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March 6, 2015

Women in University history highlighted by Special Collections

The University of Chicago Special Collections hosted More Than Lore, a lecture and archive-based event that highlighted women’s roles in founding the University, held on Wednesday in the Regenstein Library.

Daniel Meyer, the Director of Special Collections and University archivist, discussed how certain buildings on campus—including the Reynolds Club, Regenstein Library, Bond Chapel, and Classics Building—were founded as a result of the generosity of female donors. After the lecture, attendees were encouraged to visit the Special Collections viewing room, where archivists had assembled a collection of materials from the University that featured these women.

“There are so many women who are associated with…buildings during the early part of the school’s history, and their role as women donors is not as recognized,” Meyer said.

The lecture’s title, More Than Lore, was inspired by former Dean of Women Marion Talbot, who wrote a book under the same title in 1920. Her book is being re-released this year to commemorate the University’s 125th anniversary. More Than Lore is a memoir of her many different roles during her time at the University, which spanned 1892 to 1925. 

First-year Asya Akça said the talk was an introduction to information that can be difficult to obtain.

“I really enjoyed this talk because it allowed me to find out more about influential females on our campus, as it is hard to find out about online,” she said.

“I would really want in the years to come to see…more women being honored for their contributions in more tangible forms through monuments, portraits, tablets, or statues,” Akça continued. Akça has worked in her role as a Student Government representative to bring statues of women to campus, which she described in a recent Maroon Viewpoints article. 

Some attendees said they wanted to see more progressive women described in the speech.

“I am pleased to know that there were hands of women involved in so many of the main [buildings], but the names on the buildings ended up being [the name of their husbands]…. So many of the female donors were widows, so I was wondering if [widows donating money] was part of the same old ‘image of femininity,’” said first-year Marina Resende Santos.

Meyer acknowledged the wider influence of women at the University in an interview after his talk. “[Although] I was only talking about buildings in the lecture, [women have] contributed in a wide range [of ways] to the University through scholarships and academics [….]  It is important to recognize that they are an important part of the University, as well.”

The event was a part of International Women’s Day celebrations at the University.  Special Collections hosted the speech on women’s founding as part of an annual series.

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