Monthly Archives: July 2015

Frederic Mayer Bird, Hymnologist

In my last post, I wrote about how I came to the Burke Library. For this post, I’d like to talk about how one of the collections I processed came here–and how coincidental it was that it was assigned to me.

My first task on being given the Frederic Mayer Bird papers was to research their creator. I soon discovered that Bird, a nineteenth-century expert in hymnology and hymnody, in other words, the study and performance of hymns, was a productive writer. In addition to editing and publishing books and articles on his own area of research, he wrote fiction. Both the amount and the kind of writing were in the family line: Bird’s father, Robert Montgomery Bird, was one of the most successful dramatists and novelists of the antebellum period. I knew the father’s work before I encountered the son’s: I had previously read The Gladiator (1831), a historical drama about Spartacus’s slave uprising in ancient Rome and Sheppard Lee (1836), a fantastical novel about a man who dies only to have his soul cycle through other people’s bodies until they/he die. There was nothing quite so fantastic in Bird’s papers, though hymns, of course, do relate to the soul.


A small photograph of Bird, UTS class of 1860. The Burke Library Archives, Union Theological Seminary Records, Series 18, Class Photographs.

Bird’s papers were not the first material of his to come to Union Theological Seminary. In 1888, Bird sold his personal library of over 3,000 volumes to Henry Day, a member of Union’s Board of Directors, who donated them to Union. Bird reasoned, as he would later write to Union’s President, Thomas S. Hastings, that “since I have given over hymnology except in the way of business–(writing on it when occasion comes, as I do on other topics)–it seemed fit to hand over most of my accumulations of former years.” Union’s hymnological department could now be considered “the largest collection of English hymnology to be found in any institution in the land.” [1]

It was noted at the time that many of the volumes had “many manuscript annotations.” In fact, 338 records in Clio carry a note that reads: “Ms. annotations by Prof. Bird.” Doubtless there are more. Some of those books were even found to have clippings, notes, and letters in them. Two letters from Henry S. Burrage, longtime editor of a Baptist newspaper, are an example. On November 2, 1886, Burrage wrote Bird about a new book project: “I am preparing for publication a work on ‘Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns.’” Burrage was hoping that Bird would be able to answer a question about a particular hymn Burrage was planning to include. Two years later, November 12, 1888, Burrage wrote again to offer thanks: “I send you a copy of my ‘Baptist Hymn Writers,’ as a small token of your kindness to me during its preparation.” Both letters, a librarian’s note accompanying them in the Bird papers remark, were within Bird’s copy of that book when they came to Union.

Bird’s papers were not long in following his library. While it’s not clear who initiated the transfer, there is in the collection a February 12, 1891 letter from President Hastings to Bird about acquiring his papers less than three years after acquiring his library: “We shall be very glad to pay freight on anything you will send. The correspondence shall be put in scrapbooks & indexed.” Three days later, Bird replied: “I sent the parcel off yest.[erday] P.M., & had not time to write (or neglected to do so) before starting for my Sunday duty. The books will all be duplicates … I did not examine them all by any means.” Of the letters, which make up the bulk of the papers, he noted, “There are many of them, & I doubt if they are worth indexing &c. Some are practically trash.”

On the contrary, the letters are valuable for the way they document Bird’s consultations with a network of pastors, scholars, and collectors that traded the texts and histories of hymns. Bird was uncertain of the value of other parts of his papers, as well: “The hymn-cuttings are of no account,” he wrote, and “my clips from newspapers … may be little better. I by no means require the Library to preserve or even examine all in the parcel.” The library has preserved his papers–letters, hymn-cuttings, newspaper clips and all. A finding aid for the collection, including an index of correspondents, is available on our website.

[1] George Lewis Prentiss, The Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, (New York: M., W., & C. Pennypacker, 1899), 358.

Libraries and Our True Interests

palfreyLibrarians of all stripes are regularly asked about the prospects for the library in the 21st century, often some version of “won’t libraries go away now that everything is available online?” It is a reasonable question given the extent to which our lives are increasingly characterized and shaped by the use of digital tools. What will the library become (presuming it survives) in the coming decades, when screens will have replaced printed books?

