“Mary Gehman’s Feminist Ephemera: Violence Against Women” examines the mistreatment of women in New Orleans in the late twentieth century. This exhibit draws materials from the “Feminist Ephemera Series” in the “Mary Gehman Papers Collection,” housed in the Newcomb Archive on Tulane University’s campus. Mary Gehman is a feminist, journalist, and activist who lived in New Orleans from 1970 until 2005, when she migrated to Donaldsville, Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina. Though involved in numerous movements in New Orleans, Gehman asserts that her role as a journalist and the editor of Distaff was the highest priority in her life. Gehman collected materials from local events that informed her journalism and publication.
Gehman donated her files on women in New Orleans and Louisiana, as well as the materials she collected through her job as the editor of Distaff, to the Newcomb Center for Research on Women at Tulane University in the spring of 2016. These materials include not only Feminist Ephemera, the second series, but also the first series in the larger collection, which consists of original copies of Distaff. The third series in the collection is a general papers and publications series, including correspondence, Distaff planning and layout documents, feminist periodicals and newsletters, and newspaper clippings. The Feminist Ephemera series is comprised of ephemera, which are items that one would typically discard after the first use or until the purpose of the material is fulfilled. Examples include newspapers, flyers, and pamphlets.
Though the Feminist Ephemera series comprises a plethora of issues, the history of violence against women is one that seemed most imperative to explore, particularly in the wake of the Tulane Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. The survey, which was released on January 31, 2018, reports that nearly half of undergraduate women at Tulane have experienced sexual assault during their time at the university. The majority of the items in the collection were created three decades ago, making it clear that this issue has been one plaguing Tulane and the greater New Orleans community for decades.
The exhibit displays items about not only rape and sexual harassment, but also domestic violence, disparaging representations of women in the media, the group Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), and the Take Back the Night march, founded by WAVAW and still operative today. This exhibit depicts how the dialogue surrounding and the language used to describe these atrocities have changed greatly in recent years. Certain items in this exhibit show how the issue was discussed at the time, such as the item “A Study of Rape Booklet,” in which the activism focuses on prevention and coping on part of the victim, rather than preemptive efforts to stop the perpetrators from committing the crimes. Though the discourse surrounding culpability and equality is changing for the better, it is imperative we look to the past to understand how we can change the future.
While no scientific field has ever been an easy profession for women, botany was for many centuries one of the most accessible. An interest in plants and flowers was seen as a proper womanly pursuit, and a girl or woman with access to a garden, yard, or a patch of grass had at hand many subjects for observation and experimentation. Determined female botanists financed their own expeditions, achieved degrees at universities where they were the only woman in a group of men, or leveraged their floral knowledge and artistic skills into positions at important gardens and preserves. Some of these women were the very first to study and document botanical specimens from distant locations or past eras. Even when the continued development of botanical science as a profession resulted in women's work in the field being overlooked or dismissed as frivolous, women continued to use this 'feminine' interest as way to fulfill their own intellectual pursuits, educate others, and establish careers.
Drawn from the Rare Books collection's range of materials on natural history, this exhibit provides a look at the life and works of a few of the 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century women who made the world of flora their profession and their passion.
For the first time since the 1980s, the students of Newcomb Music Department will produce a fully staged opera in March 2018 under the direction of Amy Pfrimmer. Despite the long hiatus, there is a century's long tradition of opera at Tulane University, beginning in the 1910s with the first annual production of a Gilbert & Sullivan opera. Although a period often overlooked in the history of opera at Tulane, opera production blossomed in the 1950s under the leadership of Cardon V. Burnham, who created the Tulane Opera Workshop program that ultimately served as the foundation for all future opera productions at Tulane and that played a roll in the early years of Summer Lyric Theatre. The Opera Workshop was sustained in the 1960s by performances of new operas by then faculty member Charles Hamm, who launched his career as an acclaimed and pivotal musicologist here at Tulane. The program was later revived by long time director Frank Monachino, who sustained the program until a sudden loss of significant funding in 1985 led to the closure of Opera Workshop.
The history of Tulane Opera Workshop outline here is based on materials found in University Archives, the Jambalaya Yearbook, and reporting by The Times-Picayune. If you have concert programs, photographs, newspaper clippings, or any other materials that bear evidence of opera performances at Tulane, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact University Archives at (504) 865-5691.