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May  23, 2011

New books capture personal side of Augustana history

Augustana is celebrating 150 years of memorable events and leaders with two new historical books released at the beginning of the month. Dr. Ann Boaden's Light and Leaven: Women Who Shaped Augustana's First Century provides a historical, yet closely personal look at the struggles and achievements of Augustana's early women leaders. Reflecting on the Past: 150 Years of Augustana Stories is a compilation of anecdotes, essays and pictures honoring key moments and figures in Augustana's history. The collection is edited by Augustana librarians Stefanie R. Bluemle, Sarah M. Horowitz and Jamie L. Nelson.

As an Augustana alumna and professor, Boaden's interest in the women of Augustana began with her own experiences. She recognized how deeply Augustana's female faculty and students had influenced her college experience, and she knew the same was true for many other students. However, when she looked at "official" institutional histories, she saw these women's stories were largely left out.

Now, about ten years later, Boaden's Light and Leaven presents a "radically different" version of Augustana history. "Women's history at Augustana begins with a blank space! I have attempted to fill the space by recreating, as vividly as possible, the lives and personalities of the eras and the women who shaped them."

Boaden's search for information involved a lot of "digging and winding" through Augustana's Thomas Tredway Library Special Collections. However, far from becoming frustrated at the difficulty of her task, Boaden emerged from her project with a new appreciation for local history and even stronger respect for the women of Augustana.

"Each of our personal stories forms a thread in the texture, a piece of the larger pattern. Not to know that pattern is to forfeit our part in the riches and responsibilities of the community we inhabit. I've come to admire and love women who were unknown or only names to me, and to admire in new ways women I knew personally."

The second book released this month, Reflecting on the Past: 150 Years of Augustana Stories, also presents a nontraditional view of Augustana history. Rather than giving a continuous account of the college's past, the book features about 60 especially noteworthy stories, including biographies of interesting faculty members, retellings of memorable campus incidents and snapshots of past campus life. These stories include everything from "Swedish Royal Visits to Augustana College and Western Illinois" to "'Help! Police! Isn't This Wonderful?' The Augustana Panty Raid."

Jamie Nelson, one of the book's editors, believes that choosing the stories to include was the most difficult part of conducting research for the book. "We wanted to find stories that were unique to Augustana but also illustrated Augustana's involvement in national and global events," she says.

Sarah Horowitz, another of the book's editors, feels that working on the project broadened her understanding of the college and its connection with the Quad Cities and the nation. She encourages people to invest in the history of their local community. "The past always shapes the present. Local and community history bind people together, keep traditions alive and build bridges across generations."

Light and Leaven and Reflecting on the Past: 150 Years of Augustana Stories are available for purchase in The Augustana College Bookstore (3750 7th Ave.).

Keri Rursch
Director of Public Relations
(309) 794-7721
kerirursch@augustana.edu