Posted May 7, 2019
African American Women Making a difference in their Communities: Rhine McLin
Much of the time, when I look through archival collections, I know that the person who made it is likely long gone. The papers they wrote, the pictures they took, and the newspaper clippings they collected become important in understanding who this person is. These items symbolize what was important to this person in life.
When the person who made the archival collection is still living, suddenly I feel much more voyeuristic as I flip through some aspect of their life. I’m peering in to their world, poking through their things, looking at photos and reading papers that might be personal. This was how I felt as I looked through boxes that held records of the political work of former Senator Rhine McLin.
I should not have felt like I was being so invasive. The papers had been donated with the intent to be viewed by other people. None of the papers had anything to do with her private life; they were all documents having to do with various aspects of her job. For the most part, it was all information that had been seen by the public before. There was page after page of press releases. There were speeches written to be spoken at various public events. There were letters sent to public figures to show support for their cause.
Quite a lot of the speeches and press releases I saw focused on Education. Seeing as McLin has a Master’s degree in Education, I suppose this does not come as much of a surprise that this was something she considered important. I found a graduation speech she gave to ITT Technical Institute. There were pamphlets of information concerning a scholarship with Sprint. I found half a dozen letters written about interns from Wright State University who had worked for her. Her reviews of their work was always encouraging, stating that they were all a pleasure to work with.
While the press releases show what sorts of things McLin focused on during her time as an Ohio Senator, it does not show the public’s reception of her political stance. This is why a news article I found tucked away in one folder is important. The article in question was written by Ellen Blecher, and it was very critical of McLin and her decision to vote against a sales tax increase. Also included were letters to the editor published by Dayton Daily news, supporting McLin and expressing their trust in her leadership abilities.
These papers from her time as senator are only one small sliver of both Rhine McLin as a person and a very specific glance at a small part of her career. The sheer volume of material shows one thing for certain: McLin spent a lot of time making sure her work was visible to the public.
This post was written by Wright State University Public History graduate student Amanda Wachowiak. She just completed a capstone project processing and researching archive collections of African American women which are held at the National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio.