Swarthmore College Department of

Peace & Conflict Studies Blog

Prof. Ellen Ross, Quakers, and the Friends Historical Library

The following is excerpted from @library.edu: The Newsletter of the Swarthmore College Library. Spring 2009. Vol. 11, no. 2. Professor Ross’ course, “Living in the Light: Quakers Past and Present” (Religion 23) counts toward a Peace and Conflict Studies minor.

Ellen Ross: Living in the Light: Quakers Past and Present

Some assignments take advantage of the rich special collections available on campus. In Living in the Light: Quakers Past and Present (Religion 23), taught by Ellen Ross, students are invited to use the Friends Historical Library and the Peace Collection to complete their final research paper. The assignment is open-ended, on any topic related to the Quakers, and students work closely with Professor Ross to craft their topics and discover their sources. For example, when a student wrote about 19th century Quaker women and peace efforts, Professor Ross and the student deciphered the flowery script of letters from the Peace Collection written by Lucy Biddle Lewis, who was active in Quaker postwar relief work and was the national Chairman of the Women??s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Other students were immersing themselves in diaries and journals that bring the past to life or deriving inspiration from the experience of working in an archive. One student said, “After talking to the librarians in special collections, I changed my topic. It helped me to get more focused on what I like.”

This personal investment in the research process is one of Professor Ross’s goals for the assignment. Not only does it allow students to explore world-class collections, but it also entices many of them into the library to engage in research and writing on a topic that sparks their interest. As Professor Ross notes, “Some students never darken the doors of the library,” but the guest book at FHL is filled with her students’ names.