Vintage scrapbooks are the original social media. In the 1940s, young people were curating and captioning their photos in albums. They used these photo books to document and share their lives with the world.
Around the same time, many women pulled a “Rosie the Riveter” and filled the jobs that men left to serve abroad in World War II. More ladies then began to question their traditional roles in society.
One such woman was Jean Doern Lieberman. She was a product of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, as well as an avid scrapbooker and a hot topic in her hometown newspaper. EverPresent digitized her vintage photo albums, and we’re proud to share her story with you today.
We condensed and captioned a TON of these scans into the timeline below. Use the arrows to navigate and get a better sense of this amazing archive!
Jean Doern’s Vintage Scrapbooks
Like many antique photo albums from the mid-20th century, Jean’s feature black-and-white photos mounted on old style scrapbook pages with white chalk captions. There are four ways to digitize these photo albums and scrapbooks:
- Individual Images: Scan each photo in order, left-to-right and/or top-to-bottom
- Full Pages: Scan whole pages to preserve the photos, captions, and layout
- Stitching: Scan extra-large album pages in chunks, then fit the pieces together digitally
- Photography: Photograph delicate albums to minimize wear-and-tear from handling
But your stories – like Jean’s – are what make these dusty old scrapbooks matter. And because she shot and captioned many of these photos, we’re able to relive some of her favorite memories from her own point of view.
High School Scrapbooks
Jean and friends at a country club
Jean’s high school years might seem a lot like your own: road trips, summer camps and inside jokes. She joined a few social clubs, and being a free spirit, it’s no surprise that she often took the lead in roles like junior camp counselor and president of her high school sorority.
These photo albums show what mattered most to Jean, but they don’t tell the whole story. Luckily, Ancestry.com archived her local newspaper, The Morning Call, whose society pages covered Jean often enough to help us fill in the blanks.
We learned that Jean helped give back to those less fortunate. As welfare chairman for the local Woman’s Club Daughter’s Division, she ran a Thanksgiving basket collection for needy families. And in 1943, having already secured a spot at Wellesley College, Jean opted out of an essay scholarship contest to help an orphaned classmate win the prize.
Wellesley College and a Carjacking
Jean (top right) and friends in a Wellesley College dorm room
Jean began attending Wellesley College, one of the most prestigious all-women schools, in 1943. We weren’t surprised to find out she was an English Lit major and an editor for the school magazine, since her love for storytelling is already clear in the vintage scrapbooks we digitized.
Times Were Changing
Again, it was the era of World War II and Rosie the Riveter. So while tradition pressured women to marry and have kids, times were changing and the role of “homemaker” was no longer an obvious choice. Jean felt that Mona Lisa Smile, a film about Wellesley starring Julia Roberts, missed the mark here:
“My grandmother resented the movie’s implication that Wellesley was just a factory farm for well-read future wives. She, and others of her generation, attended Wellesley because it promised an education on par with what a man would receive at an Ivy League university … not to improve her appeal as a potential mate, but to ensure that she would not NEED a husband in order to thrive in the world.”
– Kate Daly, granddaughter
That’s not to say these scholars weren’t looking for love.
In fact, young ladies like Jean would often exchange letters with their sweethearts overseas, and other soldiers looking for the comforts of home.
But we hope this image of Jean sending a letter to Private Miller partly dispels the notion of helpless damsels pining away until their heroes returned. Wellesley women had their own lives, and they had the autonomy to decide if men could be part of them.
Close Call Before Christmas
Taken from The Boston Daily Globe
Earlier we compared vintage photo albums to social media. People tend to share a more polished version of their lives online. The most shocking part of Jean’s college years never showed up in her old scrapbooks, but it did appear in her local paper and The Boston Daily Globe.
Jean was home for the holidays and made the risky decision to give a strange man a ride home. While Jean was driving, the hitchhiker pulled out a gun, pressed it against her ribs, and told her to keep going.
Jean then made another bold move: she drove in front of a moving bus, STOPPED THE CAR when the frantic carjacker grabbed the steering wheel, and then she jumped out. The man fled the scene but was later tracked down, arrested, and sent to jail.
New Year, New Jean
Don’t worry! Her school year turned around just two months later. When Jean returned home for winter break, she met her future husband: a fighter pilot named George Lieberman. She graduated from Wellesley one year later.
Jean Doern’s Wedding Album and Early Career
Partial page from Jean and George’s wedding album
Wedding books are some of our favorite items to preserve, because marriage ties two families together and creates a brand new one at the same time. Lots of couples love their custom photo albums so much, they ask us to print a new copy after we scan them (yes, we can do that)!
The final antique scrapbook album in this collection is titled Jean and George. It captures our heroine’s courtship, marriage, honeymoon, and early career as a recent graduate. This book also shows the graduation of her husband George, with whom Jean built a well-known ad agency in Pennsylvania.
On the Air with Miss Jean
Whoever said “you can’t have it all” never met Jean Doern Lieberman. Mixed in with the puppy love in this album are snapshots of her early career in broadcasting.
Jean became the host of a radio show called Children’s Hour at Pennsylvania’s WFMZ shortly after graduating. Based on more of our findings from Ancestry.com’s newspaper archive, she also produced a segment for WAEB titled, “Man’s World? That’s What You Think!”
Taken from The Morning Call
When TV became more accessible in the 1950s, she landed the role of Miss Jean on the children’s TV series, Romper Room. Many local stations produced their own versions of this show in its heyday, but despite our efforts, we weren’t able to find any recordings of Jean online.
WFMZ-TV is still around, but those tapes could be long gone – so remember to digitize your own home movies before they meet a similar fate!
More Than Just the Scrapbooks…
Jean’s string bound scrapbooks aren’t the only memories we preserved. In junior high school, she also started to show a knack for storytelling in her essays.
These items, as you’ve seen, reveal a young lady who marched to the beat of her own drum. In an autobiography we scanned, Jean describes herself as a “tom-boy” who got into “scraps” at school and didn’t like to follow the rules, even at birthday parties:
Taken from Jean Doern’s autobiography, Presenting: “Me”
For details on our document scanning service, click here.
The Legacy of Jean Doern Lieberman
Jean with her grandchildren and great-grandkids. Our consultant Kate is on the left, behind the baby in light blue!
Although we got to digitize parts of Jean’s later years, most of these newer items are loose color photos and more contemporary photo albums. But she raised four children who went on to work in the U.S. Congress, launch businesses, and more. Her grandchildren still have their whole lives ahead of them.
Digitizing projects like this one are what we’re all about – all of Jean’s vintage scrapbooks, musings, and photos are now digital and accessible for the whole family to share and enjoy. The first step in that journey was to preserve these memories for good. Shouldn’t you do the same?