Guide to the Ethel M. Barber (1914-1999) Papers

Collection Title: Ethel M. Barber (1914-1999) Papers
Dates: 1940-2000
Identification: 31/6/90
Creator: Barber, Ethel M., 1914-
Extent: 2 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Educator and volunteer Ethel Barber was the first woman to earn a doctorate from the school of speech. The Ethel M. Barber Papers, dating between 1940 and 2000, fill two boxes and consist mainly of biographical material, press releases and clippings, records of her philanthropic and volunteer involvement in Northwestern University and other organizations, and photographs. The papers highlight Barber's commitment to education and the theater arts via her generous financial support of educational and building programs and scholarships at Northwestern University, Lawrence University, and the American Association of University Women.
Acquisition Information: The Ethel M. Barber Papers combine materials transferred by Dot Tansey from the Northwestern University Office of Development on 11 May 1988 (accession number 88-103) and by Jean Deven of the Theatre and Interpretation Center on 25 January 2006 (accession number 06-9). Material from the Archives' Biographical Files was also incorporated into this series.
Processing Information: Jennifer Ward; December 2006.
Separated Materials: Three inches of duplicate and extraneous material were separated and discarded or transferred to the University Archives General Files. Nine photographs were separated and transferred to the Ethel Barber files in the University Archives Photographic Collection.
Conditions Governing Access: Folders 9 and 14 contain confidential financial information about donations made by Barber. Permission to view these folders must be given by the University Archivist.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Ethel Mabel Barber (née Schoenbaum) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 9 January 1914. She studied music in her youth but majored in mathematics and economics at Milwaukee-Downer College (now merged with Lawrence University), graduating in 1934. During the 1940s, she was an instructional assistant in Northwestern University's Department of Interpretation in the School of Speech (now School of Communication) and concurrently took graduate classes. The first woman to earn a doctorate from the School of Speech, Barber received a Ph.D. in 1947 with a dissertation titled “The analysis for oral interpretation of the dramatic elements in Milton's Paradise Lost.”

Barber began teaching speech courses as a senior at Milwaukee-Downer College and continued to teach at Milwaukee-Downer for four years after graduation. In 1940, she married James Gordon Barber, a judge twenty-one years her senior.

Barber gave lecture-recitals on many topics throughout the world and donated her fees to educational or charitable causes. She was a founder and former president of the North Shore Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). She initiated a radio program for the AAUW, “Women at Work,” which she conducted from 1950 to 1962, and was a discussion leader on another radio program, “Gateways to Learning.” She and her husband were honorary life members of the Salvation Army Advisory Board. Barber served as an alumni trustee of Lawrence University and was the first president of its Founders Club. In 1970 she was named Alumna of the Year by Lawrence. Barber also served as treasurer of Zeta Phi Eta, a national professional speech fraternity.

James Barber, who died in 1961, established the Ethel M. Barber International Fellowship Endowment of the AAUW, and also endowed a scholarship fund at Lawrence. Ethel Barber continued her late husband's support of the AAUW Fellowships. In 1970, she established the Ethel M. Barber Visiting Professorship in Arts and Humanities at Lawrence, which sponsored visits from ethnomusicologists, photographers, composers, and actors, including members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who visited Lawrence in 1984.

A longtime benefactor of Northwestern University, Barber was dedicated to providing quality theatrical facilities and bringing world-class artists to campus. She established the Ethel M. Barber Visiting Artist Program in the School of Speech in 1979, which brought Robert Banner, George Cukor, Martha Graham, Garry Marshall, the Nikolais Dance Theatre, and Ying Ruocheng to the School of Speech. Barber was a sponsor and the Alumni Chairman of the Gala Program for the dedication of the new Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) in 1980. She provided much of the funding for the Festival Theater, the largest new theater space, and it was renamed the Ethel M. Barber Theater in 1984; a year later, her portrait was placed in the lobby. She also contributed to the purchase of a lighting control system, named in honor of her late husband. In addition, she made donations to the Speech School Alumni Fund and to the NU Library, the Music School, and the Art Department.

Barber was also active at NU as a “professional volunteer,” as she once called herself. For the School of Speech, she served on the Alumni Board, and as a charter member of the Alumni Dean's Council. She was also patron of WAA-MU patron and a member of Friends of Art. She served on the board of directors of the John Evans Club, and was a member of the Library Council, the Music Society, the Women's Board, and Center Court. She received the Alumna of the Year Award in 1970 and in 1976 received an Alumni Service Award.

Barber died on December 21, 1999.

Scope and Content

The Ethel M. Barber Papers, dating between 1940 and 2000, fill two boxes and consist mainly of biographical material, press releases and clippings, records of her philanthropic and volunteer involvement in Northwestern University and other organizations, and photographs. The papers highlight Barber's commitment to education and the theater arts via her generous financial support of educational and building programs and scholarships at Northwestern University, Lawrence University, and the American Association of University Women.

