Thursday, December 5, 2019

Bismark Named 2019 TEL Trainer of the Year

By Andrea Zielke, TEL Administrator

I recently had the pleasure of presenting the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) Trainer of the Year to Shannon Bismark at Tenn-Share’s 2019 Fall Conference. At this year’s conference, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of TEL. TEL would not have reached this milestone without teachers and librarians, like Shannon, spreading the word across the state about TEL’s valuable electronic resources, including magazines, scholarly journals, podcasts, videos, e-books, test preparation materials, federal records, and more.

Let me tell you a little more about this year’s Trainer of the Year. Shannon is the Teen Services Librarian at Cleveland Bradley County Public Library. It is her mission to open doors and create partnerships with the local schools. When asked who benefits from TEL, she said, “Students, absolutely, of any grade. The way TEL functions, it is easily accessible for any age and it makes citing sources painless.” Shannon knows this from experience because she used TEL when she was a college student.


Shannon Bismark (left), TEL Trainer of the Year, and (right) Andrea Zielke, TEL Administrator.


Shannon spends her days engaging with students. She helps high school students with their research papers. She uses memes and video games to relate her students, all while teaching them about citations and the importance of knowing the source of their information. Her persistence and good humor set an example of what it takes to reach out and build a community of informed, engaged young Tennesseans.

Congratulations to Shannon for being the 2019 TEL Trainer of the Year! You are an asset to your library and community.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Meet the Staff - Bessie Davis

Q&A with Bessie Davis, Director of Regional Libraries

How long have you worked here, and where were you working before you arrived at the Library and Archives? 

I started employment with the Tennessee State Library and Archives on May 6, 2019. I have spent most of my career in Kentucky. I headed the main library of the Louisville Free Public Library, served as a regional library consultant for the Kentucky State Library and Archives, and I served as the Director of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library. I am a native of Georgia. I earned my finance degree at Mercer University, MLS at Clark Atlanta University, and a J.D. at John Marshall Law School.

What are some of the things you do as the Director of Regional Libraries? 

I supervise regional directors and staff, and I provide guidance and consultation to the regional centers, public libraries, trustees, and local officials. I also manage the overall budget of the regional system, advise libraries and local officials on compliance, and present in-service training and continuing education for regional and public library staff on a wide variety of library topics. In addition, I provide training for library board members and serve as the Library and Archive’s representative to the Friends of Tennessee Libraries.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I love all aspects of my job because no day is the same. Specifically, I enjoy solving problems on a daily basis, and I love the team spirit at the Library and Archives and within the regions.



What collection or resource are you excited about right now?

I cannot wait to have an opportunity to explore the African American Collections and resources as well as the collections that pertain to women in politics, education, and public services.

What do you wish more people knew about the State Library and Archives?

I wish more people knew about the wonderful resources as well as how the Library and Archives can assist them with their academic, family, or personal research.

Do you have a favorite historical figure, event, or place in Tennessee history? 

I love the Alex Haley Farm in Clinton. Yes, it is a beautiful place, but it also symbolizes an important period in history. It is also utilized to bring about change in the lives of our most important assets—our children.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Women Opposing Women: Josephine Pearson and the Anti Suffrage Argument

By Mary DePeder

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States with the ratification of the 19th amendment by the Tennessee General Assembly. By the summer of 1920, 35 states had ratified the Amendment, bringing it just one state shy of the constitutional majority needed to make it law. When the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to ratify on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became that crucial final state, earning itself the nickname The Perfect 36. Over the next year, we will be sharing stories of the women’s suffrage movement from across the state to celebrate Tennessee’s unique role in this major turning point in American history. The second story in our series investigates the women opposed to ratifying the 19th amendment.


Broadside outlining anti-suffrage arguments against the 19th amendment.

Vowing to uphold her mother’s dying wish to see the fight for women’s suffrage end in defeat, Josephine Pearson saw the battle for Tennessee as a righteous crusade to defend the fallen Confederacy and traditional, southern gender norms. Her zealous dedication to uplifting true womanhood through feisty, anti-suffragist essays earned her a place as president of the Tennessee State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and the Southern Woman's League for the Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. At every turn, Pearson and her band of anti-suffs worked tirelessly to unravel the actions of pro-suffragist efforts, coming to a head in the summer of 1920 as the tug of war between yellow and red roses intensified.


