Category Archives: Displays

Pity the Woman Who Works for a Living



Scroll to bottom of article to see links for online digital content of Willcox Collection from the Genesee Historical Archives.



Historical Display, Thompson Library

The Woman Who Works for a Living

Life of the Wilcox Sisters, Early 1800s



For her capstone project in History, Jeanette Routhier’s created a display demonstrating an historical examination of the contents of a box of materials she found in the Genesee County Archives.

The box contained historically educational “primary source materials,” the majority in the form of letters written by the Willcox sisters.

The letters were not originally intended to act as a mirror to the time period, nor to serve as an educational tool for historians.   They were, in fact, private correspondence within a family that became poverty stricken.  The letters detail  the struggle of the women of the family to survive in a male-dominated society which offered them few opportunities to provide for themselves outside of the protection of male members of their family.

These letters were intended to be, and remain, private; letters between family.  They were not created with the express purpose of becoming a first person observation of the times in which these women lived.

As often happens with documents preserved over time,  primary source materials — such as these letters — do just that.   They become an historical record of the world in which the authors lived.  They teach modern historians about daily life of people living during earlier time periods.   They pass along valuable information so that modern students of history can better understand what has happened and how our modern society developed into its current state.

From the letters, beautifully written in the cursive hand taught to all students of that time, we come to know the Wilcox family and follow the course of their lives over time.

Jeanette created the display to lead us through the years along with the sisters, beginning with their father, who was shipped off to Debtor’s Prison in the early 1830s, leaving his daughters destitute.


This was a time when women had few rights.  They were generally the chattel   (property)  of their fathers or husbands.


Single women living alone and depending upon their own efforts to survive had to find work in a world that considered working women a mere step up from slave labor.   Finding work was difficult.  Once obtained, there were no benefits other than a very meager income.     Hours were extremely long.  Conditions in the workplace were poor.  Opportunities for a better future were non-existent.

Our information about the time period and conditions women endured is passed along to us by history teachers.   History teachers learn the history from books.  But where does the information in the books come from?    And how accurate is it?   Does the writer of a book have pre-conceived notions of life in a time period which predates their own?   Does that then appear in the book?

Where can we get an accurate description, one passed down to us through time by people who lived through experiences long before we were born?


We find that information in “primary source” materials — the written record of people who were alive and witnessed events of a time before our own.

Primary source materials include such items as letters, the written descriptions of life and events passed down through time, describing conditions that no longer obtain and that we no longer understand through our own experience.

To know more about the time period and conditions that women experience, Ms Routhier opened a box of primary source materials stored in the University of Michigan-Flint Archive.


Jeanette located Box 1 of the George Willcox Papers.  She opened it, and began reading the contents.

Through letters saved over the centuries, Jeanette was able to piece together the world in which the Willcox sisters lived.   And through her display, Jeanette shared with us what it was like to live as a single woman in early 1800s United States.







Using the Archives and these original documents, which recorded first person observations of the life of these women, Jeanette has given us a small taste of the struggle of women trying to survive on their own in 1800s United States.







This display has now been dismantled.

To see the material upon which this display was based, visit the Genesee Historical Collections Center, or use the links below to view the digitalized contents of the Lyman George Willcox collection stored in the Archives.



From the online digital collection of the

Genesee Historical Collections Center (UM-Flint Archives):


About this collection

(Click above to access entire online collection, or view the individual letters using the links provided below.)

Lyman George Willcox (1831-1918), a native of Rochester, Oakland County, Michigan, was a lawyer, an officer during the Civil War, orator, public servant, and journalist.  His father, Lyman J. Willcox, settled in Michigan during the 1820s.  The son, known as George, graduated from Hamilton College in 1855.  He went to Kansas in 1856 to study the pro- and anti-slavery situation, then went to Omaha the next year.  He returned to Detroit, and in 1861 was appointed captain of Company B, 3rd Michigan Cavalry Regiment.  His company saw action at Corinth and Iuka, Mississippi, and he left the service in 1864 as a major.  From 1865 to 1870, he was in Antrim County and in Traverse City, working as a lawyer and newspaper editor and in 1867 as U.S. Land Office registrar.  From 1871 to 1879, he was a fruit farmer in Centralia, Illinois, in addition to practicing law and regularly speaking as an orator.  He returned to Michigan, and was a law partner with his brother in Pontiac from 1879 to 1885.  He continued his legal and journalistic interests in Bay City, where he lived from 1885 to 1910, at which point he lived with his son George in Saginaw.  His papers include letters to and from his father from relatives in New York; correspondence with his wife during the Civil War; military orders and papers from his service in the Civil War; clippings from his political activities; and various reminiscences and documents from his activity in Civil War veterans’ organizations.



— The Letters of the Willcox Sisters (1830 – 1836) —

(Includes transcribed  text  in  print.)


