Mirra Komarovsky papers available

Born into a privileged family in Tsarist Russia, Mirra Komarovsky’s (2/5/1905 – 1/30/1999) life took a sharp turn when the 1917 Russian Revolution forced her family to immigrate to the United States. Shortly after arriving in the country, she enrolled at Barnard and immersed herself in studying the social sciences. She later became a nationally recognized sociologist, specializing in the sociology of gender, and was a Barnard professor from 1937 to 1992.

Mirra Komarovsky at Barnard. Photo from Barnard College Archives.

Komarovsky’s parents were Zionists and landowning Jews in Akkerman, Russia, until tsarist police drove them from their home. They moved initially to Baku (in what is now Azerbaijan) and then to Wichita, Kansas after the Bolshevik Revolution, when Mirra was 16. In Baku, Komarovsky lived a solidly middle-class lifestyle; she was homeschooled by private tutors and learned Russian, English, Hebrew, and French, as well as playing the piano. Once in the United States, she graduated from Wichita High School within a year and was admitted to Barnard’s Class of 1926.

At Barnard, Komarovsky double-majored in sociology and economics and also took advanced courses in anthropology and psychology. One of her mentors was sociologist William Ogburn, who—despite taking a liking to Komarovsky and recommending her for the graduate fellowship that would allow her to earn her master’s degree at Columbia—once told her to reconsider her goal of becoming a sociology professor, saying, “You are a woman, foreign-born, and Jewish. I would recommend some other occupation.”

Fortunately, Komarovsky did not take Ogburn’s words to heart. She completed her master’s at Columbia in 1927, taught for two years at Skidmore College, and then returned to Columbia for her Ph.D. on another fellowship. Her dissertation topic, which she stumbled upon in 1935 through a research position with mathematician Paul Lazarsfeld at the New York Institute for Social Research, was “The Unemployed Man and His Family,” and it earned her her Ph.D. in 1940.

Later published as a book, The Unemployed Man was “an intensive study of fifty-nine families, modeled on work Lazarsfeld had just completed in Europe” (Rosenberg). The project introduced Komarovsky to the sociological methods she would use throughout her career—namely close case studies and survey research—and she would have ample opportunity to pursue this research at Barnard, where she had begun teaching as a part-time lecturer in 1937. In 1948, then-Dean Millicent McIntosh promoted her from assistant professor to associate professor, and to full professor in 1954, and her career took off.

Komarovsky built her legacy on researching the social and cultural attitudes of families. Much of her work focused on the idea of “cultural lag,” in which “cultural attitudes lag behind technological change” (Rosenberg). In addition to her research on adult families, most notably in her books Women in the Modern World and Blue-Collar Marriage, she conducted several studies of Barnard and Columbia students’ attitudes toward family life and women’s work. In her obituary, the New York Times wrote that her work “initiated the contemporary analysis of gender roles.”

In 1973, Komarovsky became only the second woman to be elected president of the American Sociological Association; years earlier, from 1955 to 1956, she had been president of the Eastern Sociological Society. She retired from her full-time position at Barnard in 1970, but continued to teach part-time as professor emeritus until 1992, and served briefly as chair of the women’s studies department when it was launched in 1978. She died in 1999 at age 93.

Komarovsky teaching a seminar at Barnard. Photo from Barnard College Archives.

In the very early years of her career, from 1933 to 1935, Komarovsky was married to a dentist named Leo Horney, but they divorced when it became clear that Horney wanted a traditional housewife, not a groundbreaking career woman. She remarried in 1940 to businessman Marcus Heyman, who died in 1970. She had no children.

While Komarovsky was extremely private and destroyed most of her personal papers (Rosenberg), the Barnard Archives has many of her professional papers, which were recently inventoried. This includes copies of published articles, works she used as sources, professional correspondence, newspaper clippings, and notes. Some examples of the available documents:

