The Handicapped Homemakers Project at UConn in the 1950s

Written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History doctoral candidate, who is currently serving as a Graduate Intern in Archives & Special Collections.

In the mid-1950s, the University of Connecticut led a pioneering studying in the rehabilitation of disabled homemakers. The study sought to examine the challenges faced by orthopedically handicapped women in caring for young children.

Mrs. Mathews of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

Supervised by Elizabeth E. May, Dean of the School of Home Economics, the project received generous funding from the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, a part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It ran from 1955 to 1960 and included a pilot program of in-home research and a series of academic conferences.

The immediate goal was to produce educational materials for disabled homemakers and their families. But the project had loftier aims as well. Expanding the abilities of disabled homemakers, May thought, could boost individual morale, smooth family relations, and increase the numbers of workers both in and outside of the home.

Mrs. Mathews of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

When organizing the project, May and research coordinator, Neva R. Waggoner, adopted a team approach. The project team comprised a diverse group of researchers – including nurses, therapists, engineers, sociologists, and home economists. Together, they hoped to develop labor saving devices and techniques to help disabled homemakers more easily perform household tasks and increase their overall independence. Collaboration would be key. As May made clear in one report, “This is not an ‘ivory tower’ project!”

The bulk of the study involved holding interviews with disabled homemakers throughout Connecticut. The project team developed a list of interview questions and then identified around 100 suitable subjects. The women chosen came from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and lived with various disabilities.

 

The team then dispatched a field worker to conduct in-home interviews. This was no small undertaking. Because the interview subjects were scattered around the state and sometimes difficult to locate, the field worker ultimately traveled 8,000 miles over the course of the project.

Mrs. Wilson of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

The interviews were extensive, with questions running to ten pages. Despite the careful research design, the responses left the researchers feeling somewhat discouraged. It became difficult to group the responses into general categories because the subjects experienced their disability in highly individualized ways.

But according to the field worker, the interview subjects cooperated willingly and appreciated the researcher’s interest. The worker even remarked on the “ingenious” ways those interviewed had already adapted their abilities to routine household tasks.

Advertisement for the Handicapped Homemakers Project

After the initial round of interviews, the research team chose to continue working with some women. One case was Mrs. M., “a warm, friendly woman” who had lost an arm to cancer but was eager to return to work. Over a series of visits, a social worker observed Mrs. M. throughout her day and suggested how to adjust her daily tasks or use new equipment as needed. Changes could range from using new cutting sheers or adjustable ironing boards to relearning how to type or drive a car.

 

The project even had an international dimension. At one point, May took a sabbatical from her teaching and research to explore the European approach to helping disabled homemakers. She traveled across a number of countries in Great Britain, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. At each stop, May lectured about the project underway at UConn and learned about the programs available in the countries she visited. Finland, she found, had made some of the greatest strides in meeting the needs of disabled people in the home.

Mr. Ackerman of the Handicapped Homemakers Project

By the time the project ended in 1960, the research team had made significant progress in understanding the needs of disabled homemakers. The final step involved translating the study into

Mrs. Fersch of the Handicapped Homemakers Project conducted by the University of Connecticut in the 1950s

educational materials that included films, slideshows, and pamphlets. May and Waggoner, along with another co-author, also published a book based on the study. Ultimately, the project had achieved its goal of drawing attention to the needs of disabled people working in the home.

For more information about the Handicapped Homemakers Project, see the finding aid to the Elizabeth E. Mays Papers at http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860129674 and several hundred photographs from the project at http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/search/%22handicapped%20Homemakers%20Project%22?type=dismax

