Swarthmore Peace Collection struts its stuff

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Swarthmore Peace Collection recently unveiled an exhibit in McCabe’s glass display cases. Titled “Celebrating 75 Years of the Swarthmore Peace Collection,” it focuses on the ways that researchers have used the Peace Collection over the years. Each case selects one book (or, in one case, a Swarthmore senior honors thesis) and displays some of the documents, from periodicals to buttons, used to write it.

Wendy Chmielewski, Curator of the Peace Collection, was happy to inform this reporter about the history of the collection. The Peace Collection was founded in 1930. At the time, Swarthmore President Frank Aydelotte was actively trying to start a Peace Library, and Jane Addams, the first US woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, was intrigued by his vision. She donated about 200 of her books to form the “beginning core” of the archives.

Although perhaps best remembered in US history classes for her work with Hull House in Chicago, Addams spent the last twenty years of her life working exclusively for peace, most notably as a founding member and president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was awarded an honorary Swarthmore degree in 1932.

Although the Peace Collection began its life as a sub-collection of the Friends Historical Library, it quickly grew. Ellen Starr Brinton, Quaker and field secretary of WILPF, was hired as curator in 1935, and she began the process of active acquisition.

Today, the Peace Collection boasts over twelve million documents, ranging from the traditional books and periodicals to more exotic collections of buttons, photographs, posters, and videos. There are even materials in more than two dozen different languages.

The new exhibit shows that the Peace Collection is not merely used by Swarthmore students; people from all over the world are coming to look through it. According to Chmielewski, the Collection is used as a resource for about twenty-five books, documentaries, and dissertations every year.

The exhibit seeks to display a wide range of material from the collection. “Social Justice Feminists in the US and Germany: A Dialogue in Documents”, edited by Kathryn Kishsklar, Anja Schuler, and Susan Strasser, draws heavily on the collection’s core of original Jane Addams papers.

The case devoted to “The People of This Generation: The Rise and Fall of the New Left in Philadelphia,” by Paul Lyons, is a case many students will find interesting. The book includes a chapter on Swarthmore and Haverford, and the case includes pictures of Haverford students at a demonstration, a “Strike Resolution” by Swarthmore students and faculty, and an article from the alumni magazine in which President Cross admitted that the FBI had been on campus.

Another case with Swarthmore connections displays documents related to “Manning the Home Front: Gender, Citizenship and Conscientious Objection during World War Two,” the senior honors thesis of history student Timothy Stewart-Winter ’01, now a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. His thesis draws on several interesting documents, including a 1941 article entitled “Swarthmore College Pacifist a Crack Shot.”

Other cases include the titles “Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963,” by Scott H. Bennet, and “The Struggle Against The Bomb,” a three part history of the world nuclear disarmament movement by Lawrence Wittner. Students may want to look at the case about the biography “Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin” soon, as its author, John D’Emilio, is actually coming to speak at Swarthmore on October 27th.

The exhibit is an eye-catching introduction to all the Peace Collection has to offer; make sure to check it out before it checks out come November 14th.

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