Photograph of anti-suffrage leader, Josephine Pearson. Josephine A. Pearson Papers, 1860-1943.


Stoking the political fires through sensationalized cartoons, pamphlets, and newspaper columns, anti-suffragists capitalized on the nation’s fears during a period of incredible flux. In the aftermath of World War I, women’s roles and attitudes toward the public sphere shifted dramatically. Long held beliefs of Victorian womanhood and the ideology of separate spheres between women and men slowly eroded under the guise of the “new woman.” A growing momentum among women instead suggested that they could create a life outside of marriage and motherhood that both economically sustained and intellectually stimulated them.

This curtailed Pearson’s belief in true womanhood which demanded unwavering subordination of women to men and their ultimate dependency on male guidance and economic support. A woman belonged in the home, caring for her family, and needed protection from the corrupt political sphere. Rapidly changing ideas on women’s roles inside and outside the home, however, threatened Pearson and the anti-suffs desired way of life. For the anti-suffragist movement, the defeminization of the American woman, brought on by an increase of women in the workforce and looser morals in terms of fashion and courtship, would spell destruction for the sacred American family. And, as far as the Antis were concerned, the only group to blame for such evils against society were Suffs teeming the line of decency and pushing women closer to the debauched world of politics.


Political cartoon circulated by anti-suffragists warning the public about the dangers of swapped gender roles if suffrage were to pass. Josephine A. Pearson Papers, 1860-1943.


To retaliate, the Antis sought to construct an image of the suffragists as mannish, socialist- leaning rebels hellbent on destroying traditional gender roles. Political cartoons frequently captured this sentiment by depicting an empty home with unattended children, like the image below. Or, preying on the nation’s fear of feminized masculinity, anti-suffragist cartoons depicted households in which traditional gender roles were swapped. These images served to stir the public’s emotions, namely fear at the prospect of a crumbling, family unit, the very fabric of American life according to anti suffrage doctrine in which the wife and mother took center stage.


Anti-suffrage political cartoon anticipating the demise of the American family after the ratification of the 19th amendment. Josephine A. Pearson Papers, 1860-1943.


In response, suffragists widely publicized the image of Anne Dallas Dudley nestled alongside her small children reading. A perfect, domestic scene that would otherwise please anti-suffragist ideology, Dudley’s presence butted up against the Anti’s argument that suffrage for women meant empty homes and empty stomachs. More importantly, Dudley’s presence indicated that a woman could be both a loving mother and dedicated suffragist.


Photograph of Anne Dallas Dudley reading to her children. Bettie Mizell Donelson Family Papers, 1787-1938.


The most pressing threat Pearson and her anti-suffrage sisters capitalized on and exploited was the threat that full equality for women posed to white supremacy. Born and raised in the shadow of a post-Civil War South feverishly steeped in Lost Cause nostalgia, Pearson held fast to the belief that women’s suffrage would upend the social order of the south. Granting women the right to vote meant placing power in the hands of African American women, too. This was a frightening concept to the anti-suffrage campaign as they warned, through lectures and broadsides, that it would create an imbalance of power between the races. White women, they argued, would refuse to enter an integrated polling station preferring instead to stay home than cast their vote. Whereas, African American women would enthusiastically turn out to exercise their newfound political power, thereby threatening the white majority of the south. Moreover, ratifying the 19th amendment would bring about the demise of states’ rights. As Antis insisted, women’s equality would open the floodgates for racial equality as the federal government would enforce strict adherence to the 15th Amendment. All deemed wholly unacceptable and deadly to white supremacy.


Anti-suffrage broadside warning southern men of the dangers of women’s suffrage. Josephine A. Pearson Papers, 1860-1943.


The suffrage movement, in comparison, was not immune to racial prejudice. Rather, support for black suffragists was tentative, wavered often, and, at its worst, embraced racist rhetoric to achieve their own self-interests. For African American women, this meant cultivating their own organizations to fight for enfranchisement. In doing so, they were constantly caught between combating anti-suffrage rhetoric and violence and resisting pushback from suffrage leaders to hurry up and wait for white women to succeed before securing rights themselves.

