Tag: women

All the Names She Could not Bear

All the Names She Could not Bear

A Salty Tale I wanted this blog to be about patents, not Ruth Van Tellingen. Or should I call her Ruth Bendel? Or Ruth Elizabeth Thompson? I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we delve into Ruth’s life, let’s review the concept of patents as they 

The Kitchen Girls: Getting to Know Female Campus Employees in the 1860s (Part 1)

The Kitchen Girls: Getting to Know Female Campus Employees in the 1860s (Part 1)

Michigan State University is a big place. Today the main campus is over 5,200 acres, there are 545 buildings, and over 50,000 students. Campus is essentially its own little city and there’s a large work force of approximately 6,800 support staff employees that work around 

Done Up and Polished: The Brief History of a Nail Polish Topper

Done Up and Polished: The Brief History of a Nail Polish Topper

The Gunson/Admin assemblage continues to reveal gendered historical items linked to early females on campus. Most recently, Lisa Bright alerted me to the presence of a glass nail polish bottle stopper in the collection.

Dr. Jay Parker Pray Bottle Top - Gunson Unit D
Dr. Jay Parker Pray Bottle Top – Gunson Unit D

Luckily, the logo remains intact and, after some Googling, it was determined to be manufactured by the Dr. J. Parker Pray Company (established 1868). The New York City based company specialized in manicure and medicinal goods. Dr. Parker Pray began his career as a chiropodist, a hand and foot doctor, before transitioning into selling ladies’ cosmetic products.

In 1874, Dr. Parker Pray met Mary E. Cobb who had moved to New York City following the end of the Civil War. The two married that same year and Mary allegedly went to France shortly after to be trained in the techniques of manicure (1). Although Mary learned the traditional French manicure method, American women at the time did not greatly desire the French style. In 1878, she opened Mrs. Pray’s Manicure shop in New York City where she practiced a revised process of manicure that modern women are familiar with today (2). By all accounts, the shop and manufacturing businesses were wildly successful and the Prays are even credited with the invention of the emory board.

After the couple divorced in 1884, Mary returned to her maiden name and invested her energy into the expansion of her business through mail order and increased retail exposure (1). Mary even began to train women in the manicurist trade so that they could secure independent income. By 1900, Mary was in charge of one of the largest female-owned business operations in the world (as well as the largest manufacturer of pink and red nail polish) (1).

Boxes containing the polish were sold for 25 and 50 cents (3). While the bottle has not yet been found in the assemblage, just the discovery of the top is pretty cool! I was not able to secure dates (besides post-1868), but if the bottle is recovered we may be able to determine better manufacturing dates. If only Mary Cobb could have seen the variety of polish colors worn by women on campus today!

Dr. J Parker Pray Ad Circa 1905 - Source
Dr. J Parker Pray Ad Circa 1905 – Source

Author: Amy Michael


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_E._Cobb
  2. http://blackcatnails.com/nails-story-modern-manicure-book-review/
  3. https://books.google.com/books?id=1zrnAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=dr.+j+parker+pray+manicure+bottle&source=bl&ots=8icjsRHIsg&sig=I7hv_6vcKneI84-XDFSVhVK5Mt0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiep-m61LbKAhWmsIMKHQRaCtUQ6AEITjAK#v=onepage&q=dr.%20j%20parker%20pray%20manicure%20bottle&f=false
Gunson House / Bayha Home Management House

Gunson House / Bayha Home Management House

One of the bigger question surrounding the Hannah Admin building assemblage is, “Where in this area could these high quality ceramics have come from?”. They’re nicer than what would have been found in typical student areas, the site is south of faculty row, and they 

Identifying Gendered Space in MSU’s Past

Identifying Gendered Space in MSU’s Past

For the past several months, CAP fellow Amy Michael and I have been preparing a presentation for the UMass Amherst Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference about gendered landscapes on MSU’s campus. What is a gendered landscape, you ask? A landscape can be considered “gendered” 



On November 24th, Turkey’s president Erdogan declared that women are not equal to men. However, the specific statement that rung across the archaeological community was “You cannot tell them [women] to go out and dig the soil. This is against their delicate nature”. Archaeologists, both male and female, responded on Twitter almost immediately, starting the #womendigging trend. Many, including CAP members, posted photographs of themselves in action.