Shakespeare First Folio Transcribathon

TitlePageFirstFolio_FirstFolioFolger-1024x754The UConn Humanities Institute-Folger Library will host a “Transcribathon,” to be held Wednesday,  September 14th, 10 am – 4 pm in the Great Hall of the Alumni Center. The Transcribathon is an event connected with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online project, which is an effort to transcribe and digitize hand written documents from the Age of Shakespeare. [http://folgerpedia.folger.edu/Early_Modern_Manuscripts_Online_(EMMO)] Staff from the Folger will be on site to lead the event. Participants will transcribe and encode manuscripts, individually or in small groups. There will be food (lunch and pizza at the end of the day), fun, entertaining manuscripts, transcription sprints, prizes, and an easy-to-use online transcription platform called Dromio. UConn will be working on the seventeenth-century diary of the fascinating Rev. John Ward, who in addition to his church duties was a learned humanist and active in medical and scientific circles. Learn to read the original documents of the English Renaissance, and be a part of history by getting your name on the completed edition. Please join us, and encourage your students (classes welcome) and colleagues. The more the merrier!

For more information, contact: Brendan Kane at brendan.kane@uconn.edu

Commemorating the Flood of 1936

1936 Flood in Hartford

In March 1936, after experiencing heavy storms that swept from Ohio to Maine and as far south as Virginia, the Connecticut River, swollen beyond its banks, spilled over into Hartford, Connecticut, flooding over one-fifth of the city.  Adding to that was the late winter melting of snow and ice, causing the river to crest at 8 1/2 feet, the highest ever recorded at that time. Other cities and towns along the Connecticut River were equally affected — in Springfield, Massachusetts, 20,000 townspeople lost their homes.

You can find photographs of the devastation of the Flood of 1936 on our digital repository, mostly from the Southern New England Telephone Company Records.

Breaking news — 74th anniversary of the “day which will live in infamy”

Andre Schenker, 1930

Andre Schenker, 1930

About 1935, Andre Schenker, Associate Professor of History at UConn, began a regular broadcast series entitled “History in the Headlines” airing on WTIC.  The series provided context and analysis of current events for the listening audience. In a reminiscence, Dr. Schenker’s son remembers attending a performance in Hartford on the evening of December 7, 1941, when an usher came to quietly speak with his father. Immediately leaving the performance, Dr. Schenker went on the air later to share the breaking news. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States had declared war.

This and other broadcasts are available in the Schenker Papers held by Archives & Special Collections and online.

 

Veteran’s Day, UConn style

Veteran's barracks, 1946

More than 2000 UConn alumni served in World War II; 114 of them lost their lives in the conflict. After the war the Veteran’s Administration requested that the university accept between 3000 and 4000 returning soldiers as students. In 1946 the campus had 792 veterans enrolled as students (11 of them were women) with another 300 at the Hartford and Waterbury extension campuses and 154 are enrolled in the Law, Insurance and Pharmacy schools. Eleven temporary barracks, nicknamed “Siberia” because of their distance from the main campus, were built on “the site of the former agronomy plots bordering the main road to Willimantic.” This site is now the Fine Arts Complex and E.O. Smith High School.  As more veterans were accepted to UConn more housing was built or found in nearby Willimantic.

More information about the expansion of the campus for returning World War II veterans can be found in the UConn Chronology at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/collections/chronology/index.cfm and photographs of scenes such as the one above, of “Agronomy Field” can be found on the Digital Repository.

Terri J. Goldich to retire

 

Terri J. Goldich, June 2015

It is with heavy hearts that we will soon bid farewell to our colleague Terri J. Goldich, who currently serves as Curator for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, when she retires on July 1.  Terri has greatly contributed to many successes in Archives & Special Collections and the UConn Libraries, where she has been an employee in many different capacities for the last 38 years.

Hired in March 1977 to participate in the Pioneer Valley Union List of Serials cooperative program, the first ever effort for libraries in the region to automate information about serials, Terri soon moved on to other positions in the UConn Libraries, including as the Connecticut List of Serials coordinator and to serve on the reference and information desks.

Terri was among the first staff in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, dedicated in October 1995 by President Bill Clinton, which opened in January 1996 to house Archives & Special Collections.  Her first position in the building was as Events and Facilities Coordinator but she soon became Curator for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection, and for a time the Alternative Press Collections, working under former Director Tom Wilsted.

