Representing Gender and Crisis in Contemporary, Independent Puerto Rican Art

By Joyce Rivera González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

It reeks to always walk with tense shoulders, shoved upwards
A knife hidden under my tongue
Rear wheel mirrors

— Karla Cristina
Sobre el hombre y otros sistemas de colapso
(La Impresora, 2020)

In this blog post, we showcase a collection of zines, chapbooks, and posters published by the independent, women-led Puerto Rican press La Impresora (“the printer,” in Spanish).  This collection is one of the most recent acquisitions to augment Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings of Hispanic Caribbean literature.

La Impresora is an experimental workshop headquartered in northwestern Puerto Rico. It is a small-scale risograph press, which combines the aesthetic and uniqueness of stencil and screen-printing with the expediency and convenience of digital copiers. Since the inception of risograph technology in 1940s Japan, this technology has allowed artists around the world to conveniently and inexpensively reproduce and disseminate their creations. In addition, La Impresora seeks to be more than just a printing press: as part of its vision, creators and artists are actively involved in the reproduction of their art in what the press’ founders call a book-making school, “a space to learn and share knowledge that is not formally taught in Puerto Rico, which is usually mediated or limited by the supply and demand of the publishing market.” 

The selection currently held by Rare Books and Special Collections is composed of 62 items, a polyphonic kaleidoscope of form and lived experience. Much of this work captures—textually and visually—the lingering stasis that haunts a generation of Puerto Ricans. To differing degrees, the archipelago’s youth have experienced systems of limbo, collapse, and crisis. These predicaments arise from socio-natural disasters (and postponed recoveries), neocolonialism, corrupt and impotent local government, and crippling (largely illegal) public debt. The pieces created by this collective comment on and represent both the everyday and large-scale manifestations of the Puerto Rican crisis. 

Selected chapbooks and zines from the La Impresora collection.

Authors include (from left to right) the La Práctica collective, Agnes Sastre-Rivera, Kelly Díaz, Karla Cristina, and Nicole Cecilia Delgado.

In addition to the pamphlet-sized zines and chapbooks, the collection includes a limited run of eight posters (11 x 17″) published by the collective, the majority of which were the result of a collaboration between the press and female Puerto Rican artists between 2019 and 2021. 

Some of the posters are the result of historical processes in the history of gender rights and relations in Puerto Rico. In “HISTÉRICA,” illustrator Adriana García centers the gendered attribute of “hysterical” in a minimally-illustrated piece. Written in red letters across a drawing grid, she embraces the gendered epithet and proclaims, in smaller, black font, to hysterically await a moment in which women “can live peacefully.” In slightly larger uppercase letters, she echoes contemporary demands for gender-perspective school curricula, an ongoing debate since at least 2008, split along partisan lines in the archipelago. 

Part of the 2019 art exhibition “Oda a nuestra sangre” (trans. “ode to our blood”) held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lorraine Rodríguez’s print hopes to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstruation. In her piece, Rodríguez centers a minimally drawn menstrual cup, surrounded by blooming dandelions, a moon, and stars. In this landscape, menstruation is as natural as the blooms and celestial bodies that surround it. Moreover, the print seeks to desexualize and normalize female anatomy.  

Print of Lorraine Rodríguez’s unnamed piece, from the “Oda a nuestra sangre” exhibition held from March 7-April 2, 2019 in Pública, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With the exception of Rodríguez’s piece (printed in 2019), the collection posters highlighted in this post were produced and distributed by La Impresora in 2021. This is far from a coincidence, as the year 2021 saw a record-breaking number of femicides and incidents of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico, averaging one a week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that Puerto Rico has the highest per capita rate of femicides against women over 14 years of age. These statistics include high-profile cases such as the murder of Keishla Rodríguez by rising boxer Felix Verdejo. In a way, many of the artworks in this collection emerge from the 2021 protests that demanded the enactment of a state of emergency by Governor Pedro Pierluisi in response to gender-based violence. Initially set to expire in June 2022, this state of emergency was recently extended: to this date, 24 women have been murdered in Puerto Rico, three times the number of 2021.  

Echoing these demands, photographer Nina Méndez Martí highlights the black-and-white photograph of a woman’s torso. Hands in the air, the words “ESTADO DE EMERGENCIA” (trans. “State of emergency”) are emblazoned across her chest and abdomen in bold, black, uppercase letters. 

Lastly, Yvonne Santiago’s “Seguimos luchando,” depicts a woman drawn in purple lines, her right fist raised in the air. The color purple has a long and important history in feminist activism, from its association to women’s suffrage to Alice Walker’s famous analogy, “womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender.” The woman depicted by Santiago has two tattoos: a pot (cacerola) with a cooking spoon on her tricep and a machete on her forearm. Both the cacerola and the machete are important symbols of resistance, especially in Puerto Rico. 

