Friday, March 06, 2009

Married woman's liabilities


Yesterday's popular media were filled with reports of a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society: "Bad Marriages Strain Women's Hearts, But Not Men's";"Bad Marriages Take Health Toll on Women"; "Strained Marriages Harm Women", the headlines screamed.

And in another of those instances of serendipity that keep me coming to work every day, I just yesterday had occasion to brush my fingers across the spines of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard's two-volume work, Modern Persecution. When it was originally published in 1868, the expose on insane asylums was titled, The prisoners' hidden life, or Insane asylums unveiled. By 1873, Packard had changed tactics: volume 2 of the work was now subtitled "married woman's liabilities as demonstrated by the action of the Illinois legislature."

Packard well knew the hardships of a bad marriage, and the unequal effect of ill unions on husbands and wives. While she would undoubtedly celebrate the many strides women have made in modern society, I think she would also have applauded yesterday's study, which affirmed to some degree her introductory statements:
'A wounded spirit who can bear.' Spirit wrongs are the keenest wounds that can be inflicted upon woman. Her nature is so sensitively organized that an injury to her feelings is felt more keenly than an injury to her person.

The fortitude of her nature enables her to endure physical suffering heroically; but the wound which her spirit feels under a wanton physical abuse is far more deeply felt, and is harder to be borne than the physical abuse itself.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Update on OHS Library closure: petition signing

Many people have asked what they can do to support the staff of the Oregon Historical Society during this difficult time. For those who are unable to attend meetings in person, there is now an online petition, crafted by the Northwest History Network, which supporters can sign digitally.

The text of the resolution is as follows:
Resolved, that the Oregon Historical Society must acknowledge its responsibilities to its membership, to the research community, and to all Oregonians, to preserve and to make accessible research materials that have been entrusted to its care and funded by generations of Oregon citizens; and,

Resolved, that the Oregon Historical Society must work transparently and collaboratively to craft a sustainable solution for the Research Library and its irreplaceable collections; and

Resolved, we request the Governor appoint a task force to review the present situation and recommend a permanent and sustainable solution for the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Approved March 1, 2009, 11:33 A.M.

Resolutions of the Associates of Northwest History Network with respect to the Oregon Historical Society Research Library

At the moment of marking its 150th anniversary of statehood, Oregon is on the verge of losing the very stuff of its history and its collective memory.

The Oregon Historical Society has announced the closure of its Research Library -- a nationally significant historical resource that is the fount of knowledge for all Oregonians who examine the past in order to understand the present. This action promises to break the Society's trust with its membership, with researchers and educators, and with all Oregonians, who for more than a century have been assured by the Society that their history would be cared for, tended to, and made available to a wide audience.

This is a tragedy that must be faced and a situation that must be resolved. These immense treasures -- millions of items comprised of photographs, diaries, books, manuscripts, newspapers, magazines and journals, maps and charts, business records, personal letters and papers, films, and sound recordings -- must not be allowed to fade into oblivion without our very public and personal efforts to rescue them.

The actions of the board and leadership of the Oregon Historical Society in closing the Research Library and firing its dedicated professional staff are unacceptable to the Northwest History Network, a nonprofit consortium of history professionals. The membership of Northwest History Network has approved the following resolutions:

Resolved, that the closure of the Research Library of the Oregon Historical Society is a critical blow to the people of the state of Oregon including hundreds of researchers, students and family historians and authors and filmmakers, and others; and,

Resolved, that this closure and the risks that it brings to the care and preservation of priceless historical materials deserves to be fully examined by concerned Oregonians; and,

Resolved, that while the Society's financial condition is critical and that it requires steep reductions in staff and programs, the maintenance of the Society's Research Library should be its highest priority; and

Resolved, that the Oregon Historical Society must acknowledge its responsibilities to its membership, to the research community, and to all Oregonians, to preserve and to make accessible research materials that have been entrusted to its care and funded by generations of Oregon citizens; and,

Resolved, that the Oregon Historical Society must work transparently and collaboratively to craft a sustainable solution for the Research Library and its irreplaceable collections; and

Resolved, we request the Governor appoint a task force to review the present situation and recommend a permanent and sustainable solution for the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
We the undersigned recognize that at the moment of marking its 150th anniversary of statehood, Oregon is on the verge of losing the very stuff of its history and its collective memory. This is a tragedy that must be faced and a situation that must be resolved. The actions of the board and leadership of the Oregon Historical Society in closing the Research Library and firing its dedicated professional staff are unacceptable to the Northwest History Network, a nonprofit consortium of history professionals. We request the Governor appoint a task force to review the present situation and recommend a permanent and sustainable solution for the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Thank you for joining our efforts by putting your name to these resolutions.

Sincerely,

Board and Associates of the Northwest History Network
signature
goal: 1,000 signatures
Please consider adding your name to the list. (Note: I was unable to sign the petition using Firefox on a Mac, so if you have trouble with one browser/OS combination, please try another.)

The situation at OHS remains fluid; a reminder to check the web site for the latest information.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fluharty at OHSU

Last week at her oral history interview, Pam Hellings, RN, PhD, CNP-P, handed me a VHS tape with the offer that we could have a copy made for the archives. It contains (after an episode of American Castles), a short, circa ten-minute interview of an OHSU School of Nursing faculty member administering the Fluharty Preschool Speech and Language Screening Test to a young girl. The girl, as it turns out, is Megan Hellings, who was five years and one month old when the video was recorded in August 1984. During the test, she sits on the lap of her mother, Pam. Megan comes through the test with flying colors, of course!

The video is an outstanding example of a locally created audiovisual resource from the SON, which has really been a pioneer in telecommunication and distance learning for many years. It's also a fine example of the time-tested method of recruiting one's family and friends to participate in research projects!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sorting out the mess

About a year ago, we received a very chaotic collection of materials which we suspected would hold some real treasures. A cursory peak into boxes at the point of receipt led to the uncovering of a few gems, which we shared at that time.

Other priorities intervened in the following months (as they always do, don't they?), but processing began again in earnest last week. The first three boxes have been reduced to one box of historically significant materials and, as expected, also produced some surprises. Below are three of those: an image of the Portland Shriners Hospital in its former location at NE 82nd and Sandy (new to the collections here), and one of neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, inscribed to donor John Francis Ortschild. Another photograph uncovered in the muddle was this one of a child's leg brace, probably taken for a publication on Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Billy Forget-Me-Not

More bad news for historical institutions in Oregon in this morning's Oregonian ("End of the trail for End of the Oregon Trail museum?") makes one think that perhaps all we can do until this economic crisis is over is grin and bear it. And if you're planning on grinning, don't forget Billy Forget-Me-Not, Maude Tanner's clever character from the 1939 children's book of the same name. A sort of adjunct to the Tooth Fairy, Billy is the singing personification of a molar, nearly lost through careless neglect:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let's hope our state legislators realize that, while closures may seem easy, reopenings may be extraordinarily difficult, since treasures neglected may fall into irremediable disrepair.