New and improved (and inclusive) subject headings in Special Collections

We’ve been updating our records with new subject headings from the Library of Congress.

Our copy of Chrisine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography, currently on exhibit.

Until last week, the record for Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography had one subject heading: “Sex change.”

This means that despite the fact that Jorgensen was a transgender woman, and the first American to become widely-known for having sex reassignment surgery, you wouldn’t find her autobiography at Middlebury if you searched the catalog for “transgender.”

Preservation Manager Joseph Watson asked Cataloger Marlena Evans if the Library of Congress had perhaps updated their subject headings to reflect current terminology used to represent the transgender community.

Thanks to Marlena’s diligence, we now know that Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) include a number of terms (at least 47!) that we can use to catalog works by and about members of the transgender community. Marlena has also updated other records in Special Collections with new subject headings (see below!).

If you’ve ever wondered about those clickable subject headings in library catalog records, they are anything but arbitrary. The Library of Congress maintains a thesaurus of controlled, precise subject headings that catalogers and librarians all over the United States assign to their holdings and use to find works about similar topics.

Researchers use these too! You can click any one of the headings in a record and find similar and related works.

If you are interested in Jorgensen and other writers in the LGBTQ+ community, be sure to check out our current exhibit: Before and After Stonewall: Queer Stories Throughout American History.

Questions? Email

A Cautionary Tale…for Cold Weather

One of the nation’s great archival collections of New England folksong and folklore, the Flanders Ballad Collection was the lifework of Helen Hartness Flanders (1890-1972), of Springfield, Vermont.

Over the course of thirty years, Helen Flanders gathered and preserved more than 4,800 field recordings of New England folksongs and ballads as sung by native Vermonters and other New Englanders. 

As the weather turns nippy and the days shorter, here is a bit of historical audio. Recorded on July 21, 1946, here is Asa Davis from Milton, Vermont, singing the folk ballad he called, “Young Charlotte.”

Here’s a little more about “Young Charlotte,” starting with the various titles it was known by:

Fair Charlotte
The Frozen Girl
A Corpse Going to a Ball

Based on a poem (and possibly a true story) by the Maine-based writer Sheba Smith (1792 – 1868), “Young Charlotte” is a cautionary tale about a young girl who refused to cover up her party dress en route to a winter ball. When her horse-drawn carriage arrives, Charlotte’s fiancé discovers that she has frozen to death along the way. Here is one version of the lyrics, thanks to the Maine folk music site

Young Charlotte lived by the mountain side, in a wild and a lonely spot;
Not a dwelling house for five miles around, except her father’s cot.
Yet on many a winter’s eve, young swains would gather there
For her father kept a social board and she was very fair.

Her father loved to see her dressed, fine as a city belle,
For she was the only child he had and he loved his daughter well.
‘Twas New Year’s Eve, the sun went down, wild looked her anxious eyes
Along the frosty window pane to see the sleighs pass by.

At the village inn, fifteen miles round, there’s a merry ball tonight.
The air is freezing cold above, but the hearts are warm and light.
And while she looked with longing eyes, then a well-known voice she hears,
And dashing up to the cottage door, young Charlie’s sleigh appears.

Her mother says, “My daughter dear, this blanket round you fold.
For it’s a dreadful night abroad, you’ll take your death out cold.”
“Oh no! Oh no!” young Charlotte said and she laughed like a gypsy queen,
“For to ride in blankets muffled up, I never could be seen.

“My silken coat is quite enough, ’tis lined you know, throughout,
And then I have a silken scarf, to tie my face about.”
Her gloves and bonnet being on, she jumped into the sleigh
And away they ride over the mountainside and o’er the hills away.

There’s merry music in the bells, As o’er the hills they go;
For the creaking rake the runners make, As they bite the frozen snow.
Then o’er the hills and faster o’er, and by the cold starlight
When Charles in these frozen words at last the silence broke.

“Such a night as this I never knew, My reins I scarce can hold.”
Young Charlotte said With a trembling voice, “I am exceeding cold!”
He cracked his whip which urged his steed much faster than before,
And then the other five miles ’round in silence were rode o’er.

