January

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Environmental History Seminar Camp Benson and the “GAR Camps”: Recreational Landscapes of Civil War Memory in Maine, 1886-1910 15 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required C. Ian Stevenson, Boston University Comment: Ian Delahanty, Springfield College This chapter examines sites where veterans transitioned the Civil War vacation toward a civilian ...

This chapter examines sites where veterans transitioned the Civil War vacation toward a civilian audience: Camp Benson, where several Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) posts built a campground, and at the “GAR Camps” where a single veteran proprietor built rental cottages. The chapter asks why postwar civilians would want to mimic the veteran desire to associate healthful destinations with wartime memory. How do these outdoor landscapes explain the nation’s healing process from the Civil War?

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Public Program Breaking the Banks: Representations & Realities in New England Fisheries, 1866–1966 16 January 2019.Wednesday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30. Matthew McKenzie, University of Connecticut There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). Matthew McKenzie weaves together the industrial, cultural, political, and ecological history of New ...

Matthew McKenzie weaves together the industrial, cultural, political, and ecological history of New England’s fisheries through the story of how the Boston haddock fleet rose, flourished, and then fished itself into near oblivion before the arrival of foreign competition in 1961. This fleet also embodied the industry’s change during this period, as it shucked its sail-and-oar, hook-and-line origins to embrace mechanized power and propulsion,more sophisticated business practices, and political engagement.

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African American History Seminar Race, Empire, and the Erasure of African Identities in Harvard’s “National Skulls” 17 January 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Christopher Willoughby, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Comment: Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University In 1847, John Collins Warren gave his anatomical collection to the Harvard medical school, including ...

In 1847, John Collins Warren gave his anatomical collection to the Harvard medical school, including a collection of “national skulls.” This paper analyzes how skulls from the black Atlantic were collected and dubbed “African,” to show that medical schools were intimately connected to the violence of slavery and empire, and to posit a method for writing the history of racist museum exhibitions that does not continue the silencing of black voices at the heart of those exhibitions.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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History of Women and Gender Seminar How to Be an American Housewife: American Red Cross “Bride Schools” in Japan in the Cold War Era 22 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required Location: Massachusetts Historical Society Sonia Gomez, University of Chicago Comment: Arissa Oh, Boston College In 1951, the American Red Cross in Japan began offering “schools for brides,” to prepare ...

In 1951, the American Red Cross in Japan began offering “schools for brides,” to prepare Japanese women married to American servicemen for successful entry into the United States. This paper argues that bride schools measured Japanese women’s ability to be good wives and mothers because their immigration to the US depended on their labor within the home as well as their reproductive value in the family.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Biography Seminar Writing Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 24 January 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required David Blight, Yale University Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice (host) Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of ...

Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became America's greatest orator of the nineteenth century. Blight, a prolific author and winner of the Bancroft Prize among other awards, has spent a career preparing himself for this biography, which has been praised as “a stunning achievement,” “brilliant and compassionate,” and “incandescent.” Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice, will host.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969 29 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Victoria Cain, Northeastern University Comment: Heather Hendershot, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II ...

Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II efforts to expand media use in schools around the nation. Would foundations or federal agencies use screen media to strengthen participatory democracy and local control or to undermine it? Was screen media a neutral technology? This paper argues that educational technology foundered or flourished not solely on the merits of its pedagogical utility, but also as a result of changing ideas about the relationship between citizenship and pictorial screen media.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag Superannuated: Old Age and Slavery’s Economy 30 January 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Nathaniel Windon, Pennsylvania State University Plantation owners demarcated elderly enslaved laborers as “superannuated” in their ...

Plantation owners demarcated elderly enslaved laborers as “superannuated” in their logbooks. This talk examines some of the implications of locating the origin of old age on the antebellum American plantation

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Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Misremembered Molasses 31 January 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-program reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology; Gavin Kleespies, MHS; and moderator Rev. Stephen T. Ayres Please note: This program will be held at Old South Meeting House. The Great Molasses Flood of 1919, when remembered, is often interpreted in a dismissive, comical ...

