Green Lake: “Seattle’s Most Flourishing Suburb”

While on the reference desk this afternoon, a patron returned our copy of the one year anniversary edition of The Green Lake News. Any Seattlite readers will be familiar with Green Lake, home of “the busiest park in the state.” This anniversary issue, dated 26 November 1903, was devoted to celebrating and promoting life in Green Lake, and several tidbits caught my eye, this one in particular:

From “Green Lake = = An Ideal Home Place” by A. H. Rogers

It is the purpose of this article to set forth with as much brevity and conciseness as is possible, a few reasons which will serve to explain the fact that the writer has chosen Green Lake as a place of residence.

In search of a permanent home I came to Puget Sound in 1891, after visiting all the larger cities and most of the smaller towns of the Northwest.

Something worthy of praise was found in each, but concluding that there will be one city destined to lead all others, we located in the Queen City, Seattle.

Our next move was to determine what part of this fair city should we adopt as our future home. We looked Seattle over from every view point but it was the beautiful mirrored Green Lake district, that completely captured us and we never have had occasion to regret our decision.

Very nice, very nice. Then comes the interesting bit:

Gradually the whole civilized world has come to believe that every human being has a right to a decent and healthful place to eat and sleep in if for nothing more… Every business man of common sense knows that the farther away he gets in the evening from his daily commercial associations the better off he is and the wiser life he leads. As to the women, it is a safe assertion that the great majority, if given their own free choice, would live out in the suburbs, away from the nerve-distracting tumult and hubub of the city…

Laying aside the amusing comment implying that women’s “free choice” was something to be given or withheld, this passage interests me because of its contrast to the contemporary trend of living as close to work as possible, even to the point of working from home, which is increasingly common and desirable. Whether we are “better off” or “wiser” for it, I leave to your speculation!


Women Studies at the University of Washington: 40 years of growth

To close out Women’s History Month, I looked into our records for the Department of Women Studies at UW. The department recently transferred its meeting minutes for the Women Studies Advisory Committee (WSAC), dating back to 1974, which piqued my interest; I wondered when the Women Studies program was initiated and how it has developed over the years.

The progressive atmosphere pervasive on college campuses across the country in the 1960s was healthy and active here in Seattle. Sue-Ellen Jacobs, now professor emeritus, was one of the individuals responsible for the fledgling efforts to organize a Women Studies program at UW, beginning in 1969. San Diego State University is credited with establishing the first official Women’s Studies academic program, in May of 1970; at the same time, in Spring quarter 1970, the first session of “Women 101” was offered at the University of Washington [classified as General & Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) 407].  Jacobs became the program’s first director in 1974, when the Women Studies major was officially offered under the “General Studies” bracket of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In Winter quarter, 1974, the first two courses classified as Women Studies (rather than GIS) appeared in the catalogue. The following academic year (1974-1975), seven courses were offered, along with more related classes from other departments than ever before. Yet despite this growth, a letter was submitted in February of 1975 by representatives of “the Women Studies Student Union” to director Jacobs, the WSAC, College of Arts and Sciences Dean George Beckmann, and UW President John Hogness, which bemoaned lack of funding for the Women Studies program and limited course offerings for students that wished to major:

“At present the number of courses being taught is woefully inadequate. What a let down to hear that we only had twelve courses funded for next year. This is not enough. There are forty-five majors in our program and we do not believe that we can seriously purchase an education with a core offering of only twelve courses in a total year. We demand a minimum of eight to twelve courses per quarter.”

In the WSAC meeting minutes from this period, the possibility of offering some Women Studies courses despite lack of funding was debated. Members worried that allowing instructors to teach for free could be construed as “exploiting faculty wives” and “setting a precedent of having women teach in the program without pay.” Among these records, I found the following excerpt from a statement Sue-Ellen Jacobs wrote in May 1975 as a response to the students’ letter:

“In 1975, we are women in a world mostly governed and defined by men. In 2001, we may be women in a world governed and defined by women and men. But we have a lot of work to do in many areas before this latter can happen. […] From my point of view, Women Studies must survive and grow in academia. If it does not, then we will have abdicated our share of responsibility for the whole movement, and thereby, I would say, for the whole of humanity.”

In 2001, Jacobs (still serving as Director of the Undergraduate program) would find that the Department of Women Studies was again facing budget reductions and defending its curriculum to the Dean – however, this time with a total of 71 courses offered during the last academic year. At present, 79 courses will have been offered for the year, with eleven faculty and three lecturers on staff. It might have taken more than twenty years to fulfill students Theresa Miles, Karen Rudolph and Liz Ilig’s request that a Graduate program be established, but this slow and steady growth is exactly what Jacobs prescribed. These students also wrote of their hope for a Women’s Center at UW, serving students as well as the wider community – another vision that has since come to fruition.

This month, we should salute the students and instructors in Women Studies for all that they have contributed to the department’s mission, “…to push the analytic edge of scholarship foregrounding gender, race and sexuality as integral components of local and global social structures, particularly within the contexts of capitalism, globalization, nationalism and neoliberalism.”

The records of the UW Department of Women Studies are open to the public, and detailed inventories are available in the Special Collections reading room.

The students writing in 1975 also pointed to the "outrageous" budget allocation of five dollars per month for paper and office supplies; had they been better funded, perhaps they might have been able to create more attractive event fliers than this mimeographed example! (From accession no. 10-001)

Mystics among us

A few months ago, Nicolette Bromberg (Visual Materials Curator @ UW Special Collections) brought in a collection of photographs from Richard M. Kovak of the Nile Shrine Center in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. The collection documents the membership and activities of Seattle Shriners (members of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Nile Temple).

