News

March 26, 2008

The Hidden Heroine

College Archivist Diane Shaw will tell story of Marquis de Lafayette’s wife at Council of Lafayette Women Conference

By Carrie Pasternak ’08

The Council of Lafayette Women’s biennial conference, which will be held April 4-5, is not only an occasion to bring together alumni, faculty, staff, and undergraduates, it also is an opportunity for the Lafayette community to learn history related to the College’s namesake. (To learn more or register, visit the CLW Conference web site.)

Diane Windham Shaw, special collections librarian and college archivist, will be speaking at the conference. During the 2007-08 academic year, the Lafayette community has been celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette. Shaw will tell the story of the heroic wife of the Marquis de Lafayette.

She says, “Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne, is one of the most remarkable people in history. However, she is not well known because she often fell in the shadow of Lafayette.” Shaw says that Adrienne showed extreme courage and tenacity when faced with the threat of being beheaded after both her mother and grandmother had met the same fate in France.

“It’s a love story of great warmth and great drama. It has all the elements of a wonderful tale,” she says.

Shaw has been studying the life of the Marquis de Lafayette for quite some time through old books and letters that he wrote. As a result of being the curator for such a large collection of the Marquis’ belongings, she began to learn more and more about his life. Shaw first began learning about the wife of the Marquis when the French Club at Lafayette approached her and asked for some information about the heroic woman.

Shaw is looking forward to sharing this story with the women who will return to campus for the CLW conference.

“Our women alums are so smart, so engaged, and so involved in the world today and I think they will find a lot of resonance in [Adrienne’s] story,” she says. Shaw adds that the conference will offer quite a bit of variety in its programming. Shaw says that the conference “usually speaks to the intellectual, social, and spiritual nourishment of women and I think they often find a lot to take away with them.”

Shaw handles Lafayette College’s collection of rare books and manuscript collections, as well as the College archives. Her responsibilities involve just about everything having to do with these materials, including taking care of them, making sure users have access to them, writing descriptions of them, and working with various faculty members to teach their classes about the materials.

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