create his engravings. This was a stark contrast to the Bartrams’ encounters and showed me how varied the information on the Floridian landscape can be.

I then decided to look more into native plants and landscapes today. I began reading one of my favorite sources from my research so far: “Healing Plants: Medicine of the Florida Seminole Indians” by Alice Micco Snow. The first part of this book was a look into modern Seminole life, and how native plants and indigenous healing practices are used in conjunction with modern medicine. It was incredible to see how plants are at the core of the Seminole culture and how they are essential to things like spirituality and even language. There was a huge table of uses and translation for each native plant at the end of the book that ensnared me for hours.

A team of excavators uses green buckets to remove peat moss from the Windover Site, an indigenous burial ground in Brevard County, Florida.

The initial excavation of the Windover site, after a construction company found bones buried within the peat. Photo: PBS

After discovering these sources, I am now looking more into how native landscapes and plants are being discovered, preserved, and used in the modern day. For example, I am currently reading about the Windover site, an ancient Native American burial site in Brevard County discovered during the construction of a housing development.  I am also considering a larger question: how do societies, long-lost and still-standing, survive amidst technology, urbanization, and globalization that isn’t compatible with preserving these cultures?

Featured Image Credit: Flowers like this one growing in my grandmother’s garden first got me interested in gardens and horticulture (photo by the author)

The Dog-Gone Problem with Wolves

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

By Discovery Fellow A. Bones

Starting this fellowship, I expected to be able to clearly pinpoint the exact sources through which the vindictive and villainous perceptions of wolves began. Wolves historically have always been the villain, which made a younger me feel both sorry for them and curious about why people hated them so much. We love dogs after all, don’t we? Why not their bigger, wilder ancestors?  

The sixteenth-century writer and naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) gathered as many accounts of wolves from Biblical and Classical authors as he could in his Natural History.

I started my fellowship in order to answer these questions, alongside others such as “How are wolves generally perceived within media?” and “How did the negative perceptions of wolves start?” Although wolves have been identified as being among the most voracious eaters since ancient times, I particularly focused on the nineteenth century, when ideas of wolves could be found across scholarly works, such as John James Audubon’s Quadrupeds of North America (1845-1848), newspaper articles and stories, as well as within children’s literature and mythology. 

A lithograph of an American Black Wolf drawn by John Woodhouse Audubon

Audubon’s Quadrupeds of America contained drawings “from life” of several different wolf species, including the American Black Wolf, here drawn by his son John W. Audubon.

The nineteenth-century perception of wolves is relatively uniform between the news and more scientific literature. In both types of writing, wolves appear as voracious, ravenously hungry, cunning, strong and quick. More surprising to me, these sources also describe wolves as arrogant and extremely cowardly. These ideas of wolves, especially the idea of the wolf as a sneaky coward, are extremely prevalent within narratives regarding wolves and how they should be dealt with during the 19th century.

Wolves during this time period were considered no better than many people in the modern day think of rats; they were pest animals, and a great scourge to innocent farmers and their livestock. Instead of being awed by, or afraid of, the howls of wolves in the night, some authors went as far as to denounce the wolf as a living creature and instead regard it as some ravenous thing only capable of hunger and cowardice.  

This 1893 advertisement from the Globe-Republican (Dodge City, KS) is typical of many treatments of wolves in newspapers in the nineteenth century, searchable through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America database. (Image: Kansas Historical Society/Chronicling America)

My observations regarding the removal of wolves from the consideration of being a living creature filled me with profound concern during my research, however it also sparked further questions to investigate. Such questions are how these views of wolves possibly affected fairytale interpretations of wolves and vice versa, as well as how such virulent anti-wolf attitudes eventually shifted to allow space for their conservation. Were wolves conserved pragmatically: since exploding deer populations gave their mindless hunger a good outlet? Or did conservationists emphasize their right to continue as a species? Did the treatment of wolves in folklore such as Little Red Riding Hood and 3 Little Pigs influence how news outlets and scholarly works wrote on how to handle wolves? I am eagerly looking forward to possibly drawing connections, or at the very least raising more questions that could help me dive deeper into how wolves are thought of and treated! 

Featured Image credit: Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, from an illustrated edition published in New York by McLoughlin Brothers, c. 1880. Image via the Baldwin Library Digital Collection.

Our 2023 Discovery Fellow Presentations

The 2023 Cohort of Undergraduate Discovery Fellows and their Library Mentors

As we prepare to welcome our new cohort of Discovery Fellows for 2024, we want to look back at the results of our 2023 fellowship cohort. 