  1. In a folder titled “Publications and Awards, 1988” (Box 2/5), the Archives found an article titled “The New Feminist Scholarship: Some Precursors and Polemics,” published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family in 1988; a nomination letter from Barnard sociology department chair Madeline Engel for a “Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award”; and correspondence with colleagues.
  2. In a folder titled “Professional Compliments and Honors, 1970-1983” (Box 2/5), we found a Barnard Alumnae Magazine feature on Komarovsky; a clipping from City News, headlined “Sex Attitudes Subject of Talk,” on a speech she gave; and a summary of students’ evaluations of her courses.
  3. In a folder titled “News Clippings: Wichita High School,” (Box 2/5), we found two newspaper articles about Komarovsky’s impressive work as a high-schooler: one was headlined “Russian Girl Tells of Her Experiences,” and the other “High School Teachers Laud Work of Russian Refugee.”
  4. In a folder titled “Conference Programs and Brochures” (Box 3/5), we found programs from the Eastern Sociological Society’s annual conferences from 1950-1952, 1956, and 1965, as well as programs from a variety of other sociological conferences.
  5. In a folder titled “Lorber” (Box 4/5), we found copies of published articles by sociologist Judith Lorber that Komarovsky used as sources for her research, along with several pages of handwritten notes she took while reading those sources.
  6. In a folder titled “Course materials, 1992” (Box 5/5), we found a copy of Barnard’s official calendar for the 1992-1993 academic year; a syllabus for her “Female and Male: A Sociological Perspective” course; a clipping from the New York Times that she presumably used in that class, titled “Bias Against Girls Is Found Rife in Schools, With Lasting Damage”; and handwritten notes.

The Archives has copies of much of the research she published from 1933-1991. The articles available range from excerpts from her book Blue-Collar Marriage reprinted in various peer-reviewed journals; to a 1949 article, cowritten with Stansfeld Sargent and printed in Culture and Personality, titled “Research into Subcultural Influences Upon Personality”; to a 1982 study of Barnard undergraduates titled “Female Freshmen View Their Future: Career Salience and Its Correlates.” The Archives also has a number of published reviews of her articles.

Written by Maggie Astor ’11

Sources

  1. Pace, Eric. “Mirra Komarovsky, Authority on Women’s Studies, Dies at 93.” New York Times, 2/1/1999. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/02/01/us/mirra-komarovsky-authority-on-women-s-studies-dies-at-93.html?pagewanted=2.
  2. Rosenberg, Rosalind. “Mirra Komarovsky.” http://www.columbia.edu/~rr91/3567/sample_biographies/mirra_komarovsky%20black%20board.htm.
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Archives donates Gabriela Mistral collection to Chile

After 32 years in Lehman Hall, the Barnard Archives’ Gabriela Mistral Collection has found a new home.

This month, the Archives will donate the collection—which consists of approximately 900 books owned by Mistral, a renowned Chilean poet and Nobel laureate—to the Gabriela Mistral Museum in her hometown of Vicuña, Chile. The museum already holds 700 books from Mistral’s personal library and additional books from the estate of Doris Dana, BC ’44. Barnard is donating its volumes—many of which contain Mistral’s notes in the margins and inscriptions from the authors—to complete the Vicuña collection, in honor of the International Year of Gabriela Mistral and Chile’s bicentennial celebration.

“It is Barnard College’s opinion that there is great academic value to consolidating this material to facilitate scholarly research,” Carol Falcione, Barnard’s outgoing library dean, wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to Chilean museum officials. “The College also recognizes the great cultural significance of Gabriela Mistral to her native country.”

Dana originally donated these 900 books to the Archives in 1978; Mistral taught at Barnard from 1930-31 and become close with Dana when she presented a lecture here after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. In exchange for its gift to the Vicuña museum, Barnard will receive copies of any electronic or microfilm versions of the museum’s Mistral materials that may be created, which will allow Barnard and Columbia students continued access to the books, papers, and ephemera of one of the College’s most distinguished affiliates.

“Gabriela taught at Barnard in 1930, and I, myself, graduated from Barnard in 1944,” Dana wrote upon donating the books to Barnard in 1978. “It was here at Columbia University, in the Hispanic Institute, that Gabriela’s first book of poetry was published in 1922—Desolación. My first meeting with Gabriela took place in Milbank Hall in March 1946, when she addressed the Spanish Department upon her return from Stockholm after receiving the Nobel Prize. Above all, in giving this library to Barnard, a college which has done much for the rights of women, it is my hope to call attention to one of the great women of our time.”

Among many others, the collection includes books by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke; Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore; Cuban poet José Martí; Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist Maurice Maeterlinck; American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson; and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Of special personal significance to Mistral were books by José Vasconcelos, Don Miguel de Unamuno, Jacques Maritain, Rubén Darío, Eduardo Frei, Victoria Ocampo, and Esther de Caceres. There are also a number of children’s books that Mistral used to teach herself English, and in which she wrote notes and made lists of new vocabulary. Scattered throughout the margins of the entire collection are fragments of poems and notes Mistral jotted down.

