Poster Session

I was part of the poster session at the recent American Historical Association (AHA). I had never done a poster before. I put in a poster proposal because you can do that on your own. The AHA doesn’t accept single paper proposals. I never thought it would be accepted; I was pleasantly surprised when it was.

Of course then I had to learn how to do  it, The AHA has been doing poster sessions for six years but did not  give any specific instructions or tips. I decided to use PowerPoint. It was a steep learning curve, but in the end I got it done.

The poster session was held on Saturday from 2 to 5.  That time frame allowed people to come before or after a session. This was good planning but the location of the session was another story. It was in the Hynes Convention Center, Ballroom C. This was on the third floor while the book exhibit was on the first floor. It was about as far away from the rest of the AHA as you could get. This really cut down on walk-in traffic.

I really enjoyed doing it. I was able to talk to a lot more people than I would have if I gave a paper. It was very nice to present my work and get feedback. Doing a poster gives you an opportunity to think about conveying your work in a different manner.

Joy in the Morning: Book Review

Betty Smith wrote Joy in the Morning in 1963. She was the author of the very well known, A Tree Grow in Brooklyn. Joy in the Morning is about Annie Brown and her first year of marriage.  Only eighteen, she moves from Brooklyn to marry Carl Brown who is a law student at a midwestern state university.

The book is semi-autobiographical. As a newlywed, Betty Smith moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan where her new husband was studying law at the University of Michigan.

I was interested in Joy because the book I am working on looks at the wives of students, both graduate and undergraduate. The University Of Michigan had a National Association of University Dames (NAUD) chapter well as a Faculty Women’s Club, which still exists.

Annie does not belong to any of these groups but Smith movingly conveys her sense of being an outsider. Annie, like Smith, wants to write and eventually audits a playwriting class.

The book is lovely and very sweet in a non-sentimental way. Smith depicts the struggles that Annie and her husband Carl have, dealing with money, adjusting to marriage, and the birth of their son, honestly, in an authentic voice.

Carl eventually gets a job as a night watchman at a nearby factory.  He is able to get this job because the previous guard died. Annie feels badly about their good fortune resting on the death of someone so she decides to write about it.“

Annie spent the night writing the story. She wrote under great compulsion. She couldn’t stand it that a human being had lived and died and that there was no record that he had ever been. She felt that writing about him she was establishing the fact that he had lived and walked the earth and had once been a man.” 1

The women I am writing about had families and people who knew and now remember them, yet this sentiment spoke to me because I want to give then back their identity and humanity.

Betty Smith
Betty Smith

It’s Academic

Several of the associates at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center (FCWSRC) have decided to have a writing group. We met for the first time yesterday. Each person said what they would like to work on while at the center and what help they hoped to get from the group. I have to present a poster at the American Historical Association annual meeting in January. I have never even seen a poster at any conference so I definitely can use some help.

In a discussion of authenticity, which is a subject I wrote about in Brewing Battles, *(see excerpt at end of post) one of the associates said she would like to see my footnotes. I replied that the ideas mainly came from me. In other words, it was my original analysis. This exchange made me realize I have come a long way from my academic roots. Academic scholarship and writing often seeks legitimization by showing that an idea has prestigious pedigree. My current sense of accessible writing is to document the facts and the ideas and analysis are my own.

Another aspect of academe that seems to have changed is literature reviews. When I wrote my dissertation at Columbia University, you had to include a historiographical overview in your prospectus. A prospectus is akin to a book proposal. The actual dissertation did not contain a literature review. Two people in the group who have completed history PhD’s more recently both had to include literature reviews in their dissertations. This seems like a bad idea that will only make it harder to turn the theses into a book.

Before I became a nurse, I had a business, Academic Publicity. It provided promotional services and publicity to academic authors. It was a great idea with a fatal flaw. Most academics don’t think of themselves as writers or authors. Therefore, they do not want to pay to promote their books. By now, I really think of myself as a writer and author. I am writing Dames, Dishes and Degrees from that perspective.

* Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (New York: Algora Press, 2007, 190.

The emergence of craft brewing highlights a battle within the brewing industry over authenticity and identity. Since World War II the national brewers have connected beer to all things American —  baseball, barbeques, race cars, and pretty, sexy women.1 Yet the nationalizing of the beer industry removed one of the most potent aspects of beer’s identity — localism. The new generation of brewers emphasizes its connection to place and community even more than taste. They stake a claim to authenticity via their roots in a specific locale.

Craft brewers, whether or not they start as home brewers, are entrepreneurs. In this way they are similar to the many hundreds of people who start a business every day. What is interesting about the thousands of people who started breweries and brewpubs since the late 1970s is that they created these businesses in an industry dominated by some of America’s biggest companies.

Craft brewers have been able to exploit a hole, a gap, in the huge edifice of American brewing. Some three to fifteen percent of the American beer drinking population didn’t and still doesn’t like drinking Bud, Schlitz, Miller, or Pabst. In the nineteenth century ten percent of Pabst’s customers wanted pure malt beer; craft beer drinkers of the twenty-first century are their  descendants. 2

Women and Graduate School

There has been a buzz in the news the past few days about a report that women with PhD’s now outnumber men. When you look little deeper into the figures, about 500 more women got PhD’s than men so it is not that big a difference. Women are over represented in fields like education and the humanities. The sciences and engineering remain more heavily male. Also getting more PhD’s doesn’t translate in getting additional pay. A cynical view might be now the majority of PhDs go to women the degree will decrease in value and prestige. The so-called female professions such as nursing, librarian, and social work have never commanded the respect, pay, or prestige of law and medicine.

Here is a link to a Newsweek story about it

Newsweek’s take is to focus on how it is still difficult to combine an academic career and a family. I talked about this in an earlier post. The article also refers to  the 1950’s when women were more likely to earn a PHT than a PhD. PHT stands for “putting hubby through”. Many of the faculty wives clubs I am studying had the PHT degree.  The GI Bill enabled a large number of men to go back to school after World War 2; many wives worked to support their husbands graduate school education. My aunt Flora helped my uncle Miltie get a library degree and she referred to the experience as “putting hubby through”.

Five College Women’s Studies Research Center

Yesterday was my first day as a Five College Women’s Research Center Associate. The center is based at Mount Holyoke in two houses. I have a nice big office with three windows. This is great opportunity for me and I hope to get lot of work done on Dames, Dishes, and Degrees.

Yesterday was our orientation so various people from different parts of the colleges as well as from other schools in the Five Colleges consortium came and talked to us. The most interesting, in way, was the Mount Holyoke Public Safety officer. She was a pleasant young woman who started by telling us that she had moved here a few years ago because her wife had attended the college and wanted to return to the Pioneer Valley. The straightforward, unself-conscious way in which she said this struck me as fantastic. Not to be sappy, but I am proud to live in a state that makes such remarks possible. I am also glad that no one took this as unusual or odd but rather as “normal.” I really believe that it is only matter of time before we have equal rights including marriage for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people. Young people do not care about these social issues in the same way that older people do.


I recently got a yearlong appointment as a Five College Women’s Studies Research Center Associate. I actually found out in April but I have been very busy and a little reluctant to toot my own horn.  I got the associateship because of my new project, Dames, Dishes, and Degrees. I also will be giving a paper at the History of Education Society 50th annual meeting in November and I will be giving a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours putting the above information on my website. That felt a little strange because of course my website is entitled Amy Mittelman Brewing Battles. I have many questions about how I will maintain a focus on beer and Brewing Battles and move towards prompting and discussing the new book.

I have been on Twitter for about six months and I am one tweet away from 100. As if have probably said before I feel twitter is best for things I probably would not blog about. I also like that you can follow a conversation about trending or immediate events. It is a lot of fun to follow #Yankees during a Yankee game.

I still have not really figured out how my various online activates connect or should connect. I had decided to keep tweeting and the blog separate but I am rethinking that. I also do not really see how to keep the website vibrant since most of the new content winds up on the blog. One idea I have is to put my twitter feed on the website, but I am not sure how to do that. I also think it would be nice to give my readers the opportunity to tweet about the blog. Again, I will have to figure out how to do that.

Getting the Associateship is a wonderful opportunity; I am most excited about having a Mount Holyoke College library card. I feel motivated to think about new directions for both my work and my online presence.

Book Review: Good Morning, Miss Dove

Frances Gray Patton published Good Morning, Miss Dove in 1954. It was an immediate success. Prior to writing this novel, she had published short stories in various magazines, including Harpers and the New Yorker. Patton was also a faculty wife who lived her whole adult life in Durham, North Carolina.

I read this book because I thought I might do research on Patton when we went to North Carolina. Duke had several faculty wives organizations including Law Dames (wives of law students) and the Reviewers Club. The Faculty Wives of NCSU occasionally had joint luncheons or meetings with wives clubs from the surrounding area.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is not about a college town or an academic instruction. Liberty Hill is not even a southern town. The book is about learning and the role of teachers.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is very sentimental and somewhat unrealistic.  Patton’s portrayal of Miss Dove borrows from other literary figures, including Mary Poppins. One character in the book even remarks on Miss Dove’s similarity to the British nanny.

The two characters share certitude and high self-esteem. Miss Dove does not possess any of the whimsy or magic of Mary Poppins. They also share an ability to transform the lives of their charges. Patton does capture the phenomenon that teachers can sometimes be the most important figure in a student’s life.

The book is dated both in use of language – “colored” and in the portrayal of the relationship between nurses and doctors. Although it is set in the present, 1954, it has an old time feeling. The only modern element is her discussion of World War II and the fate of some of her students.

The plot, if you could call it that, revolves around the sudden onset of paralysis for Miss Dove.  Her hospitalization and surgery allows Patton to explore and elucidate Miss Dove’s character and memories. The outcome is unsurprisingly positive. Both the town and Miss Dove have gained greater appreciation of the meaning of her life.

In 1955, Jennifer Jones starred in the movie version of Good Morning, Miss Dove. I wish I could see the movie because Miss Dove was not supposed to be a beautiful woman. So far, I have been unable to find the movie in either VHS or DVD format, which is surprising.

Movie Poster Good Morning, Dove
Movie Poster Good Morning, Miss Dove

Tea in Philosophy: Part Two

Philosophy Hall
Philosophy Hall

Yesterday I spent the day at the Columbia University Archives looking at the papers of the Association for University Teas. Afterward we stopped in at Philosophy Hall to see what the 21st century graduate student tea is like.

The room  hasn’t changed that much in over twenty years but it seemed a lot less grand. That is ironic since the Columbia Graduate School website says the lounge was renovated in1992 “to duplicate its earlier splendor.” The room apparently started life as a space for female graduate students; in the 1950’s it became available to all grad students.

I had a nice conversation with the  person sitting there; he has worked there since 1973. The women who poured tea into porcelain cups and placed cookies on real plates were faculty wives. They, however, were not members of the Association for University Teas.  These women were a groups of volunteers that a Graduate Student Advisor kept organized.

Like many of women’s every day activities in many communities, the details of this have been lost. The woman who appeared in the  papers of the Association do not have names. The only identifier is Mrs. Husband’s Name. So  Mrs. Carlton Hayes, Mrs. Allan Nevins, Mrs. John Dewey, Mrs. Rexford Tugwell, among others, belonged to the organization and served tea to alumni, retired faculty and others.

The indispensable yet invisible work these women did deserves to be identified and named.