The pot refers to the cacerolazo, a protest tradition which consists of banging pots cacophonously as a way of amplifying anger and dissatisfaction amid protests. In Puerto Rico, cacerolazos became a popular protest form during the Verano del 2019 protests, which called for the resignation of former governor Ricardo Rosselló. 

The machete symbolizes pro-independence struggle and political nationalism on the island, most commonly associated with 20th-century armed pro-independence militancy, primarily with the Boricua Popular Army, known as Los Macheteros (trans. “Machete wielders”), and the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). However, the machete, as a political symbol, dates to the original Revolutionary Anthem of Puerto Rico, written in 1868 by Lola Rodríguez de Tió. The hymn’s lyrics were deemed too controversial and revolutionary and were subsequently changed for a less political version in 1902. 

Nosotros queremos la libertad
Y nuestros machetes nos la dará

We want Freedom
And freedom, our machetes will grant us

Yvonne Santiago’s piece chants its own hymn of subversion and defiance, lest we forget. 

For the women in my life
For the ones I have lost
For the ones to come
We will keep fighting


Additional Resources

Spanish

Adriana Díaz Tirado & Alejandra Lara Infante, “Ni una más: las familias de las víctimas de feminicidios reclaman reparación y justicia,” Todas, November 22, 2021. URL: https://www.todaspr.com/ni-una-mas-las-familias-de-las-victimas-de-feminicidios-reclaman-reparacion-y-justicia/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “Sin fiscalización los programas de desvío para agresores por Ley 54,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jul 15, 2021. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2021/07/fiscalizacion-programas-desvio-agresores-ley-54/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Elithet Silva-Martinez & Jenice Vazquez Pagán, “El abuso económico y la violencia de género en las relaciones de pareja en el contexto puertorriqueño,” Prospectiva, 28 (2019): https://doi.org/10.25100/prts.v0i28.7264 

María de los Milagros Colón Cruz, “Más agresores asesinan a sus parejas con un arma de fuego que mediante otras formas letales,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Jun 9, 2022. URL: https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2022/06/mas-agresores-asesinan-a-sus-parejas-con-un-arma-de-fuego-que-mediante-otras-formas-letales/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Observatorio de Equidad de Género en Puerto Rico, “Feminicidios,” OEGPR website, May 12, 2022. URL: https://observatoriopr.org/feminicidios (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Patricia Velez & Alvin Báez, “El dolor de los que se quedan: El calvario silencioso de los feminicidios en Puerto Rico,” Univisión Noticias, Jun 16, 2021. URL: https://www.univision.com/especiales/noticias/2021/feminicidios-violencia-genero-puerto-rico-calvario-silencioso/index.html (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Redacción BBC, “Feminicidio en Puerto Rico: 4 claves para entender qué llevó a la isla a declarar un estado de emergencia por violencia de género,” BBC News Mundo, Jan 27, 2021. URL: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-55820829 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

English

ACLU, “Failure to Police Crimes of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Puerto Rico,” ACLU website, n.d. URL: https://www.aclu.org/other/failure-police-crimes-domestic-violence-and-sexual-assault-puerto-rico (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Aileen Brown, “Dozens of murdered women are missing from Puerto Rican police records, new report finds,” The Intercept, Nov 16, 2019. URL: https://theintercept.com/2019/11/16/puerto-rico-murders-femicide-police/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022).

Brittany Valentine, “Puerto Rico courts face down the greater issue of gender violence on the island,” Al Día, Aug 16, 2021. URL: https://aldianews.com/politics/policy/femicides-puerto-rico-0 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Carli Pierson, “She just wanted to be safe. Her femicide started a movement in Puerto Rico,” USA Today, Mar 13, 2021. URL: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/2022/03/13/angie-noemi-gonzalez-santos-puerto-rico-usa-today-women-of-the-year/6795005001/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina Corujo & Penélope López, “Puerto Rican families devastated by gender-based killings remain concerned about government’s approach to crisis,” ABC News, May 26, 2021. URL: https://abcnews.go.com/US/puerto-rican-families-devastated-gender-based-killings-remain/story?id=77739523 (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Cristina del Mar Quiles, “The children whose mothers were taken away by machismo,” Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Dec 16, 2021. URL: https://bit.ly/3xNHd0Y (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Denise Oliver Velez, “The ‘other epidemic’ in Puerto Rico: Femicide and gendered violence,” Daily Kos, Jan 28, 2021. URL: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/28/2012301/-The-other-epidemic-in-Puerto-Rico-is-femicide-and-gendered-violence (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Jhoni Jackson, “Hundreds Take to the Streets of Puerto Rico to Protest Two Femicides,” Remezcla, May 3, 2021. URL: https://remezcla.com/culture/hundreds-take-streets-puerto-rico-protest-two-femicides/ (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Lillian Perlmutter, “Deadly Violence Against Women in Puerto Rico is Surging During Lockdown,” VICE, Dec 8, 2020. URL: https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjpj5d/deadly-violence-against-women-in-puerto-rico-is-surging-during-lockdown (accessed Jun 24, 2022). 