Terri’s tenure as Curator for the NCLC was a period of great growth and distinction, as evidenced by an expansion of the archival collections from 30 to its current number of 128 and the acquisition of the papers and illustrations of such well-known authors and artists as Tomie dePaola, Natalie Babbitt, Richard Scarry, and Suse MacDonald.  Terri was also responsible for the great growth of the children’s book research collection from 13,000 to 46,000 under her oversight.

Terri played a pivotal role in the prominence and popularity of the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, held the second weekend in November every year since 1992.  Terri joined the Book Fair Committee in 1998 and became Co-Chair in 2006, taking on the responsibilities of fundraising and as a primary contact with the authors and illustrators invited to present their books.

Other important contributions undertaken by Terri while at the UConn Libraries was as a judge of the Rabb Prize, a contest for UConn students in the illustration program, and as head of the library’s Exhibits Committee for many years.

When asked for a noteworthy reminiscence of an event that occurred while at the UConn Libraries, Terri told us that in 1996, on her second day of work in Archives & Special Collections, Tom Wilsted asked her to spend a day with a Norwegian gentleman who turned out to be Dr. Francis Sejersted, the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.  Dr. Sejersted was visiting campus to participate in one of the symposia organized around the closing of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center’s Year of Introspection, in which Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev also played a part.  He had a free day and wanted to see the local sights; Tom was unavailable and so corralled Terri to act as chaperone.  They scared up a limo and driver and went off on a lovely daytrip to Sturbridge Village.  Terri noted that the Dr. Sejersted had a particular fascination with the sawmill operations.

Terri tells us that after a short visit to her daughter Rose, who currently lives and works in Montana, she plans to enroll in the state’s foster parent program.

Terri’s coworkers will sorely miss her deep knowledge of the children’s literature collections, her spirit of collegiality and kindness, her wicked good party planning expertise as well as her infectious laugh and delightful humor.  We wish Terri the best for her retirement and thank her for her hard work and good humor through her years at the UConn Libraries.

The Geigel at the Archives: A look at the Géigel Family’s impact in documenting Puerto Rican socioeconomic and cultural history through the Puerto Rican Collection

 

Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Luis Géigel and his daughter, Bianca Géigel Lonergan in the stacks where part of the Puerto Rican collection is located (06/18/2014).

Last June 18, 2014 I had the pleasure to welcome to the archives two family members of the late Luisa Géigel—the last owner of what it is known as the Puerto Rican Collection, A.K.A. the Geigel Family Collection. Bianca Géigel Lonergan contacted me in June to see if we could arrange a visit to the collection so her father, Luis Géigel, could see the books her cousin (*), Luisa Geigel de Gandia sold to the archives. For the visit I gathered a selection of the books published by several members of the Géigel family in the collection as a way to reflect on the importance of this family in the development of Puerto Rico as a modern nation since the late 19th century.

As I mentioned in previous blog postings about this collection (2010 and 2012), the Archives and the Special Collections department, with the help of a former UConn History professor Francisco Scarano, acquired this collection in 1982 through several grants and financial supports from the Research Foundation, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center of Latin American Studies, the Class of ’26, and the University of Connecticut Foundation, from Luisa Géigel de Gandia. Luisa Géigel de Gandia was an important artist in Puerto Rico especially in the 1940s. She was the first Puerto Rican female sculptor. She also was a painter and was the first women artist to exhibit several nude figure studies in Puerto Rico. She was a co-founder, together with Nilita Vientos Gastón, of the Arts Division at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño. From 1958-1986 she taught Sculpture, Drawing and Artistic Anatomy at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She was also a published author.

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Index and inventory created by Luisa Géigel of the titles and location of all the books in the Géigel collection in her home in San Juan, PR

Together with her father and grandfather, she maintained, expanded and inventoried her family’s books and serials collection. As Dr. Scarano aptly described it, “this magnificent research collection, painstakingly nurtured by the Géigel family of San Juan for three generations, constitutes a bibliographic resource of national scholarly significance” (1).