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919, when remembered, is often interpreted in a dismissive, comical manner. How does this case compare with other incidences of historical events that are interpreted or "curated" at the expense of accuracy and respect for human experience? How can we bring complexity back to events that have long been relegated to the realm of local folklore? Local scholars will discuss the question of misunderstood history by looking at the Great Molasses Flood, the fight for women's suffrage and Leif Erickson.

This program is a collaboration between the MHS and Old South Meeting House. It will be held at Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02108.

This program is made possible with funding from the Lowell Institute.

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February
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site ...

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag To Make a Breathing Picture: John Singleton Copley’s Disturbingly Vital Portraits in Enlightened Boston 6 February 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Caroline Culp, Stanford University This talk uncovers a peculiar desire of mid-18th century art: to make pictures so realistic they ...

This talk uncovers a peculiar desire of mid-18th century art: to make pictures so realistic they seemed to live and breathe. Focusing on Boston artist John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) and poet Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784), among other cultural figures, it explores superstitious beliefs that lingered in an enlightened, empirical, and rational citizenry.

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Environmental History Seminar Amputated from the Land: Black Refugees from America and the Neglected Voices of Environmental History 12 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Bryon Williams, Academy at Penguin Hall Comment: John Stauffer, Harvard University This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by ...

This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by blacks who fled the U.S. to settle in the wilds of Ontario. These first-person accounts of environmental encounter and expertise are unrivaled in depth, breadth, and detail among black ecological writing of any era. New environmental histories need such accounts that not only counter dominant American environmental and political myths, but offer black-lived stories of environmental belonging and agency.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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History of Women and Gender Seminar Panel: Feminist Economics 19 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM RSVP required Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute Danielle L. Dumaine, University of Connecticut, and Julie R. Enszer, University of Mississippi Comment: Juliet Schor, Boston College These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation ...

These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation movement with the history of capitalism. Danielle Dumaine’s paper, “Sisterhood of Debt: Feminist Credit Unions, Community, and Women’s Liberation,” examines the role of Feminist Credit Unions in the women’s liberation movement. Julie Enszer’s paper, “‘a feminist understanding of economics based on a revolutionary set of values’: Feminist Economic Theories and Practices,” looks at the feminist organizations that created the Feminist Economic Network.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Teacher Workshop Teaching the Industrial Revolution in Massachusetts 20 February 2019.Wednesday, 9:30AM - 4:00PM Please RSVP   Registration fee: $25 per person Lowell’s water-powered textile mills catapulted the nation – including immigrant ...

Lowell’s water-powered textile mills catapulted the nation – including immigrant families and early female factory workers – into an uncertain new industrial era. Nearly 200 years later, the changes that began here still reverberate in our shifting global economy. Hosted in partnership with the Tsongas Industrial History Center, this workshop will explore the history of industrial growth in New England and its impact on immigration, labor movements, women’s rights, and communities in New England and beyond.

Note: This workshop will be taking place off-site at the Tsongas Industrial History Center in Lowell, MA.

This program is open to all K-12 educators. Teachers can earn 22.5 Professional Development Points or 1 graduate credit (for an additional fee).

If you have any questions, please contact Kate Melchior at education@masshist.org or 617-646-0588.

 

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African American History Seminar Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House 21 February 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD ...

This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD officials, and others misappropriated billions in federal monies set aside for low-income housing. Of particular interest are the intertwined stories of two African Americans: Samuel R. Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, and Kimi Gray, a Washington, D.C. public housing activist. In exploring these narratives, this paper aims to complicate our understanding of the “Black 1980s,” the Ronald Reagan-led White House, and democracy in post-civil rights America.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Our Own Orient: Mecca, California, and Dates 26 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Eleanor Daly Finnegan, Harvard University Comment: Laura Barraclough, Yale University Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the ...

Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the exoticism of the Middle East to sell dates. This paper will focus on Mecca, California and the Indio Date Festival, looking at the complicated ways in which Orientalism has changed in the United States, its relationship to consumerism, and the economic connections made to the Middle East.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Labor and the Molasses Flood 28 February 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-program reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Robert Forrant, UMass Lowell; and moderator Karilyn Crockett Please note: This program will be held at Old South Meeting House. After the collapse of an industrial tank of molasses left a North End neighborhood devastated, a ...

