April 21, 3 pm: Chandra Manning, “Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War”

PART OF THE ‘WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?’ SERIES OF LECTURES ON WOMEN’S HISTORY, SPONSORED BY MASSHUMANITIESmass-humanities-logo

Even before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, slaves recognized that their bondage was at the root of the war they knew was coming, and they began running to the Union army. By the war’s end, nearly half a million had taken refuge behind Union lines in improvised “contraband camps.” These were crowded and dangerous places, with conditions approaching those of a humanitarian crisis. Yet families and individuals—some 12 to 15 percent of the Confederacy’s slave population—took unimaginable risks to reach them, and they became the first places where many Northerners would come to know former slaves en masse, with reverberating consequences for emancipation, its progress, and troubled-refugethe Reconstruction that followed.

Drawing on records of the Union and Confederate armies, the letters and diaries of soldiers, transcribed testimonies of former slaves, and more, Chandra Manning allows us to accompany the black men, women, and children who sought out the Union army in hopes of achieving autonomy for themselves and their communities. Ranging from the stories of individuals to those of armies on the move to debates in the halls of Congress, Troubled Refuge probes the particular and deeply significant reality of the contraband camps: what they were really like and how former slaves and Union soldiers warily united there, forging a dramatically new but highly imperfect alliance between the government and African Americans. That alliance, which would outlast the war, helped destroy slavery and warded off the very acute and surprisingly tenacious danger of re-enslavement. It also raised, for the first time, humanitarian questions about refugees in wartime and legal questions about civil and military authority with which we still wrestle, as well as redefined American citizenship, to the benefit but also to the lasting cost of African Americans.

Mass Cultural Logo 2This lecture made possible in part by a grant from the Falmouth Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Saturday,May 6, 2:00 pm: Allison Lange, “Women’s Suffrage and the Modern Political Campaign”

mass-humanities-logoPART OF THE ‘WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?’ SERIES OF LECTURES ON WOMEN’S HISTORY, SPONSORED BY MASSHUMANITIES

“Beyond Susan B. Anthony: What You Missed in History Class about the Woman Suffrage Movement”womens-suffrage

Did you know that Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president in 1872? Have you heard of Bostonian Lucy Stone, who published the longest-running and most successful suffrage newspaper? Did you learn that Ida B. Wells defied orders and racially integrated the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC? Have you heard that suffragists staged the first-ever picket of the White House in 1917?

Though Susan B. Anthony is probably the most familiar suffragist, this talk will highlight these important–but less familiar–stories of the movement. Women’s votes aren’t controversial today, but suffragists organized for nearly 100 years to win this right. “Beyond Susan B. Anthony” will feature colorful nineteenth-century political cartoons that lampooned the activists as well as the visual propaganda that suffragists created to convince Americans that women needed the vote. In 2020, we will commemorate the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to cast ballots. Let’s celebrate the suffragists with a better understanding of all that they accomplished.

Our May Lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings Bank

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Sunday, May 7, 2 pm: Kate Moore, “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women”

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Part of the series of lectures on Women’s History, made possible in part by a grant from Mass Humanities

Radium GirlsThe Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive ― until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Our May lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings

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July 26, 7 pm: Joseph Starita, “A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor”

Susan-LaFlesche-Picotte-1889On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche Picotte received her medical degree―becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country.

By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 1,350 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick―tuberculosis, small pox, measles, influenza―families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.

This is the story of an Indian woman who effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe, the story of a woman who crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial and gender prejudice, then spent the rest of her life using a unique bicultural identity to improve the lot of her people―physically, emotionally, politically, and spiritually.

Joe Starita’s A Warrior of the People is the moving biography of Susan La Flesche Picotte’s inspirational life and dedication to public health, and it will finally shine a light on her numerous accomplishments.

Our July lectures sponsored by Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank

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Saturday, September 16, 2 pm: Dava Sobel, “The Glass Universe”

PART OF THE ‘WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?’ SERIES OF LECTURES ON mass-humanities-logoWOMEN’S HISTORY, SPONSORED BY MASSHUMANITIES

 

 In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

glass-universeThe “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades—through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair.

Our March lectures are sponsored by First Citizens Federal Credit UnionFirst Citizens