“…because they are women and not men” – Women’s history exhibit at the Keller Library

mellen donors

Allen and Liz Mellen visit the Keller Library and meet with exhibit curator Mary Robison.

As seen through the vestry papers of E.Allen Mellen, this exhibit studies the Church of St. Mary’s Manhattanville‘s attempt to ordain Carter Heyward and Emily Hewitt priest in 1974, prior to the July 1974 ordinations in Philadelphia.

The E.Allen Mellen (St. Mary’s Manhattanville) papers on display at the Christoph Keller, Jr. Library are archival copies. After processing, the originals will be included in the Archives of Women in Theological Scholarship, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York. The Keller Library extends its utmost gratitude to Ruth Tonkiss Cameron, Archivist for UTS and the Burke Library Collection, for her time, advice and mentorship in assisting us with this exhibit.

Also on display are papers from the Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., XIII Bishop of New York, and other materials loaned from the Archives of the Diocese of New York. We are truly thankful to Wayne Kempton, Diocesan Archivist, for his enthusiasm and generosity in allowing us to borrow and display these materials, and for his cheerful gusto in assisting students of The General Theological Seminary with their primary source research.

Other materials in this exhibit come from the Special Collections of the Christoph Keller, Jr. Library at The General Theological Seminary. They represent a sampling of the range of materials on women’s history; our Archives includes other similar items available to scholars to do in-depth primary source research on this topic and many others.   As with all Special Collections materials at the Keller Library, these items are available for use by students, faculty and qualified researchers. Please contact Mary Robison, Reference Librarian for more information about using Special Collections.

What a glorious morning it was last Friday when intrepid donors Allen and Liz Mellen along with friend Tiana Leonard, braved a spring downpour to visit General Seminary and tour the exhibition at the Keller Library. Allen Mellen served as Clerk of the vestry of the Church of St. Mary’s Manhattanville, and Liz was active in the parish during the time Emily Hewitt and Carter Heyward served as deacons there.

St. Mary’s Manhattanville sponsored Deacons Hewitt and Heyward for ordination in the Diocese of New York before they and the rest of the priests now known as the  Philadelphia Eleven were ordained at the Church of the Advocate on July 29, 1974. The papers in this exhibition show the anguish and frustration at the process from the point of view of the church leadership as well as from the ordinands and Bishop Moore.

This exhibit would not be possible without the scholarship, hard work and dedication of The Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer, Th.D. student at The General Theological Seminary, who made the initial contact with the Mellens, discovered this “hidden collection,” and facilitated the gift of materials to the Burke Archives. Mother Bailey is rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Teaneck, New Jersey.

The exhibition will be in place until mid-June at the Keller Library – come and learn more about this recently discovered collection, and celebrate how far the Episcopal Church has evolved on the topic of women’s ordination in the past thirty years.

For more information on the subject of women in the church, check out the Episcopal Women’s History Project, the collections of Women in Theology at Union Seminary, or contact your reference librarian!

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