After the collapse of an industrial tank of molasses left a North End neighborhood devastated, a legal battle for reparations ensued, prompting questions about the role and responsibilities of businesses within a community. Using the Molasses Flood as an historical backdrop, this panel will explore questions around labor rights and safety, the function of government regulations and the relationship between the public and big business interests; issues that still resonate today as modern Bostonians grapple with a changing corporate landscape and city-wide gentrification.

This program is a collaboration between the MHS and Old South Meeting House. It will be held at Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02108.

This program is made possible with funding from the Lowell Institute.

 

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March
Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker 5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge ...

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag A Meaningful Subjection: Coercive Inequality and Indigenous Political Economy in the Colonial Northeast 6 March 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Peter Olsen-Harbich, College of William and Mary This talk presents archaeological and documentary evidence of indigenous authority structures and ...

This talk presents archaeological and documentary evidence of indigenous authority structures and law enforcement in northeastern North America in the period immediately prior to European settlement. It then evaluates European comprehension of indigenous mechanisms of rule enforcement, and the degree to which awareness of them factored into designs for colonization.

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Environmental History Seminar Biological Exchange in the Pacific World in the Age of Industrial Sugarcane Plantations 12 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Lawrence Kessler, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Comment: Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the ...

This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the Pacific World. This new biological exchange served the political and economic interests of the plantation owners and their allies. Planters, however, were unable to control the biological exchange processes they created. This paper thus argues that through the creation of new patterns of biological exchange, sugarcane plantations induced ecological changes throughout the Pacific World.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Black Children's Cultural and Political Resistance 13 March 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Crystal Webster, University of Texas at San Antonio This talk examines the lives of African American children in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston ...

This talk examines the lives of African American children in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston during the late-18th to early-20th centuries by focusing on Black children's labor, play, and schooling. It argues that northern Black children intersected shifting constructions of race and childhood, as a group upon which society experimented with treatments of the newly recognized social category of the child, and came to terms with the social and economic place of the nascent free Black community.

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Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Immigrants in an Industrial Accident 14 March 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Marilynn Johnson, Boston College; Jim Vrabel; and moderator Peter Drummey This program will be held at MHS. Nearly 60 percent of Italian immigrants living in the North End in the early 20th century lacked ...

Nearly 60 percent of Italian immigrants living in the North End in the early 20th century lacked legal citizenship, diminishing their political voice when the Purity Distilling Company erected a shoddily built molasses tank in their densely populated neighborhood. The tragedy that followed is a central event in Boston’s urban and immigrant history and still elicits questions as to the rights of non-citizen residents and the responsibilities of city governments to protect vulnerable communities. The final panel in our Molasses Flood Series will explore the social and political dimensions of immigration in Boston’s past, present and future.

The program is a collaboration between MHS and Old South Meeting House.

 

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Biography Seminar Reckless Youth: Three Writers on their Youthful (Biographical) Passions 21 March 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM John Kaag, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Abigail Santamaria; Holly Van Leuven Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing ...

Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing at a young age? And what does a “youthful passion” for a biographical subject mean to a writer in retrospect? We’ve borrowed the title of Nigel Hamilton’s vivid narrative of JFK’s early years for this panel which features Holly Van Leuven, Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow; Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis; and John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, three writers who started in on their respective books in college or soon after—with the exception of Kaag, who looks back on his student infatuation from the perspective of a thirty-something father. Megan Marshall, whose Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast tells the life of her poetry professor, moderates.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Panel: Carceral Culture 26 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Melanie D. Newport, University of Connecticut—Hartford, and Morgan Jane Shahan, Johns Hopkins University Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, ...

This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, “‘Making Good’: On Parole in Early 20th Century Illinois,” traces the experience of ex-prisoners, and exposes the negotiations between employers, voluntary organizations, prisons, and parolees. Melanie Newport’s chapter, “‘I’m Afraid of Cook County Jail’: Making Space for Women in Chicago’s Jails,” addresses how women both inside and outside Cook County jail contested the plan to double the jail’s capacity in the 1970s.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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April
Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic 2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, ...