Gabriela Mistral—a pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga—was born in Vicuña in 1889. She began writing poetry in earnest after her lover, railroad worker Romelio Ureta, committed suicide in 1909. In addition to teaching at Barnard, she taught Spanish literature briefly at Middlebury College and Vassar College in 1931, and at the University of Puerto Rico from 1931-33. Her second-to-last book of poetry, Lagar, was published in 1954 and included many poems inspired by another suicide in 1943, that of her 17-year-old nephew, whom she had raised with her close friend Palma Guillén. Her last book, Poema de Chile, was edited by Dana and published posthumously in 1967. The capstone on her career came in 1945, when she became the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1957 at the age of 67.

Written by Maggie Astor ’11

African-American History Month at Barnard

First Annual Spring Festival -- members of the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters performing South African dance, medium view, Barnard Gymnasium, April 19, 1969. From left: Sandra J. Hemphill '71, Frances Sadler '72, Ruth M. Louie '71, Phyllis McEwen '72, and unknown dancer. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

African-American History Month—a national tradition since 1926, when it was established in its earliest form as Negro History Week—has also been a Barnard tradition for decades. The earliest mention of a formal campus observation is in the March 4, 1947 issue of the Barnard Bulletin, which reported on a Feb. 25 speech by Burton Turner, founder of the Columbia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whom Barnard’s Liberal Club invited to speak in honor of Negro History Week. Anthropology professor Gladys Reichard introduced Turner.

Flier for an African Heritage Month event in 1998. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

Barnard has celebrated Negro History Week—designated nationally as Black History Month in 1976, and interchangeably referred to as African-American History Month or African-American Heritage Month—ever since, though it is unknown whether it did so on a yearly basis at first, or whether there were observations before 1947. Observance picked up steam in tandem with overall campus activism in the 1960s. In 1964, the Columbia chapter of civil rights group CORE hosted film screenings of My Own Backyard to Play In and Integration Report No. 1, 1960, both of which depicted the integration struggle; the event also featured a speech by Eric Weinberger, who received CORE’s Gandhi Peace Prize in 1963.

Today, commemorative events span the entire month of February and are sponsored primarily by the Columbia Black Students Organization (BSO, established 1976) and the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (BOSS, established 1968). They include speakers, film screenings, educational panels, and a wide variety of other engagements, and have gained active support and participation from the Barnard administration.

Written by Maggie Astor ’11

The Barnard “Farmerettes” of World War I

Eleven farmerettes (and one dog), Women's Agricultural Camp, Bedford, New York, summer 1917. Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

With our entry into World War I, a crisis of wide-ranging proportions threatened to jeopardize the domestic and international food supplies in the United States.  The government recognized the devastating impact that a much-reduced farm labor force and a lessening of food output from the nation’s farms would have on the overall war relief efforts throughout the world.  They initiated a campaign called “Food Will Win the War” and sponsored programs to encourage citizens to take actions at a grassroots level to counter the threats of food shortages through conservation and food production.

One of the programs to grow out of these efforts was the Women’s Land Army initiative which was embraced by Barnard’s Dean Virginia Gildersleeve who was the chairman of the standing committee on agriculture for the New York Mayor’s Committee of Women on National Defense. In coordination with Dr. Ida H. Ogilvie, Associate Professor of Geology at Barnard, the Women’s Agricultural Camp in Bedford, New York, was established.

Farmerettes working in the potato patch, Women's Agricultural Camp, Bedford, New York, summer 1917. Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

During the summer of 1917, an experiment was undertaken by many women’s groups, including the women in the Barnard community, throughout the United States to supplement the diminished male labor force on farms, community gardens, large estates, and small home gardens with a female labor force often called the “farmerettes”. The farmerettes were comprised of college girls, trade school students, teachers, businesswomen, and secretaries. This radical idea, which challenged the traditional roles of women, was initially resisted by the naturally conservative farm community. However, as the dire consequences of being unable to maintain and harvest the crops on the farms became apparent, farmers and their wives were willing to give the young women a try.