In previous years, students concluded their fellowships by writing a second post for the Storied Books blog.  This cohort of students were instead asked to give a five-minute talk about the research topics that they had formed during their work with the collections, followed by the chance to take questions about future research plans and how they might incorporate their experiences into the rest of their undergraduate career.  The talks were well attended and included members of the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections, fellows from previous cohorts, and friends of the presenters.

Now let’s hear from the Discovery Fellows about their research questions and how they plan to take their inquiries further. 

Fallen Women by Carly Achinapura

I’ve come to the question: how do English Victorian perspectives on ‘the fallen women’ in literature affect 20th-century and modern perspectives on prostitution and sex work? In my research, I looked at how women of different socioeconomic statuses in Victorian England would have encountered the idea of the ‘fallen woman’ (or a woman whose loss of her virginity places her on the path to ruin and, oftentimes, death).  I started by reading small, cheap pamphlets aimed toward lower- and middle-class women that gave insight into Victorian ideas of virtue, chastity, and ‘fallenness’. Other items I consulted included conduct literature and philanthropic works on prostitution kept in microform, which would have been aimed at middle- and upper-class women.

This summer and fall, I’ll be writing an honors thesis. I’m looking into The Chimes by Charles Dickens and observing the way Dickens excuses the suicidal ideation of the fallen woman while simultaneously shaming the prostitute. This is such an important novel due to its criticism of upper-class values and attitudes towards the lower class, criticism of upper-class philanthropic institutions and their effectiveness, and its questioning of whether the poor can truly be helped and/or redeemed. The observations that I have made in my research here are going to help me in the contextualization of my thesis, as I have a better understanding of ‘fallenness’ from a series of socioeconomic perspectives. This would answer the question I’ve posed as Dickens is one of the most canonized authors of 19th century England. His ideas influence audiences in the 20th and 21st centuries and affect the way people look at the past prostitute and the modern sex worker: as either a person to be helped or a problem to be solved.

The Many Faces of Children’s Books by Morgan Fisher

When I first started this research fellowship, I had no clear idea of what I wanted my topic to be. But when I started looking at books in the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, I ended up finding an old Nancy Drew book. I remembered these books well from my own childhood, and when I looked at the oldest Nancy Drew book in the library, and saw it was published in 1930, it got me thinking about how uniquely long lasting this series was. This led to my overarching questions of: how did this series last so long? What changes did this series go through to keep up with the times, and make itself relevant with each new generation of readers?

I realized that an important reason these books were able to stick around for so long was due to their adaptability. But at the same time, the consistency in the series is what kept people coming back. The kind of longevity this series achieved is almost impossible to grasp, and to keep going down this line of research I would like to look at several other long running series, to see what kind of developments they’d made compared to Nancy Drew, and to explore what kind of stories the outside of a book can tell.

Women in Wartime by Preslie Price

At the beginning of the Discovery Fellowship, I was initially interested in the intersections between music and war during the 20th century. I have always been intrigued by songs with war themes and wanted to see how the pair intertwined before the development of mass media such as radio and TV. After discussing potential options with my mentors, I realized there is a very clear connection between war and song through the medium of sheet music. I investigated the Bernard S. Parker World War One Sheet Music Collection, which boasts a vast array of wartime songs. I discovered the consistent presence of female influence on war efforts, specifically through the propaganda tactics of the cover art, lyrics, and advertisements throughout the sheet music.

My observations about gender roles and women aiding war efforts brought me to two overarching research questions. The first is: how do gender roles/the role of women shift and evolve from WWI through other wars of the 20th century? The second is: how does the role of music as a means of propaganda change? An example would be comparing female-focused propaganda efforts in other wars such as Rosie the Riveter in WWII (she is shown as empowered yet still fits an ideal image of female beauty). On the music front, I would invest time in researching how wartime music evolved and how the use of radio affected cultural sentiment surrounding war. I would also be eager to discover the evolution of protest/anti-war sentiment specifically during the Vietnam war and where those foundations initially developed.

[In the image above, from left: From left, Neil Weijer, Discovery Fellows Preslie Price, Carly Achinapura, Morgan Fisher, Popular Culture curator Jim Liversidge, Bridget Bihm-Manuel, and Baldwin Library curator Ramona Capronegro]

The Many Faces of Children’s Books

Covers of the Nancy Drew Mystery "The Hidden Staircase"

Submitted by Discovery Fellow Morgan Fischer

Our favorite books from our childhood can evoke the most powerful feelings of nostalgia. They stick with us. Even if you don’t think about them for years on end, the moment you catch a glimpse of the cover you would huddle with under the bedcovers, devouring until your mom told you it was time to go to bed, all of those feelings come rushing back. While millions of new books are published each year, there are some that have remained in print over decades, inspiring readers and making memories across generations.

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series is one of those. With the first book published in the 1930s, and the most recent one published in the 2000s, no one can deny that these books have stuck around. But how has this series lasted so long? What changes have these books gone through to not only reflect the developments within the series, but also reflect the developments in each generation of readers?

When I began my research, I took a deep dive into this series, and looked at exactly what components make up the structure of each individual book. There’s the cover, of course, but also the copyright page, the table of contents, the text itself, and even what other books are advertised within the pages.

The earliest book I looked at was one of the first ever Nancy Drew books, entitled The Hidden Staircase, written and published in 1930. The cover was blue cloth, with a silhouette of Nancy on the front, very different from the yellow hardcovers that became prevalent later in the century.

But the covers are not the only differences that reflect the decades. That 1930 copy of The Hidden Staircase advertises a fellow series called The Dana Girls, while a 1968 copy of Nancy’s Mysterious Letter advertises the Bobbsey Twins and another copy advertises a series called Cherry Ames, all a nod to what was popular at the time and what the publisher thought the target audience would most likely respond to. There was also a period of time in the 1960s and 70s where the books included a mail-in order form that you could tear out from the back of the book, giving the reader the option to purchase the books with cash or a check offering direct access to new books through the publisher.

Order forms in the back of Nancy’s Mysterious Letter (1968)

An important reason these books have stuck around is how adaptable they have been over the decades. During World War II, the publisher released a special wartime version because of certain quotas on materials. In the late 1950s earlier books were re-written in order to create more politically correct and culturally relevant stories. The whole series got a different outward appearance: the iconic yellow hardback copies with the drawing of the blonde detective on front and the list of the other published books in the series with the quote calling you to “Check and see how many you have read.” Because of this re-write, two readers could pick up what they think is the same book and really be reading two quite different stories, adding another layer to this series’ complex history.

Different from the previous editions, this special wartime edition contains a non-linen blue cover, a simpler illustration on the inside flaps, and a rougher kind of paper than that used in prewar books.

But while there are many notable differences in the style and content changes over the decades, the consistencies are what keep people coming back. The publisher has stuck with the series for almost an entire century, and while the series is really written by a multitude of authors under one pseudonym, this consistency has kept the heart of Nancy Drew the same. The publisher has kept the familiar blonde detective on the cover, forming a landmark no matter what style she’s drawn in. This kind of longevity is almost impossible to grasp, but further in my research I’m hoping to explore some other long running series to compare their developments, and just see what kind of stories the outside of a book can tell.

Women in Wartime – World War I

A young woman in a salvation army uniform on the cover of "Don't Forget the Salvation Army (My Donut Girl)" (1919)

Submitted by Discovery Fellow Preslie Price

I have always been enthralled by 20th century war propaganda since first cracking open a history book in middle school on World War I and II. When I began the DiscoveryFellowship, I was interested in combining that fascination with my passion and love for music of the century, especially surrounding the question of how the pair intersected before the development of mass media such as radio and TV. This notion drew me towards the subject matter of sheet music, which was a popular means of sharing songs across the country and overseas during war time.

Through the Bernard S. Parker World War I Sheet Music Collection, I found a unique bridge between the medium of propaganda and music. When I began, I expected to find only hyper-nationalistic messages and cover art with soldiers. While these elements were present in the collection, a surprising common thread that connected numerous of the pieces was the presence of women on the home front.

Cover illustration of “Each Stitch Is A Thought of You, Dear:” a woman knitting with a service star flag in the background.

The depiction of women differed, but the most common examples were mothers, daughters, and sweethearts both at home and overseas. I had not expected this turn, but I followed it closely through multiple pieces. In Each Stitch Is A Thought of You, Dear (1918) motherhood and its value during wartime is depicted. On the cover of the piece, an older woman is shown stitching behind a Service Star Flag, indicating four members of her family are enlisted in the military.

The imagery of a mother making clothes evoked a domesticity that would have been familiar at the time of production. The contents of the song describe a mother making clothing for her sons in the war and is “Dedicated to that Army of Noble women/mothers/wives/sisters/sweethearts who are doing their bit for the boys ‘over there’.” The mother was used in this piece as a comforting figure for those at home to drive support towards the troops and also to soldiers overseas who had only ever known a small circle at home and were now plunged in the unfamiliar. This notion can also be seen in the advertisement on the back which encourages buying more sheet music containing patriotic songs for those here or abroad, spreading the message in an age before radio broadcast.

