Tag Archives: Gender History

Plattsburgh’s Mary Johnson in Civil War


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Mary Hill Johnson 01The same “prove or disprove” mission I undertook to investigate Mary Johnson’s claims (to have passed as a man and fought in the Civil War) was attempted by Eleanor Vashon after interviewing Mary Johnson in 1924. Several parties were involved: a pension attorney; the Massachusetts adjutant general;  the Daughters of Veterans; the Convent of St. Rock, Quebec; the Canadian Red Cross; the Tewksbury Hospital; and acquaintances of Mary with whom she had shared the unusual story of her life.

The Red Cross managed to confirm that Thomas Hill indeed served in the Massachusetts 53rd, but found no record of a Saul Hill in the same outfit. They did find a Joseph Saul, and considering Mary’s age and her earlier jumbling of General Nelson Miles as Mills Nelson, the similarity was noted as a possible link. Continue reading

Was Mary Johnson A Civil War Veteran?


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Mary Hill Johnson 01In Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, while working in a private home, Mrs. Mary Johnson was badly injured in a fall. At the age of 82, with few resources at her disposal, neither Mary nor her husband Peter could care for themselves. During the next two years, the couple resided in three different poorhouses, living at Fitchburg and Tewksbury before moving to the Worcester City Farm. At Fitchburg, Mrs. Johnson had begun telling stories about her secret war past, and at Worcester, folks began to take her seriously.

According to Mary, she had served honorably in two branches of military service, most notably a stint during the Civil War. Combat was reserved for men only, but Mary openly shared the details, insisting her story was true. Continue reading

Clinton County’s George Montgomery Scott


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George Montgomery Scott Mayor Salt Lake CityReligious differences are often the root causes of war, and in 1870 Utah, that’s what dominated politics. Unlike most of the nation, Utah had no Democratic or Republican parties. Instead, it was the Liberals (the anti-Mormons) versus the People’s Party (the Mormons). Eventually playing a fateful role in the outcome was a North Country man, George Montgomery Scott, a successful businessman in the territory.

The anti-Mormons made gains over the years, particularly in Tooele County, which became known as the Republic of Tooele when residents voted the Liberals into power for a five-year period. During that time, it created an odd situation. Tooele leaders, under the Liberal flag, instituted women’s suffrage. Continue reading

AIDS in New York: The First Five Years


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aids-ResearchnotHysteriaAP8306270128The early history of the AIDS epidemic in New York City—from the first rumors in 1981 of a “gay plague” through the ensuing period of intense activism, clinical research, and political struggle—will be the subject of a major new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, AIDS in New York: The First Five Years, on view from June 7 through September 15, 2013.

With a wealth of materials drawn from New-York Historical’s archives as well as the archives of the New York Public Library, New York University, and the National Archive of LGBT History, the exhibition will use artifacts including clinicians’ notes, journal entries, diaries, letters, audio and video clips, posters, photographs, pamphlets, and newspapers to revisit the impact of the epidemic on personal lives and public culture in New York City and the nation.
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Westchester: The Prophet Matthias and Elijah the Tishbite


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MatthiasLong before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.

The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading

Unique Stoneware Jug Depicting Entertainment Acquired


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acrobat jug detailA four-gallon stoneware jug manufactured by Fulper Bros. in Flemington, New Jersey during the 1880s is now part of the New York State Museum’s Weitsman Collection of American Stoneware. Now on display at the State Museum, the historically significant piece of stoneware was recently acquired for the Museum by stoneware collector and benefactor, Adam Weitsman.

According to an announcement release to the press today, “The acrobat jug, a sought-after example of decorated American stoneware, has been breaking stoneware record prices at auction for decades and Weitsman had wanted the piece for over thirty years.” Weitsman recently purchased the jug from Allen Katz Americana the statement says. Continue reading

Women’s Day Exhibit Features Saint Marianne Cope


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Marianne CopeWomen’s Rights National Historical Park announces the opening of an exhibit about the work of Saint Marianne Cope, entitled “Saint Marianne: Blessed Mother of the Afflicted.” The exhibit will open on Friday, March 8th in celebration of International Women’s Day.