Farmerettes feeding corn to three piglets, Women's Agricultural Camp, Bedford, New York, summer 1917. Photograph by The Mutual Life Quarterly, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

The Bedford Women’s Agricultural Camp, supervised by Dr. Ogilvie, was established by the Women’s Land Army and housed a total of 142 farmerettes, many of them Barnard undergraduates and alumnae, during the summer of 1917. The farmerettes were housed at the farm house and in tents at the Camp and were transported to and from their assigned employers every day thus sparing the farmers and their families the burden of feeding and housing the workers.  Although the services of the farmerettes were opposed by most farmers in the early part of the summer, by the middle of July, and then at harvest time in September, the demand for farmerettes exceeded the supply of available workers.  The farmers used the farmerettes for planting, weeding, hoeing, haying and harvesting the fruit orchards.  The women’s efforts as farm laborers were highly praised by their employers for being conscientious and quick even if they were not as strong as the men.

The Women’s Agricultural Camp experiment proved to be such a success that, during the years from 1917 to 1919, in 25 states, more than 20,000 female agricultural workers, or farmerettes, replaced their male counterparts on the farm while the men were fighting in the war in Europe.  Dr. Ogilvie eventually helped to organize the national organization, Women’s Land Army of America, and served as its director after the organization became part of the Department of Labor.  Indeed, not only were these female volunteers willing to do their part for the country during war time, but the Woman’s Land Army proved that it was able to fund and govern itself without the input of the male dominated government agencies which was a great boost to the suffragist movement!

"Barnard Girls Who Are Doing Work For Uncle Sam". Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Who knows…without the Barnard “farmerette” in World War I, we may not have had “Rosie the Riveter” in World War II, or the ability to vote in 2009!

For more images of Barnard “Farmerettes” of World War I, please visit our Gallery.

Written by Diane Lai

Into the Wild: Barnard Camp

“This Barnard Camp in the hills is one diamond in the rough that is ‘smooth.’ You have the grandest times up there! Your college education won’t be complete unless you’ve been to Camp.” — Barnard Athletic Association

Camp_line_c30

For students constantly inundated with the pressures of academic life and the stresses of city living, discovering urban respites to relax and unwind has always been pivotal. Until seventeen years ago, Barnard women had a place to escape far from the hustle and bustle of New York City, a special retreat all their own—Barnard Camp (renamed Holly House in 1963 in honor of Physical Education Department Chair and first Camp counselor Margaret Holland), located just 38 miles outside of the city, and yet a world away from campus.

Situated near the water on 20 acres of Westchester County’s Croton-on-Hudson, the camp was officially opened on Oct. 15, 1933. The idea to construct a camp was born more than ten years earlier, when students spent the occasional weekend at geology professor Dr. Ida Ogilvie’s farm near Bedford, New York. As interest grew, the Athletic Association planned winter wilderness retreats to two sites—Brentmere cabin and Bear Mountain Inn, a ski lodge. By 1926, Barnard was offering retreats year-round to a farmhouse in Ossining rented from Phys. Ed. Department member Dorothy Nye.

The search for a site upon which to construct a camp of Barnard’s own began in 1928, when the Alumnae Association set a fundraising goCamp_interior39al of $10,000. Funds were raised by alumnae donation, proceeds from alumnae Greek Games tickets, and benefits hosted in 1928 and 1929. In 1933, Barnard acquired the first ten acres of property for the depression-era price of about $9,000. The deed for the land was presented to Dean Virginia Gildersleeve on Feb. 12, 1933 and ground was broken in March, after a road had been built through the woods. Ten more acres of land were purchased in the 1950s.

Camp offered a welcome return to simple, rustic life. A modest cabin furnished simply with just a meager cookstove, a few comfy sofas, and a large fireplace was the only escape from winter’s chill. The building slept 15-20 students in two bunk rooms, each heated with a small stove; braver souls could also elect to doze on a screened sleeping porch. All amenities were acquired outside and required a little elbow grease—students pumped their own water, cooked food over a fire pit, bathed in the lake or with primitive showers, and used outhouses connected only to refuse pits. Three small campsites constructed by students—“Eagle’s Nest,” “Hemlock” and “Red Oaks”—provided extra space to cook, relax, and dispose of waste.

This was more of a draw than a deterrent for Barnard students, who relished the opportunity to escape the cityCamp_wood43 for a few days and experience a taste of the country life. In addition to their daily chores, campers could also indulge in a number of activities, from hiking and skiing to swimming and storytelling. In addition to four annual events and four class days planned by the Athletic Association, Holly House was open to students of all sorts for club retreats and private stays for groups of 8-20. During the early years of Camp, a campcraft course was also offered every June. Run by Miss Holland, it gave six students the opportunity to learn about the running of the camp, organize independent projects, and help build new campsites. From this group, the Barnard Camp Committee was selected each year. This group was in charge of planning activities, menus, and other necessities for each weekend.

