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Mabel H. Austin (Converse) diaries


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Mabel Austin was born April 28, 1884. She attended the Friends Central School before becoming a student at Bryn Mawr College in 1901. Austin graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1905 with bachelor's degrees in French and German. She married Bernard T. Converse in 1909 and had three children. Austin was an avid gardener and one of the founders of Garden Workers, a gardening club. She did some work on the Scholarship and Loan Committee for the Alumnae Association.

The Diaries of Mabel H. Austin is comprised of nine volumes spanning from 1897-1905. The diaries chronicle her daily life, from her years at Friends Central School to her career at Bryn Mawr College.

The collection is comprised of nine page-a-day diaries.

Austin describes the blizzard of 1899, notes that her father heard McKinley speak, and makes reference to the Boer War. Additionally, information about the early days of Bryn Mawr is abundant. Austin describes her matriculation exams, her consultation with "Dean Thomas" about her courses, classes assignments, conferences with faculty, and her reading; as well as the Denbigh fire in 1902 and the installation of electricity the following year; the glee club and mandolin clubs; meetings of the Self Government Association and the Christian Union; hearing Yeats read his poetry; and Henry James' Commencement speech.

The years between 1901 and 1905 were formative and eventful for Bryn Mawr, with M. Carey Thomas acting as Dean and later, President, and the construction of Rockefeller dormitory, and the Denbigh fire. Austin's record of her experience at Bryn Mawr is one of the most detailed in the College Archives for these years, and would be of interest to any researcher studying early women's education, or the history of Bryn Mawr College in particular.

The collection is arranged into 9 page-a-day diaries.

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
Cassidy Gruber Baruth, JoyAngelica Chan, Taylor McClain, Evan McGonagill
Finding Aid Date
February 14, 2017
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Collection Inventory

Diary, January 13, 1897- December 31, 1897.
Diary, January 1, 1901- December 31, 1901. 1 volumes.
Scope and Contents

This journal extends from January 1st, 1901 to December 31st, 1901 and covers her first semester at college. Austin begins her undergraduate career at Bryn Mawr when she moves into the Pembroke dorm on September 30th, 1901. However, she first mentions Bryn Mawr as she prepares to attend the college on August 31st, 1901 in which she sews pillows for the window box of her college room. As Austin familiarizes herself at Bryn Mawr, she describes her matriculation exams, her consultation with "Dean Thomas" about her courses, class assignments, conferences with her faculty, and her reading. Additionally, a large portion of this diary includes insights on female relationships ranging from same sex attraction, sexuality, and grade dynamics. In particular, she charts out the progression of her crush for upperclassman Clara W in diary entries on October 4th, 7th, 11th, and November 16th where Mabel and Clara ask one another to freshman and sophomore dances.

Physical Description

1 volumes

Diary, January 1, 1902- December 1, 1902. 1 volumes.
Scope and Contents

1902 starts off with a celebratory diary entry on January 1st by Mabel H Austin at home before returning back to Bryn Mawr for the second semester of her freshman year. In this diary, she documents her travels in and out of school life, traveling into Philadelphia, PA for a luncheon with friends on January 4th and an orchestra concert on January 9th. On March 17th, Austin describes the 1902 fire that destroyed the interior of Denbigh Hall, one of the dormitories on campus, and the evacuation plans thereafter. Following her first year, she then accounts for her time spent during the summer in Pittsburgh, PA, (entries describing her living conditions and travel expenses are found on June 11th-12th). Finally, school begins again on September 30th, in which Austin exclaims with 'joy' her nearly unpacked room and positive first class meetings. Continuing her first semester as a sophomore, Austin balances her life as an academic student and religious commitments, continuously mentioning her hours put aside for study or Sunday school. The diary also includes mention of the beginning stages of electricity installation, which she saw completed the following year in 1903. Throughout the entire diary, Austin extensively mentions close friend, Reba (?), from her absence in class due to an illness on February 19th, leisurely drives outside of school on August 24th, to running town errands together on September 20th.

Physical Description

1 volumes

Diary, January 1, 1903- December 1, 1903. 1 volumes.
Scope and Contents

Paralleling student life today, Mabel H Austin extensively focuses on the ebbs and flows of her academic performance. Starting the journal as a second semester sophomore, the spring of 1903 brings forth the various responsibilities that Austin balances as a woman living in the early twentieth century. In addition to her work as a student, Austin highlights other expectation surrounding school culture such as hosting friends (April 20th) and how she herself manages these various pieces (i.e. waking up earlier for a class on January 26th, arriving late to class on February 11th, or prioritizing a class over another on March 20th). In addition to Austin's personal responses to school culture, she includes trending mannerism that affect student relationships such as bringing up the joke phrase, "are you attractive?" on March 19th which at the time was an indicator of social status. She also mentions the completion of the first electrical installation project on the campus. In the first quarter of the diary, there are pencil drawn x marks that cross out the entries; however, this does not drastically hinder any ability to read the diary.

Physical Description

1 volumes

Diary, January 1, 1904- December 31, 1904. 1 volumes.
Scope and Contents

This diary has three sections of robust documentation starting from January-February, mid May, September-November of 1904. The rest of the diary has little to no recording for the months in between. Between January-February, Mabel H. Austin makes takes numerous preparatory measures to combat the winter with repeated trips into town for a new hat and coat (January 12th and January 25th); however, she also comments on the joyous activities done in the snow such as a sledding with friends on January 3rd. In April, Austin shows her support for student activities as she cheers on a class game between the Sophomores and Freshmen (who won 2-1) on May 4th, attending a basketball game on May 5th, watching the play production on May 7th. She also mentions a discrepancy of paperwork she has with a professor who had been away in Cuba on May 10th and how she rectifies that miscommunication. Finally, between September-November, as a first semester senior, Austin is heavily involved in her own diverse range of interests as seen in her student activities and school work. Some examples of this can be noted in her first Spanish lesson (October 6th, meetings with the Christian Union (October 7th), Mandolin club (October 12th and November 2nd), cramming for an oral over a dinner class (October 13th), and Law club (November 17th). In the first few entries from each section, there are pencil drawn x marks that cross out the entries; however, this does not drastically hinder any ability to read the diary.

Physical Description

1 volumes

Diary, January 1, 1905- June 9, 1905. 1 volumes.
Scope and Contents

Austin's last undergraduate diary is an eclectic mix of college life and transition towards the world outside of Bryn Mawr. Her commitment to the arts remains a consistent trend throughout her four years, an example of which is shown in her attendance of the Boston symphony on January 9th, 1905. She demonstrates more independence as she drives M to school (January 14th) as well as comes in and out of her various lectures. Although she anticipates graduation with excitement and speaks about the 1905 class activities (June 7th), she seems dismayed by the commencement speaker (Henry James) when she expresses thoughts on January 19th: "I haven't any decision to see him again". Every page that is written on have pencil drawn x marks that cross out the entries; however, this does not drastically hinder any ability to read the diary.

Physical Description

1 volumes

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