Nicole Acevedo. “Puerto Rico’s new tipping point: Horrific femicides reignite fight against gender violence,” NBC News, May 16, 2021. URL: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/puerto-rico-s-new-tipping-point-horrific-femicides-reignite-fight-n1267354 (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Raquel Reichard, “Feminicide in Puerto Rico: A History of Violence and Resistance,” Hip Latina, Nov 30, 2020. URL: https://hiplatina.com/femicide-puerto-rico-protest-violence/ (accessed Jun 23, 2022). 

Interesting Irish Ephemera: A Religious, Political and Cultural Collection

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Ephemeral items such as political pamphlets, religious pamphlets, programs of commemorative events, and broadsides often do not last long enough to serve as historic documents. They may often be found in people’s homes when first printed, but they are not often collected by libraries. Such cheap printings, slight pamphlets, and event programs find their way to the trash can, or in Ireland, to the rubbish bin.

Collections of such material may help to trace the progress of a political or religious movement, and they also serve as a record of people and organizations involved in various activities.

Our Rare Books and Special Collections include many such ephemeral items.

Today we give some examples of Irish pamphlets.

Rev. P. J. Mullen. Pagan Missions. 1933

Pagan Missions, a 32-page pamphlet summarizing the activities of various Irish Catholic religious orders in mission work throughout the world, has cover art that tells much about attitudes of the time. This 1933 pamphlet is of the many publications of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland.

Nano Nagle: Foundress of the Irish Presentation Nuns.

Another Catholic pamphlet that informs of Irish religious working overseas is the story of Nano Nagle. This 1937 publication is the fifth edition, from the Irish Messenger series on “Founders”.

Considering the large number of Irish women who joined the Presentation Order, it is unsurprising that a biography of its foundress, Nano Nagle, would be popular. The inside cover lists a number of other biographies including those of Mother Mary Aikenhead, Mother Genevieve Beale, and Mother McAuley.

These Irish pamphlets complement the Hesburgh Library’s Catholic Pamphlet Collection, a rich and diverse collection of over 3,400 pamphlets covering many aspects of Catholic thought and history.

Fifty Points Against Partition. Is Ireland a Nation? With Preface by William M. Murphy

The above eight-page production, Fifty Points Against Partition, published by Independent Newspapers in 1917, is by L. G. Redmond Howard. The preface describes it as an “arsenal of arguments against the mutilation of our country.”

Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray. The Sleeping Giant: Irish Americans and Human Rights in Ireland. Undated.

We continue to add to our Northern Ireland collection, and this pamphlet by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murry is a recent addition. The Sleeping Giant: Irish Americans and Human Rights in Ireland is on the treatment of political prisoners in Northern Ireland. Along with a large collection of ephemera related to Northern Ireland in the Rare Books and Special Collections, the Hesburgh Library also has access to the digitized collection of the Linen Hall Library, Divided Society: Northern Ireland. 1990-1998, available to the Notre Dame community via the Library’s database page.

Feis na Mumhan 1910

We have many programs of cultural events throughout our collections. These include programs of plays, of commemorative events, and in this case, of Feis na Mumhan, a three-day festival held in Cork in September, 1910, that included a concert, a céilí, a conference and many competitions. The ‘feis’ is a festival that celebrates and encourages Irish traditional music and Irish language culture. This program has pencilled in notes of the winners of singing contests.

Our last example here is of a recipe book. Following last week’s blogpost on the Moosewood Cookbook we would like to mention Irish cuisine, and one of the most popular Irish cookbook writers of the twentieth century.

Maura Laverty. Christmas Fare.

Maura Laverty was a regular presenter on the Electricity Supply Board’s sponsored program on Radio Éireann, Ireland’s national radio station in the 1950s. This book of Christmas recipes, published in 1957, is a revised and enlarged edition of one published two years earlier. It includes recipes for roast goose with sage-and-onion stuffing or potato stuffing, plum pudding with brandy sauce along with a variety of familiar Irish Christmas recipes. Also included is a section on ‘Christmas Specialties from Many Lands.’

An example from the ‘Many Lands’ section is the recipe for Hungarian ‘Boszorkanyhab’ (Witch’s Froth), as follows:

2 lbs. cooking apples, whites of 2 eggs, 6 tablesps. sugar, 1 teasp. lemon juice, 1/4 pint cream, small tin fruit salad.