Although Pearson’s efforts ultimately failed in the summer of 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment, the barriers anti-suffragists put in place were long lasting, especially for African American women. Following defeat, Josephine Pearson accepted a dean position with the Southern Seminary of Virginia. For suffrage leaders, the victory in Tennessee was a moment to savor and reflect on their hard-earned success. Their battle for equality was at long last won. For African American women, the success of the 19th Amendment was less clear-cut and in many ways, merely a starting point for full equality.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, November 1, 2019

Tennessee State Library and Archives hosts “Family History Day” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving



Family gatherings, we all have them. Whether they are annual holidays like Thanksgiving, family reunions, or one-time occasions like birthday parties, weddings or funerals, these are times when our family members come together. Join archivist and professional genealogist Melissa Barker for a presentation entitled, “Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family.” This workshop will give you tips and tricks to get your family members talking about family history, even if they don’t want to!

Barker’s professional genealogy expertise is in Tennessee records; she has been researching her own family history for the past 30 years. Barker is a Certified Archives Manager currently working as the Houston County, Tennessee Archivist. She lectures, teaches, and writes about the genealogy research process, researching in archives, and records preservation. Barker also conducts virtual webinar presentations across the United States for genealogical and historical societies and writes a popular blog entitled "A Genealogist in the Archives" and is the Reviews Editor for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) magazine FORUM. In addition, Barker also writes bi-weekly advice columns at Abundant Genealogy and for her local newspaper.

The presentation will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Library and Archives auditorium, and research assistance will be available until 4:30 p.m. While the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating.

Please note that Library and Archives will be closed Thursday, Nov. 28, and Friday, Nov. 29, for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it is important to make reservations beforehand. Guests can register at:


The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. Parking is available around the Library and Archives building.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Works Progress Administration and Shady Valley School

By Carol Roberts

In the mountains of Johnson County Tennessee, is a beautiful valley known as Shady Valley. It is tucked between Bristol (Holston Mountain) and Mountain City (Iron Mountain) on the border of the mountains of North Carolina. The community has long been a crossroads of Virginia and Tennessee. In the 1930s, the depression hit unusually hard with the deterioration of business in industries such as timber and manganese mining. The New Deal in Tennessee started numerous benefit projects putting citizens to work.


Shady Valley, Tennessee 1952
RG 82 Dept of Conservation Photograph Collection.
Tennessee Virtual Archive


Same valley today (author photo)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built roads and schools for many Tennessee counties, including Johnson County, giving many local workers jobs. Shady Valley also has a portion of the Appalachian Trail running nearby, built by the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects. All were New Deal projects that, even today, define this little community. The valley had many small one-room schools with names like Crandull, Winchester, and the Upper Valley, but during the New Deal of the 1930s, it benefited from WPA projects for one, large, new school.

The school of Shady Valley went from a one-room schoolhouse to a new, rock structure with many school rooms, a cafeteria, and all of the other modern amenities of the day. These projects really were cooperative projects of the county, state, and WPA (federal). The state of Tennessee completed its reports on new schools and those records remain at the Library and Archives today. Photos, such as the completed Shady Valley Elementary School in 1937, were kept. Today, these records reflect the history of education and structures from all over the state. The photos of these schools of the 1930s have been digitized and are located in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA).


Shady Valley School 1937
Record Group 91 Tennessee Department of Education Records Photographs
Tennessee Virtual Archive


Today, Shady Valley is a busy, little school in the same WPA building at the heart of the community still educating children of the valley. Whiteboards and LED projectors have replaced old, black, chalkboards, but it still has its same shape and style of 1930s WPA construction. It retains local rock supplies on the exterior. The interior, wooden wall paneling of wormy chestnut, now painted white, still exists and even the water fountains, fixtures and WPA school bus garage out back.

September 2019 (author photo)
September 2019 (author photo)

In recent years, the community has joined together with the parent-teacher group to honor this valley, its history, and its unique, land conservancy to celebrate in a festival called the “Cranberry Festival”. Old fashioned bean suppers, BBQs, pancake breakfasts and parades, take place throughout the valley. The school benefits from celebrity auctioneers, usually politicians at auctions, craft booths, quilt shows, and other fundraisers. It all goes to the school, its students, and helping maintain the community spirit. It even serves as a “homecoming” for former students and residents to come back for a visit.

The other celebration of this festival honors the valley’s unique, natural example of the southernmost place of naturally existing cranberry bogs. Cranberries grow near this school in a shaded location of low land. The community now helps the Nature Conservancy protect these natural growth berries. This year marks the 27th Cranberry Festival for the non-profit, joint project to honor history, nature and, most importantly, the school.