Although the trend has slowed down, people are still posting #womendigging photos, and CAP is proud to continue the trend. So now we’re proud to present a few images from women digging through CAP history:

More mapping

2008- Jane W. and Jen B. map a different wall at Faculty Row.


2009 – Erica digs the first Shovel Test Pit




2011 –


2012 –

Saints Rest Rescue 2

2013 – Saints Rest Rescue 2, Trench 1, cleaning plaster floor off

Old Vet Lab Excavation

2014 – Old Vet Lab Excavation: Led by Kate, Team includes Adrianne, Katy, Josh and Ian


Author: Lisa Bright

Breaking All (or some of!) the Rules: Finding Subversion in the Historical Record

Breaking All (or some of!) the Rules: Finding Subversion in the Historical Record

As I’ve researched female students on the historical campus this past semester, I keep finding that humor and resiliency are recurring themes in their scrapbooks and journals. Interestingly, it seems that the mechanism of humor may have been used to deflect contentious attitudes about the 

Pieces of the Past: Women’s Scrapbooks from the Turn of the Century

Pieces of the Past: Women’s Scrapbooks from the Turn of the Century

In my last blog, I shared a portion of the draft that I’m working on about gendered spaces on campus. The most challenging part of the project thus far has been isolating documents, folders, or ephemera in the University Archives that can inform the research 

Gendered Spaces: Howard Terrace and Human Ecology

Gendered Spaces: Howard Terrace and Human Ecology

As part of CAP’s ongoing project of understanding gendered spaces on campus, I thought it would be interesting to look at a building that was built with gendered space in mind. The Human Ecology building, which today houses departments like Human Development and Family Studies, was originally constructed for the goal of teaching women their role in society. The history of the current Human Ecology building and the apartments before it help to tell many stories, including the sometimes forgotten tale of women at MSU.

In 1888, a faculty apartment building was built, the tenth building on Faculty Row.  It had eight suites for faculty and their small families.  It was later named Howard Terrace, after Sanford Howard, the fourth Secretory of the Board of Agriculture.

Howard Terrace, 1904. Courtesy MSU Archives
Howard Terrace, 1904. Courtesy MSU Archives

The college first began admitting women in 1870, but didn’t have any dorms for them.  They mostly had to live in Lansing and go to the college by stagecoach, which is quite a far cry from today, where young female students can sometimes take a five minute walk to their classes in their pajamas!  Morrill Hall was built in 1900 for use as a women’s dorm, which saved plenty of hassle.  It was not enough, however.  Howard Terrace began housing female students as early as 1898, and became exclusively a women’s dorm in 1914.

For the first twenty or so years of women being at the college, they took the same classes as the men.  In 1896, a “women’s course,” or Home Economics (a term coined in 1902), was added thanks to the advocacy of Mary Mayo.  MAC was one of the first in the country to implement such a program.  It began housed in Abbot Hall and then Morrill Hall, but as the program grew, it needed to move.  Howard Terrace was demolished at some point in the early 1920s to make room for a new Home Economics building.  The Home Economics program had a broader scope than one usually thinks of a Home Economics program.  Dean Jean Krueger said in 1926 that “We are not concerned now so much with the actual machinery of living, the perfection of the skills involved in the sewing of a ‘fine seam,’ or the making of a delicious pie, as we are in the psychological, sociological and economic adjustments of family groups to present day and future needs.”

Women's sewing class, 1909. Courtesy MSU Archives
Women’s sewing class, 1909. Courtesy MSU Archives

In 1970, the college was renamed as the College of Human Ecology and drastically changed in focus.  The more drastic change, however, happened in 2005, over 100 years after the creation of the program.  The program was eliminated.

The building, of course, still stands.  The beautiful brick Collegiate Gothic structure next to the MSU Union reminds us of how far women have come at MSU.  From a farm boy college without a lady in sight, to a college where women could learn about how to fill their domestic role in society, to a globally recognized university where women can major in anything a man can, and choose to spend their summers digging holes and doing research instead of cooking and cleaning.







Beauty Demolished, But Never Forgotten


Author: Caroline Dunham

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

Archmamas: Archaeology, Motherhood, and Path to PhD

By Blair Zaid The roles for women in the academy are ever expanding. We continue to achieve high levels positions in institutions that have been exceptionally male dominated.  However, one role continues to be a bit daunting for women in the academy and particularly archaeology: