South Hadley, MA: 1903 - 1904. There are 29 leaves in the scrapbook with each, recto & verso, having at least one item pasted on to it. The material includes over 50 photos, some of which appear to be official photos of college buildings and halls; many are small cyanotypes of Bertha and her classmates. There are about 15 handwritten notes, including poems and lyrics, about 30 programs for concerts and plays, about 15 drawings, some on the actual pages of the scrapbook, and others pasted in, about ten tickets, menus, and cards, including Christmas and postcards. 12" x 9-1/4". Commercial blue cloth scrapbook, with white lettering to front cover. The scrapbook is worn, cloth & lettering faded. Good. The quality of the contents is overall Very Good. The paper is of good quality and not acidic or friable. Item #51029
The early entries in the scrapbook are generally of everyday events and in some cases, celebrations. In some cases, Bertha accompanies her entries with small line drawings, for example a cake with candles next to an entry for “Senior Reception” (October 27, 1903). On November 13th of that year, we surmise she attended a football game, with the entry for that day being simply drawings of pennants, one reading “Yale,” the other “Princeton.”
Many entries are accompanied by programs for concerts or recitals, or photographs. Some of the photographs are cyanotypes, and one, accompanied by a poem describing in a couplets each of several young women, is accompanied by a group photo of young women, presumably the ones in the poem. A small handwritten patch on the same page hints that the women may have been members of a knitting circle.
Some entries give only names, such as “Floyd Tomkins,” or “Miss Paxson.” These probably refer to lectures or presentations Bertha attended. Floyd W. Tomkins (1850-1932) was an Episcopal clergyman, philanthropist and author, and “Miss Paxson” was Ruth Paxson (1889-1949), National Student Secretary of the YWCA. One week later, on February 2, 1904, Bertha’s entry reads, “Trig exam - Mr. Wood of Tuskegee.” ‘Mr. Wood is probably Charles Winter Wood (1869-1953), professor of English at Tuskegee Institute, and one of the leading African-American academics of the period. All three of these persons would have appealed to the Progressive politics that Bertha exhibits and interest in by the end of the scrapbook. Another entry, for February 11, 1904, reads, “Lecture by a Chinese woman,” and Bertha has accompanied the entry with several drawings of Chinese characters.
Of course, not all of Bertha’s activities revolve around academic matters. Some entries record concerts or parties. Some include both: “Organ recital. Junior prom.” Programs for plays usually list women playing male roles in the cast lists, and these appear to be presented by clubs or classes at the school. Bertha also attended other productions which cast both men and women, but these were usually local, and may have not been professional companies.
Even after Bertha’s chronological entries end, she continues to paste in ephemera, such as concert and play programs, programs from prayer meetings, hand drawn invitations, menus, and ticket stubs. She also includes handwritten notes, mostly apparently birthday greetings, and pencil drawings.
By the end of the volume, Bertha has been swept up by two of the great political issues of the time, women’s suffrage, and prohibition. She writes, “Prohibition! Prohibition! We’ll turn our glasses upside down! Down with the red red wine!” Handwritten letter-size sheets pasted into the scrapbook, perhaps templates for placards, advocate votes for “Lyon,” evidently an advocate for divorce law reform, and “Gutterson” as a delegate to “National Convention.” The latter almost certainly refers to Alma Amalie Gutterson (1865-1966), an advocate of womens’ suffrage. Lyrics to a song advocating prohibition were also handwritten by Bertha, though it is unclear if she was the one to compose the lyrics.
On a cardboard axe is a handwritten poem in honor of prohibition advocate Carrie Nation (1846-1911, who was famous for smashing saloon bottles with an axe). The following pages contain various photos of rallies and events on behalf of the Prohibition Party, and a flyer announcing its platform and candidates for president and vice-president.
In the last few pages, the excitement of the election having ended, Bertha once again returns to ephemera, such as programs for plays and concerts.
Bertha married Kenneth Dupee Swan (1887-1970) in 1912. She moved with Kenneth to Missoula, Montana, where he worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Between the final page of the scrapbook and the back cover, are some flattened squares of birch bark, perhaps taken from trees around Mount Holyoke. With the bark are some handwritten notes and verses, presumably by Bertha, that may be her own compositions or quotes form poetry she found particularly moving.
This unique scrapbook provides an intimate and affecting look at a period in the life of a young woman experiencing her first episode of independence, and indulging her extensive intellectual curiosity, her festive social life, and the idealism of her youth and the transformative era she in which she lived.