  • Angeline Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, May 31, 183-


  • Angeline Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, Sep. 22, 183-


  • Harriet Willcox to Lyman J Willcox Sep 6 1830-a


  • Harriet Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, Dec. 26, 1830


  • Harriet Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, Feb. 27, 1833


  • Harriet Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, Dec. 7, 1833


  • Harriet Willcox to Lyman J. Willcox, July 14, 1836


Art in the Library



Information  and   Culture


At  the  Library


Thompson Library opened it’s doors in its new facility in October, 1994.   We have been at our “new” location for 23 years this October.   During that time, the Library has continued to add, slowly and selectively, to our Art Collection, which is on display throughout the building.

While many are unaware the Library has an art collection, it has been on display on our walls and on selected tables since those doors opened.

Some of the pieces in our collection have been gifts, donated by thoughtful and generous patrons of the University of Michigan and of the Library.  We sincerely appreciate our patrons and thank them for sharing their love of the arts with the our university community.

Some of the pieces were purchased by the library, often from UM-Flint student art shows.

Some of the pieces are part of the Genesee Historical Collections Center — known on campus as The Archives.

The subjects of our artwork are as varied as the mediums used to create them.    The majority of our works are in oil, charcoal, or pastels.   But there are also a large number of reprints and photographs. The Art in the Library isn’t limited to framed images hanging on the walls; we have a number of sculptures and items of mixed media as well.   There are works in glass, in fabric, in metal, and in ceramics.   From paintings to sculptures, it’s all in your library, free for anyone to enter, walk around, and enjoy.

We have paintings of people; some famous, some forgotten, some fabricated from the imagination of the artist who created them.  There are images of both well known and obscure local sites, some representing the architecture of a specific era,  landscapes or geographic features.

There are a number of paintings with subjects that are related in some way to the University of Michigan.

Best of all, the majority of our artworks are on public display.  Anyone may visit the Thompson Library to leisurely wander through the building, finding art in both prominent and obscure locations throughout all three floors of our facility.

We invite our readers within the UM-Flint community and visitors to our fair campus to come and enjoy the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of study and contemplation our library offers.

The building itself is — quite literally — a work of art, having won the design firm an award.  The stacks shelving over a quarter of a million volumes are open, accessible and well lit.

There are comfortable chairs as well as hundreds of reading carrels on all three floors.

The first floor Atrium boasts 3 story windows, letting in natural light throughout the vast space, with plenty of tables for readers to sit and enjoy the view, quietly read their favorite tome, or engage in research.

And please, take a moment to just look around at the many fine pieces of art on display.

When you are at the Thompson Library, beauty is all around you.






Below we have included a sample of some of the pieces in our art collection.


Please visit the library soon to view these, and many other, works of art.






— Oil on Canvas — Title: Untitled Artist: Amanda Simons (student, class of 2007) Location: 1st Floor, Left Wall (from stairwell) Subject: Signs (Local, well-known business)


— Colored Pencil Drawing — Title: Weightless Artist: My Tran (student / class of 2010) Location: 1st Floor, Left wall (from stairwell)


— Oil on Canvas — Title: Untitled Artist: Heather Workman (Student — Class of 2014) Subject: City-scape with river and bridges









— Oil on Board —
Title: Untitled
Artist: Jeff Powell, Student – class of 2014
Location: 1st Floor (Left Wall from stairwell)
Subject: Lady with long, black hair in front of UM logo and Citizens Bank Ball / local Flint buildings
— Black & White Photograph — Artist: Louise Parham (Student – Class of 2008) Location: 1st Floor, Left Wall (from stairwell) Subject: New Orleans; Lower 9th Ward, Vacant lot being cleaned up by people










— Etching — Artist: Tim Kranz (Student – Class of 2001) Location: 1st Floor, Left Wall (from stairwell) Subject: University Pavilion – Flint, MI (University Pavilion — UPAV — looking south on Saginaw Street)
— Etching — Enlargement of UPAV etching (See: Artist — Tim Kranz)














— Glass Cast — Title: Map Artist: Sarah Coulter (Student art show – Best of Show winner) 2016 Location: 2nd Floor, across from elevator
Name Plaque Title of artwork: Map Location: 2nd floor See: Artist Sarah Coulter







— Oil on Canvas — Title: Asian Woman Artist: Arla Location: 2nd Floor (across from elevator) Subject: Unknown Asian woman
— Watercolor — Untitled Artist: Heather Calugaru Purchased from the 1996 Student Art Show with a gift from the UM-Flint Annual Fund Subject: Woman, Head and Shoulders








— Ball-point Pen, Colored Pencils on Paper — Title: Syrian Desert Artist: Joseph E. Yoakum Location: 2nd Floor, Outside Writing Center Lab Subject: Pencil drawing of Syrian desert
— Ball-point Pen, Colored Pencils on Paper — Title: Mt Ohaulagipi Artist: Joseph E. Yoakum Loction: 2nd Floor, Outside Writing Center Lab Subject: Mt. Ohaulagipi in Himalayan range in Nepal sector of India & Asia









