Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month!

Here in the Special Collections Research Center, we are honoring Women’s History Month by highlighting the collections and ephemera that document women’s contributions to American history.

Below, we have a pamphlet from the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, dated from 1910. Here the authors connect a women’s work in the home with the broader work of cleaning up society.

Ephemera from the Rare Book Collection,”Women in the Home,” by Susan W. Fitzgerald, JK1896 .F58 1910

From the Massachusetts Woman’s Suffrage Association is the follow pamphlet, documenting the states where women had the right to vote, or a partial right to vote.

Map of United States Showing Progress of Equal Suffrage, 1915, JK1896 .M36 1915

As of 1915, women were legally allowed to vote in only a few states. The 19th Amendment would not ratified until 192o, which gave women the right to vote nationally.

Equal rights for women would remain an issue in politics even after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of public policy issues.

In the Special Collections Research Center, we have the records of the League of Women Voters Fairfax, C0031. This collection contains multiple documents that outline the 1970s battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, never ratified.

Poster outlining “ERA Month,” and the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment, League of Women Voters Fairfax Collection C0031, Box 11, Folder 4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries

In the above outline, for “ERA Month”, the authors assure its reader that “The ERA will not take women out of the home, require them to take jobs or to contribute half the financial support of their family. Rather, it would recognize for the first time the role and the contribution to the support of the family that the homemaker makes.”

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. For rare books, search the library catalog, limiting your search to Fenwick Special Collections.

You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

“So, Success Attend St. Patrick’s Fist, For He’s a Saint So Clever”

For St. Patrick’s Day, we are featuring some books about the Emerald Isle!

This book includes many beautiful illustrations throughout. Some titles include “The Enchanted Lake”, “The Haunted Cellar”, and “The Legend of Knockfierna”.

Croker, Thomas Crofton, Irish Fairy Legends , DA990 .C8 1898, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

This book on the Aran Islands tells the tale of a man who stayed on the island. The three islands are located off of the western coast of Ireland. The writers poetic nature makes this book a satisfying read, full of details that make you feel you are actually there.

Synge, J.M., The Aran Islands , PR5533 .A417 1911, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

This is a folio sized book of over 600 pages, all decorated with a beautiful border, and contains footnotes and an index. It is surely a must read for anyone interested in or studying Irish history.

Mitchel, John, The History of Ireland , Folio DA910 .M145 1808, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

This last book, though we have many others in our collections, contains songs and their history. The title of this blog was taken from the song titled, “St. Patrick” in the page below in. Some other songs include, “The Shamrock”, “Whisky”, and a multitude of local songs.

Croker, Thomas Crofton, Popular Songs of Ireland , PR8860 .C7 1886, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University.

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.


Fairies and Fairy Tales

The Special Collections Research Center is celebrating Halloween by exploring some of the fairy tales, folklore and fables in our Rare Books Collection.

As it turns out–the stacks are full of magic!

Fairy popping out of a book in Special Collections

Fairy popping out of a book in Special Collections: Fairies and Magical Creatures by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, GR 549 .R45 2008

Fairies jump out from the pages of our rare book collection. In the pop-up volume shown here, Fairies and Magical Creatures, the authors Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda discuss the history and nature of fairies. According to the authors, the origins of fairy is in dispute. They write: “Whether fallen angels, the offspring of forgotten gods, or the very spirit of nature, fairies are said to share our world but are usually hidden from view.”

When researching fairies, it is important to remember that all fairies are not the same. Different geographic regions have different traditional stories of their fairy and nature spirits.

Cover art and Table of Contents from The Blue Flower by Henry Van Dyke.

Cover art and Table of Contents from The Blue Flower by Henry Van Dyke, PS 3117 .B6 1902


So, the terrible and beautiful aristocratic sidhe described by Irish poet W.B. Yeats are as different from the woodland nymphs of Ovid as they are different from William Shakespeare’s courtly Titania and Oberon. Despite their differences, these fairies share space in the stacks of the Special Collections Research Center.

Frontispiece from W.B. Yeats' The Celtic Twilight

A poem from W.B. Yeats’ The Celtic Twilight, PR 5904 .C4 1902

In the mythology of the British Isles, there are two different types of fairies: solitary fairies, who are mischievous loners, and trooping fairies, the aristocrats of the Fairy World who appear in amazing, long processions, such as in the fairy tale Tam Lin. Reinhart and Sabuda further specify that “solitary fairies are uncivilized loners who roam the woodlands, letting whim dictate whether they will help or hinder humankind. By contrast, their gregarious cousins, the trooping fairies, live according to fairy laws and etiquette.”
2016-10-24 10.00

The cast of characters from Purcell's Fairy Queen, based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The cast of characters from Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen: An Opera, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ML 50.2 .F145 P92 1692

Fairy Tales from other geographic regions can be found in Special Collections. This includes a German volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Kinder- und Hausmarchen or Children’s and Household Tales. This volume includes the classics, “The Frog King or Iron Heinrich,” “The Three Spinning Women,” and “Cinderella” or Aschenputtel. The fairies in Grimm’s Fairy Tales are known for their violence. Throughout the different editions, there have been changes made so that the stories are more suitable for children.