The festival is October 11 – 12th, 2019.

Sadly, the 2019-2020 school year will be the last for Shady Valley Elementary. All the students will then ride school buses over the mountain to larger schools in Mountain City. The fate of the building is hopeful but unknown.

Cranberry Festival Quilt Show in the school gym (author photo)
Craft fair on school grounds (author photo)

Old grain silo painted for the festival located at the community crossroads of Highways 421 and 133 (author photo).


To read more about Shady Valley and WPA see the following resources available from the Library and Archives:


  • Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape, A Guidebook by Carroll Van West. University of Tennessee Press, 2001.






  • Microfilm 1472 -- Works Progress Administration (WPA) Records. Division of Operations: Project Proposals and Applications. National Archives film. 1 reel. 16 mm. Microfilm Only Collection



The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Gold Star Mothers' Day

By Michelle Smith, Volunteer

Some of the most rewarding aspects of studying our nation’s history are finding familiar voices within its stories and placing our own families’ histories within its framework. While we often focus on the major figures and events of a particular period, the most illuminating and engaging information can be found in the accounts of the everyday people who experienced the time firsthand. Diaries, letters, and other personal documents fill in the gaps left by broad overviews of specific events and show contemporary readers what life was really like during a particular historical moment.

In an effort to locate and preserve such materials, the Tennessee State Library & Archives launched Over Here, Over There, a project to digitize the World War I memorabilia of Tennessee families. Participants in this project were able to share their documents and artifacts with the general public while keeping the originals, allowing their personal histories to contribute to a greater understanding of the war itself, its brave soldiers, and their loved ones back home. After holding digitization events in several Tennessee cities, the collection grew to contain over 1200 items.


Images from an article on the Ring sons in the Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, June 30, 1918. TeVA Collection



Several of these items showcase particular families and document their experiences with the war. For example, the Library & Archives now offers a well-rounded collection of information on the Ring family, whose memorabilia was graciously shared by family members at the Franklin digitization event in 2017. Three of the Ring family’s sons, Frank, Nathan, and Joseph, served in the war and their mother, Sarah Frances, later traveled to Europe as a participant in a program for Gold Star mothers and widows. Among the items available to view online are letters between the sons, their mother, and other family members, Sarah Frances’ travel diary, and artifacts and photos that further illustrate the family’s wartime experience.


Letter from Frank M. Ring to his mother, September 8, 1918. TeVA Collection


The sons’ letters offer insight into the conditions that soldiers faced overseas, including the troops’ movement across Europe and their eagerness to maintain contact with their families back home. Thanks to the family’s full collection, we are able to pair the sons’ writing with their photos and to study the war through the lens of their experiences.


Sarah Ring’s diary entry on visiting Frank’s grave at the Somme, August 7, 1933. TeVA Collection


Their mother, Sarah Frances M. Ring, documented her experience with the Gold Star travel program in a well-preserved diary that is available to view via the Library & Archives’ Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). In 1933, Sarah Frances—whose son, Frank, died in combat—joined a group of other women whose loved ones were killed during the war on a pilgrimage to Europe. Her account describes how their travel group tracked their loved ones’ movement through France, highlighting specific places in which important events or actions took place years earlier.

Sarah Frances M. Ring at the Somme Cemetery, standing next to the grave of her son Frank. TeVA Collection.



The family’s collection also includes a photo of Sarah Frances beside Frank’s grave at the Somme Cemetery for American soldiers in France, which adds even more depth to her written account of the visit. Her diary would make a particularly interesting and timely read as the last Sunday in September approaches, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt set as “Gold Star Mother’s Day” in 1936.

In conjunction, these photos, artifacts, and letters construct a quite clear image of what wartime looked like for American families—both here and there. The Ring family’s records preserve an important piece of World War I history and, thanks to their family’s willingness to share them, prove that every contributing voice makes our nation’s history richer.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, September 27, 2019

Searching Mount Olivet Cemetery Records on TeVA

By Jennifer Randles

The Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection is now live on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). This collection contains records related to Mount Olivet Cemetery, a 206-acre cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Mount Olivet was established in 1856 by Adrian Van Sinderen Lindsley and John Buddeke. Notable interments include John Overton, Thomas Ryman, Anne Dallas Dudley and several former governors of Tennessee. Florence M. Redelsheimer (1911-1989), once a public relations administrator for Mount Olivet, compiled the physical collection, which includes accounts, correspondence, legal documents, maps, photographs, land records, and cemetery records.

Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection on TeVA


Some of the most exciting items in the collection are three interment books spanning the years 1855-1906, which list the people buried in the cemetery and their burial locations. Information on each page includes interment date, names, age, cause of death, and plot location information. These books are part of an ongoing transcription project at the Library & Archives to record information in all three volumes in the collection. The final full transcriptions will be imported into the Genealogy Index Search, while a name index for each page will accompany the volumes in the TeVA digital collection. Currently, volume II and eighteen cemetery maps are available online, while volumes III and IV will be uploaded when transcription is complete. Unfortunately, volume I is not in the collections at the Library & Archives, so it is not part of this project.

Using the Collection

October 1878 interments listing names, ages, causes of death and burial locations.


Since names in the book are listed on each entry page in the digital collection, you can search for a name and go straight to where that person is listed by typing their name into the search box. Try searching with their last name and look through the pages it appears on to find a person, as many people are listed using initials or alternate spellings of their names. Names tagged on the page are listed in alphabetical order, not the order they appear in on the page.

Volume II has an index in the front with page numbers for each name. When using the book’s index, keep in mind that those refer to the page numbers written in the book. Not all pages have numbers written on them, so assigned each image a number to keep track of them. If you are having trouble finding someone, Ask Us a Question!

Each page lists information about the individual buried in a certain plot, such as name, date of interment, age, cause of death, and burial location. Not every piece of information was written down for each person, but there is still a lot of information in the books. Here are two former Tennessee governors in Volume II:

Interment record for Governor Aaron V. Brown.



This record from March 14, 1859 shows that Gov. Aaron Venable Brown was 63 years, 6 months and 21 days old when he died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, it doesn’t list a lot location.

Interment record for Governor Neill S. Brown.



This record from January 1886 lists Gov. Neill S. Brown (spelled as Neil) dying at age 76 due to paralysis.

I love death records and I encourage you to look through the interment book and search for names and dates in the Tennessean newspaper database, available to Tennesseans through the Tennessee Electronic Library. I often find information on the deceased in obituaries and newspaper articles- especially the social column. If the cause of death is an accident or murder, there is likely an article about the event. Just one line in these interment books can lead to fascinating discoveries about people’s lives in the past.


Mirador Viewer

This TeVA collection is also the first to test out a new feature, the Mirador image viewer. Mirador is an open source tool that gives people new ways to interact with items from digital collections around the world. To open a TeVA item in Mirador, click the button next to Print that looks like an M. It will open up in a new tab/window. Mirador is not optimized for mobile devices, so it is best used on desktop or laptop machines.

Mirador button location in TeVA.

Image view with filmstrip navigation on bottom.


Mirador offers more viewing options, such as Image view (with filmstrip on the bottom) or Gallery view (viewing thumbnails of each page in a grid). Users can double-click, use the on-screen controls, or use the scroll wheel on their mouse to zoom in/out and view different parts of the image. Click and drag with your mouse to move around the image.

Some of the most useful features of Mirador are the image controls. Have you ever found a document that is too dark to read, or a shadow covers part of the writing? Mirador’s image controls allow you to adjust the image to make it easier to view details. The great thing is your changes just affect what you’re seeing and not the original file, so you can play with the controls as much as you want without altering the original.

Mirador image manipulation controls.


To use the image controls, click on the “toggle image manipulation” button in the upper left corner of the image viewer. It looks like three horizontal lines with sliders on each bar.

The controls from left to right are:


  • Image Manipulation Toggle (turn tools on/off) 
  • Rotate image 90 deg right 
  • Rotate image 90 deg left 
  • Brightness 
  • Contrast (difference between darks & lights) 
  • Saturation (how much color is in image, for color images only) 
  • Grayscale toggle (turn color images to grayscale) 
  • Invert colors 
  • Reset image (undo all modifications to image) 


See the example images below to learn how you can play with these controls to make details more legible. The original is on the top, and has been modified in different ways in the examples below it. We encourage users to play with these settings and see how much more information you can get from the books.

Examples of image manipulation in Mirador.


We hope you’ll take this opportunity to explore the Mount Olivet collection and play with the new image viewer controls. As the other volumes of interment books are transcribed they will be uploaded to TeVA, so please come back to see when new material is available in the future. Happy searching!


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett