Adventures in the Morgue

In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, this is the second in a series of installments from Smithsonian Institution Archives staff highlighting women in science photographs. We will post portraits of women science here throughout the month. In a 1930s movie about hotshot newspaper reporters, you might hear the star (Jimmy Cagney, probably) yell to his wise-cracking sidekick (Joan Blondell) “Hey—check the morgue!” Joan doesn’t grab her coat and go running to the place where the medical examiner does autopsies. She goes running to the file cabinet. The morgue of a newspaper or magazine is its reference file, where clippings and photographs containing useful information are stored for future needs.* When the Science Service archives came to the Smithsonian Institution Archives, their morgue containing past articles, press releases and other materials produced by the Science Service was included. “Other materials” included many photographs. We’ve posted a selection of these dealing with women and science on the Smithsonian Flickr Commons. Mary Steichen Calderone (1904-1998), Smithsonian Institution Archives I was browsing through the portraits in the “Women and Science” collection, and two of the women who are posted this week caught my eye. I did a little research to find out more about them. Did you know that prior to 1964, the American Medical Association prohibited physicians from disseminating birth control information to their patients? Mary Steichen Calderone, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood, was instrumental in overturning that policy. I also was interested to find that Ms. Calderone was the daughter of Edward Steichen—and that her interest in medicine began when she lived with Dr. Leopold Stieglitz’s family while attending school. Dr. Stieglitz was the brother of Alfred Stieglitz. Nathalia Clara Ruth Crane (1913-1998), Smithsonian Institution Archives Child prodigies are so easily and undeservedly forgotten. When I found snippets of Nathalia Crane’s poetry on line, I was delighted to discover that her verses were a cross between Dorothy Parker and Emily Dickinson. Here’s a sample:

The Janitor’s Boy

Oh I'm in love with the janitor's boy, And the janitor's boy loves me; He's going to hunt for a desert isle In our geography. He’ll carry me off; I know that he will, For his hair is exceedingly red; And the only thing that occurs to me Is to dutifully shiver in bed.

For more of Nathalia’s poetry see *Hotshot archivists yell, “Check the vertical file!”— but we mean pretty much the same thing. In an archival setting, the vertical file contains printed items, only. Unique items such as manuscripts and photographs are usually not placed in our vertical file

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