Strategic Scrapbooks: Nineteenth Century Activists Remake the Newspaper for African American History and Women’s Rights

Ellen Gruber Garvey

Scrapbooks event image

Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks—the ancestors of Facebook and blogging. Women’s rights scrapbook makers documented women’s pioneering participation in the public realm and experimented with ways to present it. African Americans created massive compilation scrapbooks that acted as repositories of communal knowledge and passed along a critical, oppositional reading of newspapers. They passed along their understanding that newspapers, including “the paper of record” did not provide a simple record, but a set of voices and conversations to read critically. In this lecture, Ellen Gruber Garvey reveals a previously unexplored layer of American popular culture, where activists collected and constructed new narratives to create “unwritten histories” in books they wrote with scissors.

Ellen Gruber Garvey is a Professor of English at New Jersey City University, where she co-edits the journal Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. Her book Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance is just out from Oxford University Press. More information is available at the Scrapbook History blog. Her book on American magazines, The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, about how advertising became an ordinary and accepted part of American media, won the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing’s prize for the best book of 1996 on the history of the book. She has written and lectured in Europe and the US on scrapbooks and on women’s bicycling, as well as on magazines, billboards, women editors, and stories about slave ships.

Co-sponsored by the Barnard American Studies Program and the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies.

This event is free and open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible.