Displaying items by tag: women
While going through some old newspaper clippings we came across an article about a local historian, civil rights activist, and veteran, Dr. Martha Settle Putney.
Martha Settle, Spice Yearbook 1935, HSMC Archival Collection
Martha was born in Norristown on November 9, 1916. She graduated from Howard University in 1939 and received her master's degree in history the following year. Unfortunately, Martha faced discrimination and was initially unable to find a teaching position. She ultimately became a statistical clerk with the War Manpower Commission.
Martha continued to experience discrimination while working at the War Manpower Commission, so she decided to join the Woman's Army Corps in 1943. She was assigned to basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She became a first lieutenant and eventually commanded a unit of Black medical technicians at Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago. During her service, Martha was credited for helping to establish policies regarding equality for all members in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Newspaper clipping from Norristown Times Herald, HSMC Collection
After being discharged in 1946, Martha decided to go back to studying history. She earned her doctorate in European history in 1955 from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Putney became a history professor at Bowie State that same year. She chaired the history and geography department until 1974. Dr. Putney went on to teach at Howard University until she retired in 1983.
As a historian, Dr. Putney authored two books and several articles. One of her books, When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women's Army Corps During World War II, details her own experiences in the WAC. Dr. Putney died on December 11, 2008 at age 92 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Joe Holley, “Bowie, Howard Historian Martha Putney,” Washington Post. Monday, December 22, 2008. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/21/AR2008122102051.html
Judy Baca. "How One Woman Made a Difference: Norristown native's past chronicled in Tome Brokaw's 'Greatest Generation'". Times Herald. Monday February 22, 1999.
If you live in the Plymouth Meeting area, you likely recognize the family names Corson and Hovenden. These families owned Abolition Hall, one of the many local sites connected to the Underground Railroad. It was also the studio of famous artist Thomas Hovenden.
Thomas Hovenden, HSMC Photograph Collection
However, you may or may not be familiar with the name Helen Corson Hovenden. She was born in Whitemarsh to George and Martha (Maulsby) Corson on September 15, 1847. Helen wanted to become an artist, so she attended the School of Design in Philadelphia, now known as the Moore College of Art and Design. In 1875, she traveled to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian.
While studying art in Paris, Helen met her future husband and fellow artist, Thomas Hovenden. They both moved back to Montgomery County in 1880 and were married on June 9, 1881. Helen and Thomas used the Corson family barn (Abolition Hall) in Plymouth Meeting as their art studio from 1881 to 1895.
Abolition Hall, HSMC Photograph Collection
Helen was a widely respected artist in Montgomery County and Philadelphia. She was mostly known for her portraits and animal paintings. You can find her work at places like Woodmere Art Museum and the Smithsonian. HSMC even has two portraits created by Helen.
The first one is of Dr. Louis W. Read. He was a renowned Civil War surgeon from Upper Merion.
Dr. Louis W. Read, HSMC Collection
The second portrait is of Dr. William Corson. He was Helen’s uncle.
Dr. William Corson, HSMC Collection
Helen died on October 6, 1935. She and her husband are buried at Plymouth Meeting Friends Cemetery.
Helen Corson Hovenden. Woodmere Art Museum. https://woodmereartmuseum.org/explore-online/collection/artist/helen-corson-hovenden
A couple of months ago, I received an email from the Hershey History Center about three photographs they had found in their collection. The photos show a graduating class of a women's school. We know from the small inscription in the lower left corner that this is the class of 1924. What we don't know is what school we're looking at. A nurse appears in two of the three photographs, so perhaps we're looking at the graduates of a nursing program.
Unfortunately, we can see very little of the buildings behind the graduates, but I thought that one of our dozen or so readers might recognize something in the photos.
Henry K. Bussa was a Norristown photographer that I wrote about a few weeks ago. But, of course, he didn't work exclusively in Montgomery County, so it's possible that this school or hospital is in Philadelphia, Chester, or another nearby county.