Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Serendipity in the University of Washington Archives: Dr. Helen Remick, The Little School, Buxbaum, and Courtesy Markers*

An addendum to The Edith Buxbaum Journal

I had been searching through The Little School files one morning, while looking for information on Edith Buxbaum’s psychoanalytic relationship to The Little School, when I came across the name of Helen Remick. I recognized her name from 1977 when I was teaching an American Women’s History class for the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Washington.  At the time, Dr. Remick was the Affirmative Action officer. I saw her once at a Women’s Studies meeting when there was a town-gown discussion. As I remember it, Dr. Remick represented the gowns and though I was a graduate student at the time, my heart was with the women of  the town, organized by Radical Women and other liberation groups. I don’t remember much about the meeting except that the room was packed with women and there were uncomfortable feelings on all sides of the political spectrum, alongside mutual feelings of sisterhood. I didn’t continue going to Women’s Studies meetings. I was a single parent and had three children to take care of, in addition to my graduate work in history.

Those were different times, the 1970s, and now we’re at 2012. It’s been a long time since I finished my graduate work, having obtained the doctorate in 1994. I’ve raised three children to become professionals in the field of education and continue my writing and teaching outside the university setting, although I use its libraries and research facilities liberally. My gratitude toward those facilities take fullest expression in my use of the university’s archives, specifically Suzzallo’s Special Collections. Here I found Dr. Remick’s name in a Little School folder.  What was it doing there? It turns out that at the same time Dr. Remick was an affirmative action officer and attended that Women’s Studies meeting, she was the parent of a Little School pupil when it was in the Bellevue facility.
Dr. Eleanor Siegl
Dr. Remick was writing a letter asking Eleanor Siegl, director of the Little School, to address her as Dr. Helen Remick or, depending on the school’s protocol, Helen Remick or Ms. Helen Remick, but not as Mrs. Helen Remick or Mrs. Jack Remick. As in the Women’s Studies meeting, thanks to the 1970s women’s movement, we have clearly spelled-out feminist distinctions. Eleanor Siegl did not call herself a feminist, to my knowledge, but she expressed feminist leanings in pushing for a career outside the home. In many communications, however, Eleanor Siegl was Mrs. Henry Siegl, wife of the Seattle Symphony’s Concert Master.The two women expressed their feminism differently. As Dr. Remick was to tell me in a 2011 interview: “We had different feminist sensibilities.”

I am well-acquainted with Dr. Remick’s husband Jack Remick, a well-known Seattle poet, novelist and teacher. I had emailed Jack to ask him for Helen’s email to see if she was interested in talking to me about the letter she wrote to Eleanor Siegl and about their child’s experience at The Little School. I also asked Jack if I could interview him and eventually spoke with the whole family, including their daughter, Justine, now a university professor. From the Remick family I gained a fresh perspective on The Little School, a testament to the importance of personal interviews and of archival collections, especially in the internet age where facts can be changed to suit the moment.

Dr. Helen Remick
Dr. Remick retired from the University of Washington in 2005. She is now a practicing quilt artist, as thorough and exacting in this craft as she was as an affirmative action officer.

I don't know how much of a priority the name issue was for Edith Buxbaum, but it wasn't negligible.  She used the signatures Edith, Edith Buxbaum, Edith Buxbaum, Ph.D., Edith B. Schmidl, Mrs. Fritz Schmidl and, with her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Fritz Schmidl. In the summer 1982 bulletin (vol. 2, no.6, p.1) of the Psychoanalytic Society of Seattle (currently called the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute) in which Buxbaum was memorialized, her colleague Gerald B. Olch, M.D. (1921-1999) wrote: "I had the impression that she used her married name more frequently after her husband's death, as if it then became acceptable to her to reveal how much she had depended on him."

*The term, Courtesy Markers, is from Dr. Remick's letter to The Little School Staff. I had not heard of the term before reading the letter.


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