Cover illustration of “Don’t Forget the Salvation Army” depicts a young woman in military attire grinning with a bucketful of Salvation Army doughnuts to be given away to soldiers. The background has three strong red, white, and blue sections and also contains the seal of the Salvation Army.

After discovering the former piece, I was interested to find more sheet music with other types of women on the home front, even after the war’s end. Don’t Forget the Salvation Army (My Doughnut Girl) (1919) immediately stood out due to its cover imagery of a woman in military attire carrying donuts surrounded by patriotic hues. The lyrics celebrate her for bringing coffee and donuts to soldiers through the Salvation Army (as a result of donations) and encourages listeners to continue supporting their efforts.

The two letters on the back were unique to this piece, both supporting the Salvation Army and the mission of the doughnut girls. The women volunteering played a tangible role in aiding troops while still fulfilling a traditionally feminine work position (providing food and comfort as a means of care). The song recounts how soldiers listening would be reminded of food/comfort at home and positive times with the doughnut girls. Those at home listening would be reminded of the pressing need to support initiatives such as the Salvation Army and the importance of female volunteers.

The back of “My Donut Girl” showed an illustration of Salvation Army women as well as endorsements from the publisher and a letter promoting the Salvation Army’s efforts.

Through the mass production and sale of sheet music within the country, patriotism and American opinion on the war were more easily transmitted and support could be gathered quickly. While both pieces present women in two separate wartime roles, they each portray women as patriotic agents able to aid troops through traditional domestic work such as cooking and sewing. The two pieces connect the cause of the war to a familiar and personal subject, and make an emotional appeal that publishers hoped would be received well throughout the country.

advertisement with imagery of soldiers and a convincing message to buy more booklets to support war efforts on the home front and overseas.
Advertisement on the back of “Each Stitch Is A Thought of You, Dear” (1918) advertising compilations from the publisher, Leo Feist, Inc.

Fallen Women, pt. I

The Maid of Damascus - from the Illustrated London News

Submitted by Discovery Fellow Carly Achinapura

In my research, I have been looking into how texts regarding female chastity are directed toward women of different social classes in Victorian England. I am especially interested in how these texts address the archetype of the ‘fallen woman’ – a woman whose loss of her virginity places her on the path of ruin and, oftentimes, death. In researching 1800s conduct literature and theology pamphlets, I discovered the pamphlet “An Address to Young Women on the Preservation of a Virtuous Mind, and Virtuous Conduct.” The pamphlet was written in 1844 by Reverend E.T.M. Phillipps and cost four pennies, making the pamphlet an affordable reading option for both lower- and middle-class women.

Philipps - Letter to Young Readers
This manner of addressing the audience in a small statement in the front matter to gain their trust is a practice that was unseen in the other pamphlets I observed, and demonstrates the rhetorical tactics that Phillipps used as the long-term rector of a small, rural parish.

            The front matter of the pamphlet contains a message from the author addressing the pamphlet to “My Dear Young Friends” (2), which emphasizes that the pamphlet was aimed at the innocent, naïve young woman of the lower or middle class. In placing the woman’s value on her virtue, Phillipps emphasizes that “the sacrifice of chastity destroy[s] the usefulness of women” (16), thus framing the unmarried, sexually liberated woman as a degenerate in British Victorian society. Phillipps frames the virtuous woman as one whose “‘fidelity is inviolable, and her purity unsullied’” (17). An interesting development in this text is Phillipps’s approach to prostitution and ‘fallen women’ under Christian belief systems. In a religion that emphasizes redemption and repentance in the modern day, we find a much more unforgiving system of beliefs in the Victorian Era. The prostitute is given an incredibly negative depiction, called “impatient of controul, and refusing restraint” (14). Even if attempting to find repentance for their sins, Phillipps’s approach to Christian belief as a minister outright rejects these women in their attempts to do so. Even if a woman was “not only reformed in practice but brought to genuine repentance for her sin” and was “a sound believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,” things would not “be restored to their original soundness” (15).

–        “Paul et Virginie:” an engraving done for The Illustrated London News (1844) of the painting by Henri-Frédéric Schopin. Inspired by the popular eighteenth-century novel about two childhood friends who are separated to preserve Virginia’s morality, Paul’s naked foot is emphasized over Virginia’s covered one. This engraving appeared with a poem titled “Paul and Virginia,” where Virginia must depart from Paul and the two express their romantic feelings for one another.