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag The Shade of Private Life: The Right to Privacy and the Press in Turn-of-the-Century American Art 3 April 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Nicole Williams, Yale University This talk considers how American artists shaped the modern concept of "the right to privacy" in ...

This talk considers how American artists shaped the modern concept of "the right to privacy" in response to the increasingly invasive mass media of the Gilded Age. It examines diverse artworks by John White Alexander, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and others in relation to period critiques of the press and the emerging legal discourse on privacy protections.

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Fashioning the New England Family Exhibitionends Fashioning the New England Family 6 April 2019.Saturday, 10:00AM - 4:00PM Open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM Fashioning the New England Family explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of ...

Fashioning the New England Family explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition will give scholars, students, and professionals in fields such as fashion, material culture, and history the chance to see these items for the first time; encourage research; and, provide the possibility for new discoveries. For the public, it is an opportunity to view in detail painstaking craftsmanship, discover how examples of material culture relate to significant moments in our history, and learn how garments were used as political statements, projecting an individual’s religion, loyalties, and social status. It may allow some to recognize and appreciate family keepsakes but it will certainly help us all to better understand the messages we may have previously missed in American art and literature. 

The exhibition is organized as part of MASS Fashion, a consortium of eight cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts. 

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Environmental History Seminar Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice in Boston 9 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM RSVP required Michael Brennan, University of Maine Comment: Daniel Faber, Northeastern University When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core ...

When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core tenets of owning land, developing the built environment, and sustaining existing social institutions had long been a practice for Boston’s minorities. To this end, members of Roxbury’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) worked to create an urban village in Dudley Square. The story of the DSNI demonstrates the utility of examining a topic in both a social and environmental sense.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Environmental History Seminar Camp Benson and the “GAR Camps”: Recreational Landscapes of Civil War Memory in Maine, 1886-1910 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
15 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM C. Ian Stevenson, Boston University Comment: Ian Delahanty, Springfield College

This chapter examines sites where veterans transitioned the Civil War vacation toward a civilian audience: Camp Benson, where several Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) posts built a campground, and at the “GAR Camps” where a single veteran proprietor built rental cottages. The chapter asks why postwar civilians would want to mimic the veteran desire to associate healthful destinations with wartime memory. How do these outdoor landscapes explain the nation’s healing process from the Civil War?

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Public Program Breaking the Banks: Representations & Realities in New England Fisheries, 1866–1966 registration required 16 January 2019.Wednesday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30. Matthew McKenzie, University of Connecticut There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

Matthew McKenzie weaves together the industrial, cultural, political, and ecological history of New England’s fisheries through the story of how the Boston haddock fleet rose, flourished, and then fished itself into near oblivion before the arrival of foreign competition in 1961. This fleet also embodied the industry’s change during this period, as it shucked its sail-and-oar, hook-and-line origins to embrace mechanized power and propulsion,more sophisticated business practices, and political engagement.

close
African American History Seminar Race, Empire, and the Erasure of African Identities in Harvard’s “National Skulls” Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
17 January 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Christopher Willoughby, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Comment: Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard University

In 1847, John Collins Warren gave his anatomical collection to the Harvard medical school, including a collection of “national skulls.” This paper analyzes how skulls from the black Atlantic were collected and dubbed “African,” to show that medical schools were intimately connected to the violence of slavery and empire, and to posit a method for writing the history of racist museum exhibitions that does not continue the silencing of black voices at the heart of those exhibitions.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
History of Women and Gender Seminar How to Be an American Housewife: American Red Cross “Bride Schools” in Japan in the Cold War Era Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
22 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM Location: Massachusetts Historical Society Sonia Gomez, University of Chicago Comment: Arissa Oh, Boston College

In 1951, the American Red Cross in Japan began offering “schools for brides,” to prepare Japanese women married to American servicemen for successful entry into the United States. This paper argues that bride schools measured Japanese women’s ability to be good wives and mothers because their immigration to the US depended on their labor within the home as well as their reproductive value in the family.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Biography Seminar Writing Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
24 January 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM David Blight, Yale University Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice (host)