John Palfrey’s recent work on the future of libraries, Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, attempts a full answer to that and related questions. In doing so he is cautiously optimistic that, provided they work to keep pace in providing the kinds of services and collections patrons desire, libraries can continue to be a vital places of research, discovery, and diversion. He posits a “digital plus” future for libraries, where some more traditional functions (such as inspiring study spaces and special collections) continue to exist alongside emerging offerings (such as data management and advocacy on privacy and copyright issues).

Among the many salient issues Palfrey discusses, he repeatedly reminds readers of the importance of libraries as a non-commercial, non-competitive space in a world increasingly dominated by market models of access to information:

The risk of a small number of technically savvy, for-profit companies determining the bulk of what we read and how we read is enormous. The great beauty of the rich, diverse library system that has developed over the past century and a half has been the role of librarians in selecting and making available a range of materials for people to consult and enjoy. No one pressing ideology can co-opt the system; no single commercial entity can do an end run around the library system in the interest of profit. Scholars can rely on major research libraries to collection broadly and evenly across disciplines. Towns, cities, and states can rely on historical societies and archives to maintain records of the past. And every community can rely on its public library to offer a culturally relevant, broad-based collection of materials that can be consulted for free. [1]

In a context when “value” most often seems to mean “economic value,” libraries can be welcoming places where everyone is free , as publisher John Shively Knight put it, “to bestir the people to an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their thoughts and rouse them to pursue their true interests.” [2]


Student and library staff member Ian White takes full advantage of library resources in pursuing his true interests.

[1] Palfrey, J. (2015). Biblio tech: Why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google. (New York: Basic Books), p. 90.

[2] ibid., p. 179.

Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus- Christian Feminism Today Records

by Yulia Lazarev and Ruth Tonkiss Cameron

Starting from a caucus of the Evangelicals for Social Action in 1973, the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC) is a non-profit international organization formally founded in 1975, which has been working to educate and support Christian feminists.


The organization contains both women and men who believe that the Bible supports full equality of the sexes. In different chapters throughout the United States, the feminist members promote the use of women’s abilities in all forms of Christian careers and promote interaction and help within the Christian community. The educational opportunities with EEWC enable Christian feminists to grow in their faith and also in the critical issues which face Christian feminists.

Throughout its history the organization has changed its name a number of times to reflect its development. Originally they began as the Evangelical Women’s Caucus (EWC), which then changed to Evangelical Women’s Caucus International (EWCI). It was in 1990 that they selected and changed their name to Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus (EEWC) in order to reflect their inclusive nature.

However from 2009, after the donation of their papers to the Burke Library Archives, the organization now combines its name with the online name Christian Feminism Today as Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus – Christian Feminism Today (EEWC-CFT).

EEWC-CFT is also accessible on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and, if you wish for more, you can also subscribe to the RSS feeds or email updates from their website

From 1977 to 2012 EEWC distributed newsletters to their members and other contacts. Articles for the newsletters were written by members of the organization or those who sent their articles to the editors. In the editorial records correspondence can be seen between the women writers and the editor-in-chief. Throughout the different series interesting information resources are to be found, which were either referenced in articles or used as background topical information for discussions.EEWC_LastPaperNewsletters

The contents of this collection reveal the interesting story of a small caucus of feminists in 1974 emerging at the conference of Evangelicals for Social Action. Over the years this developed into an international organization. From the start EWC (later EEWC) supported the development of local Chapters, so that women could meet and develop organizations in different states and smaller localities. The collection contains papers from a number of these local chapters, some short lived, others still flourishing. In 1978 the EWC became self-sufficient by its incorporation and moved from being a network of chapters into an incorporated nonprofit organization.

The biennial Conferences are a significant part of EEWC’s success and a specific sum is set aside for the next conference as part of every annual budget plan. The fact that this organization’s conferences are held in different locations may enable members’ attendance from a range of US states. Previous conferences have been held in Pasadena, Saratoga Springs, Chicago, Wellesley MA, Fresno, Norfolk VA, Indianapolis and Claremont CA.



Naturally posters, fliers, and promotional items such as tote bags, pins, pens and pencils are produced for members attending!

Thanks to support from EEWC-CFT all 39 linear feet of the organization’s archival records are now processed and the finding aid can be consulted online. The Burke Library welcomes researchers who wish to consult this archival collection and you can request an appointment through this online form.