Friday, January 31, 2020

Christian Science and the Mary Baker Eddy Library

Mary Baker Eddy discovered Christian Science and founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, which came into national and international prominence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She also established The Christian Science Publishing Society (CSPS) and The Christian Science Monitor during a period of unprecedented growth in American mass media.

The Mary Baker Eddy Library (MBEL) houses the organizational records of the church, as well as materials that document the work of CSPS. These include an extensive collection of pamphlets, periodicals, articles, and related materials from a vast assortment of publishers and sources. These comprise the Non-CSPS Publications and Serials Collection.

The majority of the materials in the Non-CSPS Collection directly reference and relate to Christian Science and Eddy. Some materials written by Christian Scientists involve theological and metaphysical writings intended primarily for a Christian Scientist audience but published outside the official church publications of the CSPS. Most items written by Christian Scientists had the aim of presenting the Christian Scientist viewpoint to a lay audience, often in response to outside criticism.

In addition to those writings by church members, numerous items in the Non-CSPS Collection, both supportive and critical, were written by and for people who were not Christian Scientists. Prominent supportive articles present in the collection include those written by the Progressive Era editor and journalist B. O. Flower and published in his magazines The Arena and Twentieth Century Magazine. Critical publications include the entire run of a McClure’s Magazine serial biography titled “Mary Baker G. Eddy: The Story of Her Life, and the History of Christian Science,” attributed to Georgine Milmine. Also present are numerous theological tracts and articles arguing against Christian Science from an orthodox Christian viewpoint.

Additional items in the collection include diverse cultural investigations of Christian Science, such as an article in the November 1950 issue of Ebony magazine about Christian Science in African-American communities, as well as architectural accounts of Christian Science churches. Materials on Eddy include traditional profiles of her role as a prominent woman in American history, as well as more eclectic materials such as a page featuring her in a book of paper dolls, by artist Tom Tierney, that highlights “Famous American Women.”

Materials not directly related to Christian Science cover themes that include general religious topics, social issues, current events, and history. These often give context to Eddy’s life and the historical context of Christian Science. For example, legal publications on religion in schools, the operation of parochial schools, and legislation affecting medical freedom would all have been of potential interest to Christian Scientists without necessarily applying directly to their individual situations. While the relevance of these materials to prior custodians of historical materials at the church has been lost, their presence in a collection that has been maintained throughout the twentieth century nevertheless helps to establish connections with areas of study relevant to the MBEL’s collecting criteria.

The bulk of the materials in the Non-CSPS Collection date from 1880 to 2000 and are published in English. Some exist in other languages, particularly French and German, and represent the growing international presence of a religion first established in America. Materials were largely published in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. The collection developed largely out of materials sent to regional church representatives, such as Christian Science Committees on Publication, or bodies created to respond to public misconceptions of Christian Science. It represents a collaborative collecting project intended to develop an understanding of a complex cultural institution.

For a movement and institution that has been so prominently in the public eye as Christian Science, it is necessary to understand public perception and media response to the church movement as a whole. The Non-CSPS Collection is a vital resource that can help researchers gain a multifaceted understanding of Christian Science and its place in the wider contexts of religious and social history, as well as the role of media in American life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections: Introducing the Boston Globe Library Collection

As new members of the consortium, the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections will be introducing you to different components of our collections, which are comprised of records of Boston’s social justice and organizing history in African American, Latinx, LGBTQA, Asian American, and other communities. As well as community newspapers such as the Boston Phoenix, East Boston Community News, Sampan, and the subject of the blog: the Boston Globe.