José Geigel y Zenón

José Geigel y Zenón (1841-1892)

From rare literature gems from the 19th century and 20th century to agricultural and political treatises, this collection serves as a snapshot of the different cultural, political, scientific, and economic movements experimented in Puerto Rico in the past two centuries. The collection also reflected the various interests that drove the family members, José Géigel y Zenón (1841-1892), Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981), y Luisa Géigel de Gandia (1916-2008) to amassed this collection. Other individuals that donated materials to the original collection was Ramón Gandia Córdova, Luisa Géigel’s father-in-law who donated a good portion of the agricultural books found in this collection. There are other members of the Géigel family represented in the collection such as Vicente Géigel y Polanco (politician and former president of the Ateneo Puertorriqueño), A.D. Géigel (a translator of foreign novels during the 19th century), and Luis M. Géigel (agronomist and father and grandfather of our visitors).

The Geigel family members were great contributors to the cultural and political life of Puerto Rico and their work reflected their deep love and concerns about the past, present and future of Puerto Rico. José Géigel y Zenón, known as Pepe by his contemporaries, was part of the intellectual elite in 19th century Puerto Rico and was friend and/or relative to many important cultural figures such as Alejandro Tapia y Rivera and Manuel Zeno Gandia—who signed and dedicated their books to their dear friend Pepe. In term of cultural contributions, José Géigel y Zenón, together with Abelardo Morales Ferrer wrote one of the most definite Puerto Rican bibliography of their time titled, Bibliografía Puertorriqueña 1492-1894 which was produced between 1892 -1894. Later on his son, Fernando Géigel y Sabat published the first edition of this work in 1934. In addition, Fernando published a compilation of his father satirical writing that he published in different 19th century newspapers such as El Progreso, Don Simplicio, El Derecho, y La Azucena, titled, Artículos político-humoristico y literarios por Jose Géigel y Zenón (1936).

Fernando Géigel y Sabat

Fernando Géigel y Sabat (1881-1981)

Fernando Géigel y Sabat was also an important member of the family. A lawyer by training, he was a Manager of the City of San Juan (1939–1941) and published author. He authored several books which range from political topics such as El ideal de un pueblo y los partidos politicos (1940) to historical treatise, Balduino Enrico (1934), and Corsarios y piratas de Puerto Rico 1819-1825 (1946)—inspired in part by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera novel, Cofresí, which Tapia dedicated to Fernando’s father. Also present in the collection are several important titles from Vicente Géigel y Polanco. A politician, reporter, essayist, ateneísta, he was a pivotal figure in Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century. The collection has several of his books such as El problema universitario, on the role of the university in Puerto Rican culture, La independencia de Puerto Rico about independence as a political option for Puerto Rico, and his memoir about his work at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, Mis recuerdos del Ateneo.

There are two books from Luisa Géigel in the collection, La genealogía y el apellido de Campeche and El paquete rojo o informe sobre la extinción de la moneda Macuquina. Luis M. Géigel’s work at the Estación Experiemental in Puerto Rico is also present with the title, El algodón “sea-island” en Puerto-Rico which is available at the Internet Archives. I have compiled a list with the books published by the Geigel family in the collection for your enjoyment.

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

Marisol Ramos, Curator, with Luis Géigel at the stacks

This visit by Bianca and Luis Géigel was quite a walk into memory lane. It helped me to contextualize this collection as part of a bigger project of imaging Puerto Rico as part of a broader cosmopolitan project that connected Puerto Rico with its past, present and possible futures. The vision of the Géigel family for Puerto Rico was multifaceted and its collection represented that diversity of thoughts, history, politics and cultural projects experimented during the 19th and 20th century. Walking with Luis and Bianca into the stacks at the Archives and Special Collections to see the books up close and personal, was like embarking in a time-traveling adventure similar to the ones imaged by the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera in one his stories; a type of magic only find in the archives…

Note: (*): Luis Géigel is Luisa’s first cousin once removed.

References:

Scarano, Francisco A. “The Géigel Puerto Rican Collection”. Harvest. The University of Connecticut Library, Fall 1982: 1-2.

Biographical Data for Luisa Géigel available at these sites:

Marisol Ramos, Curator for Latina/o, Latin American and Caribbean Collections