Monthly Archives: April 2010

Arrival in Liverpool

In Queenstown, the Niagara picked up the pilot who would take the ship to the coast of Wales.  On the morning of April 28, a thick fog slowed their progress, but the fog lifted by mid-morning.  Making landfall in Wales, the ship took on a Welsh pilot who took them up the coast to Liverpool.  The tides, however, prevented their entering the harbor for several hours.

Eliza Baylies Wheaton did not handle waiting particularly well.  An active woman who was accustomed to keeping busy, she found the delays as the ship approached Liverpool particularly frustrating.  After having waited for the tide to turn so that the ship could clear the sand bar that blocked the harbor at low tide, she chafed at the time the customs house officers took to question the passengers and examine their luggage.  “This examination,” Wheaton wrote, “which sh[oul]d have taken place at the bar while we were detained took two hours or more.”  She was not amused.

The steamship company did handle one piece of business in a way that impressed her.  While the ship had been in Queenstown the night before, the company had telegraphed ahead to Glasgow to notify the family of the man who had broken his knee that he would need to be met in Liverpool.  Taking the train from Glasgow, the young man met his father’s ship and assisted him on the final leg of his journey home.

Wheaton, her husband, and Major Holman took a cab to Angel’s Hotel.  “On entering the house,” Wheaton remarked, “we found it manned by women—tastefully dressed, modest in demeanor & intelligent— They assign the rooms, attend the bar, and in fact do all that men do in our Hotels— The porters are men—so in the Coffee rooms there are only male attendants.”

She found the rooms comfortable enough, with “a cabinet for sickness—a luggage chain and curtains for the bed.”  But she disliked the way the bed curtains were used.  “At Eve. a servant comes in,” she wrote, “and draws the curtains around the bed so you may be thoroughly poisoned by your own breathing—  Of course, I undid what they did.”

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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The Coast of Ireland

Mild weather greeted Eliza Baylies Wheaton on Sunday, April 27, and the ship’s crew announced sighting the Irish coast during breakfast.  Wheaton had attended religious services with other passengers that morning, and she was in her cabin reading her bible and a sermon about the ocean when Major Holman called her out onto the deck to see the view.  She declared it “novel and grand—a rockbound Coast surely.”  As the ship drew nearer the land she wrote, “We were able to see Huts and discern cultivated patches.”  Later she saw “a Church very like our N. Eng. Churches.”

In Queenstown Harbor, a small tug met the ship, which discharged the mails and a number of passengers who were taking a shorter route to London.  Wheaton described the process as “very exciting,” in contrast to “a phosphorescent display in the water,” which she found “not very brilliant.”

More impressive to her was what seemed the great heat of the ship’s smokestack, which they neared in order to dry themselves of sea spray.  “The chimney seemed very hot,” she noted, “and I felt sure they had put on all the steam they safely c[ou]ld to land before dark.”  Her anxiety returned.

Back in her stateroom, she located a life preserver and considered how to use it.  Wheaton was a small woman, and she thought the life preserver looked too big to be of use to her.  “However I rummaged up some strong twine with wh[ich] to tie it on,” she wrote, “+ inflated my own life preserver for the first time— and laid down and had considerable sleep—“

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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Calm Seas

Saturday, April 26, brought “more quiet,” which gave Eliza Baylies Wheaton her first comfortable opportunity to socialize with her fellow passengers.  In the afternoon, she drank some ginger tea that, she noted, “revived me greatly and enabled me to go to tea from which I had been absent from 1st. day.”

Tea was one of the numerous meals served on board the ship throughout the day and evening.  A light evening meal between dinner and supper, it probably seemed to Wheaton just right, neither too heavy nor the gruel to which her diet had been limited for the past week.

The social aspect of the meal probably appealed to her at least as much as the food, if not more.  Wheaton was accustomed to a lively social life, with neighbors, friends, teachers, and students in and out of her house every day.  The dreariness of her stateroom must certainly have extended beyond her seasickness, and homesickness had probably worsened her anxiety that the ship would break on the stormy ocean and she would never see her beloved friends and family again.

What a delight it must have been for her then, to leave her stateroom and join her fellow passengers for tea.

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Paine, Harriet E. The life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton: A Chapter in the History of the Higher Education of Women. Cambridge, Mass.: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1907.

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Brown Groupies?

At the Women in the Archives conference this weekend, a friend commented that we seemed to be turning into Brown groupies.  We both attended an intensive three-day Advanced Encoding Seminar a few weeks ago, and there we were again on Saturday.  I had an even more groupie-like week since I heard computer scientist Jeannette Wing give a talk about computational thinking last Monday and then heard Neil Fraistat, who leads the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) discuss digital humanities centers on Wednesday.  This immersion in the digital will continue this Wednesday, when Angel David Nieves from Hamilton College will be on campus at Wheaton College to talk about his research and the regional digital humanities center they are organizing at Hamilton. I will be interested to see how my colleagues at Wheaton respond and to find out how all of these talks fit together in my own thinking about digital humanities and next steps at Wheaton, especially around collaborations with other institutions.