In the basement of Snell Library at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections resides the Boston Globe Library Collection. 4,376 boxes comprised of over a million photographs, over five million negatives of unprinted photographs, and 119 years of newspaper clippings from the Globe, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix and other area and national newspapers. Today, this vast collection of visual and textual resources is open to all researchers, whose interests may range widely, from Red Sox scores and legislative debates to Melnea Cass’s relentless pursuit of racial and economic justice. 
Boston Globe Truck

The collection of the Boston Globe Library is broken down into four parts: Newspaper Clippings, Microfilm, Print Photographs, and Negative Photographs. While researchers can research within each part individually, all the components of the collection can complement the different approaches to a research question. For instance, those interested in the history of school desegregation can use the print photographs to study how the first day of busing was covered visually in the Boston Globe, the negative photographs to see all of the shots the photographers took, including the ones that were published, and use the newspaper clippings to research the range of reporting on the Boston Public Schools, desegregation, and the Boston School Committee.

The range of materials in the Boston Globe Library Collection greatly extends the Archives and Special Collections’ existing Boston-focused social justice and community collections. Researching with our Special Collections and the Boston Globe Library collection in tandem will enrich any telling of the history of Boston.

In a series of upcoming posts we’ll share the many ways that research and rich experiential learning can be accomplished using the Boston Globe Library Collection. To find out more in the meantime, visit the finding aid here.

If you have any questions or would like to begin researching in the Boston Globe Library Collection please contact us at or 617-373-2351.

Newport and the 19th Amendment. Maud Howe Elliott Papers at the Newport Historical Society.

This year marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which Rhode Island ratified on January 6, 1920. Newporter Maud Howe Elliott (1854-1948) gave support to the Rhode Island branch of the movement and helped form the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Newport County. Locally she campaigned for Rhode Island legislation to legalize women's right to vote, and helped to manage membership, accounting, and selection of key personnel in the association itself. She also traveled around the country, participating in lecture circuits to help build interest in fledgling suffragist societies.  

Maud Howe Elliott was a social and political activist, Pulitzer prize-winning author, and founder of the Newport Art Association. She was the daughter of social activists Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Gridley Howe whose activism was instrumental in shaping Elliott's life as she went on to influence society and politics in Rhode Island and America at-large. 
Photograph of Maud Howe Elliott and her husband John taken in Rome ca. 1895.
Collection of the Newport Historical Society, P9150.

Elliott was also involved in the formation and development of the Rhode Island Progressive Party. The Progressive Party was founded by Theodore Roosevelt after he lost the Republican nomination in 1912. The party’s platform included tighter federal regulations on industry and programs to benefit the poor and working class. Additionally, the Progressive Party supported enfranchising women, which encouraged many suffragists to join the party.

The Newport Historical Society holds a collection of Maud Howe Elliott’s papers that largely concern her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement and Progressive Party. Access a finding aid here:

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Notarial Papers at the Boston Athenaeum

Emily Clark pursues her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University and her dissertation title is “Renouncing Motherhood: Women's Sexualities and Labors in Eighteenth-Century New England.” Emily spent a lot of time studying notarial papers in manuscript collections. Insurance records do not at first hearing inspire great interest; however, when you consider the various reasons one makes a claim or needs a notary, you realize that these collections provide windows into many aspects of ordinary life. Again, it is easy to make an appointment, and below is a link to but one of the series.

Monday, December 2, 2019

NERFC Fellow Research at the Boston Athenaeum

The Boston Athenaeum has welcomed two NERFC fellows this month. Amber Hodge travels from the University of Mississippi where she is a Ph.D. candidate. Her dissertation title certainly gets attention: "The Meat of the Gothic: Animality and Social Justice in United States Fiction and Film of the Twenty-First Century." Amber has requested a variety of works, including many pamphlets from the MSPCA and early proponents of animal rights. She's even looked at an artists' book. The deluxe edition of a collaboration between Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston includes an edition of Black Beauty, which attracted Amber, but she couldn't help spending time admiring the accompanying prints. If you want to, follow this link and click on the button "request rare appointment." We'd be happy to share it.