Join us for a conversation with David Blight about the challenges of writing his biography of Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who became America's greatest orator of the nineteenth century. Blight, a prolific author and winner of the Bancroft Prize among other awards, has spent a career preparing himself for this biography, which has been praised as “a stunning achievement,” “brilliant and compassionate,” and “incandescent.” Carol Bundy, author of The Nature of Sacrifice, will host.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
29 January 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Victoria Cain, Northeastern University Comment: Heather Hendershot, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Uncertainty about media technology’s affective and political power plagued post-World War II efforts to expand media use in schools around the nation. Would foundations or federal agencies use screen media to strengthen participatory democracy and local control or to undermine it? Was screen media a neutral technology? This paper argues that educational technology foundered or flourished not solely on the merits of its pedagogical utility, but also as a result of changing ideas about the relationship between citizenship and pictorial screen media.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Brown Bag Superannuated: Old Age and Slavery’s Economy this event is free 30 January 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Nathaniel Windon, Pennsylvania State University

Plantation owners demarcated elderly enslaved laborers as “superannuated” in their logbooks. This talk examines some of the implications of locating the origin of old age on the antebellum American plantation

close
Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Misremembered Molasses registration required at no cost 31 January 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-program reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology; Gavin Kleespies, MHS; and moderator Rev. Stephen T. Ayres Please note: This program will be held at Old South Meeting House.

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919, when remembered, is often interpreted in a dismissive, comical manner. How does this case compare with other incidences of historical events that are interpreted or "curated" at the expense of accuracy and respect for human experience? How can we bring complexity back to events that have long been relegated to the realm of local folklore? Local scholars will discuss the question of misunderstood history by looking at the Great Molasses Flood, the fight for women's suffrage and Leif Erickson.

This program is a collaboration between the MHS and Old South Meeting House. It will be held at Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02108.

This program is made possible with funding from the Lowell Institute.

close
Early American History Seminar Making Money in the Massachusetts Bay Colony: the Boston Mint, 1652-1686 Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
5 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Mara Caden, MHS-NEH Fellow Comment: Penelope Ismay, Boston College

In the history of the British Atlantic empire, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stands alone as the site of the sole colonial mint. Based on new research in MHS collections, this papers tells the political and technological story of this mint, which furnished the colony with silver money for thirty years, and reveals the close relationship between currency and industrial development.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
Brown Bag To Make a Breathing Picture: John Singleton Copley’s Disturbingly Vital Portraits in Enlightened Boston this event is free 6 February 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Caroline Culp, Stanford University

This talk uncovers a peculiar desire of mid-18th century art: to make pictures so realistic they seemed to live and breathe. Focusing on Boston artist John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) and poet Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784), among other cultural figures, it explores superstitious beliefs that lingered in an enlightened, empirical, and rational citizenry.

close
Environmental History Seminar Amputated from the Land: Black Refugees from America and the Neglected Voices of Environmental History Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
12 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Bryon Williams, Academy at Penguin Hall Comment: John Stauffer, Harvard University

This paper focuses on dictated narratives from the 1840s and ‘50s, accounts delivered by blacks who fled the U.S. to settle in the wilds of Ontario. These first-person accounts of environmental encounter and expertise are unrivaled in depth, breadth, and detail among black ecological writing of any era. New environmental histories need such accounts that not only counter dominant American environmental and political myths, but offer black-lived stories of environmental belonging and agency.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

close
History of Women and Gender Seminar Panel: Feminist Economics Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
19 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute Danielle L. Dumaine, University of Connecticut, and Julie R. Enszer, University of Mississippi Comment: Juliet Schor, Boston College

These papers begin a conversation on the intersection of the study of the women’s liberation movement with the history of capitalism. Danielle Dumaine’s paper, “Sisterhood of Debt: Feminist Credit Unions, Community, and Women’s Liberation,” examines the role of Feminist Credit Unions in the women’s liberation movement. Julie Enszer’s paper, “‘a feminist understanding of economics based on a revolutionary set of values’: Feminist Economic Theories and Practices,” looks at the feminist organizations that created the Feminist Economic Network.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Teacher Workshop Teaching the Industrial Revolution in Massachusetts Please RSVP   registration required 20 February 2019.Wednesday, 9:30AM - 4:00PM Registration fee: $25 per person

Lowell’s water-powered textile mills catapulted the nation – including immigrant families and early female factory workers – into an uncertain new industrial era. Nearly 200 years later, the changes that began here still reverberate in our shifting global economy. Hosted in partnership with the Tsongas Industrial History Center, this workshop will explore the history of industrial growth in New England and its impact on immigration, labor movements, women’s rights, and communities in New England and beyond.

