menu logo

Penrose Library Blog

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

by Amy Blau  Mar 8 16

For International Women’s Day on March 8, library video streaming service Kanopy has created a collection of films that document women and women’s achievements and challenges in a variety of contexts. Films on Demand has curated video from its collection for Women’s History Month. And you may have already noticed that Google’s International Women’s Day doodle has interesting video footage of women from around the world.

Learn more about International Women’s Day at the United Nations website, or via articles accessible through library databases (a few are listed below; log in with your Whitman ID and password to view). Also check out the Women Working, 1800-1930 digital collection available through Harvard University Library Open Collections Program, for a wide range of digitized primary source materials related to women’s work in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Curthoys, Barbara. 1994. “International Women’s Day in Newcastle in the Fifties and Sixties: A Personal Account.” Labour History, no. 66. Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.: 122–28. doi:10.2307/27509241.

Kaplan, Temma. 1985. “On the Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day.” Feminist Studies 11 (1). Feminist Studies, Inc.: 163–71. doi:10.2307/3180144.

Klemesrud, Judy. 1975. “March and Rally Celebrate First International Women’s Day.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 09, 1.

Leap year: ladies’ choice

by Amy Blau  Feb 29 16

The English term “leap year” refers to the bissextile year, which has 366 days rather than the usual 365 in order to reconcile the tropical year (cycle of the seasons) with the calendar year. (For more history and the rest of the rules that determine a leap year, see this explanation from the US Naval Observatory). The best-known custom associated with leap year in Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States was that during a leap year, women were allowed to propose to men. The origins of this tradition are murky. One newspaper article from 1956 attributed it to a misinterpretation of the Latin term “bissextile” as having to do with the sexes (rather than indicating when in the Roman calendar the extra day was added in the leap year). [1] However, this explanation is not widely given in discussions of leap year traditions, and it too may be based on a false etymological interpretation.

Leap year privileges could include less permanent decisions than marriage — the principle of ladies’ choice extended to invitations to dances, parties, and other social events. In the words of a newspaper article from Vincennes, Indiana in 1868, “The ladies must not forget that this is leap year, and that the peculiar privilege of leap year continues throughout the year 1868. All the etiquette of the sexes is reversed. If ladies wish to walk or ride with gentlemen, to dance at balls or escort them home from parties, to attend concerts, or to treat them to ice creams, they have the right to ask, or rather command everything, for it is not to be supposed that a refusal in such a case is within the bounds of possibility.” [2] The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun had also reminded women of this custom in earlier Leap Years, noting on February 6, 1864 (and again on the 13th) that as men were scarce due to the Civil War, women should “go to WATSON’S book-store, and procure a supply of Valentines with which to lay siege to the hearts of the sterner sex.” [3]

According to a custom known in Great Britain and the United States through the 19th century, if the man of her choice refused her proposal, the woman might expect a silk gown from him as a gift to ease her disappointment at being turned down. A February, 1856 article in the Provincial Freeman, a newspaper by and for fugitive slaves who had settled in Canada, specified that the gift of a silk gown was contingent upon the woman wearing a scarlet petticoat beneath her dress when she proposed, and showing the lower hem of the petticoat to the man if he refused her. The article noted a trend in the wearing of scarlet petticoats that winter season. [4] The silk gown tradition (but not that of the scarlet petticoat) also appeared in a story by Leigh North, published in 1919. For the ten-year-old girl in that story (whose twenty-something cousin does not want to accept her proposal, for obvious reasons) the silk gown was far more attractive than the man. [5]

Want to read more about this custom that turned gender roles around every four years? Penrose Library’s primary source databases are rich in content. Starting from the Primary Sources Subject Guide, you can access subscription databases through the library that include text and images from newspapers, magazines, and books. We searched for “leap year” in a number of these databases to find  the interesting tidbits above. There are also many primary sources available on the open web. The HathiTrust Digital Library is an excellent place to find texts in the public domain. You can find an interesting collection of Leap Year postcards in a database hosted at Monmouth University. Wherever your search takes you, enjoy this Leap Day!

You will need to log in with your Whitman network ID and password to read the articles in notes 1-4. For notes 2-4, you must search within the database; there is no direct link to the article.

[1] Barnes, Aleene, “Yes, girls, there’s a basis for leap year,” Los Angeles Times, February 29, 1956. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.

[2] “Leap Year,” The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun, January 18, 1868. Accessible Archives.

[3] “Leap Year,” The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun, February 6, 1864. Accessible Archives.