Bake the apples until very soft. Remove peel and core and rub pulp through a sieve. Beat the egg whites until very stiff; fold in the sugar and lemon juice. When the apple pulp is quite cold, fold it into the egg mixture. Pile on a glass dish and decorate with the whipped cream and drained fruit salad.

Maura Laverty: Christmas Fare, 1957

While the examples above are only a small selection of the Irish pamphlets in the Hesburgh Library Rare Books and Special Collections, it is a fairly representative sample. We welcome opportunities to incorporate these materials into class work.

Women’s History Month 2022

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history by celebrating Women’s History Month.

The Feminine “Math-tique”

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

A lot of recent attention has been paid to the disparity between the numbers of men and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Concomitant differences in professional status, pay, and influence, from Silicon Valley companies, to academic departments, to classrooms, are also part of this discussion. It echoes debate by second-wave feminists more than 70 years ago.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Rare Books and Special Collections highlights a new acquisition about women and STEM: The Feminine “Math-tique” by mathematician and psychologist Lynn M. Osen (1920-2003). In this 1971 article, Osen applied Betty Friedan’s idea of the feminine mystique to ways in which women and girls’ potential as mathematicians and ambitions in math-related fields were suppressed and funneled away into the social sciences and humanities. In The Feminine Mystique (published in 1963) Friedan had shown how social expectations and structures established heterosexual domesticity as the singular ambition for post-war American women (particularly white women), to the exclusion of education or professional expertise. Osen finds similar gender-fueled pressures against women and girls in math. “The mathtique,” Osen observes, “perpetuated the idea that mathematics in its various guises is a male domain.” (p. 2)

Like Friedan, who had articulated an unnamed problem experienced by middle class housewives in the post-war period, Osen identifies a similarly unnamed problem in the field of mathematics: how it had become defined as masculine and inimical to women.

“[Mathtique] encourages the socialization process which reinforces and promotes this assumption. It also serves to perpetuate the destructive and pervasive myths concerning women’s aptitudes, accomplishments and ambitions in mathematical endeavors. It breeds and institutionalizes graceless jokes and stereotypes about the helpless, checkbook-bumbling female, the mindless housewife, the empty-headed husband-chasing coed, the intuitive (but illogical) woman who ‘hates arithmetic.'” (p. 2)

To break down the feminine mathtique Osen analyzes the social science and education literature of the previous decade, whose authors had begun to notice that girls and young women were not equally represented with their male peers in math and science study. Answers to questions about the causes of this disparity became part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1957 the USSR had launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The Soviets’ bold breakthrough into space elevated anxiety in the US about Soviet military capabilities into a scientific and technological race as well. As American schools beefed up their math and science curricula to fight this new Cold War front, however, educators and scholars noticed that girls and young women were largely absent from the surge for math and science expertise. The disparity was alarming for the waste of brain power and potential competitive advantage against the USSR. It also became a political embarrassment, as comparative studies of the two nations uncovered no obviously similar gender differences in the USSR.

Osen uses the Soviet example to argue that cultural and social differences, not innate abilities, caused women and girls to lag behind men and boys in math. She cites a 1966 British study of women in the Soviet economy in which Russian educators reportedly expected girls and women to perform as well as their male counterparts in math and science. This confidence in female students, the report concluded, “appears to be borne out by the academic records of students . . . the performance of girls was comparable to that of boys in mathematics and physics.” (p. 7)

Osen also uses an historical argument to show that gender differences in mathematical abilities were not innate but contingent. She compares the number of women awarded doctorates in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley from 1920 to 1949, and from 1950 to 1968. In the post-war period (the “mathtique” era), the percentage of women awarded doctorates in mathematics decreased by nearly half (from 10-11% before 1950 to 5-6% after 1950). Likewise, the percentage of women on the faculty plunged from 20% in 1928-29 to zero in 1968-69. She notes dryly that women did not suddenly lose their abilities to study advanced mathematics after World War II; other factors—cultural expectations, psychological conditioning—were in play (pp. 6-7). Osen concludes that “there is no scientific evidence that any inherently female characteristic enfeebles one as far as intellectual activities are concerned. . . . In countries, cultures, times and intellectual climates in which women have been encouraged to develop their potential, they have obliged by doing so. They can do so again.” (p. 11)

Osen followed this article three years later with Women in Mathematics (1974), a history of “the impact women have had on the development of mathematical thought,” and further dispelling mathtique’s distorted narrative. She included an abridged version of The Feminine “Math-tique” as the book’s concluding chapter.

Black History Month 2022

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist

For several years, I’ve been on the hunt for Claude Monroe Paris, a largely unheralded African American basketball pioneer from the early twentieth century whose name does not appear in the standard books about the history of African Americans in basketball. A native of Waupaca, Wisconsin, Paris excelled on the court and was one of the few African Americans to compete on high-level integrated basketball teams in the early 1900s. Usually playing at forward or center, he received wide praise for his abilities, and his teams competed in national amateur basketball tournaments in Chicago.