Note: This workshop will be taking place off-site at the Tsongas Industrial History Center in Lowell, MA.

This program is open to all K-12 educators. Teachers can earn 22.5 Professional Development Points or 1 graduate credit (for an additional fee).

If you have any questions, please contact Kate Melchior at education@masshist.org or 617-646-0588.

 

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African American History Seminar Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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21 February 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University

This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD officials, and others misappropriated billions in federal monies set aside for low-income housing. Of particular interest are the intertwined stories of two African Americans: Samuel R. Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, and Kimi Gray, a Washington, D.C. public housing activist. In exploring these narratives, this paper aims to complicate our understanding of the “Black 1980s,” the Ronald Reagan-led White House, and democracy in post-civil rights America.

 

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Our Own Orient: Mecca, California, and Dates Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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26 February 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Eleanor Daly Finnegan, Harvard University Comment: Laura Barraclough, Yale University

Residents changed the name of Walters, California to Mecca in 1904. They were trying to use the exoticism of the Middle East to sell dates. This paper will focus on Mecca, California and the Indio Date Festival, looking at the complicated ways in which Orientalism has changed in the United States, its relationship to consumerism, and the economic connections made to the Middle East.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Labor and the Molasses Flood registration required at no cost 28 February 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-program reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Robert Forrant, UMass Lowell; and moderator Karilyn Crockett Please note: This program will be held at Old South Meeting House.

After the collapse of an industrial tank of molasses left a North End neighborhood devastated, a legal battle for reparations ensued, prompting questions about the role and responsibilities of businesses within a community. Using the Molasses Flood as an historical backdrop, this panel will explore questions around labor rights and safety, the function of government regulations and the relationship between the public and big business interests; issues that still resonate today as modern Bostonians grapple with a changing corporate landscape and city-wide gentrification.

This program is a collaboration between the MHS and Old South Meeting House. It will be held at Old South Meeting House at 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02108.

This program is made possible with funding from the Lowell Institute.

 

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Early American History Seminar Parson Weems: Maker and Remaker Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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5 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Comment: Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University

This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag A Meaningful Subjection: Coercive Inequality and Indigenous Political Economy in the Colonial Northeast this event is free 6 March 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Peter Olsen-Harbich, College of William and Mary

This talk presents archaeological and documentary evidence of indigenous authority structures and law enforcement in northeastern North America in the period immediately prior to European settlement. It then evaluates European comprehension of indigenous mechanisms of rule enforcement, and the degree to which awareness of them factored into designs for colonization.

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Environmental History Seminar Biological Exchange in the Pacific World in the Age of Industrial Sugarcane Plantations Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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12 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Lawrence Kessler, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Comment: Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut

This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the Pacific World. This new biological exchange served the political and economic interests of the plantation owners and their allies. Planters, however, were unable to control the biological exchange processes they created. This paper thus argues that through the creation of new patterns of biological exchange, sugarcane plantations induced ecological changes throughout the Pacific World.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Black Children's Cultural and Political Resistance this event is free 13 March 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Crystal Webster, University of Texas at San Antonio

This talk examines the lives of African American children in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston during the late-18th to early-20th centuries by focusing on Black children's labor, play, and schooling. It argues that northern Black children intersected shifting constructions of race and childhood, as a group upon which society experimented with treatments of the newly recognized social category of the child, and came to terms with the social and economic place of the nascent free Black community.

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Public Program, Conversation The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Immigrants in an Industrial Accident registration required at no cost 14 March 2019.Thursday, 6:00PM - 7:30PM There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30. Stephen Puleo; Marilynn Johnson, Boston College; Jim Vrabel; and moderator Peter Drummey This program will be held at MHS.