“How fast,” says Charles, “the freezing ice is gathering on my brow.”
Young Charlotte said with a trembling voice, “I am growing warmer now.”
Then o’er the hills and faster o’er, and by the cold starlight
Until they reached the village inn, And the ballroom was in sight.

They reached the inn and Charles sprang out and giving his hand to her,
“Why sit you like a monument what have no power to stir?”
He called her once, he called her twice, but yet she never stirred.
He called her name again and again, but she answered not a word.

He took her hand in his, O God, ‘t was cold and hard as stone;
He tore the mantle from her brow and the cold stars on her shone.
Then quickly to the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore,
For Charlotte was a frozen corpse and a work spake never more.

He threw himself down by her side and the bitter tears did flow.
He said, “My young intended bride I nevermore shall know.”
He flung his arms around her neck and kissed her marble brow,
His thoughts went back to the place she said, “I’m growing warmer now.”

He bore her out into the sleigh and with her he rode home,
And when they reached the cottage door, oh, how her parents mourned!
They mourned for the loss of their daughter dear and Charles mourned o’er the gloom,
When Charles’ heart with grief did break—they slumber in one tomb.

More issues of The Middlebury Campus digitized

New old issues of The Middlebury Campus (1981-2008), now available via the Internet Archive!

Thanks to the efforts of Middlebury’s Digital Projects & Archives Librarian, Patrick Wallace, we are happy to announce that digitized issues of The Middlebury Campus dating from 1981 to 2008 are now available via the Internet Archive (go/ia).

These “new” issues of The Campus have been added to an ever-growing (over 3,000 items!) digital collection entitled “Middlebury College Newspapers and Magazines” available on the site. In addition to digitized copies of The Campus, the collection also includes The Undergraduate (precursor to The Campus), and Middlebury Magazine.

Visit go/ia to access digitized copies of The Campus and more!

Did you know digitized materials on the Internet Archive are full-text searchable? Simply click the bubble next to “Text contents” below the search bar. We searched for ourselves and found this mention in a Campus article from March 7, 2007:

We can’t help but agree with the author on this one.

Questions about accessing digitized materials? Email

Votes…for Women? Women’s Suffrage materials at the Museum and Special Collections

This year (2019) marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. American women voted at a national level for the first time in 1920.

This semester, the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s “Votes…for Women?” exhibit features several objects from Special Collections (including suffrage postcards and a cookbook!).

Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft. Boston, 1792.

Because exhibit cases only fit so much, we’re featuring some additional materials pertaining to women’s suffrage and women’s rights with this post!

We are particularly excited to have on our shelves this (left) first American edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects published in 1792. Wollstonecraft argued that women should receive education beyond what was required for domestic life, and that all human beings deserve the same fundamental rights. This volume was number 642 of the Middlebury College Library’s original 10,000, and features a rather telling handwritten poem on its title page (presumably written by some member of the Middlebury College community): “O ye lords of ladies intellectual / Now tell me truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all.

Special Collections also holds a number of pamphlets produced by various organizations (women’s suffrage groups, political parties, etc.) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Suffrage was often framed as means through which Prohibition might be achieved, as evidenced by this resolution in the minutes (right) of the eighth annual meeting of the Vermont Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1892: “Resolved, That we reaffirm our belief that the ballot in the hands of woman is the strongest weapon that can be hurled against the liquor traffic” (15).

Other works include (but are not limited to) suffrage cook books (below), anti-suffrage essays, sheet music, speeches, and other writings by men and women in favor of increasing women’s rights in society.

The Woman Suffrage Cook Book
The Woman Suffrage Cook Book by Hattie A. Burr. Boston, 1886.

Our favorite? The close-to-home diaries of Viola White, former curator of the Abernethy Library in Special Collections. Read these and you’ll learn that, while she doesn’t reveal whether or not she voted in the 1920 election, she is deeply disappointed that Harding has won.

Want to search on your own? Open Midcat, change “Middlebury College Libraries” to “Special Collections (Library 101)” in the drop-down menu, and enter your search terms.

