Celebrate Women’s History Month with the Smithsonian Transcription Center!

Help us transcribe the records of groundbreaking Smithsonian entomologist Doris Holmes Blake.

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’d like your help transcribing the collection of entomologist Doris Holmes Blake, whose records have already created quite a buzz (pun absolutely intended)!

Doris Holmes Blake specialized in coleopterology, otherwise known as the study of beetles. Blake’s tenure with the Smithsonian lasted an incredible 50 years, from 1928-1978. During the majority of that time, she was uncompensated for her work. Nevertheless, Blake proved incredibly productive throughout her career, where she served as a collaborator, researcher, and scientific illustrator. She published a total of 96 papers and proposed 25 genera and 818 species group names.

Black and white photographic portrait of an elderly woman seated at her work desk. Books can be seen

Blake was also deeply devoted to her family. A prolific letter writer, her correspondence with her immediate family is rich with detail and feeling, especially in exchanges with her daughter, Doris Sidney Blake. The letters paint a vivid picture of daily life for Blake and her family.

Below are a few highlights, typical in this collection, from already-completed projects in the Smithsonian Transcription Center

  • What did the average night out look like for young women in 1949? In this letter, Doris Sidney described for her mother her adventures cooking and going to the movies with college friends.
  • What were the dating norms during this period? Doris Sidney often wrote candidly to her mother about her love life while in college in the 1940s. Perhaps surprisingly, Doris Holmes herself also spoke to her daughter’s good sense when it came to dating, as evidenced in this letter to a college staff member charged with looking after the female students, explaining that the advisor “will not have to worry about that.”
  • How did people in the United States feel about major world events? A letter from Doris Holmes’s mother, Lucy Wentworth Holmes, from late December 1944 spoke to the joys of the holiday season, coupled with the somber fact that “so many boys [are] away from their homes” due to “this dreadful war”, speaking, of course, about World War II.

Every week in March, we will be posting five projects in the Smithsonian Transcription Center of Doris Holmes Blake’s correspondence with her family, focusing on her mother, daughter, and son-in-law. We hope you will find them as interesting and entertaining as we did!

Color photograph of an elderly woman seated at her desk. Drawings of beetles can be seen on her desk

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