[Germany]: 1908. Black sheep over stitched card, with some rubbing to the spine and edges. Text block reinforced internally with paper tape. Measures 3 x 5 inches. Comprised of 72 densely handwritten pages documenting the European travel experiences of Gladys M. Barber, who earned her A.B. from Boston University in 1905 and would return soon after as a Master's Candidate.
Gladys' narrative style reveals her to be an insightful cultural observer who uses her education to explore the world around her. Traversing the Atlantic, landing in Dover, and making the passage across the Channel into the Continent Gladys regularly notes social differences between Americans and Germans. "It did seem very strange for businessmen to be leisurely occupying themselves with coffee and cigars in almost mid-afternoon...Amusing things to me were the keeping on the gentleman's right , regardless of whether I was on the outside of the sidewalk; talking across an immovable woman in the electric, or getting out of the bus first." Learning to navigate the different mores, Gladys notes that "it makes a girl feel very independent and grown up."
In addition to her immersion into the daily activities of people in Berlin, Potsdam, and Dresden, Gladys consistently visits museums and galleries and she attends concerts and operas. She attends a performance of Mendelsson's Midsummer Night's Dream, a performance of Wilhelm Tell, aand a Wagner opera conducted by Rudolf Krasselt. She hears a piano performance by Martha Siebold, who would later be called "one of the most gifted and proficient pianists of the day" (Musical Courier, 1916) and who Gladys described as a player "with great control, ability, and good interpretation." As she examines the nude masterpieces of Rubens at the National Gallery, she comments with amusement that "upon noticing that we were only females in the room we laughingly whispered 'Do you think this is a proper place for us?'" She also reveals her knowledge of contemporary Continental art when she compares the landscape of the countryside to "the famous paintings by the Dutch painter," Einar Wegener (Lili Elbe).
These experiences lead Gladys to think about the larger world and its politics. She considers how artifacts reached some of the German museums following the Boxer Rebellion and Schliemann's problematic excavation of Troy. She reports in rich detail about the spectacle of the marriage parade for Kaiser Wilhem's son, and she documents being present at the Kaiser's departure "from his palace in his auto to go for a trip in Count Zeppelin's air ship" -- sights that she positions as historically important. She even notes in one entry, "Wm. H. Taft elected Pres. of the U.S. It will seem very strange to go back home under another president." For an educated woman without the right to vote, the transition strikes her as significant.
According to Boston University records, Gladys M. Barber earned her A.B. in 1905; and by 1911, she was listed among Master's Candidates at the same school. Her European travel as recorded in this diary falls squarely between her two degrees, suggesting that first-hand experience of the world was a supplement to higher education rather than a break from it. An exceptionally rich resource, with research possibilities including but not limited to women's education, contemporary approaches to modern art, global politics leading up to WWI, travel and tourism history, German art and architecture, the history of fashion, and the history of music. (Item #2204)