February 2022
RIT’s Infinity Quad in the Snow. Photo Credit: T. Carroll
As we approach the two year anniversary of RIT closing campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reflecting on both our own collective experiences of the pandemic, and how to understand this world-historical event in the context of other health crises. History’s own Dr. Christine Keiner is part of the planning committee for RIT’s March 15 conference, “Critically Thinking About Our COVID Stories.” She is also the moderator for the 5 pm panel, “Using the Past to Inform the Present and Future,” featuring History Department faculty Dr. Rebecca Scales and Dr. Richard Newman. Like many historical health disasters—from the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia to the 1918 influenza pandemic to the 1999 outbreak of West Nile Virus in New York City—COVID has exposed social injustices by disproportionately harming marginalized populations and exacerbating xenophobia and racism. We invite you to join us via Zoom or attend the in-person watch party for this panel for History and Museum Studies faculty and staff in the Stan McKenzie Commons, and discuss how scholars are using past public health emergencies to inform current and future plans to manage pathogens in ways that promote social and racial equity. All of the COVID Stories conference panels are free and open to the public and you can register to attend via Zoom at the conference website above.

– Dr. Tamar W. Carroll, Associate Professor and Chair
Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars 2021–2022 Named
Congratulations to the following History and Museum Studies majors who are being recognized for being in the top 1 percent of all undergraduate students at RIT – well done, indeed!

Vanessa Chido, Museum Studies
Leland Goodrich, Political Science and History
Corinna Mullins, Museums Studies
Anna Pasquantonio Sociology and Anthropology and Museum Studies
Dr. Richard Newman on his Frederick Douglass Biography:

I will be using faculty leave to work on my next book project, a biography of Frederick Douglass that focuses on his life in Rochester and its broader meaning in his activist career. The book is tentatively entitled “Citizen Douglass” and it diverges from almost every other major biography of this critical 19th century reformer. There are dozens of great portraits of Frederick Douglass and it seems like a new biography comes out on him every year. The most important and famous is David Blight’s award-winning biography from just a few years ago, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. (We were proud that RIT co-sponsored Professor Blight’s lecture in Rochester in 2018!) Most of these biographies examine Douglass as a national and global figure who, while he may have lived in Rochester, often spent his life outside of the city on the lecture and reform circuit.

But I wondered: just how did Rochester impact Douglass? He lived here for over 20 years and thought of Rochester not only his physical home but in many ways as an emotional and intellectual bedrock in his career – a place where he could grow as a newspaper editor, businessman, civic leader, and advocate of social change. For instance, one of the first things that Douglass did after moving to Rochester was join an ongoing effort to desegregate city schools (where his children might go). In so many ways, Douglass exemplified a motto that we throw around a lot today: “think global, act local.” No matter what he did on the grander abolitionist stage, Douglass always tried to change Rochester for the better. So my book will really drill down on what Douglass did in Rochester before, during and after the Civil War and why it was such a critical part of his activist life. It should be a fun book to write!
Why are women leaving computer science? And what needs to happen for more women—and minorities—to choose computing and have successful careers in the field? These questions are at the root of a recently published handbook article by Dr. Corinna Schlombs and her new class on Women, Gender, and Computing. 

Computing is unique among STEM fields. Other fields have seen slow by rising numbers of women over the past five decades. But the rate of women graduating in computer science peaked at 37.2% in 1984, only to decline steeply in the later 1980s and again in the 2000s. It now plateaus around 18%—the lowest ratio in any STEM field. The numbers of women working in computing show similar trends.

Addressing this historical trend, Schlombs recently published a chapter on the history of women in computing in The Palgrave Handbook on the History of Women in Science since 1600 (Jan 2022). Entitled “Women, Gender, and Computing: The Social Shaping of a Technical Field from Ada Lovelace’s Algorithm to Anita Borg’s ‘Systers’”, it covers the remarkable contributions of women to computing. It shows that social perceptions of gender and computing have shaped the field over time, and not any inherent qualities of women, men, and technology. The article also provides a blueprint for Schlombs’s new class on the topic. Students in the class—many women and minorities in STEM fields—relished the opportunity to share and reflect on their experiences, and to connect and network with each other.

This spring semester, Schlombs is on sabbatical leave to work on her new book project, a history of data entry in the United States and West and East Germany.
Save the Date!
March 17, 2022
University Gallery
3:30 PM–4:45 PM

Historian Dr. Jennie Brier and designer Matt Wizinsky will discuss their collaboration, “I’m Still Surviving,” a living women’s history of HIV/AIDS. This talk is related to the exhibition of HIV/AIDS education posters, “Up Against the Wall,” at Memorial Art Gallery and University Gallery RIT. The RIT satellite exhibition is curated by Dr. Tamar Carroll with Senior Lecturer of New Media Design Melissa Warp and SOIS major Circle Cole in collaboration with the University of Rochester Special Collections Library.
For more information or to be added to the Friends of the RIT History Department email list,
contact Dr. Tamar Carroll at tamar.carroll@rit.edu.