Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Soroptimist International of Schenectady

Unidentified member of Soroptimist International of Schenectady, ca. 1960.
Photograph from the Soroptimist International of Schenectady Records.

Soroptimist International of Schenectady is a non-profit organization affiliated with the world’s largest women’s classified service organization, Soroptimist International. Founded in 1921, Soroptimist International is a volunteer service organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. The word “Soroptimist” was coined by combining the Latin words soror (sister) and optimus (best), which the organization uses as the basis for its slogan, “best for women.” 

Schenectady Soroptimists at the First Combined Installation Dinner for Soroptimist Clubs for Albany, Fulton, and Schenectady counties, June 19, 1954. Left to right: Beatrice Hocking, President; Dorothea Godfrey, Treasurer; Alice Neil, Recording Secretary; Marian Francis, Corresponding Secretary; Sara Laurence, Vice President.
Photograph from Soroptimist International of Schenectady Records.
Soroptimist International of Schenectady began meeting in 1953 and was officially chartered on January 14, 1954. The organization began with 23 charter members: Erna Meess Cinque, Genevieve Y. Clark, Marie Christine DeLorenzo, Marian D. Francis, Dorothea F. Godfrey, Marion G. Halpin, Beatrice E. Hocking, Sara K. Laurence, Bernadette McKernan, Isabelle S. Miller, Alice V. Neil, Ann E. O'Brien, Mary S. Pratt, Elizabeth W. Schurig, Frances R. Silverman, Margaret A. Smith, Dorothy G. Spira, Mary F. Tessier, Daphne J. Volkers, Jane Whamer, Glee Leete White, E. Lenore White, and Margaret Wyatt.

For over half a century, Soroptimist International of Schenectady has supported women and children’s projects in the community and donated funds to local organizations as well as organizations around the world. In addition to service-oriented projects, the organization also sponsors programs where speakers conduct presentations about a variety of topics to the organization’s members.

April 1960 issue of Soroptigram newsletter. The newsletters in the collection include information about events and meetings, new members, local and international service projects, fundraising, and committee information.
The records of Soroptimist International of Schenectady include meeting minutes for board meetings and general/business meetings, copies of the organization’s Soroptigram newsletter, membership rosters and board member lists, event programs, files related to the Friendship Link connections between the organization and Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands, Japan, and France, scrapbooks, awards, newspaper clippings, and photographs. A complete finding aid for the collection can be found here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rare Books in the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection

What qualifies a book as being "rare"? Although there are no strict rules, we define books are "rare" based on whether a book meets one or more of the following criteria: a printing date before 1850 in the Americas or before 1775 in Europe and other continents; importance (i.e. whether the book is a seminal work); limited edition; unique/significant autograph, marginalia, or annotations; known to be very scarce or of exceptionally high monetary value; unique characteristics as a physical object.

The rare book collection at the Grems-Doolittle Library includes approximately 90 volumes. A few highlights from the collection are included below. Please visit the Library to learn more about our rare book collection.

Title page of Miscellaneous Works by Eliphalet Nott, 1810. This book is important not only because it is written by an important figure in Schenectady's history; it is also significant as an example of an early book printed in the city of Schenectady. The book was published by William J. McCartee, bookseller, and printed by Ryer Schermerhorn.

Front cover of Love Poems by Famous Authors, printed ca. 1911. This book is an excellent example of a book as an interesting physical object -- the cover is made of metal, which has been etched and embossed with designs on both the front and back cover.  

Signature of Mark Twain on inside front cover of his book The Stolen White Elephant, printed in London in 1906. It was the property of Mrs. Helena Rowe Fuller Crooks (1881-1962) of Scotia. Crooks had bequeathed the book to historian Larry Hart, who in turn gave the book to his son, Alan, who donated the book to the Society.  Larry Hart, in a 1959 newspaper column about Crooks, wrote: “It was while vacationing in Bermuda in 1908 that Helena met and became good friends with that whimsical author, Mark Twain. She still has the book The Stolen White Elephant, that he gave her. On the flyleaf is penned the inscription: The main difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives. Truly yours, Mark Twain…Bermuda, March 1908."
Colorful endpapers swirled with designs are a common feature of 19th-century books, such as these endpapers from Dr. Daniel Toll's A Narrative Embracing the History of Two or Three of the First Settlers and Their Families of Schenectady, printed in 1847 in Schenectady.
Title page of Symon Schermerhorn's Ride, privately printed from type by J.B. Lyon Company of Albany, 1910. The printing is a limited edition of 225 copies. This copy was owned by Rev. W.N.P. Dailey, a missionary, pastor, and an active member of the Schenectady County Historical Society.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Memories of World War II: Veterans Share Their Stories

Our program on December 7 was a great success! We had a full house and a number of local veterans were in attendance. Thanks to all of our staff, volunteers, and supporters who made this event possible, and special thanks to the veterans who shared their recollections of their experiences on our panel. Audio and video recordings of the event will soon be available to the public in our library.

Below are some photographs of the program:

WWII veterans on our panel of speakers. Left to right: Ralph Boyd, John Edwards, Hans Keller, and Paul Dobbins.

Before the program begins, veteran Ralph Boyd (left foreground) shares some photographs with
Bill Frank, Director of the Schenectady County Veterans Service Agency.

John Edwards of Niskayuna talks about his experience as a prisoner of war captured by the Nazis.
Ralph Boyd of Niskayuna shares about how his wartime experiences and the destruction he witnessed shaped his commitment to social justice and community service after the war.

Hans Keller of Charlton discusses his work as a radar technician on the USS San Diego, a light antiaircraft cruiser which was the first victorious American warship to enter Tokyo Bay.

Paul Dobbins of Ballston Lake shares his memories as an infantryman fighting in Europe.

Audience members, including many local WWII veterans, applaud the speakers on the panel.

A display of artifacts that made up part of a single soldier's layout during World War II. A local WWII history enthusiast, Nicholas Mancuso, shared these artifacts from his personal collection.