Lucy Allen- The Ohio History Connection’s First Female Curator of Archaeology

Archaeology Curator Brad Lepper recently wrote this blog post about the Ohio History Connection’s first female Curator.

The Ohio History Connection traditionally has presented our roster of Curators of Archaeology as follows:

Lucy Allen (1901) from MAKIO, the yearbook of the Ohio State University.

Lucy Allen (1901) from MAKIO, the yearbook of the Ohio State University.

Warren K. Moorehead 1894-1897
Clarence Loveberry 1897-1898
William C. Mills 1898-1921
Henry C. Shetrone 1921-1928
Emerson Greenman 1928-1935
Richard G. Morgan 1936-1948
Raymond S. Baby 1948-1979
Martha Potter Otto 1974-2009

Loveberry actually only served from 7 October 1897 to 8 February 1898, a tenure of only four months, but he’s nevertheless remembered as our second curator.

Mills wasn’t hired until 1 June 1898, which leaves a curious gap. Who was running the shop between 8 February and Mills’ arrival in June?

Lucy Allen was a graduate student in Library Science at the Ohio State University during the Summer of 1898 and she also worked as an Assistant Librarian. In addition, she was employed in some capacity by the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection) during the same period. We know, for example, that she was actively involved in the preparation of a state census of archaeological sites — the direct ancestor of today’s Ohio Archaeological Inventory — because Moorehead, in his report on the “Work of the Curator” for the Society’s 1898 Annual Report, stated that he was “particularly indebted to Miss Lucy Allen for her cooperation in the preparation of the state map for publication in this report and for her constant assistance in the museum.” And, in August, after Mills had taken the helm, Moorehead wrote to E. O. Randall, the Society’s Secretary, to “please arrange so Miss Allen can check off proof sheets of map synopsis from the original. A final check must be made in order that each county be correctly represented. Miss Allen knowing map better than any other person – next to myself – can do this. She has written me. I endorse her & will suggest that she be paid for the trouble. It is 40 or 50 hours work.”

Map showing the distribution of earthworks from the Archaeological Atlas of Ohio published in 1914 by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society. William C. Mills is listed as the sole author. He gave no credit to either Moorehead or Allen in spite of the fact that they initially recorded more than 60% of these sites.

Map showing the distribution of earthworks from the Archaeological Atlas of Ohio published in 1914 by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society. William C. Mills is listed as the sole author. He gave no credit to either Moorehead or Allen in spite of the fact that they initially recorded more than 60% of these sites.

After Loveberry abruptly departed for his new job, the Society’s Annual Report for 1898 states that “Miss Lucy Allen took charge of the Museum and performed the duties of Curator.” It is clear that this wasn’t simply an informal arrangement. The Annual Report of the Ohio State University indicates that Allen was serving as “Curator, arch museum” and being paid $20 per month for the months of February, March, April, May and June. Loveberry was paid $25 per month by the Ohio State University and another $15 per month by the Society. Mills got the same deal when he became Curator. I have not yet been able to determine whether or not Allen received the additional salary from the Society. Regardless, she received correspondence addressed to “Lucy Allen, Dept. Curator” and she sent out letters on Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society letterhead. So, even though she was paid somewhat less than her male counterparts, Allen was, indeed, the Ohio History Connection’s third Curator of Archaeology serving somewhat longer than Loveberry’s four months.

Why, then, has she not been enshrined in the annals of the Society as our first female curator – well, at least not until now, more than a century after her service?

The only answer I have been able to come up with is that it was precisely because she was a woman that she was not regarded as an equal of the men who held that position. It’s true that she did not direct any excavations or, as far as we know, participate in fieldwork of any kind. Nevertheless, her contributions to what would become the Archaeological Atlas of Ohio and her performance of the “duties of Curator” during the spring of 1898 entitle her to this long neglected recognition.

The only other female curator of archaeology I am aware of from this early period is Sara Yorke Stevenson, who became the Curator of the Egyptian and Mediterranean section of the Pennsylvania University’s Museum in 1890. Like Allen, Stevenson never did fieldwork, but she nevertheless made many important contributions to archaeology and had a tremendous influence on opening the discipline to women. Langdon Warner, one of the Monuments Men and Director of the Pennsylvania Museum from 1917 to 1923, wrote of Stevenson: “If women today find no difficulty in being recognized as scholars, and if their counsel is demanded in Museums, it is due to Mrs. Stevenson in a far greater measure than our casual generation will ever know.”

Our generation has been unable to know of Lucy Allen’s role in expanding the opportunities of women in science, because she had been written out of the Ohio History Connection’s institutional history. By giving her that recognition now, I hope to restore this missing chapter to the history of Ohio archaeology and to the history of women’s contributions to science.

Here, then, is a corrected Roster of Ohio History Connection Curators of Archaeology:

Warren K. Moorehead 1894-1897
Clarence Loveberry 1897-1898
Lucy Allen 1898
William C. Mills 1898-1921
Henry C. Shetrone 1921-1928
Emerson Greenman 1928-1935
Richard G. Morgan 1936-1948
Raymond S. Baby 1948-1979
Martha Potter Otto 1974-2009

Thanks to Ohio History Connection Curator Elizabeth Nelson for pointing out to me the reference to Lucy Allen in the 1898 Annual Report! And thanks to Linda Pansing, Juli Six and Aaron Odonovan (Columbus Public Library) for assistance with the research on Lucy Allen.

Brad Lepper

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3 Responses to Lucy Allen- The Ohio History Connection’s First Female Curator of Archaeology

  1. Joan Jones says:

    You don’t explain the overlap of 5 years of Martha Otto’s tenure with Raymond Baby’s. Was “1974” just a typo for 1979, or were their responsibilities shared? Or did I miss something? Thanks. Nice article!

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