Mary Warnement, MLIS
William D. Hacker Head of Reader Services
Boston Athenæum

Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Native Missionary with Royal Pretensions

The 1704 raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, during Queen Anne’s War resulted in the death of 57 settlers and militia, the captivity of 112 more, and the destruction of nearly half of the frontier settlement.  Yet beyond tragedy and havoc, the raid created lasting ties between the small village and Native communities in Canada and northern New England who participated in the attack.  The Rev. John Williams, who returned from captivity in November 1706, later described being visited in Deerfield in 1716 by his “Indian master,” meaning captor. Williams’ young daughter, Eunice, remained in Canada where she married and had children, but came back to Deerfield and other nearby towns three times between 1740 and 1761. Visits by Native peoples bound to Deerfield by history and kinship continued into the 1830s.

One visitor, in 1848, was Eunice Williams’s grandson, Eleazer Williams.  Born in 1793 in the French Mohawk community of Kahnawake, little is known of Eleazer’s life until he and a brother were sent to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where the Rev. Stephen Williams, brother of his grandmother Eunice, served as minister until his death in 1782. The young Williams boys lived with Nathaniel Ely and studied with Ely’s wife, Elizabeth, Rev. Stephen Williams’s daughter. As well as being taught English, the boys learned ‘proper Christianity,’ as opposed to the Catholicism practiced by the Mohawks in Kahnawake.  Eleazer next appeared in Mansfield, Connecticut, where the Elys and others supported him. From there he went on to Moor’s Charity School in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, where he studied with other Native youth.

During the war, Williams wrote two now-rare pamphlets, recently acquired by Historic Deerfield. The first, printed in January 1813 in Burlington, Vermont, by Samuel Mills, is titled Good News to the Iroquois Nation. A Tract on Mans Primitive Rectitude, his Fall, and his Recovery Through Jesus Christ. With the exception of the title page, the text is entirely in Iroquoian. Similarly, a pamphlet subtitled A Spelling-Book in the Language of the Seven Iroquois Nations (Plattsburgh, New York, 1813) consists of tables of words and text in the Iroquoian language. At the close of the war, Williams translated A Caution Against our Common Enemy into Iroquoian. Printed in Albany, New York, in June 1815, the pamphlet warns against the dangers posed by liquor.

Eleazer Williams went on to write several more pamphlets, all in Iroquoian, did a translation into “Mohawk” of the Book of Common Prayer, issued by the Domestic Committee of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church in 1853, and a biography of his father, Thomas Williams, printed in Albany by Joel Munsell after Eleazer’s death. Williams’ assertion that he was the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or the “lost Dauphin,” made in the 1840s and promoted in an 1854 book about Williams by John Hanson, appears not to have damaged his relationship with the Episcopal Church. He maintained his claim to the French throne until his death on the Akwesane Mohawk reservation in far northern New York in 1858. Contemporary accounts described him as impoverished and living in squalor among Natives indifferent to his situation.

In addition to the above publications and two other pamphlets with Iroquoian titles, Historic Deerfield owns an 1853 biographical essay on Eleazer Williams written by a collateral cousin, Stephen West Williams, and microfilm of the letters and documents in the Eleazer Williams Collection at the Missouri Historical Society. 

Note: Michael Ober has written the best modern source on the life of Williams, Professional Indian: The American Odyssey of Eleazer Williams (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

David Bosse, Librarian & Curator of Maps

Monday, August 5, 2019

Boston Athenaeum Fellows Update

2018-2019 New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) fellow Gwenn Miller, associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, visited the Boston Athenæum’s Vershbow Special Collections Reading Room in October and December 2018. She returned to speak at the proprietors summer symposium, June 25, 2019, about her work on "John Perkins Cushing and Boston's Early Opium Trade."

Another 2018-2019 NERFC fellow, Charles Ian Stevenson, Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, spent January 2019 studying materials in support of his dissertation “’The Summer-Home of the Survivors’: The Civil War Vacation in Architecture and Landscape, 1878-1918,” and he
delivered his Fellow Field Report to the Athenaeum community in March 2019.

None of 2019-2020 have visited yet, but we expect three of four to come in the autumn and winter.