Bingham Center News
Dr. Mab Segrest, Fuller-Maathai Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at Connecticut College, received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University, and became active in lesbian-feminist political and cultural work in North Carolina and nationally during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She left the academy in the early 1980s to work full-time in social movements for the next decade. She is a co-founder of North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence, an organization focused on targeting neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan activity. Segrest’s 1995 book, Memoir of a Race Traitor, narrates this experience. Segrest’s 2002 book, Born to Belonging: Writings on Spirit and Justice, uses travel memoirs in a search for alternatives to the apartheid of her southern childhood.
She is currently working on a social history of Georgia’s state mental hospital at Milledgeville that grows out of her continuing interest in the interface between the intimate and the historical, specifically what constitutes that redundancy of Southern insanity when viewed through archives of an iconic Southern state hospital. Segrest’s personal papers are held by the Sallie Bingham Center.
This program is the culminating event for the Women’s Studies Senior Seminar, which combines feminist and queer theory with historical research on local activists. Co-sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center, Durham County Library, and Duke Program in Women’s Studies.
Date: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Kelly Wooten, firstname.lastname@example.org
In honor of its 25th anniversary, the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture will host an evening with author, playwright, teacher, and feminist activist, Sallie Bingham, who will reflect on 25 years of documenting women’s history at Duke and offer her vision for the Center’s next 25 years.
Rachel Seidman, Associate Director, Southern Oral History Program, at UNC-Chapel Hill and visiting lecturer in Women’s Studies at Duke University, will begin the program with her perspective on Bingham Center contributions to preservation, teaching, and activism.
In 1988, the Women’s Studies Archivist position was created thanks to the generosity of author, playwright, teacher and feminist activist Sallie Bingham. In collaboration with pioneering historian Anne Firor Scott, Duke Women’s Studies’ Founding Director Jean Fox O’Barr and then head of Special Collections Robert Byrd, Sallie Bingham determined that Duke was the right place to create a new archive for women’s history. The center was permanently endowed in 1993 and named the “Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture” in 1999 to honor Bingham’s vision and legacy.
Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.
Sometimes in Technical Services, we get to work with the visual arts as they intersect with the Rubenstein Library’s mission of cultural documentation. One such collection, acquired by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, is the Clarissa Sligh Papers. Sligh is a visual artist, writer, and lecturer. As a teenager, she was the lead plaintiff in a 1955 school desegregation case in Virginia which later inspired her book “It Wasn’t Little Rock”. After working in math and science with NASA and later in business, she began her career as an artist, using photographs, drawings, text, and personal stories to explore themes of transformation and social justice.
The Bingham Center began acquiring Sligh’s work in the 1990s as part of a collection of artists’ books by women. In 2011, we began the process of transferring her archive to Duke. One of the works represented in her papers is Jake in Transition, a series of 51 black and white photographs, some superimposed with text, documenting one man’s transition from female to male. The project explores issues of gender, identity, and physicality. Sligh revisited those themes in her book Wrongly Bodied Two, which juxtaposes Jake’s story with that of a female slave who escapes to the North by passing as a white man.
Sligh took the original “Jake” photographs between 1996 and 2000, a time when transgender issues were still largely ignored. Her work is particularly relevant now that the transgender rights movement has gone mainstream. This isn’t surprising for a woman who has been ahead of her time since at least 1955.
Post contributed by Megan Lewis, Technical Services Archivist for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.
The Library recently acquired a small album of photographs taken in Virginia’s Tidewater region. It contains six cyanotypes depicting work at the freight docks of Newport News and other subjects. Of particular interest is a laid-in cyanotype which appears to be a portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female American photographer.
Johnston was a remarkable photographer. She took portraits of American presidents and the high society of the turn of the nineteenth century from her Washington, D.C. studio, but also participated in ambitious documentary projects, such as her architectural photographs of Southern states. For one of her best-known commissions, she traveled to Virginia to document the students of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1899-1900. Her photographs of this important education institution for African Americans and Native Americans are preserved in her collection at the Library of Congress.
Based on the probable identification of the woman in the photograph as Johnston and the photographs of the area around Hampton in the album, these photographs have been dated to the first decade of the 1900s. However, no information about the photographer is yet known. Were they a student or colleague of Johnston? Is it possible that the photographs (or some of the photographs) are by Johnston herself?
The album is also accompanied by handwritten directions for making “Pyro Developer” and a “fixing bath for platinum prints,” which may provide further evidence that the creator may have been a student or novice photographer. (The large initial “B” on the “Pyro Developer” formula bears some resemblance to Johnston’s handwriting, but the handwriting of the rest of the formula does not appear to be similar to hers.)
If anyone has clues or guesses to contribute to the mystery of the photographer’s identity, please share them in the comments section below!
Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.
Laura Micham, Merle Hoffmann Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and curator of gender and sexuality history collections in the Rubenstein Library, has been selected as the 2014 winner of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Women and Gender Studies Section (WGSS) Career Achievement Award. The award honors significant long-standing contributions to women’s studies in the field of librarianship over the course of a career. Laura will receive the award at 8:30 a.m. on June 30, 2014, at the WGSS program during the American Libraries Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas.
Here at the Rubenstein Library we’re thrilled for Laura, but not surprised by this recognition of her achievements. Of the many possible testimonials to her efforts by donors, students, scholars, colleagues, and other Bingham Center patrons, a few will suffice here. Victoria Hesford, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University and a researcher in the Bingham Center’s collections, writes, “To say that Laura is an archival dynamo whose energy and enterprise constantly brings new people, new collections, and new ideas to the Bingham Center, would be an understatement! She has ideas, she works collaboratively, and she is not easily put off by the inevitable complexities and difficulties of bringing a project to life.”
Jeanette Stokes, Executive Director of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, whose records are held in the Bingham Center, adds, “Laura’s work has made the Sallie Bingham Center a vibrant presence on the campus of Duke University, in the community of Durham, North Carolina, and in the wider academic community nationally and internationally. The center has become a hub for information, resources, and programming on women’s history and culture. It makes creative use of its collection while cooperating with campus and community groups to provide outstanding educational programs.”
Naomi Nelson, Director of the Rubenstein Library, writes, “The award announcement cites Laura’s expertise, advocacy for archives, leadership, and vision, and it notes her collaborations across the university and her proactive work with students. Under Laura’s leadership, the Bingham Center has grown in important and dynamic ways and, at the same time, she has made significant contributions to the larger profession.”
Please join us in congratulating Laura!