I had my first full week at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) this week. I have a LOT to learn, but it’s been generally invigorating and everyone has been very supportive for the newest member of the staff.
One highlight of the week was viewing the actual letter written by Abigail Adams admonishing husband John to “remember the ladies” when writing the Declaration of Independence (he didn’t). Another was coming across a letter in the hand of M. Cary Thomas, the formidable first woman to be president of Bryn Mawr (1894-1922), written in 1906 on her presidential stationary!
All of these little brushes with the past made me think it would be fun to institute a regular Friday feature on the FFLA giving you all a sense of the sort of things we work with on a daily basis in the archives field (and more particularly, in manuscript collections such as those housed at the MHS). So here is my first sampling, which comes from the collection of Alice Bache Gould papers that I spent several hours photocopying this week for a researcher who had requested a long list of reproductions. The letter is to Alice from a friend from whom she has solicited a donation for a charitable fund which supported a nursing school in Puerto Rico:
My dear Alice,
Your presentation of the case is masterly!
I wish I could give you $500. It is an unpropitious moment for me, as I am forced to turn all my energies just now towards San Francisco, though my cousins are not homeless, they have suffered sufficiently to need a ‘boost’ . . . My cousin . . . has lost everything at his office, furnishings, instruments, records, and unfortunately much scientific material that cannot be replaced. He writes, ‘the work of 26 years.’
I have arranged to send him what instruments he needs, & have taken charge pecuniarily of the daughter who is at boarding school in Germany, so I fear I must forgo the luxury of assisting your most admirable undertaking . . .
(May 12, 1906)*
The writer is, of course, referring to the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake and fires, which devastated the city in April, 1906. I thought it was an appropriate manuscript to highlight, given the current wildfires in southern California, which are similarly causing so much disruption and damage to peoples’ lives and property.
*Alice Bache Gould Collection, Ms. No. 1309 Box 15, Folder 20.