Votes for Women by Sande Wascher-James, 2015.

Before and After Stonewall: Queer Stories Throughout American History

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)

This fall in the Library Atrium, view Special Collections’ new exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event that sparked the movement for equal rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Curated by Suria Vanrajah ’22, the exhibit presents a timeline illustrating the increased visibility and acceptance of queer literature in America.

On view through January 2020, with the companion exhibit:

Middlebury College Coming Out: A Foundation for Queer Activism
Depicting Middlebury College’s LGBTQ community in the decades following the Stonewall riots.

Curated by Joseph Watson, Reid Macfarlane, ’21 and Halle Shephard, ’22.
Located on the Library Lower Level.

Questions? Contact

New Old Images of Middlebury

Recently, thanks to a tip from the friend of a friend we purchased some antique stereoscope views of Middlebury College and the Town of Middlebury in an online auction. (Shout out to the friend of Prof. Kevin Moss!)

Main Street Middlebury, looking northeast, before the great fire, circa 1880.
Notice the high meadows on Chipman Hill behind the church steeple.

Stereoscope cards hold two identical photographs, mounted side by side and slightly offset. When they’re viewed through a stereoscope viewer, a three dimensional image emerges.

A state of the art and thrilling parlor entertainment throughout the late nineteenth century, these rare images don’t need to be viewed in stereo to be appreciated online today.

Main St. looking west over Otter Creek after a fire obliterated most of the buildings in the picture above.
Old Stone Row viewed from the top of Kitchel House, 1881
Old Stone Row taken in front of Starr Hall, circa 1880
Old Chapel, circa 1880
We were initially thrown off by this house due to the view of Chipman Hill in the distance. A little sleuthing confirmed a 19th century snapshot of Weybridge House
Weybridge House on the corner of College St. compared to today
The cards all appear to be from the studio of O. C. Barnes

Remembering Anne Sexton: New finds in Special Collections

Twenty-five years ago, Special Collections purchased a small collection of materials produced by and pertaining to the poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974). Along with nine books from Sexton’s personal library, the collection contains materials compiled by her therapist, Barbara Schwartz, during the final nine months of the poet’s life before her suicide on October 4, 1974.

Robert Frost and Anne Sexton at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, 1959 (photo from the College Archives).

Its contents include 41 typed drafts of poems (12 of which are unpublished) written by Sexton. Of particular note is “The Execution,” written in the hand of Barbara Schwartz, as it was dictated over the phone to her by Sexton following a suicide attempt, dated February 9, 1974. The collection also includes correspondence, clippings, audio cassette tapes of poetry readings, and one formerly restricted envelope marked “Barbara Schwartz’s notes on her psychotherapy sessions with Anne Sexton.”

First page of “The Execution” (unpublished), dictated over the phone by Sexton to Schwartz, 1974.

Observing the conclusion of its restriction period, we opened the envelope for the first time last fall.

Notes written by Schwartz during a session with Sexton.

Materials within include Phone-O-Gram messages, correspondence between Schwartz and associates of Sexton, as well as Schwartz’s notes from her psychotherapy sessions with the poet.

These notes, like the one pictured right, document with poignant and sometimes unsettling detail, the intimate concerns, fears, and desires of Anne Sexton leading up to her death.

An issue at the center of Anne Sexton research since the 1990s has been the decision by therapists to provide biographers with their records. In 1991, a longtime therapist of Sexton’s provided a biographer with access to audiotapes of their sessions, sparking heated debates about the ethical treatment of patient records in psychiatric and literary circles. Interestingly, Sexton’s own daughter has always supported the dissemination of these materials, citing her mother’s confessional style of poetry as precedence for sharing details about her personal life and mental health.

Phone-O-Gram from the office of Barbara Schwartz, indicating a call for Dr. Schwartz from Sexton. The back of the card reads “Says needs 3x a week.”

We recognize that materials such as these can be difficult to work with, but it is our hope at Special Collections that they be used by students, faculty, and researchers in their study and understanding of Anne Sexton and her work.