— Ball-point Pen, Colored Pencils on Paper — Title: Mt. Thabor Artist: Joseph E. Yoakum Location: 2nd Floor, Outside Writing Center Lab Subject: Mt. Thabor near Nazareth in Galilee – Jordan River between Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea (middle east)
— Print — Title: Library of Michigan Lobby Artist: Unknown Location: 2nd Floor, Column near freight elevator (back wall area) Subject: View from the entrance to the Library of Michigan in Lansing, MI













Portrait of Frances Willson Thompson (1952) at Entrance to the Library. Artist: Edmund Giesbert. Medium: Oil on canvas. Donated by her son, Jack Willson Thompson.
Portrait of Frances Willson Thompson (1952) at Entrance to the Library. Artist: Edmund Giesbert. Medium: Oil on canvas. Donated by her son, Jack Willson Thompson.








The USS Michigan. Artist: James Clary (Remarqued print; nbr 777 of 1776) Gift of Mimi and Will Boroury. Location: 3rd floor near Circulation Desk.
Title: Schoolhouse #6 Artist: Shannon Morden Medium: Watercolor Purchased from the 1994 Student Art Show Location: 3rd Floor













Forever Autum Artist: Tracy Rutherford Donated by Thomas (’91 BA) and Laurie (’91 BA) Medford. Location: 3d Floor
Bust VII, Artist – Mary Murphy, Medium – Clay & Fabric, Purchsed from the 1996 Student Art Show, Location: 3rd Floor Reference Desk.








Title: Bust VII, Artist: Mary Murphy, Medium: Clay & Fabric, Purchased from the 1996 Student Art Show, Location: 3rd Floor Reference Desk
Plaque accompanying sculpture piece “Bust VII”








Bust, Martin Luthur King, Artist: Michael Florin Dente, Medium: Bronze, Gift to Library by artist (2000), Location: 3rd Floor Reference Desk
Details from bust of Martin Luther King








Details from bust of Martin Luther King
Details from bust of Martin Luther King






Details from bust of Martin Luther King.
Portrait of Martin Luther King. Medium: Oils on Canvas. Location: Genesee County Historical Center (University Archives) — 2nd Floor, Thompson Library Building.










The Harness Maker, Medium: Oils on Canvas, Location: Genesee County Historical Center Archives, 2nd Floor, Thompson Library Building.







Flint Bridge, Artist: Nick Looney, Medium: Oil on Canvas, Purchased at Student Art Show – Artist Voice Award Winner 2015, Location: 3rd Floor






Advances in Printing, Artist: Annette Cremin, Medium: Oil on Canvas, Polytych, ca 1922, Location: 3rd Floor, Thompson Library by Room 320
Advances in Printing – Part of Polytech grouping, ca 1922








Map of Europe. Location: 3rd Floor, Thompson Library, Computer Study Room
Location: Director’s Office (3rd floor)







Crapo Family Pictures
Location: Director’s Office (3rd floor)






Location: Director’s Office (3rd floor)
Location: Director’s Office (3rd Floor)







Location: Director’s Office (3rd floor)
Location: Director’s Office (3rd floor)






Location: 3rd Floor, Directors Office
Location: Director’s Office, 3rd floor






Location: Room 215 (BI Room)
Location: Room 215 (BI Room)











Arial view — Flint, Michigan Location: 2nd Floor (near emergency exit door at SW corner)
Location: Genesee Historical Collection (the Archives) 2nd floor







Location: Genesee Historical Archive (2nd floor)
Location: Genesee Historical Collection (the Archives) 2nd floor






Location: Genesee Historical Collection (the Archives) 2nd floor
Location: Genesee Historical Collection (the Archive) 2nd floor)






Location: Genesee Historical Collection, 2nd floor
Location: Genesee Historical Collection, 2nd floor








Thompson Library has so much more than books in print on our shelves.   We have videos (both VHS and DVDs — even a Blu-Ray or 2), we have ebooks (and yes, many can be downloaded to a tablet for two weeks at a time), we have hundreds of online databases.

But we also have a unique art collection.

The Library — and all it contains — is a part of your academic experience.

Come to the Library and enjoy the experience soon.

Information — and culture — are all there for you, at your library.



Mott-Warsh Art Gallery Works Exhibited in Thompson Library

Six new pieces have arrived at Thompson Library — on loan from the Mott-Warsh Art Collection — and now available for viewing.

The new display of lithographs may be seen on the 3rd floor of Thompson Libray along the back wall.  Please stop by soon to see and appreciate these works while they remain with us.

The art collection, owned by The Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh Collection, contains samples of some of the very best late 20th century works by African American artists.

