Notes from the Field
Oui, Madame…looking for French Architecture and Finding French Colonial Women
Today, Ste. Genevieve Missouri is no longer in sight of the Mississippi River but its French colonial architecture, its sense of itself as being French remain. The town is especially famous for its French construction methods of “poteaux sur solles” and “poteaux sur terre” – vertical logs on a horizontal sill or vertical logs directly in the earth with commodious porches wrapping around all four sides. Once the center of a thriving port and trading place, whose Grand Champs, or Big Field, grew wheat for the French craving their bread in New Orleans, today it has several museums and historic sites.
Several organizations preserve and interpret different aspects—its local St. Genevieve Museum displays everything from arrowheads to dioramas to bird feathered hats.
The Bolduc House Museum run by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America has the home of Louis Bolduc and his third wife, Marie Courtois Bolduc, as well as the Bolduc-LeMeilleur home. They have recently acquired another completely unrestored home which also has French vertical log construction as well as a future museum building. The Bolduc House has the makings of a site that authentically portrays French Colonial life on the west side of the Mississippi, especially in “northern Louisiana” where lead was mined and salt produced as well as furs traded, and where some French previously living in Illinois fled when the British won the east side of the Mississippi River in 1763 after the French and Indian War.
NCWHS board members speak at the National Archives
A joint program between the National Archive Experience and the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum was held at the McGowan Theater in Washington D.C. on March 31, 2015. Part of the ongoing partnership between the two organizations as part of their greater programming efforts around Women’s History Month, the moderated discussion “Temperance and Woman Suffrage: Reform movements and the women that changed America" brought together Lori Osborne of the Evanston History Center, and Page Harrington of Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, both members of the NCWHS Board of Directors; as well as Kristina Myers of the Alice Paul Institute and Professor Emerita at Morgan State University Dr. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, to discuss the overlap between the Temperance and Woman Suffrage movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Both movements created opportunities for women to organize for social, economic, and political change that would directly impact the welfare of their families. Support for the temperance movement through the largest women’s organization, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) opened the door for women to work not only for temperance, but for issues including improved working conditions for wage-earning women, improved public education, and political equality. Taken together, these reform movements provide a fascinating study of the individuals who participated in both movements, the organizations they created, and women as the driving force behind significant change in the United States.
Focusing on Frances Willard, Mamie Dillard, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, and Alice Paul, the panelists discussed the early influences of family, religion, and the traditional roles/place in society for the women that led them to participate in both movements as well as the economic, geographic, and racial barriers that often discouraged or outright prohibited a place for women in political discussions. The panelists also delved into the differences in gender roles: did the women consider themselves to be a “helpmate” to the men or seen as fully equal participants? Was her participation based on an inherent “right” to be able to participate, or was it her duty as a woman to work toward the betterment of her family? The evening ended with a spirited Q&A session between audience members and panelists. The program can be seen on YouTube and will also be rebroadcast on CSPAN.
Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites
Women’s History Month program at the Evanston History Center to focus on interpreting LGBT history at museums and historic sites
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and families are increasingly visible in popular culture and local communities; their struggles for equality appear regularly in news media. While this is a relatively new situation, same-sex love and desire has a long-standing history and can provide historical context for current events.
Building from her recently published book, Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites, author Susan Ferentinos will discuss the ways historians approach the study of same-sex relationships; the challenges to uncovering this past; and the efforts of museums, historic sites, and community groups to preserve this history and present it to the wider public. Cosponsored by the Evanston Women’s History Project and the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS), this program is designed not only for those connected to a museum or site, but also for anyone who is concerned with issues of inclusion and diversity in our interpretation of the past.
In Memoriam: Dr. Jannelle Warren-Findley
The public history community is mourning the passing of Dr. Jannelle Warren-Findley, who passed away on February 4, 2015, in Arizona. Jann was one of the founding directors of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites in 2004 and served until 2007. During that time, she was a conference organizer for the West/Southwest Regional Meeting of the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites in 2004-2005. When Jann left the NCWHS board, she recommended that Mary Melcher replace her.
Jann was an inspiration to many who work at the intersection of women’s history and public history. One particularly memorable and powerful contribution was her work in organizing (with Mary Rothschild) the Second National Women in Historic Preservation Conference (1997), a watershed event for those of us interested in the documentation and interpretation of places associated with women’s history. Many of us working in public history today found the series of conferences of which this was a part a turning point in our own careers, where scholarship was sharpened, networks thickened, and friendships forged.
Jann served as president of the National Council on Public History and on the executive board of the Organization of American Historians, among many other professional activities. Her public history practice took her around the world, from New Zealand to China. She retired from the Department of History at Arizona State University, where she taught public history, in 2014.
Her obituary is available at http://www.tempemortuary.com/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=2952345&fh_id=14347.
The National Council on Public History has a blog of memories about Jann at http://publichistorycommons.org/remembering-jann-warren-findley/
Many Voices: the Crane House, the Montclair YWCA, and telling the story of African American women’s history
We're delighted to welcome this guest post from Claudia B. Ocello, Project Manager for the Montclair YWCA Project, on the inspiring work being undertaken at the Crane House in Montclair, New Jersey--a terrific look at how research and reinterpretation can extend a site's reach, encompassing new histories and engaging new audiences.
There’s a saying that it takes a thousand voices to tell a single story; but until recently there was only one voice being heard in the Crane House. When the Montclair Historical Society opened the restored house in the 1960s, the restoration captured white, mostly male voices from the 1700s and 1800s heritage of the house, and very few – if any -- female voices, an approach typical of historic preservation in the 1950s and1960s. The story of the Crane House left out voices of the women who worked, taught, socialized, and uplifted the lives and spirits of African American women and girls for 45 years, when the Crane House served as headquarters for the “Colored” YWCA in Montclair, NJ. With Board approval, plans to “tell” the story of the YWCA women moved forward in 2012, when I was brought on as the team’s Project Director.
The Crane House lies in a commuter suburb of New York City with excellent schools, historic homes with manicured lawns, a lively downtown, an art museum, and a reputation for being a mixed-race, progressive town for young urban professionals and their families. In the 1965, the Montclair Historical Society (MHS) saved the 1796 Crane house from demolition and ensured the legacy of one of the town’s founders, Israel Crane, endured. MHS told an early American story and the house essentially became a decorative arts museum. Israel Crane and his son James dominated the reinterpretation, with barely a mention sprinkled in by docents about wife Fanny and daughter-in-law Phebe. And so the house and its interpretation stayed…for 40 years.