Basketball was in its infancy and—compared to sports like baseball or college football—often received less coverage. So, it has sometimes been difficult to uncover information about early basketball players like Claude Paris. Fortunately, in my new position as the Sports Archivist at Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library, I can use the incomparable resources of the Joyce Sports Research Collection to better document Claude Paris’s trailblazing athletic career.

After starring at Waupaca High School, Paris joined the region’s top amateur team sponsored by the nearby Stevens Point Athletic Club in 1901. He quickly gained local fame, with one reporter describing him as “a well known colored basket ball player.” The state press routinely praised him as a “crack forward,” and one sportswriter said simply that Paris “is said by players of experience to have been the best forward in the state.”

The Stevens Point Athletics were one of the top teams in Wisconsin, and in 1901, they were invited to Chicago to compete in an eight-team basketball tournament billed as the “National Amateur Championship.” Other teams in the field included Kenton, Ohio; Chicago’s West Side YMCA; the University of Nebraska, and the Silent Five of Brooklyn, New York, a team composed of deaf players.

Before the tournament, the Chicago Chronicle, wrote that Stevens Point “has this year made a very enviable reputation and has an undisputed right to be classed among the best teams in the country.” The Chronicle singled out Paris for “the star playing of the team” and noted that “Paris, who is an unusually small man for the position he fills, is an excellent player and is looked upon as one of the strongest of the team.” 

Paris played well in Chicago, but the tournament ended without a clear champion as Stevens Point and Kenton, Ohio, both finished with records of 3-1.

Over the years, I have tracked Claude Paris and the Stevens Point Athletics “championship” team through newspaper stories, but the Joyce Sports Research Collection—namely, its nearly complete run of Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide—has now let me put a picture to these words. Spalding Guides routinely featured hundreds of team photographs from every level of competition, and these images are a fantastic resource for researchers to study and to document the development of sports.

The Joyce Collection’s 1901–02 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide includes on page 60 a team photograph of the “Stevens Point A.C. Basket Ball Team.” Claude Paris (identified as number 7) sits on the left side of the first row, providing a visual record—seen around the country in the popular Spalding Guide—of this early integrated basketball team and graphically documenting Claude Paris’s participation at the highest levels of amateur basketball.

After Stevens Point, Paris attended and continued his basketball career at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, for two years. But his career after Lawrence is not well documented. Further investigation in the Joyce Collection, though, has led to more information. I discovered that the 1905­–06 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide pictured Claude Paris (identified as number 6) with the 1905 Menasha (Wisconsin) Young Men’s Social Club Basketball team—providing additional evidence of Paris’s trailblazing career as an African American basketball player on predominantly white teams. 

Unfortunately, little information has survived about the specifics of Claude Paris’s experiences against white competitors, but visual evidence of his participation on integrated teams is an important addition to our knowledge about the history of African American athletes in this era.

Some contemporary observers also noticed the significance of Claude Paris. In April 1903, the Milwaukee Sentinel published a lengthy article about Paris, then a student at Lawrence. The Sentinel described him as “studious and industrious” and “of quiet manner and engaging personality.” 

The article also noted that “Paris finds time to devote considerable attention to athletics… [and] he has an excellent record. Before he came to Lawrence he played on the Stevens Point basket ball team which tied the team of Kenton, O., for the national championship in 1901.”

The Milwaukee Sentinel ultimately used Claude Paris to make an overtly political point. In an era that witnessed increasing legal segregation and racial violence and growing restrictions on African American rights, the Sentinel held up Paris’s example as a direct refutation of the racist philosophy of segregationists exemplified by notorious South Carolina Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman:

“Claude M. Paris of Waupaca… in every detail of his personality and every incident of his career gives the lie to Senator Ben Tillman’s dictum that the negro is and must always remain… inferior.”

I am grateful that the Joyce Sports Research Collection has helped me to further document and honor the life of Claude Monroe Paris, an unsung African American athletic pioneer.

The Pageant of the Celt

by William Shortall, Visiting Faculty Fellow, Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies

The program of the 1934 Pageant of the Celt is found in very few library collections. Printed programs tend to be quite ephemeral, but when they survive they give a great glimpse into an occasion. Visiting art historian Dr. William Shortall has provided an essay on the Pageant, contextualizing this interesting publication.

When the Irish government was invited to take part in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Century of Progress International Exposition, they were initially reticent. Tariffs and trade barriers meant there was little prospect of any financial gain. Eventually they decided to participate because ‘considerations such as those connected with national publicity and prestige might outweigh the more tangible considerations of trading advantage’. Essentially they sought a soft power and cultural diplomatic benefit from their presence at the event and sent a cultural and industrial display that was housed in the monumental Travel and Transport building. When the Fair organizers decided to run the event again in 1934, numerous countries—including the Irish Free State—did not participate and their places were taken by private concessions. However, there were a number of events that the Irish State did participate in during the second manifestation, the most prominent was an open air theatrical pageant representing Irish history, The Pageant of the Celt. Irish Consul General in Chicago, Daniel J. McGrath, was on the executive committee of the production.

