Student Life: Ladies' Literary Society (Aelioian, L.L.S.) Records, 1846-1953 | Oberlin College Archives
The records of the Ladies' Literary Society and Aelioian Literary Society chronicle virtually the entire history of female literary societies at Oberlin College. The records underscore the important role that female literary societies played in the coeducation movement and the struggle for equality. The records of these two organizations, beginning as early as 1846, cover the rift which led to the creation of the Young Ladies' Lyceum (later Aelioian Literary Society) in 1852, the subsequent reunion of the L.L.S. and Aelioian Literary Societies in 1948, and the ultimate disbanding of the joint organization in 1952. Additional documentation consists of roll books, which record attendance and membership, treasurer's records and account books, programs, alumnae association material, and records of the Ladies' Societies Library Association.
The records are divided into four subgroups reflecting three related but separate entities. The first subgroup consists of records of the Ladies' Literary Society spanning from 1846 through 1953. This appears first since the Ladies' Literary Society was the forerunner of all subsequent organizations. The Aelioian Literary Society begins and ends with the Ladies' Literary Society. In 1852, several women bolted the established Ladies' Literary Society and created the Aelioian Literary Society. In 1948, facing declining membership, the two organizations were reunited. Thus, the second subgroup is comprised of the records of the Aelioian Literary Society from 1855 to 1948. The third subgroup consists of the records of a jointly sponsored association, the Ladies' Societies Library Association. Records of the library association span from 1859 to 1908. The fourth subgroup contains programs from various Inter-Society events.
The records series in both subgroup I and subgroup II are parallel, each subgroup containing virtually the same series, with the exception of alumnae association records and a historical file in the Ladies' Literary Society. These are not present in the Aelioian Literary Society. The series titles for the two organizations reflect the administrative character of the societies. The records were kept by the societies' officers, and as such reflect the duties of each particular office. The recording secretary's records, for example, are found in the series Minutes. The corresponding secretary's records are found in a series aptly titled, Corresponding secretary's records. Related to the corresponding secretary's duties are the attendance and membership records which are chronicled in the series roll books. The records of the financial officer are found in the series treasurer‘s records.
Spanning a century, the records of the Ladies' Literary Society are by far the most comprehensive in terms of quantity and coverage. With the exception of the organization's first decade and a three year period from 1882 to 1885, the minutes provide a complete account of the history of the Ladies' Literary Society. The minutes offer a rich source for information on the nature of activities available to women at Oberlin College. Summaries of meetings and forums include the titles of essays and orations which reflect the nature and breadth of topics discussed and debated by nineteenth century female college students. Also covered in the minutes are the parliamentary procedures used by the women to maintain orderly exchange of information. Both Handwritten copies of the constitution and by-laws offer insight into the purpose and function of the literary society.
Membership and attendance figures can be assembled from the records of the corresponding secretary and from roll books. These records, which provide documentation on the popularity of the organization and individual members, in general are less complete than the minutes. Roll books only date from 1890, and several gaps exist in the records, mostly notably an absence of records from the mid 1920s. Some earlier attendance figures were kept by the corresponding secretary and can be found among these records. The corresponding secretary's records span from 1869 until 1911 and include rosters of members and occasional notations of business conducted by the organization. The treasurer's records document annual budgets, and yield information on members, including the payment of dues. The treasurer’s records consist of four bound volumes spanning from 1874 through 1910.
The historical file contains general information on the Ladies' Literary Society, the organization's centennial, and the merger with the Aelioian Literary Society in 1948. Various printed constitutions, programs, and a history of the organization from 1940 form part of this series which spans from 1850 to 1950, noninclusive.
The Ladies' Literary Society contains records of its alumnae organization. Begun in 1903, the L.L.S. Alumnae Association included branch chapters in addition to a national organization. The records of the alumnae organization is comprised primarily of minutes, and encompasses the local Oberlin branch as well as the New York branch and the national organization. Records relating to the Adelia A. Field Johnston Fellowship, established in 1910 by the Alumnae association, are to be found here, along with files on some of the fellowship holders. Approximately 1,000 index cards of former members compiled between 1900 and 1948 are included here. Some of the later records relate to the joint L.L.S.-Aelioian organization.
The records of the Aelioian Literary Society mirror those of the Ladies' Literary Society both in form and content. A full run of minutes beginning with the Aelioian ancestor, Young Ladies' Lyceum, cover 1855 through 1948. The minutes span all but the organization's first three years and a brief period from 1922 to 1926 where a volume is apparently missing. Minutes of the Young Ladies' Lyceum date from 1855 to 1860 when the name was changed to Aelioian.
The corresponding secretary's records contain constitutions, by-laws and printed programs in addition to records of membership and attendance. Treasurer's records contain records of dues payments as well as a volume of receipts from 1885 to 1899. The receipts provide a colorful source of learning how and for what money was spent during this period.
The third subgroup, Ladies' Societies Library Association, consists of the records of the library association jointly sponsored by the Aelioian and Ladies' Literary Societies. The records date from the founding in 1859 until 1908. The records include minutes from 1859 to 1874, records of the book committee, 1859 to 1869, a catalog and records of books drawn from 1859 to1870, and a volume of members from 1864 until 1908. The catalog of books offers fascinating insight into the nature of material studied and read by these two societies. Reading through the list of books in the association library reveals a seldom seen side of the literary societies.
The fourth subgroup, Inter-Society events, is a collection of programs from joint affairs between the Oberlin's women's literary societies. The Union Exhibitions were exclusive to the Ladie's and Aelioian Literary Societies; however the programs indicate that participation in both the Inter-Society Plays and Banquets was open to all ladies literary societies.
Subgroup I. Ladies' Literary Society (Young Ladies' Association) 1846-1953 (4.65 linear feet)
Contains records documenting the organization and activities of the Ladies Literary Society. Records date from 1846 to 1953, and include records of the variant organizations, Young Ladies' Association and L.L.S. The records consist of minutes, roll books, account books, as well as miscellaneous programs and printed constitutions. Records of the Ladies' Literary Society Alumnae Society are included here, documenting the work of the Oberlin branch, the New York branch, and the national alumnae organization. The records are arranged to reflect the basic administration of the society.
Subgroup II. Aelioian Literary Society (Young Ladies' Lyceum) 1853-1948 (2.4 linear feet)
Founded in 1852 as an offshoot of the Ladies' Literary Society, the more progressive Aelioian organization provided women with a forum for debate and oration. Initially founded as the Young Ladies' Lyceum, minutes for this organization are extant from 1855 through 1948, with the exception of two gaps in the 1920s. Roll books, treasurer's records, and records of the corresponding secretary are extant only for the years 1868 through 1910. The records series parallel those of the Ladies' Literary Society.
Subgroup III. Ladies' Societies Library Association, 1859-1908 (0.4 linear feet)
Consists of records of the library association created between the Ladies' Literary Society and the Aelioian Literary Society in 1859. Records include minutes, book committee records and catalogs and records of books drawn. The records are arranged much as above, approximating a general administrative hierarchy as specified in the association constitution.
Subgroup IV. Inter-Society Programs, 1879-1932 (0.2 linear feet)
Though they separated in 1852, the Ladies Literary Society and Aeliolian Literary Society continued to sponsor some events together; by the 20th century, the new societies, Sigma Gamma and Phi Alpha Phi, were also participating. This subgroup contains programs from Ladies and Aelioian Literary Society Union Exhibitions; plays presented jointly by the L.L.S., Aelioians, Sigma Gamma, and Phi Alpha Phi; and programs from the Women's Inter-Society Banquet and Contest.