            This pamphlet creates an incredibly limiting social role for the women reading it and paints an utterly damning picture of the prostitute and other types of ‘fallen woman’ by association. In a society in which the prostitute is a temptress to worthy men and deemed as unable to repent, the prostitute is thoroughly demonized. Framing the prostitute, who oftentimes could be equated to the ‘fallen woman,’ in this manner results in the damning of the prostitute in the eyes of those who could help make change for the ‘fallen woman’ (the upper- or middle-class woman) and those who could later become a ‘fallen woman’ due to economic hardship or sexual assault (the lower-class woman). Furthermore, at a time in which more philanthropic organizations were established to aid the ‘fallen woman,’ this work heavily relies on the use of scare tactics to scare the woman from losing her chastity and committing a sin so as to not become useless in and rejected by her patriarchal society.

Welcome to our 2023 Discovery Fellows!

We’re off and running with our third cohort of Undergraduate Discovery Fellows! This semester, we’re pleased to welcome three new fellows to the collections. You’ll hear more about their projects on this blog over the coming weeks, but for now, we’re excited to get them started.

Carly Achinapura - 2023 Undergraduate Discovery Fellow

Carly Achinapura (’23)

will be using the Rare Book Collection to investigate Victorian ideas about “fallen women” and gender.

Morgan Fischer (’25)

is excited to look into the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature to see how ideas about marketing books to children changed over time.

Preslie Price - 2023 Undergraduate Discovery Fellow

Preslie Price (’24)

will be digging into the archives of the Popular Culture Collections to explore postwar music and film.

Visionary Communities

A Tarot Deck in a handmade box

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Chrishann Walcott

As the semester concludes, I’d like to take a reflective glance at the materials that I have come across in the Special Collections. At the beginning of my research, I intended to focus more on the influence of two major religions—Judaism and Christianity—on politics and culture in America during the early 20th century. After taking a deep dive into Koreshanity, I became interested in investigating the so-called “offshoots:” religious and spiritual communities that classified as utopias, as documented by late 19th and early 21st century materials.

Now, what is a utopia? Edward Bellamy’s 1888 fiction novel “Looking Backward,” depicts a utopia as a state of collectivism in which society has reached its ideal state. Bellamy’s ideas were a response to the volatile sociopolitical reform movements of the late 19th century. Some of these ideas have flowed into the principle of communitarianism that had become central to the foundation and maintenance of many of these utopian communities. Utopian communities are bound together through a collective mutual identity, whether that identity is spiritual or political.

Spiritual utopian communities, in particular, mark their communes as sacred spaces, usually isolated or physically demarcated from the rest of the world. In the post-civil war era, Spiritualist movements blossomed as many wished to reconnect with their deceased loved ones, something that they could not do under the restraints of traditional Protestantism, but could do with the help of spiritual mediums who act as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual world. Furthermore, the age of Spiritualism coincided with the women’s rights movements, and thus women played a crucial role in the movement by gaining authority as spiritual mediums.

In the collections, I came across a 1972 newspaper clipping from The Floridian detailing the activities of a Spiritualist Camp in Cassadaga, dubbed the “Psychic capital of the world”. The commune was established in the mid-1890s by the prominent medium George P. Colby as led by spiritual guides to “…fulfill a prophecy and found a retreat in the wilderness,”⁠—a revelation not uncommon among leaders of communes or religious sects. More communes rose along the East Coast as the movement grew in popularity and believers wished to create a definite structure for their doctrines.

Diagram of “The Mounts of the Hand,” from the Study of Palmistry (c. 1900)

Currently, Cassadaga maintains its status as a community with a set of flexible theologies and is run by trained individuals that provide services such as healing, palm readings, and other means of clairoyance. One subject that I found interesting to dive into was the role that religious commercialization has played in the Spiritualism movement, and in the livelihood of Cassadaga in particular. The commercialization of Spiritualism reinstates a fundamental boundary between devoted believers those who might be hesitant of such practices and seek to exploit followers for monetary gain.

By taking a look backwards at utopian communities within the state of Florida, we can understand how and why certain beliefs and customs have persisted through time—appreciating the spirit of mutual acceptance that binds members together and their stories. This fellowship allowed me to explore how religious and spiritual beliefs in the context of utopian communities have been perceived by the general public and think more critically about how such material is presented in popular culture. In the future, I wish to learn more about other communities that may have been obscured in mainstream history.

A later “sixpence” edition of Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” (1900) sold in illustrated pink paper wrappers