The Brothers Grimm, Kinder und Marchen

The Brothers Grimm, Kinder -und Hausmarchen, PT 2281 .G6 1920. Below: illustration from “Der Froschkonig oder der eisnerne Heinrich”









2016-10-21 15.11











To search the rare books collection for more fairy tales , search the Mason Catalog, click on “Set Limit” and limit by the location “Fenwick Special Collections.”

E-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have any questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.


Special guest blog post from George Mason University Libraries’ Ordering Coordinator Meaghan O’Malley!

sca stacks collage

Cookbooks in situ.

The Rosemary Poole Cookbook Collection in Special Collections & Archives gives patrons of the University Libraries’ unique access to the documentation of 19th century housewifery, cookery, hostessing, basic first aid and treatment of common illnesses, and easy household maintenance tips. These titles supplement the University Libraries’ growing collection of cookbooks (modern and antiquarian) in SC&A as well as our expanding general collection of cookbooks.

Personally, I’ve collected cookbooks for as long as I can remember, fascinated by the descriptions of cuisines and the historical evolution of recipes, tastes, the American palate, and cooking methods. Working in Resource Acquisitions affords me the opportunity to see new titles added to the collection on an almost daily basis, and also inspires me to wander through the open stacks to check out the hidden gems one can only uncover through browsing. The recent uptick in our cookbook acquisitions is due in part to the Nutrition and Food Studies program, part of the College of Health and Human Services, and family recipes projects at New Century College. Sarah Sheehan, CHHS liaison librarian, has taken the lead on these general collection acquisitions after working directly with faculty in CHHS and NCC who expressed an interest in making various kinds of cookbooks available to their students as part of their curriculum and course work.

sca cookbooks in a row

Spines of The Hostess of To-Day, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Recipe Book, Jennie June’s Cook Book, and The Universal Receipt Book.

I was invited to do some cookbook browsing in SC&A recently and was completely mesmerized by our holdings, which contain an assortment of titles ranging from the original receipt book from Gunston Hall to a colorful resource on the seductiveness of casseroles. I elected to focus in on a few cookbooks from the 1800s, and found the variety of recipes and household tips contained within to be intriguing and, occasionally, bemusing.

The Hostess of To-Day, 1899

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, 1852

Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, 1878

The Universal Receipt Book; being a compendious repository of practical information in cookery, preserving, pickling, distilling, and all the branches of domestic economy. To which is added, some advice to farmers., 1818 (Second edition with great additions)

sca recipes collage 1

Clockwise from top left: Universal Receipt Book, The Hostess of To-Day, Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, Universal Receipt Book

sca recipes collage 2

Clockwise from top left: Jennie June’s, Jennie June’s, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, Hostess of To-Day.

sca whopping cough a universal receipt book

A cure for whopping cough from the Universal Receipt Book.

sca spot removal a universal receipt book

“Liquid to take out spots or stains of ink, red wine, iron mould, mildrew, &c.” from the Universal Receipt Book.

Cooking and baking have always been, at least to me, a form of self-expression and even with just a brief glance into this collection, I found the same to be true for their authors. Whether utilitarian, like The Universal Receipt Book, or lavishly decorated with illustrations and graphics, like The Hostess of To-Day, each title in this collection is a reflection of the times, but also a reflection of the socioeconomic status of the consumer for whom it was written. Cookbooks like these have become a form of historical record, giving insight into the appetites and cuisines of the time period in which they were written, as well as the structure of households and families. They were, in essence, the foundation upon which the modern American Family was built, giving women the ability migrate into work life by providing easy reference materials and simplifying their obligations at home; or, in some cases, making knowledge previously only available to women accessible to everyone.

In the coming months, I hope to report back to Vault 217 with some tested recipes from these books as well as others from the Rosemary Poole Collection.

You can follow my journeys through the stacks, as well as old and new cookbook discoveries, by following the hashtag #gmulibraries on Instagram and Twitter.

Rare Book Conservation

George Mason University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) was the proud recipient in December 2012 of an NEH Preservation Assistance grant.  Grant activities included working with a preservation consultant to assess preservation of collections here, creating a preservation plan, and prioritizing preservation actions.  We identified one important priority as working with a conservator to repair damaged rare books.  Conservation for rare books in SC&A now occurs routinely to make damaged books usable again. In the case of the 1820 Richmond imprint of the Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830, our copy had a mutilated spine and the entire cover was separated from the text block as you see in the “before” photographs below. Conservation, using reversible materials and professional techniques, has resulted in a new spine created from compatibly colored and very strong Japanese paper. Meanwhile, the torn joints have been repaired, also using Japanese paper colored to match the beautiful original marbled end sheets.


Image of “Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830” before conservation.


Image of “Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830” after conservation.

Another, more modern book, the 1925 publication, The Building of Satellite Towns, had torn hinges. The conservator was able to save part of the original spine this time by adhering it to the spine replacement. The torn joints were repaired by replacing the old end sheets with compatibly colored, but new, acid-free end sheets. Note that the conservator saved the book seller’s stamp in the lower right hand corner of the pastedown. Working with conservators to repair books in Special Collections & Archives is part of our role as good stewards of these valuable research collections.


Image on the left shows spine damage on “The Building of Satellite Towns.” The image on the right shows the inside cover after conservation.


“The Building of Satellite Towns” spine after conservation.