Monthly Archives: March 2017

Collection Spotlight: Geraldine DeFant Papers

This week we thought that we would highlight the Geraldine DeFant papers, a small but fascinating and important collection. Geri DeFant grew up in Chicago, where poor conditions during the Depression caused her to become interested in politics and especially the labor movement. After graduating from high school in 1933, she spent several years volunteering and then working as a union organizer. She came to Marquette County in 1948 to organize the strike at the Gossard factory in Ishpeming. She stayed in Marquette after the strike and married attorney Michael DeFant (who had been the lawyer for the union) in 1950. After Michael DeFant became county probate judge, Geri had to stop working as a labor organizer.

She remained active in politics, however, serving as the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party for the 11th Congressional District and an aide to Senators Philip Hart and Donald Riegle. She also earned a bachelor’s in political science from Northern Michigan University, was a director of the Manpower Training Program in the Upper Peninsula, served as a Marquette County Commissioner from 1982 to 1991, and served on the Marquette Women’s Center Board of Directors, the Michigan Women’s Commission, the Michigan Civil Service Commission, the Friend of the Court and Childcare Taskforces, the Alger/Marquette Community Mental Health Board, and many more organizations and boards. Geri died in 1996 at the age of 79.

Our collection contains an oral history interview (which is online!), documents relating to the 1949 Gossard Strike, a scrapbook, photographs, newspaper articles, and her resume. The oral history interview documents her early life and the 1949 strike in great detail, but does not give much information on her later political activities. At the interview in 1990, contemplating the vast scope of her life’s work, Geri DeFant commented,

…My basic value system has not changed from…when I was 17, 18. It still is pretty much the same. It’s taken different routes. I was a feminist then I believe, and I am certainly feminist now, and have been active. I believed in participatory democracy and I do now, and I have been active in the political arena. I’ve been a county commissioner for ten years and I’ve looked for ways in which I could make a change in terms of benefits and the ease of living and support of those groups in our community that need support. So I feel I’ve been a fairly consistent woman in what I’ve tried to do.

Geri DeFant

While our materials from Geri DeFant are limited, many other collections at the archives shed light on the 1949 strike and other elements of her life’s work. We have an article on the Gossard strike, photographs from the strike, and a legal file about the strike in the John D. Voelker collection. Newspapers from the time would also provide much information. A copy of Bruce K. Cox’s book Gossard: The Great Bra Factory Strike of 1949 is also available at the archives. Our collection of County Commission minutes include both paper and audio records for the period in which DeFant was a commissioner, and the official minutes can be found online. We also have a collection of oral history interviews from the Marquette Women’s Center which are also available online. Many of the interviewees mention DeFant’s role in the Women’s Center and note that she was a mentor to many of the younger women involved in the Center’s founding.

Other Sources on Geri DeFant:

Tribute to Geraldine DeFant from the Congressional Record

geri defant 2

Interested in viewing any of these collections? You can look at them at any time at the archives! Our hours for this semester are Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10 AM-5 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 10 AM-7PM.

Written by Annika Peterson

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Native American Student Association’s Annual Pow Wows

Last week, NMU hosted its 24th annual “Learning to Walk Together” traditional Pow Wow. The Pow wow starts off with the grand entry and flag song, followed by the veterans’ honor song. The Pow wows also consist of a variety of male and female traditional dances such as jingle dress and grass dance, as well as social dances such as the inter-tribal, round dance and two-step. Accompanied by songs and other performances. Crafts, reference materials, and food can all be found at the artisan and vendor booths as well.

The archives has many photographs and articles related to the pow wow over the years. Here are some photographs:

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Photo of a tribe member dancing from the 1994 pow wow

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Photo of a tribe member from the 1993 pow wow

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Photo of a tribe member from the 1993 pow wow

 

Written by Libby Serra

Morgan Heights Tuberculosis Sanatorium

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Listed as the most haunted place in Marquette by Travel Marquette, the Morgan Heights Tuberculosis Sanatorium off of County Road 492 has certainly seen its fair share of deaths. The sanatorium first opened its doors in 1911 to tuberculosis patients that needed a clean and quiet place to—hopefully—recover.

Recently, the NMU Archives began processing the Morgan Heights patient records. We have found death records, personal letters, medical charts, and even records of births. We have also seen an unfortunate amount of death in these files. Many checked into Morgan Heights, but not many checked out again, at least in the early years.

In the mid-twentieth century, the sanatorium was shut down for not having the equipment or expertise to be up to code for that time. Unfortunately, all of the original buildings but the nurses’ quarters were torn down, and those have been turned into residential housing. The people that live on the old grounds say that they often see ghosts wandering around.

Patient files are available for patron use if the person has been dead for more than fifty years. For more information on HIPAA and other privacy laws, see our former post on the topic. Beyond patient files, there is also a series of Morgan Heights photographs available.

Please stop in and take a look if you’re interested! The Archives is open Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10 AM-5 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 10 AM-7 PM.

Source: http://www.travelmarquettemichigan.com/the-most-haunted-places-in-marquette/

Written by Grace Menter

 

Event Spotlight: Upcoming Evening at the Archives on March 23

In a few weeks, we at the Archives will host another Evening at the Archives presentation. We’ve been holding these fun events since at least 2012, maybe as early as 2011. We try to host at least one a semester, sometimes two. This semester, there are two presentations. Last night’s Evening at the Archives presentation (#1) by Bruce Sargeant and our own Glenda Ward was successful and interesting, and highlighted the history of railroads through the Upper Peninsula and how they have evolved over time. The upcoming Evening at the Archives event (#2), like the others, will be on a Thursday at 7pm. However, unlike many of our past presentations, this upcoming one will be held in the Mead Auditorium, located in the West Science Building in the Glenn Seaborg Center. We anticipate a larger crowd than usual, which is why the presentation will not be held in the Archives at 126 Learning Resources Center room.

Frank Boles and Jessica Holman will present. Frank is the Director of the Clarke Historical Library in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and Jessica works at the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library. They will discuss their experiences with the acquisition and documentation of KKK records, and the process and controversy involved therein. This presentation is in conjunction with/part of the Diversity Common Reader Project Events, and focuses on what the role of archives has in documenting difficult or painful times in history/memory. Refreshments and snacks will be provided, and there will be time for questions and discussion at the end of the presentation. Stop on by for some insightful and interesting speakers!

Libby Serra, our digitization and design specialist, is still finalizing the posters for this event. Look for them across campus in the upcoming weeks!

Written by Stefan Nelson