According to the history on the Nile Shrine website, the AAONMS (an offshoot of Freemasonry) was “originally established [in 1872] to provide fun and fellowship for its members.” The Nile Temple of Seattle was formed by splitting off from the Afifi Temple of Tacoma in 1908; the following photograph was probably taken around that time.

Nile Shrine officers, circa 1910
Officers of Seattle

In elaborate costumes, these Shriners certainly appear to be enjoying fun and fellowship!

A major portion of the collection consists of member portraits, many of them identified. In most portraits, the member wears a fez hat which is decorated with the title of that member’s role or office, such as “Recorder” and “Potentate.” There is also a series of panoramic group photographs which show how membership and customs changed over the first half of the twentieth century.

Later snapshots collected in photo albums show the Shriners’ social and community activities, such as their participation in the children’s hospitals they fund, visits to schools, and their appearances in local parades, often dressed in homemade costumes of “Disnay” characters like Pinocchio and Mickey Mouse.

The collection is unprocessed and unsorted, but a preliminary finding aid is available.

Surfacing detritus in the archives

Back in March, I reported on our “Shifty Business” of moving offsite holdings to a new warehouse. Naturally, such a move caused many mysteries and forgotten projects to surface, one of which is the set of discards from the Luke S. May Papers. The papers of this prominent Seattle detective have been accessible only by permission of May’s heirs since their donation in 1969; read more about “America’s Sherlock Holmes” in this HistoryLink article.

In 2004, a volunteer removed “evidence objects” and deteriorating photographic negatives from May’s case files and segregated these into six boxes of discards, but no further action was taken to remove the items from the collection. After our warehouse move, rather than simply assign new space to the discards, Special Collections’ staffer Nan Cohen has taken on the project of reviewing and attempting to deal with this “detritus” appropriately. I first learned of Nan’s task when she stopped by my desk one day to casually complain about the smelly negatives and crumbling “evidence” she was handling, including “a murder weapon.” Sure enough, among the files of discards she had found a rusty pocketknife wrapped in a crumpled sheet of paper.  But is the “rust” actually something more sinister? We leave that to your imagination.

Evidence object weeded from the Luke S. May Papers, Accession No. 1299-001

All in a day’s work at UW Special Collections Division!

Ravenna Creek Alliance Records, 1984-2006

The Ravenna Creek Alliance (RCA), a non-profit corporation, was officially formed in Seattle in 1993 by Kit O’Neill as the result of a community effort to bring the last mile of the creek to daylight. The creek’s waters had been diverted away from Lake Washington to sewer pipes for more than forty years, and King County Metro had planned to redirect Ravenna Creek’s flow to Union Bay via subterranean pipe. RCA recruited community members, municipal and county officials, professional landscape architects and others to support the plan to resurface the creek, from Ravenna Park through University Village and down to Union Bay. RCA’s intent was to restore salmon habitat as well as re-integrate the creek as a community asset. Between 2005 and 2006, the Ravenna Creek Daylighting Project resurfaced 650 feet of Ravenna Creek under the design of Peggy Gaynor. The remainder of the creek water was piped to Union Bay.

This collection includes correspondence, minutes, financial records, research files, plans, drawings, legal documents, newsletters, photographs, ephemera and other materials. The files document RCA’s extensive campaign to daylight and restore Ravenna Creek, and related matters, from early planning stages through their culmination. Many files were created and maintained by the president of Ravenna Creek Alliance, Kit O’Neill.

Kit donated these records in June 2007, and returned last summer to assist us in appraising them, spending over 100 hours here in the division; she described the experience as “reliving the past twenty years of [her] life.” We are extremely grateful for her help and glad to have the records officially accessioned and open to the public.  To learn more about RCA, explore the organization’s website.

Shifty business

Through the snowy month of December 2008, our division undertook the large task of relabeling and shifting approximately 22,000 items from offsite holidngs to a new storage facility, shared with UW Libraries’ auxiliary book stacks.

These materials had been shelved at a warehouse space near the Oak Tree shopping center on Aurora Ave. for almost twenty years, prior to which many of the collections had been moved several times. Previous offsite storage locations ran the gamut from a rec room at a UW Hospital laundry facility to a building at the Seattle Army Terminal (that also happened to contain a firing range).

Some of the benefits and service enhancements resulting from this move to the Sand Point facility are:

· Climate controlled space

· New compact shelving

· Coordinated retrievals with UW Libraries Circulation, improving turnaround time for requests

· Associated item records and barcodes for each box, allowing better tracking of materials

· Approximately 6,500 cubic feet of growth space

While the physical movement of all boxes, tubes, and oversize materials was contracted to Bekins, all of Special Collections staff and many students were enlisted to help with the process. Paul Constantine and Janet Polata supervised the movers at Oak Tree, while Angela Weaver, Nicole Bouche, Nicolette Bromberg and John Bolcer traded shifts supervising the delivery and reshelving at Sand Point. Nan Cohen and Jeni Spamer coordinated space assignment, item record creation and label printing, with the help of UW Libraries IT staff. The remainder of our staff pitched in to either help affix the new barcoded labels, or cover the reference desk to keep our reading room open during the move.

Other positive consequences of this project included the opportunity to replace approximately 400 damaged boxes, correct outdated and incorrect labels, locate mis-shelved materials, and gain better overall control of the collections. We also discovered what happens to thirty-year-old packing tape (see illustration below) and found not one, not two, but three flagpoles from the collection of Warren G. Magnuson.

Offsite materials were unavailable for patron use through the month of December, but retrieval requests resumed as scheduled on January 5, 2009. We are still sorting out kinks and adjusting to new procedures, but are overall very pleased with the outcome of this major project.

photo courtesy of Jeni Spamer
Wispy packing tape on UW Seismographs. Photo courtesy of Jeni Spamer