The Pageant took place on the 28th and 29th August, 1934, at Chicago’s main sports stadium, Soldier’s Field, in front of large ‘marvellous’ crowds. Although the pageant is credited to Irish-American attorney John V. Ryan, it was most likely co-developed with its narrator Micheál MacLiammóir, to whose work it bears similarities. Some contemporary reports credit it solely to MacLiammóir. The Pageant was produced by Hilton Edwards and covered the period of Irish history from pre-Christian times to the Easter Rising of 1916 and it had almost two thousand participants. The imperfect resolution to the War of Independence with Britain in 1921 and the subsequent Civil War were still fresh in people’s memory and, as in the earlier MacLiammóir pageants, were avoided. Almost ninety years later, the upcoming centenary decade faces similar problems on how to commemorate these divisive events.

The Program describes the scenes of Irish history presented in pageant, starting from ancient mythical beginnings with the Battle of Tailté; to the emergence of a Catholic Nation and the ‘coming of [Saint] Patrick’; followed by ‘The Golden Age of Ireland’; a nation defended from Viking invaders by Brian Boru; followed by the country’s ultimate subjection by Britain, beginning with the marriage of ‘Eva and Strongbow’ followed by the ‘rise of republicanism’ and culminating in ‘Easter Week 1916 [when] Phoenix-like, the Irish nation rises from the fires of defeat to wage anew the centuried struggle for liberty’. The Pageant’s finale was a mass singing of ‘The Soldier’s Song, Irish National Anthem’. The elaborate Program published the anthem’s lyrics, it also featured 17 chapters relating to Irish cultural endeavours, including Irish music, the Harvard Irish Archaeological mission, and the Celtic Revival; and it contained messages of goodwill to Ireland from other Celtic peoples.

Rare Books Large GR 153.4 .I75 1934

The program itself has a richly decorated cover and small illustrations and decorated capitals throughout by Irish-American artist Vincent Louis O’Connor (c.1884-1974). The cover contrasts Celtic Ireland with modern Chicago. Round towers are juxtapositioned with skyscrapers, separated by clouds, both icons of their time and the spirit of their respective ages. A man and a woman in distinctive ancient Irish dress festooned with a Tara brooch, stand on Ireland’s green shore facing the Atlantic. These and Saint Brendan’s ship anchored, trademarked with a Celtic cross, signifying the Irish-American connection. This was an Irish pageant suitable for diaspora consumption, with its mix of the mythical and ancient, cultured and catholic, distinctive and unique, oppressed but not beaten, leading to phoenix-like revolution and rebuilding.

The artist O’Connor was born in Kerry and immigrated to Chicago in 1914. An art teacher, he began teaching in Ireland in 1904. In America he taught in the University of Notre Dame from 1915 to 1922 and contributed sketches to the university yearbook as well as an architectural rendering of Notre Dame’s proposed 50-year building plan. O’Connor held several exhibitions of his work which frequently featured prominent Irish personalities or landscapes. This Program connects Ireland, America and Notre Dame University and speaks to ongoing difficulties in reconciling Ireland’s turbulent past and how the events of 1922 can be commemorated a hundred years later.

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Migratory History from a Child’s Point of View

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we share this Migratory History of La Raza coloring book, printed in 1974 by El Renacimiento, a branch of the Lansing, Michigan publisher Renaissance Publications. Emerging from the city’s vibrant and active Chicano community, the coloring book narrates the history of the U.S. Chicano population in pictures and bilingual text, for Michigan’s Chicano youth. Michigan-based Chicano artist, David Torrez, produced both the history and the drawings included in the title, which is as much textbook and activist statement as coloring book. 

The coloring book’s activist stance and message are evident even from its cover. Printed on glossy cardstock, it features a Chicano boy, dressed in Southwestern clothing, smiling and waving to a young girl who stands on the other side of a river – most certainly the Rio Grande. The young girl is dressed in the traditional clothing and head covering of the Tehuana, a female cultural type associated with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of far southern Mexico. Through this image, Torrez links the U.S. Chicano population with residents of Mexico and extends Mexican cultural identity from the country’s border with Guatemala up into the United States – well beyond the country’s political boundaries. Two open and pleasant-looking bridges span the Rio Grand, connecting Mexican Americans and residents of Mexico and advocating friendship and camaraderie between them. 