[4] “The Ladies’ Law of Leap Year,” Provincial Freeman, February 16, 1856. Accessible Archives.

[5] North, Leigh, “A Leap Year Bargain,” in Verses and Stories by C. E. D. Phelps and Leigh North (New Brunswick, N.J.: Press of J. Heidingsfeld Co., 1919), 69-73. HathiTrust Digital Library.


1904 A Leap Year Valentine. Image from the Library of Congress

We believe that this image is in the public domain in the United States with no known restrictions on its reproduction. If you know of a restriction, please contact us and we will remove this image from our blog.

Art @ Penrose: Dots Front Misfire

by Amy Blau  Feb 22 16

dotsfrontmisfireThis is the second post in an occasional series on works of art on display in Penrose Library.

Research and post by Philip Stefani

Dots Front Misfire – Gina Osterloh – 3rd floor across from staff elevator

This print of a photograph captures a scene in a 2011 installation in the Sheehan Gallery. Gina Osterloh’s larger installation project was titled Cut Room. The installation’s accompanying photographs depict the room seen in this photo with vibrant streamers on all surfaces, and the same sculpture in the center, as well as other similar papier-mâché figures. Osterloh’s Cut Room installation follows her Rash Room and Blank Attempts installations in a series titled Shooting Blanks; the installations have shown in the United States and the Philippines. Much of Osterloh’s work explores environments saturated in vibrant colors with particular focus on textured surfaces.


Library Flix: Kanopy Videostreaming

by Amy Blau  Feb 16 16

kanopyStreaming video is not brand-new to Penrose Library. We first offered Films on Demand, a collection of thousands of educational programs, in 2010, and have since added specialized collections for Theatre and Dance such as and Digital Theatre Plus. We added Kanopy to our collection in August, 2015.

Kanopy extends our streaming video offerings considerably because it includes many feature films in addition to documentaries and educational videos. Collection strengths include foreign films (especially French and German), many classic titles from the Criterion Collection (including The Battle of Algiers), and a number of silent films, as well as works by independent filmmakers. There are also many, many educational titles that range from documentary films and series to recorded lectures and training videos in a wide variety of areas.

If you look for a particular film in Sherlock, our library catalog, and you see a result that is held in Kanopy, just click on the Kanopy Streaming Video link in the View Online tab. If you are already logged in, you will go directly to the film.

You can also access Kanopy and browse its holdings by clicking here, or by searching for Kanopy from the Database A-Z page (under Databases & more on the Penrose Library home page) or by finding the link through a Library Guide. When you access Kanopy via these links, you will be prompted to log in with your Whitman network ID and password.

In general, our users who have tried Kanopy have found the streaming quality to be good (albeit better on-campus than off-campus). As with any library resource, if you have difficulties accessing a film, please let us know; we’ll do what we can to help. Access is available via Whitman network ID and password to current faculty, staff, and students.

We hope you enjoy using Kanopy!


Library Display on Civil Rights and Social Justice

by Amy Blau  Jan 26 16
social justice-centerpieceIn the weeks between Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and Whitman’s Power and Privilege Symposium on February 18, 2016, Penrose Library is featuring a display of books and films from our collection that address the Civil Rights Movement and its legacy, and issues in and struggles for diversity, equality, and social justice. Our featured works are primarily (although not exclusively) nonfiction; all are available for check-out. We’re also featuring an electronic version of books in the display in the carousel below. Is there a book or film on these subjects that you would like to recommend for the display? We have a web form where you can tell us about it: author, title, a brief overview of its contents, and why you think it is important. Some of these recommendations may be shared in our display along with the work itself, with your permission. If the work you recommend isn’t already in our collection, we will see if we can acquire it. We hope that in exploring these works, you will find information and ideas that contribute to future discussions and actions. The books pictured below are part of the library display. Click on the circles or left-click and drag to see more images. When you click on a particular title, its record in Sherlock will tell you if it is checked out or not. To check out an available featured book, look for it in the display on the main floor next to the Circulation Desk.

Welcome back! Spring Semester 2016

by Amy Blau  Jan 15 16

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47db-5a32-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.wPenrose Library staff would like to remind everyone about our hours going into the Spring 2016 semester.

Saturday and Sunday, January 16 and 17: The Library will be open from 9 am to 5 pm.

Monday, January 18: We will open at 9 am and close at 10 pm for Whitman community members (9 pm for other patrons).

Tuesday, January 19: We will open at 9 am and remain open 24 hours for Whitman community members until Spring Break.