Biographical materials relate to Ethel M. Barber and her husband, Judge James G. Barber. The biographical file, which spans the years 1940 to 2000, includes a copy of her marriage license, the commencement program from her 1947 NU graduation, her entries in Who's who of American women and similar publications, biographical sketches (some prepared by the Northwestern University Development Office), her résumé, her personal address book, and two obituaries. The file relating to James G. Barber includes press materials documenting his judicial service and involvement with the Salvation Army, as well as his obituary and a certificate acknowledging his service in World War I.

The folder of certificates, awards, and diplomas includes Barber's doctoral diploma from NU, Distinguished Service Award (1977) from Zeta Phi Eta, and certificates from the International Platform Association, the National Historical Society, Kungsholm (a cruise line) the board of her condominium, and NU's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Press clippings date from 1950 to 1985. Clippings range from a note and photo from a cruise line magazine to mentions in NU and Evanston publications. Earlier clippings report on Barber's activities in the Evanston community, while later ones document her many donations to NU. Several clippings contain a substantial amount of biographical information.

Barber's student work consists of notes on American poets and a paper about poetry relating to peace and war (from a class she took at NU), as well as a summary of her doctoral dissertation.

Correspondence with lecturer, writer, and actress Li Ling Ai dates between 1957 and 1962, although internal evidence suggests that the friendship had begun before 1957. Most of the letters are from Li, but there is one carbon copy of a letter from Barber.

The Northwestern University materials cover the years 1963-1987. Barber was a member of the John Evans Club, and materials dating from 1963 to 1979 trace her association with the organization from her earliest involvement to her service on its board of directors. The bulk of the NU materials consist of correspondence and press releases and clippings that document Barber's donations to the School of Speech and theater program.

Heavily documented in the Barber papers is the Ethel M. Barber Visiting Artist Program that she began in the late 1979, which brought distinguished artists to the School of Speech.

A scrapbook compiled to commemorate the announcement of the Visiting Artists Program in 1979 was dismantled and the contents (press releases, clippings, and photographs from the announcement reception) placed in a folder in their original order.

Correspondence and press clippings relating to the Ethel M. Barber Theater, dating from 1984 to 1987, reflect Barber's dedication as a donor to the Theatre and Interpretation Center. Additionally, there are some documents from the NU Development Office used to publicize Barber's donations.

Non-Northwestern University materials show Barber's contributions to other organizations and institutions. Her involvement with the American Association of University Women, to which she endowed scholarships from the 1960s through at least the 1980s, consists of correspondence, financial information, and lists of scholarship recipients (some with academic profiles). The Lawrence University folder, containing correspondence, clippings, and theater programs, documents her ties with her alma mater (when it was called Milwaukee-Downer College), her service as a trustee, her establishment of the Visiting Professorship, and her honorary doctorate from Lawrence. Finally, the Salvation Army folder documents Barber's service to the Corps, of which she was made a life member in 1969.

A dropfront box contains oversized photographs of Barber and her husband. A scrapbook of photographs and clippings, presented by Northwestern University to Barber in 1985, commemorates the 1984 dedication of the Ethel M. Barber Theater and the 1985 unveiling of her portrait. Also included is a box of slides of Barber with colleagues and in Europe.

Subjects

Corporate Name

American Association of University Women

Personal Name

Barber, Ethel M., 1914-

Subjects

Educators--Wisconsin--Biography

Philanthropists--Illinois--Biography


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical Materials
    • Biographical Information, 1940-2000; n.d.Box 1, Folder 1
    • Judge James G. Barber, 1926-1961; n.d.Box 1, Folder 2
    • Certificates, awards, diplomas, 1947-1980Box 1, Folder 3
    • Press clippings, 1950-1985Box 1, Folder 4
    • Student papers, 1938, 1947Box 1, Folder 5
  • Correspondence: Li Ling Ai, 1957-1962Box 1, Folder 6
  • Northwestern University
    • Alumni Service Award, 1976Box 1, Folder 7
    • NU Development Office, 1986-1987Box 1, Folder 8
    • Ethel M. Barber Chair, Financial Information, 1967, 1983Box 1, Folder 9
    • Ethel M. Barber Theater, 1984-1987; n.d.Box 1, Folder 10
    • Ethel Barber Visiting Artists Program, 1979-1985; n.d.Box 1, Folder 11
    • “Ethel M. Barber Visiting Artists Program” scrapbook, 1979-1980Box 1, Folder 12
    • John Evans Club, 1963-1979Box 1, Folder 13
  • Non-Northwestern University Activities
    • American Association of University Women (RESTRICTED), 1955-1985; n.d.Box 1, Folder 14
    • Lawrence University, 1970-1990; n.d.Box 1, Folder 15
    • Salvation Army, 1962-1970; n.d.Box 1, Folder 16
  • Oversized materials
    • Slides, 1965Box 2
    • Photographs, n.d.Box 2
    • Scrapbook, 1984-1985Box 2