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New materials available plus tools and advice for tackling German and cross-writing

Just Wow

On April 4th we launched a new Campaign featuring a mother and daughter Suffragist pair, Lucy Stone and Alice Stone Blackwell. We always knew we'd add additional family members to "The Blackwells: An Extraordinary Family," Campaign, and thought that we could hold off till August. But you all have been doing so much good work, so quickly, we needed to add more content this month. What a nice problem to have! Thanks everyone.

New Blackwell family content available to transcribe and review

Now you can explore the papers of Henry Browne Blackwell, husband to Lucy, father to Alice. Through his diaries, correspondence, financial records, and other writings, you can learn about his contributions to the causes of suffrage and abolition. 

In addition to Henry's papers, we're releasing the papers of Elizabeth Blackwell, who is widely considered to be the first American woman to receive an academic medical degree. Her papers contain extensive diaries from 1836 to 1908, family and general correspondence, and speeches and writings which document her efforts to open the medical profession to women in the United States and England. She wrote widely on various aspects of medicine, including women’s health concerns, and her papers include many of her published works unavailable elsewhere. Many Blackwell women established themselves in male-dominated professions, and kept family ties strong through their correspondence. 

Almost every single member of this family helped to further social causes such as suffrage, abolition and temperance. We're making available the papers of over a dozen other individuals in this family group this week. Learn about how they collaborated and fought together for what they believed in, and how their deep family bonds enabled many to achieve greater things than they might have alone.  

Your transcriptions may lead to new discoveries. Tell us about cool finds over on the By the People discussion forum. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation!

Cross-writing–a fun puzzle

Perhaps more so than in any of our other Campaigns, the Blackwell family papers contain quite a few letters with cross-writing. In an effort to save money on postage, letter-writers in the Nineteenth Century often filled pages with writing in two directions or distinct angles. You read the page top to bottom for example, and then turn it 90 degrees to read the next bit of the letter.

Please help us make these tricky pages legible to screen readers, which are used by patrons with low or no visibility or certain cognitive impairments. Check our updated instructions in the Help Center under "In what order should I transcribe?"  

Unlocking the Secrets of German Handwritten Documents

During stay-at-home orders, our amazing colleague David Morris (German Area Specialist, European Division) has helped transcribe and review some tricky German language materials written in an older form of handwriting called die deutsche Schrift (the German script). He wrote a really informative and interesting blog post about this kind of script, and some of the fascinating and even harrowing documents he found along the way, such as a letter from a German farmer to President Lincoln:

"Unable to pay his debts in Minnesota, he travelled south to find work in Louisiana. In an unguarded moment he voiced his support for Lincoln, then was whipped, nearly lynched, and run out of town. Writing from Cairo, Illinois, he pleads with Lincoln to pay for a ticket so he can make his way back to his wife and family in Minnesota. 

David also explores documents in the Mary Church Terrell and "Civil War Soldiers: 'Disabled but not disheartened"'  Campaigns. 

David's post will help you on By the People, of course, and if you are one of the 44 million Americans with German ancestry, and are researching your family history, this is the blog post for you! 

Thanks everyone for your incredible dedication and progress on By the People. You amaze us more and more every day. 


Victoria and the By the People team

Click here for more information.