Welcome back, students! We hope you had a restorative Winter Break and are looking forward to the beginning of the semester.

Image from The New York Public Library

Finals week message

by Amy Blau  Dec 11 15

Three out of five Whitties interviewed in this video prefer to study in Penrose Library. We’re always glad to see you here!

For finals week, we send all Whitman students our best wishes for health, as much sleep as possible, fortitude, and success in all of your final exams, papers, and projects.

ILL and Summit ordering at the end of the semester

by Amy Blau  Dec 2 15

As the end of the semester approaches, bringing due dates for papers and projects, Penrose Library staff want to help you find and access sources that you need for your research. Please be aware of some general policies and specific end-of-semester deadlines.

Books, DVDs, microfilm, and other tangible media (see below for articles)

Interlibrary loan (ILL) for print books and media materials can take a while, especially if items are coming from far away. The Access Services Department stopped requesting out-of-country loan items for students as of last week due to the time constraint for shipping. They will continue to request continental US loan items until December 7th. At that time they will only place requests for items within the Pacific Northwest/California and Montana. If you have any rush requests, please let Jen Pope know immediately.

For Summit items (print books and media materials), allow at least five business days for delivery, as usual. You may request Summit materials during finals week, but they are very unlikely to arrive before the end of the semester. Materials that arrive after the end of the semester will be held at the Circulation Desk for seven days; depending on when they are ordered, they may be sent back to their home institution before the beginning of the Spring semester.

Articles via ILL

Orders for articles via ILL are placed when the library is open, regardless of the time of year. Usually the turnaround time for an article via ILL is within 48 hours, although it can take longer, depending on the journal and the providing library. Once they have arrived, ILL articles remain available in your ILL account for 21 days. After that point, the articles are removed from your account and must be requested again, so it is a good idea to download your article as soon as you receive notification that it has arrived. Do be sure to leave yourself a cushion of a couple of days when requesting ILL articles!

Returning materials at the end of the semester

You can check on due dates for your Penrose, Summit, and ILL materials in your Sherlock account. Before you leave campus, please return items that are due while you will be away!


Image credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Tips & Tricks: Citation Managers

by Amy Blau  Nov 17 15

Do you need help managing mountains of research sources and wrangling them into bibliographies? If so, or if you need help keeping track of your research, you should find yourself a citation manager. Luckily, Penrose has a few recommendations.


Don’t let citations weigh you down.

Zotero [pronounced zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free application that one Library 100 student described as “really cool” and “an amazing program.”  It allows you to save, organize, and manage citations to books, journal articles, websites and more. And furthermore, it allows you to generate formatted bibliographies in APA, MLA, Chicago, and many other citation styles. You can also sync your account to Zotero’s servers, allowing you to access your library from any computer. Zotero also has a group function that allows multiple people to contribute to a library, which is great for group projects.

If you’re in Division III, you might want to check out EndNote. Like Zotero, EndNote helps you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. There is a basic free version that functions in the cloud (and, specifically, within Web of Science), and a more extensive licensed version for a desktop. But Whitman has a site license for EndNote, so you may use the licensed version of EndNote while you are a student, faculty, or staff member — but you will need to remove EndNote or purchase your own copy when you leave Whitman.

Ready to get started? You can always get help by visiting or emailing a research librarian. Or explore these links on your own:

Download Zotero

Visit Penrose’s guide to Zotero

View Zotero video tutorials


You can download EndNote from Whitman’s WinApp server. See guidelines on the Penrose guide to EndNote.

Visit Penrose’s guide to EndNote

View EndNote video tutorials

Art @ Penrose: Bridging Buildings II

by Amy Blau  Nov 3 15

This is the first post in an occasional series on works of art on display in Penrose Library.

Research and post by Phil Stefani

Bridging Buildings II – Brian Paulsen – 1st floor on map case wall

The image, a plastic engraving from 1998, is emblematic of Paulsen’s black and white engraving works from the 1980s through 2000s, though he has also produced watercolors and colored illustrations at various points in his career. Bridging Buildings II features a cartoonish take on scenes of everyday life present in much of Paulsen’s work; the surreal juxtaposition between a television, chair, and tiled floor with the arc of tin men connecting the buildings suggests the modern influence of collage on the traditional form of engraving. This dark yet whimsical piece was gifted to Whitman College by former professor of art Keiko Hara. Hara worked as an art professor at Whitman for over thirty years and donated several prints to the library from the “Colorprint Collection: Spanning the States in ’98,” a nation-wide art show featuring printmaking works from an artist in each state.