The total cost of the trip amounted to only a few dollars, making it a fun and accessible destination for all; the Athletic Association beckoned every student to make an excursion up to Camp. In the Oct. 6, 1933 issue of the Barnard Bulletin, Agnes Wayman remarked, “Camp now deliberately reaches out for the book-worm, the bridge fiend, the indoor girl, the weak sister…each may find friends and activities and peace and quiet and ‘unlax’ in her own way.” A student member of the Bulletin, Edna Jones, held similar sentiments. “Camp is the place for the student who wants a change from city life, for the student who wants to get away from It All,” she wrote, “for the student who has ‘spring fever,’ (even in the winter) and for the student who is a ‘natural’ for the great out-of-doors at any time of year. To the dorm girl it offers a special kind of freedom; to the day student it offers the possibility of living with her classmates and getting to know them in a way that is out of the question when she commutes every day.”

While in the early days of Camp 60-70 students would sign up every weekend, interest began to dwindle after World War II and dropped significantly in the mid-fifties. In a 1963 issue of the Bulletin, one student remarked, “It seems that people have lost their taste for the shared pleasures of fire-building and massive pancake breakfasts. Nowadays the cabin is less often visited than it was in the past, and large groups seldom get together there for a weekend.” Many campers began to complain of the strict rules still enforced at Holly House—the inability to walk far or alone, the requirement Camp_waterthat students be at all meals, the decision to no longer allow male guests, etc. In 1962, the Camp Committee proposed to modernize facilities, but the $5,000-$10,000 project was not within the College’s budget. While the Camp Committee conducted a number of investigations into the reasons for the decline, it seemed students simply just weren’t interested in getting their hands dirty anymore. In a Barnard College Camp Report from 1961-1962, the committee remarked, “Past reports have attempted to analyze the limited use of the camp. School pressures; absence of cohesive groups who socialize together; travel time, cost, and difficulty; lack of inside plumbing and adequate heating are valid explanations. The changing nature of the student, as several students have pointed out, accounts in part for their not participating in experiences that the camp offers. Apparently few are interested in spending a weekend of group living with girls, especially when there are chores and some discomfort.”

Nevertheless, Barnard did not want to abandon the camp so soon after they had endeavored to build it, and continued to host events there, mostly for alumnae. Why the land was inevitably sold, and to whom, is a mystery, but by 1991 trips to Holly House were no longer listed as an option in the Student Handbook, and the camp was reportedly sold by the college in 1992.

Memories of Barnard Camp may have been lost in the new wave of city slickers arriving at Barnard, their eyes glowing with the prospect of technology and sophistication. Yet the relics of Holly House are rich and plentiful, and former students will forever look back on the site fondly.

Written by Abbey Ozanich ’11

For more photographs of Holly House, please visit our Gallery.

note: This article erroneously reports the date of the acquisition of additional land by the camp. Barnard Camp expanded in size to 20 acres in 1938, following an alumnae purchase.

The Jungle: Demystified

Aerial View of the Jungle, c.1944-1950

In Barnard lore, “The Jungle” is more than a classic book by Upton Sinclair. For much of Barnard’s history, the segment of the campus between 117th and 118th Streets — south of Milbank, Fiske, and Brinkerhoff Halls, just north of Barnard Hall, near the current site of Lehman Hall— was an area of trees and shrubs with a path running through it. This was commonly known as “The Jungle.” Just north of the Jungle, where Altschul Hall and the Diana student center now stand, were the Elizabeth Arden Tennis Courts.

A Barnard promotional brochure from 1953 describes the Jungle as “a grove of trees and flowering shrubs … complete with small lawns, winding paths and secluded benches and tables. Here on a warm day in spring a professor often brings his class for an informal session.”

Groundbreaking of Lehman Hall, 1958In 1958, ground was broken on Lehman Hall, and the western half of the Jungle was lost, much to the chagrin of students. In a letter to the editor published in the Barnard Bulletin on Nov. 17, 1959, an anonymous student complained that “the Jungle could now more aptly be termed the Desert.”

The eastern half of the Jungle remained into the mid-1960s, when it was razed to accommodate the building of the Millicent McIntosh Student Center and Altschul Hall. But while the Jungle and the tennis courts are long gone, they remain a beloved aspect of Barnard’s history.

Written by Maggie Astor ’11

For more photographs of the Jungle, please visit our Gallery.