“Talk to me about sadness. I talk about it too much in my own head but I never mind others talking about it either; I occasionally feel like I tremendously need others to talk about it as well.”

Anne Sexton. From Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters. Ed. Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames, 1977.


View the finding aid for the Anne Sexton collection at Middlebury College’s Special Collections and Archives, via ArchivesSpace.

For further reading, see: “Poet Told All; Therapist Provides the Record.”


Poetry exhibitions, in the Library

Two new Special Collections exhibits feature poetry collections, both on and off the page.

In the Library Atrium on the main level, view Object Poems by Vermont-based poet and translator, Jody Gladding. Gladding’s poems “operate in physical space,” on feathers, tongue depressors, milkweed pods, wooden logs, and eggshells, among other forms.

On the Lower level and in Special Collections (room 101), view On And Off The Page, an exhibit of fine press poetry broadsides and manuscripts by poets such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, William Carlos Williams and others.

“3 Sent to Susan Walp…” by Jody Gladding

On view through Monday, July 15, 2019.

Questions? Contact

“So very hideous an idea” Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200

Published anonymously 200 years ago in 1818, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, has since proliferated, breeding monsters and nightmares on stage, screen, in comic books, and as Halloween costumes. Frankenstein (not a monster at all, but the name of his creator, the mad scientist Victor Frankenstein) is now common parlance, describing ambitious scientific schemes run amok.

In the two centuries since it first appeared, Frankenstein has been interpreted through many lenses: Freudian psychoanalysis; Marxism; gender, feminism, and queer studies; anti-slavery; and ecological disaster. But for Mary Shelley, its remarkable teenage author, Frankenstein was a morality tale filled with social and political commentary, isolation, and tragedy. 

After the success of her novel, Mary Shelley answered a frequently asked question, “How I, then a young girl, came to think of…so very hideous an idea?”

“General views on the application of galvanism to medical purposes” by Giovanni Aldini, 1819. Image courtesy of The New York Academy of Medicine Library

On view through February 3 with the companion exhibit:

Vital Experiments: Science in 1818

a portrayal of science and experimentation at Middlebury College during the time of Frankenstein. Located on
 the Library Lower Level and in Special Collections.

Questions? Contact

A Very Short History of the Chapbook

When it comes to the time-honored form of the chapbook, the power of literacy comes in small packages.

Such power was on display in the archive last week, when we laid out an array of these bite-sized books for a visit from Karin Gottshall’s Structure of Poetry class. Students in this class compile hand-bound chapbooks of their own work for a final project, so by bringing them into Special Collections, Karin and I hoped to situate their creations in the surprisingly long and storied history of this short form.

Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection #58, ‘The Lovely Maid of Willims Town’

The roots of chapbooks go back to 16th century Europe, when printing technology began to democratize. Books had long been the preserve of the wealthy, who possessed both the education and means necessary to read them. This changed, however, when the increasing accessibility of paper and printing presses made it feasible for unbound books of eight or twelve pages to be sold for a penny or less: in those days, not as negligible a price as it might seem, but still within the reach of a laborer’s wages. Itinerant peddlers called ‘chap-men’ rose to meet this demand, carrying printed matter from presses in the cities to an eager audience of the rural working classes. These early readers thrilled to tales of adventure and roguery. Even those who couldn’t read were able to participate, thanks to the chapbook’s fluid relationship with orality: many early examples came in the form of folk songs, so they were meant to be performed publicly as well as read in private. Early chapbooks also tended to be profusely illustrated, but this wasn’t always an aid to comprehension — because woodcut engravings were so cheap to reproduce, they were often recycled throughout many different texts with little regard for the subject matter.

