Tuesday, November 7th, 2017...2:12 amAlexis Wiggins

Esther Popel Shaw

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I have heard the name “Popel Shaw” mentioned many times on the Dickinson campus. However, until last Friday, I never knew the significance behind it. ¬†Esther Popel Shaw achieved many accomplishments in her lifetime, including being the first African American women to graduate from Dickinson and publishing work in The Crisis. We were able to read her work that had been widely viewed in the Harlem Renaissance period. I particularly enjoyed the poems in her book “A Forest Pool.” Her language was eloquent and graceful. It was also amazing to be able to examine some of her original work and things she had actually written on. I find artifacts and archival pieces like that so interesting. To actually be able to read and look at a piece of work from a time ago is like being apart of history itself. And in this case it’s like being apart of the the history and accomplishments of Esther.

I find Esther inspiring not just because of the things she achieved but because of the road blocks she had to overcome. In the time period she lived in Esther was considered a second class citizen both because she was black and because she was a woman. She had a double bias against her and double the discrimination and yet she succeeded in getting her work published and her name known.


  • I agree with all of your observations, Esther Popel Shaw was seminal to pushing Dickinson into the correct way, though we’ve relapsed some, her spirit remains in the fabric of this institution. Ms. Popel Shaw then took her double bindness, as you alluded to, out into the world and made her voice heard. She was a force to be reckon with.

  • I definitely relate to your experience of frequently hearing Esther Popel Shaw’s name from professors but not fully knowing her story or significance as a Dickinsonian. The opportunity to engage with these archival materials was the ultimate opportunity to understand her fully, and see what Dickinson was like while she attended it. I think this is a particularly revealing method of charting Dickinson’s evolution, or perhaps lack thereof. How do these double biases still exist in 2017?

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