Lucy Allen was born in 1877 and set out to become a librarian when she began her studies at The Ohio State University in 1894, but along the way she became the first woman to serve as a curator at the Ohio History Connection (then the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society). She took up the post for several months in 1898, while working on her Master’s degree in Library Science. She would be the only female curator of archaeology until Martha Potter Otto, who held the post from 1974-2009.
The first curator of archaeology there, Warren K. Moorehead, wrote 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 later recommended her for the final review of the map after his resignation in 1897, stating that she knew the data “better than any other person – next to myself.”
Moorehead was succeeded for a few short months by Clarence Loveberry. The 1898 Annual Report for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society states that following Loveberry’s abrupt departure, “Miss Lucy Allen took charge of the Museum and performed the duties of Curator until June 1, 1898, when the Executive Committee elected Mr. W. C. Mills, Curator.” The curious phrase “performed the duties of Curator” suggests she was somehow less than a real curator, yet the Annual Reports of the Ohio State University indicate she was the “Curator arch. Museum” and as such she was paid $20 per month from February through June, a five month tenure as compared with her predecessor’s four months.
After leaving her position with the museum, she was hired as an Assistant Librarian at a salary of $40 per month – double what she was making as a curator. That gives you an indication of academia’s opinion of museum curators – at least in the late 19th century.
Allen served as librarian until 1901 by which time she had earned her Master’s degree. She went on to Harvard University where she studied under the noted historian Albert Bushnell Hart, but did not complete her PhD. Instead, she married George Smart, co-founder and editor of the Columbus Citizen.
After her husband died in 1925, Lucy became the Assistant to the Headmaster as well as the librarian at Kew-Forest School in Forest Hill, New York. In 1941, she was appointed Dean. In addition to her other accomplishments, Lucy became a nationally-known performer of living history portraying, among other notable American women, Priscilla Alden, Abigail Smith, Dolly Madison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She died at the age of 83 in 1960.
Lucy Allen Smart’s contributions to archaeology were not mentioned in her obituaries. And she has not been acknowledged as the Ohio History Connection’s third curator of archaeology until quite recently. The limited documentation from the period does not allow us to assess fully the contributions Lucy Allen made to Ohio archaeology, but the state map to which Allen devoted so much of her time as curator would become The Archaeological Atlas of Ohio, published by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society in 1914. This landmark catalog of archaeological sites provided the foundation for today’s Ohio Archaeological Inventory, which is maintained by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. William C. Mills is listed as the sole author of the Atlas. In the preface, Mills briefly mentions Moorehead’s contribution, but he makes no mention whatsoever of Allen’s efforts.
It is clear that Allen did no fieldwork. This may be one of the reasons why she has not been acknowledged as a full-fledged curator. It also may be that she has been regarded merely as an interim curator serving for only five months, but Loveberry was curator for only four months and he has been recognized as the second curator of archaeology for the Ohio History Connection. I think the fundamental reason Allen’s contributions have been forgotten is that she was a woman in a field dominated by men. And those men may have found her presence a little embarrassing.
The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society stated that following Loveberry’s departure, “Mr. Raymond Osborn and Miss Lucy Allen were looking after the interests of the Society in the Museum in the absence of a Curator.” In a thorough review of all the correspondence and documentation from this period, I have found several letters from Allen on Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society letterhead. I have found correspondence addressed to “Lucy Allen Dept. Curator.” I have not found a single piece of paper referring to Osborn other than this mention in the Report to the Trustees.
Who was Raymond Osborn? He was a Professor of Zoology and Entomology at the Ohio State University. Just what he might have been doing on behalf of the “interests of the Society” is a mystery.
There was, in fact, no “absence of a Curator.” Allen was the “Curator arch. Museum.” And in the Report of the Curator, just eight pages away from the reference to Osborn in the same Annual Report, states unequivocally that “Miss Lucy Allen took charge of the Museum and performed the duties of Curator.” Maybe the Society’s trustees felt that they needed to reassure the Society’s membership that the interests of the Society were in the capable hands a man, in spite of the fact that a woman was running the shop.
Whatever the reason for history’s neglect of Lucy Allen, I hope that this blog post can begin to acknowledge her efforts to add to our knowledge of the past as a scholar and as a woman. She deserves no less.
Written by Brad Lepper
Edited & posted by Suzie
Check out Brad’s blog post about Lucy Allen here.
1898a Randall, E. O. “Annual Report of the Trustees.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 7:284-5.
1898b “Work of the Curator.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 7:292-3.
1914. Mills, William C. The Archaeological Atlas of Ohio. Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, Columbus.