The Montcalm County Intermediate School District, located in Stanton, Michigan, an agricultural area located north of Lansing and home to significant populations of migrant workers in the 1970s, contributed to the development of the coloring book as part of a migrant education project. The border and two small birds on the title page might appear entirely decorative, but they are an appropriation of symbols of Mexican – even indigenous Mexican – identity. They are Aztec eagles and they frame publication details, including a statement that the book was “Printed in AZTLAN” – the birthplace of the Aztecs. Like many Chicano initiatives of this era, Michigan’s activists found resonance in these Native references that seemed devoid of European influence or content. Through the eagles and references to Aztlan, they harkened back to an idealized indigenous past.   

Page 2 provides the children for whom this coloring book was created a brief, unbiased definition of “migrant child” in English and Spanish. It links the definition specifically to movement between school districts and to agricultural and food-processing industries, but not to race or ethnicity. The statement is a resource, or tool, to help migrant children consider and articulate identity as related to their mobile status.  

The inside of the coloring book recounts Chicano history by dedicating pages to each of the major indigenous groups of Mexico, depicting the events of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs as well as highlights of modern Mexican history, and pointing to important issues of the day. 

A page entitled “Contribution of the Migrant Workers” argues that, since 1900, migrant farm workers and their labor served as the basis of the U.S. economic structure. “Vida del Migratorio” observes that, despite this contribution, migrant housing is often substandard. This issue received attention from the federal government at the time that the coloring book was issued, though improvements for laborers were often slow and uneven.   

Along with this source geared toward children, El Renacimiento produced a newspaper of the same name that focused on the Chicano Rights movement and was published in Lansing from the 1970s through 1990s. David Torrez and Edmundo Georgi, both contributors to this coloring book also work on the newspaper, El Renacimento, which can be consulted on microfilm here in the Hesburgh Libraries.

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Stories of Power and Diversity in Notre Dame’s Collections

This week we highlight the Hesburgh Libraries’ first student-curated digital exhibition, Still History? Exploring Mediated Narratives.

Seven Notre Dame students who enrolled in the Winter Session course, “Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting” worked together to create this unique show. The students ranged from first year to graduate students and their fields of study included history, English, anthropology, classics, art history, and liberal studies. Their show brings together seven items from three Notre Dame campus repositories – Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, and the Snite Museum of Art – and reflects on how they intersect with themes of diversity. 

We invite you to explore Still History?’s seven showcases. Each explores a single object or set of objects. Each also includes a personal reflection statement about the student’s work on this project. The show presents a variety of twentieth-century visual and textual sources, including photographs by Laura Gilpin, Aaron Siskind, Ernest Knee, and Mary Ellen Mark, a poster supporting women in prison, a pamphlet on disabilities, and articles from the Observer. Questions about representation link these disparate sources and thread the showcases together in interesting ways. The students ask how art and artifacts do and do not represent the experiences of Black, Native American, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, incarcerated, poor, and Hispanic-American individuals and groups. An introduction and afterword by RBSC’s own curators, Erika Hosselkus and Rachel Bohlmann, who taught this new course, bookend the show.

This exhibition invites viewers to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories and to ongoing campus and nationwide conversations about diversity and representation. We are pleased to share it here!

Dante and Women Authors in Sixteenth Century Italy

by Tracy Bergstrom, Curator, Zahm Dante and Early Italian Imprints Collection

Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the largest collections relating to the works of Dante Alighieri in print and, as such, supports research into the utilization of the Divina commedia at various times for a variety of political purposes. One of the rarities of our collection is the small, ephemeral pamphlet printed in 1575 titled Declamatione delle gentildonne di Cesena intorno alle pompe (Declamation of the Gentlewomen of the City of Cesena against Sumptuary Fines…). Eponymously written by a group of ‘Gentildonne’ to push back against recent strict sumptuary laws, the authors utilize quotations from Dante, Petrarch and a panoply of classical authors to argue for the necessity of ornamental clothing as it provides a means of communicating women’s identity.

Title page, Declamatione delle gentildonne di Cesena intorno alle pompe… , printed in Bologna by Alessandro Benacci in 1575.

Mid-16th century Italy saw a flourishing of publications authored by women. The collection of lyric poetry authored by the courtesan Tullia d’Aragona, first printed in Venice in 1547, is a fine example of this phenomenon. The volume includes poems by d’Aragona herself as well as sonnets addressed to her by her male contemporaries. 

Title page, Rime della signora Tullia di Aragona; et di diversi a lei, printed in Venice by Gabriel Giolito in 1547.

The period between 1560-1580, however, marks a time of decline in works published by women in Italy. As vernacular poetry declined in popularity and more academic discourse gained readership, this shift was not particularly conducive to women’s contributions. Thus, if the Declamatione delle gentildonne… was authored by women, as the title and content suggest, it is a rare example of a female polemical prose writing. As such, it is one of many examples within Special Collections’ extraordinary collection of Dante-related holdings with significant research potential for students and scholars alike. 