Nearly 60 percent of Italian immigrants living in the North End in the early 20th century lacked legal citizenship, diminishing their political voice when the Purity Distilling Company erected a shoddily built molasses tank in their densely populated neighborhood. The tragedy that followed is a central event in Boston’s urban and immigrant history and still elicits questions as to the rights of non-citizen residents and the responsibilities of city governments to protect vulnerable communities. The final panel in our Molasses Flood Series will explore the social and political dimensions of immigration in Boston’s past, present and future.

The program is a collaboration between MHS and Old South Meeting House.

 

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Biography Seminar Reckless Youth: Three Writers on their Youthful (Biographical) Passions this event is free 21 March 2019.Thursday, 5:30PM - 7:45PM John Kaag, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Abigail Santamaria; Holly Van Leuven Moderator: Megan Marshall, Emerson College

Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing at a young age? And what does a “youthful passion” for a biographical subject mean to a writer in retrospect? We’ve borrowed the title of Nigel Hamilton’s vivid narrative of JFK’s early years for this panel which features Holly Van Leuven, Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow; Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis; and John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, three writers who started in on their respective books in college or soon after—with the exception of Kaag, who looks back on his student infatuation from the perspective of a thirty-something father. Megan Marshall, whose Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast tells the life of her poetry professor, moderates.

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Modern American Society and Culture Seminar Panel: Carceral Culture Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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26 March 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Melanie D. Newport, University of Connecticut—Hartford, and Morgan Jane Shahan, Johns Hopkins University Comment: Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University

This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, “‘Making Good’: On Parole in Early 20th Century Illinois,” traces the experience of ex-prisoners, and exposes the negotiations between employers, voluntary organizations, prisons, and parolees. Melanie Newport’s chapter, “‘I’m Afraid of Cook County Jail’: Making Space for Women in Chicago’s Jails,” addresses how women both inside and outside Cook County jail contested the plan to double the jail’s capacity in the 1970s.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Early American History Seminar Naming Plantations in the 17th-Century English Atlantic Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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2 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Paul Musselwhite, Dartmouth College Comment: Cynthia Van Zandt, University of New Hampshire

The language of “plantation” in early Virginia and New England described a providential, public process intended to serve the interests of god and the commonwealth. How and why did this civic language become transformed into a place for the private pursuit of agricultural wealth? This paper uncovers the ways ordinary men and women grappled with the definition of plantation by systematically investigating the names they gave to the places they termed “plantations.”

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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Brown Bag The Shade of Private Life: The Right to Privacy and the Press in Turn-of-the-Century American Art this event is free 3 April 2019.Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:00PM Nicole Williams, Yale University

This talk considers how American artists shaped the modern concept of "the right to privacy" in response to the increasingly invasive mass media of the Gilded Age. It examines diverse artworks by John White Alexander, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and others in relation to period critiques of the press and the emerging legal discourse on privacy protections.

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Exhibition Fashioning the New England Family this event is free 6 April 2019.Saturday, 10:00AM - 4:00PM Open Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM Fashioning the New England Family

Fashioning the New England Family explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition will give scholars, students, and professionals in fields such as fashion, material culture, and history the chance to see these items for the first time; encourage research; and, provide the possibility for new discoveries. For the public, it is an opportunity to view in detail painstaking craftsmanship, discover how examples of material culture relate to significant moments in our history, and learn how garments were used as political statements, projecting an individual’s religion, loyalties, and social status. It may allow some to recognize and appreciate family keepsakes but it will certainly help us all to better understand the messages we may have previously missed in American art and literature. 

The exhibition is organized as part of MASS Fashion, a consortium of eight cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts. 

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Environmental History Seminar Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice in Boston Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
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9 April 2019.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Michael Brennan, University of Maine Comment: Daniel Faber, Northeastern University

When environmental justice became a widely understood framework for action in the 1990s, the core tenets of owning land, developing the built environment, and sustaining existing social institutions had long been a practice for Boston’s minorities. To this end, members of Roxbury’s Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) worked to create an urban village in Dudley Square. The story of the DSNI demonstrates the utility of examining a topic in both a social and environmental sense.

To RSVP: email seminars@masshist.org or call (617) 646-0579.

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