For the moment, I’m mostly just grateful for Brown.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear Wing.  Her three page piece on computational thinking from 2006 has had impressive effects.  She claims that the concept has taken hold in undergraduate curricula, and she is now focused on considering where we might best teach significant concepts in computational thinking at the K-12 levels.  This is all very exciting to me, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.  I wonder how my colleagues who specialize in teaching math educators for those levels are thinking about this issue.

Fraistat’s talk gave me still more to consider, as he presented a tour of MITH and the work they do there along with a summary of where we are in the development of digital humanities centers.  So much of what he had to say seemed to speak directly to where we find ourselves at Wheaton.  We’re not, of course, a big research university like Maryland, but we do see more and more collaborations among faculty members, students, and staff in Library and Information Services.  And those collaborations seem to me to echo on a smaller scale the kinds of collaborations Fraistat figured as significant for the next steps in the development of digital humanities centers.  Especially if we can promote the kind of broad and inclusive definitions of digital humanities that he suggested.

My brain was a bit on overload as I settled into a full day of papers and discussion at the Women in the Archive conference on Saturday.  I took plenty of notes, and the papers generated more ideas about the various projects I am working on than I could possibly summarize here.  I will note that during the conference I got an email asking for a title and blurb for the digital humanities workshop we will hold on campus at the end of May.

This has been a fruitful month for learning more about what others are doing in digital humanities, and I am looking forward to learning more and thinking with colleagues about where the work we do at Wheaton fits in this universe.

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Jeannette Wing, “Computational Thinking,” <www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wing/www/publications/Wing06.pdf>.

Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, <http://mith.umd.edu/&gt;.

Women in the Archives Conference, <http://www.wwp.brown.edu/about/activities/wia/wia2010/schedule.html&gt;.

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Storm’s End

Eliza Baylies Wheaton described the third night of the storm as the worst yet, bringing still rougher seas.  “On this morn[in]g about 2 o’cl[oc]k,” she wrote, a wave “came with a fearful power on to the upper Deck over the wheel house— The smoke stack was marked with the salt water some 20 or 25 f[ee]t above upper deck— At the shipping of this sea one of the sail burst from the strength of the wind and all together the sound was like that of a cannon on board— She tumbled a moment then mounted the waves and went on her way—”

Wheaton responded anxiously to these events, but she could find no one, either passenger or crew, to affirm her fears.  The wind lessened late in the morning of April 25, and she took the air on the upper deck in the afternoon.  “The English,” she noted, “have a confidence in one of Cunard’s Steamers that seems to set aside the superintending providence of God—“  An Englishwoman from Toronto told her she did not believe a Cunard steamer could be wrecked.  An officer disagreed with Wheaton’s characterizing the passage as rough, but he remarked that the way the sea made the ship roll did make everyone uncomfortable.

Wheaton herself took the opportunity to reflect on how well her faith had weathered the storm.  She wrote: “But during the Storm I had a good degree of quiet trust, and yet I longed for a more sensible nearness to Christ… for that perfect love that casts out fear.”

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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“Brot down helpless”

Eliza Baylies Wheaton spent April 24 in her stateroom, though her husband was able to spend some time on deck.  Her entry in the travel journal marked this as the day that one of the passengers broke his knee while he was out on the upper deck.  He “was brot down helpless to his room,” she noted.  “Fortunately he is going home.”

The storm continued.

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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“David still well”

Eliza Baylies Wheaton focused on the wind and the waves in the entry she wrote to mark April 23 in her travel journal.  Noting that she wrote the entry “from recollection days after the passage,” Wheaton mentioned that she did not think her husband left his room on that day.

The wind and the waves and their effect on the ship unnerved Wheaton.  She commented that there was “scarcely any abatement” in the wind, and she described the waves as “very high.”  Trying to maintain a cheerful voice, she remarked that both were “hurrying us on to our destined port from 230 to 266 m[i]l[e]s per 24 hours.”

But Wheaton could not hide the anxiety she had felt during the voyage.  She searched for changes in the weather at least twice every day, at sunrise and sunset.  At night, however, the wind would increase, and the waves would reach the ship’s deck.  The ship creaked constantly, and Wheaton feared that it would come apart.

“I was told,” she wrote, “there was no apparent concern by the officers or crew, and the creaking was the inside work not the frame of the ship.”

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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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