Writing to Rehabilitate in the House of Detention for Women in New York City

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In celebration of Women’s History Month, RBSC is highlighting a portion of women in America who receive very little attention and who continue to be among the most marginalized: women in prison. 

This magazine, Greenwich Gazette, was edited and published in 1939 by inmates of the House of Detention for Women in New York City. This is the only available copy and no other issues have been identified. The publication was a “vehicle for self expression” and for creative work. The prison’s address was 10 Greenwich Avenue, which gave the serial its name.

The pages of the Gazette include poetry, commentary on current events and politics (the need for an anti-child labor amendment, opposition to a law that would make it illegal for a husband and wife to both hold teaching positions), personal reminiscences, short fiction, book reviews, as well as the outcome of a debate on whether movies contributed to juvenile delinquency (the “affirmatives” won by audience vote). One lighthearted entry, “A Musical Correspondence,” was composed by using contemporary song titles as phrases. 

In “Echoes from the Roof,” Ann Greulich reported the results of a poll taken of the “girls who attend school on the roof.” The prison offered classes every weekday afternoon in English, health and hygiene, current events, and other subjects. Mary Fiorelli wrote of her experience with the school, “The way I feel about it here is that the teacher is like a nurse or doctor who is feeding a weak person with a good tonic.” Jennie Bennett noted, “One is likely to get in a rut and stay there, if confined any length of time, and I can say that our classes here have done much for me in preventing that from happening.” Another woman, Edna Neal, wrote that “Not only did [school] teach me a lot, but it helped me ‘keep my balance all the time.’” Anna Carola observed, “With more education, I think I could accomplish better things in life have more understanding of my fellow man, and be a better citizen.”

This copy was owned by Ruth Lentz, who was the magazine’s Staff Adviser. At the prison, she was responsible for the school, arts and crafts, and the prison library. The prison was designed, according to its Superintendent, Ruth E. Collins, as a kind of school for citizenship, which would prepare its inmates for jobs and better opportunities post-incarceration. Collins was the prison’s first superintendent and was chosen for the position after a career in children’s aid, juvenile protection, and other Progressive Era initiatives, including a period of time living and working with Jane Addams at Hull-House in Chicago, a center of Progressive ideas and programs.

When the prison opened in 1931 it was heralded as the most modern, humane, and even comfortable facility. The building was an art deco high rise, situated in Greenwich Village. Prisoners were sorted and first-time inmates were kept apart from repeat offenders. The women had their own rooms (they were not called cells) and there were no bars on the windows. The prison was designed to hold 450. By the mid-1960s, however, the prison had become a watchword of corruption, violence, and inhumane conditions. The prison held as many as 750 women, food was nearly inedible, and the building was infested with rats. A 1967 exposé of the prison’s conditions set the stage for its closure. Testimony by Andrea Dworkin about the brutal treatment she received there as a young student arrested for protesting the Vietnam War also pushed the city to close the facility, which it did in 1971.

Over decades, the House of Detention for Women developed into one of the worst prisons in the United States. Nevertheless, at the institution’s inception, the Greenwich Gazette represented some of the best ideals of a progressive penal system based not on a punitive model, but one of reform, rehabilitation, and community support.

RBSC holds a few additional materials by and about women in prison and Hesburgh Libraries has a new database, American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside, for further exploration of this genre.

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Daily Purchases for a Famine Soup Kitchen

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Ireland’s Great Famine began in 1845 when the potato crop, the main food of much of the population, was destroyed by a potato blight. This blight recurred in the following years, leading to the deaths of over a million people. With the emigration of up to another million people, Ireland lost almost a quarter of its population.

Among the vast range of books and other materials our library has to help us study the Famine, there are a couple of rare or unique items. Such items give insight into various aspects of people and communities. One such item is the notebook shown here, the accounts of a soup kitchen, one of the many set up to give relief during the Famine.

This is the daybook, or notebook, listing all the receipts and expenditures for Drumbo Soup Kitchen from December 1846 to March 1848, accompanied by a sheet of tickets for Drumbo Soup Kitchen (MSE/IR 0100). Of the various places of that name, this is most likely Drumbo, County Down. This has not yet been verified. It was acquired by the Library in 2012.

The expenditure gives us an idea of the ingredients. In January 1st, 1846, purchases included cayenne pepper, black pepper, split peas, whole peas, barley,  beef, cow’s head and carrots.

The 32-page notebook includes the names and amounts of cash subscriptions, and the notebook bears the treasurer’s name — “Dr. James Orr, Treasurer to the Drumbo Soup Kitchen.”

Along with the notebook is a sheet of printed tickets with the following text: “Drumbo: Soup Kitchen: One Ration. Paid, One Penny.”

archivespace.library.nd.edu/repositories/3/resources/2026