Chapbooks’ wide accessibility also made them a political force to be reckoned with. Literacy rates burgeoned among the European public in the late 17th century, abetted by the institution of charity schools for educating the poor, but also likely owing to the simple fact that written materials were cheaper and more plentiful than ever before. In any case, whether they merely responded to the demands of an increasingly literate public, or played a part in producing it, the rise of chapbooks accompanied an unprecedented state of affairs: reading was no longer the sole domain of the upper classes.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1791

This might not have been so disruptive if the form were restricted to folk tales and ballads, but by the 18th century, some chapbooks began to reflect the Enlightenment mores that were taking society by storm. Examples include Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, which was copiously reprinted in chapbook form for years after its publication in 1791. The insurrectionary potential of pamphlets like Paine’s, and other radical thinkers, inspired a backlash. While chapbooks had originally sprung up to appeal to their audience’s unstudied interests, relating their stories in an amoral and non-didactic tone, publishers in the 19th century began to prescribe certain interests to their readers for their own good. This led to a proliferation of religious chapbooks, often called ‘Sunday schools’ or ‘godlinesses’, which aimed to bolster the moral fiber of the plebeian masses whom the racier strand of chapbooks had previously entertained.

American Tract Society, Dancing as a Social Amusement (1847)

This sanctimonious turn ushered in a long period of dormancy. Along the way, chapbooks lost their monopoly on the dissemination of cheap print: industrialization reduced the costs of printing once again, allowing lower class readers to lift their sights from the compact octavo or duodecimo bindings of the traditional chapbook towards the sprawling forms of newspapers and novels. By the time the chapbook returned, in the early 20th century, it was to bear the evidence of these radical changes.

By the time of its resurgence, ‘chapbook’ may have been a conscious archaism hearkening back to a preindustrial past. The printing press enjoyed a rush of renewed interest beginning in the late 19th century, thanks to the Arts and Crafts movement — a group of artists and designers who reacted to what they saw as the garish aesthetic standards of the day by advocating a return to traditional methods of handicraft. Chapbooks, which began their history spurred by the early forerunners of industrial technologies, now arose in protest to the alienation thought to be inherent in mass production. Along with this stylistic shift came a major reorientation in genre: where the chapbooks of yore focused on the episodic and the epic, tales of daring and debauchery, the new artisanal chapbook adopted a lyric mode. Its primary genre was poetry.


Djuna Barnes, ‘The Book of Repulsive Women’, 1915


H.D., ‘The Tribute and Circe’, 1917

At first this meant the poetry of the early Modernists — writers like Ezra Pound, H.D., T.S. Eliot, and Djuna Barnes — who published short-form leaflets of their work, as well as placing it in collections and literary magazines. It also saw currency with Dadaists in Europe, and in the tracts of the Russian avant-garde. But the chapbook continued to have an ambivalent relationship with the aesthetics and distribution methods of high and low culture. Soon the 20th century brought its own technological changes, in the form of typewriters and mimeograph machines that put the power of textual reproduction more directly in the hands of writers than ever before. These tools were eagerly seized upon by Beat poets of the 1950s. The utilitarian manuscripts they hacked out of their typewriters may seem like a far cry from the nostalgic designs of Arts and Crafts printers like William Morris, but there is some political coherence to this unlikely pedigree. The creators of chapbooks have always been concerned with circumventing the official channels by which writing is allowed to make itself available to a public. Over the course of the 20th century, this labor was to unite authors as disparate as feminist consciousness raising groups and Star Trek fans, as the chapbook morphed into the zine.

Allison Wolfe and Molly Newman, Girl Germs (199-)


Th’yla, an anthology of Kirk/Spock fanfiction (1981)

But some chapbooks stayed chapbooks, particularly within the domain of small press publishing. Short, artfully designed books remained an appealing form for poets and writers who wanted to reach niche audiences and sidestep corporate publishers. This is the crop of chapbook most abundant in our archive, and it made up the bulk of what Karin’s students saw last week.

Lyn Hejinian, ‘A Mask of Motion’, 1977


David Stairs, ‘Asperity’, 1989

Of course, you don’t have to have a press to make a chapbook. The students in CRWR 175 will approach the task armed with nothing more than a word processor and some sewing expertise (and let’s be clear, there’s also no shame in staples). We hope that some of their creations might find their way into our archive to rest alongside their fellows. If you have a little book of your own that’s been hanging out in a drawer for months or years, consider re-homing it in Special Collections!

For further reading, see:

A Pleasant History of the Chapbook

McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection

A Short History of the Short Book