The mission of the Mott-Warsh Collection is to present contemporary fine art to public audiences in non-traditional venues as well as educational and cultural institutions.

University of Michigan-Flint (with its strong historical ties to the Mott family of Flint, Michigan) and the Thompson Library in particular fit perfectly with the mission and vision statements established by Maryanne Mott and her late husband, Herman Warsh.

The collection was established in 2001 by Maryanne Mott and he late husband, Herman Warsh.  The collection features the work of artists of the African diaspora and those who reflect on it.  It comprises over 600 works by more than 185 artists working in varied media and stylistic approaches.

Represented within the collection are works from mid 20th century masters such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett to many new and innovative artists of the early 21st century, and includes a broad array of work from the abstract to the representative.

Common to all pieces within the collection is the focus on unique cultural and social experiences of Africans and Americans of African descent living and working in western (American) society.

Maryanne and Herman begun collecting their art with the intent to assemble and preserve rare works of art endemic to the African community and make them available to the wider audience through its lending program with the intent to educate viewers in art appreciation, art making processes, art history, 20th century American history and the history of the African diaspora.

More works from the Mott-Warsh collection are on view at their Galley in downtown Flint on 815 S Saginaw Street (corner of S. Saginaw and E. Court Street).

Gallery hours are 11:00 am through 6:00 pm on Thursday and Friday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Saturday, and 11:00 am – 9:00 pm on the second Friday of each month.   You may call ahead for information at (810) 835-4900, or check their website at

The Gallery and it’s extended collection are supported by the Mott-Warsh research library, which has assembled monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs and journals with subject concentrations in African American art as well as information on fine arts collection management.

Selected works from the Mott-Warsh Collection are currently on display at several locations around Flint, including the Flint Institute of Music, the Flint Public Library, the Ruth Mott Foundation, Mott Community College, Applewood, Kettering University Innovation Center and other locations.

Nationally, pieces are on loan at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University), Walker Art Center, Denver Art Museum, Rudenstine Gallery (W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University), the Seattle Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston) and many other museums and art galleries around the nation.

Thompson Library is proud to be numbered among such fine institutions in being selected as a location to display pieces from the Mott-Warsh Collection.

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Michael Doyle, our Assistant Director, for being instrumental in arranging for Thompson Library to participate as a display site for works from this esteemed, world-renowned collection.

The new lithographs currently on display in the Library are by the artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915 – 2012), and as a series are entitled For My People.

The lithographs were conceived and published as illustrations for a limited edition large folio featuring Margaret Walker’s poem of the same name.   Ms. Walker, a celebrated poet, novelist, essayist, and educator, was Catlett’s roommate when they attended the University of Iowa in 1939/40.

For My People is from a series of poems written by Walker in which she expressed her ambivalence bout the south, where she had spent her childhood.  Many scholars feel her work bridged the gap between the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s and 30s and the black arts movement of the 60s.

Elizabeth Catlett is known for her abstract sculpture in bronze and marble as well as prints and paintings, particularly depicting the female figure.   Ms. Catlett is unique for distilling African American, Native American, and Mexican at in her work.

Born in Washington D.C. and later becoming a Mexican citizen, Catlett received a bachelor of arts degree from Howard University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa, where she studied with the regionalist painter, Grand Wood.  She also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Art Students League in New York City.

Wood’s teaching dictum was, “paint what you know best.”   This set Catlett on the patch to dealing with her own background in her artwork.

In 1940, her painting, “Mother and Child,” depicting African-American figues, won her substantial recognition.

Later in 1946, she traveled to Mexico and became interested in the Mexican working class.  She settled pemanently in Mexico in 1947, and eventually met and married artist Francisco Mora.

From 1958 to 1973 she was head of the deparment and professor of sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts in Mexico.   During this time, she did extensive work in printmaking, which she found an affordable medium for reaching the masses, and produced images of African-American and Mexican working class women.

Ms. Catlett’s art can be found in major museums in the United States and abroad.  She has received countless honors and awards for her work within her lifetime.

Following is the poem, For My People, by Margaret Walker (inspiration for this series of lithographs), which was published in 1942.

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly:  their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbling to an unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching dragging along never gaining never reaping never knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why the answers to and the people who and the places where the days when, in memory of the bitter hous when we discovered we were black and poor and small and different and nobody cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear children and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47h Street in Chicago and Len\ox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people’s pockets needing bead and shoes and milk and land and money and something-something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, preyed on by the facile force of state and fad and novelty, by false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing trying to fashion a better way from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the dams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise.  Let another world be born.  Let a bloody peace be written in the sky.  Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth.  Let a beauty full of healing and strength of final clenching by the pulsing in our spirits and our blood.  Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear.  Let a race of men now rise and take control.

 (Click on any image to enlarge)