The exhibit will explore Saint Marianne’s life work with the Sisters of Saint Francis, which began in Syracuse, New York and culminated in Hawaii with patients afflicted with Leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. Continue reading

Free Love: Emma Goldman and Victoria Woodhull


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Victoria Woodhull 1828-1927

Love was too important to be left in the hands of the state, thought Victoria Woodhull. And she said so, at Steinway Hall just off Union Square in New York City in 1871, speaking to a packed audience on the principle of “social freedom,” the code word for the right to choose your sexual partners.

“Yes, I am a free Lover, I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long a period as I can, to change that love every day if I please.” The audience went wild. Continue reading

In the Words of Women: Rev War And Nation’s Birth


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Fort Montgomery State Historic Site will host a presentation entitled “In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799″ on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7 pm.

The book In the Words of Women brings together the writings of women who lived between 1765 and 1799. These writings are organized chronologically around events, battles, and developments from before the Revolution, through its prosecution and aftermath. Continue reading

Nominations for the 2013 Woman of History Sought


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Each March, Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site recognizes a woman who has distinguished herself in the field of Hudson Valley history by bestowing upon her the “Martha Washington Woman of History Award.” Appropriately, the award emanates from where Martha Washington resided with her husband, General George Washington, during the last months of the Revolutionary War. That the ceremony takes place in March, during Women’s History Month, is indeed fitting.

The Woman of History award acknowledges Martha Washington’s important place in history as a devoted patriot in support of the American Revolution and the ensuing new nation. This is the eleventh year the award has been given, continuing the site’s mission to educate the public about the history of our great state and national heritage.

There are many women who are dedicated to sharing and preserving our history. Perhaps you know of a woman who shares her love of history with children by taking them to historic places during her free time? Is there a woman who has done research about the Hudson Valley and has shared her findings to encourage others to do the same? Do you know a woman who has used her private time or resources to preserve a landmark of historic significance? These are just a few examples of what could qualify a woman to be a recipient of the award. The nomination field is open to any woman who has cultivated interest and awareness of Hudson Valley history, either locally or nationally.

Nominations must be completed and submitted by January 4, 2013. To download a nomination form, go to the Conservancy website or call (845) 562-1195. The award will be given during a ceremony in March.

Photo: Women of History Award winners Mary McTamaney (2007), Betsy McKean (2009), Stella Baily (2012), and Mara Farrell (2011), with Washington’s Headquarters Site Manager, Elyse Goldberg.

A Treacherous Beauty Behind Benedict Arnold


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Treacherous Beauty: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America by Stephen Case and Mark Jacob (Globe Pequot, 2012) is the biography of Peggy Shippen, a Philadelphia society girl who became Mrs. Benedict Arnold and was involved in the most notorious treason in American history. When the plot was discovered, Peggy cleverly deflected blame. More than a century after her death, documents were discovered showing that she was a conspirator. But Peggy’s story remains little known today.

The granddaughter of a Philadelphia mayor, Peggy was 17 when the British army occupied her city. She became friends with John Andre, a handsome British officer. Then, when the patriots retook Philadelphia, Peggy was courted by the city’s top military man, General Benedict Arnold, who was considered the best battlefield commander in George Washington’s army but had been grievously wounded at Saratoga. Peggy was 18 and Arnold was 37 when they married. A month later, they began secretly communicating with the British, offering to commit treason. The British officer who handled the negotiations was Peggy’s old friend, Andre.

Ultimately, the Arnolds settled on a plan to surrender the vital outpost of West Point to the British and arrange the capture of thousands of troops – and perhaps even Washington himself. But Andre was captured behind enemy lines, and the plot unraveled. Arnold fled to the British, leaving Peggy behind to care for their infant son and convince the Founding Fathers that she was innocent. She put on one of the greatest performances in American history – a hysterical episode known as the “Mad Scene” that convinced Washington and the others that this highly intelligent woman was oblivious to the plot.

Andre was hanged as a spy. Peggy rejoined Arnold and eventually moved to London. Later they tried to settle in Canada, but Arnold’s business disputes ruined their chances. Peggy spent her last years in England trying desperately to keep her family afloat despite her husband’s financial recklessness. She succeeded in raising five children of the British Empire, four of them soldiers. Peggy died of cancer at age 44, and demanded the most modest burial possible. A keepsake was found among her effects: a lock of hair from John Andre.

Stephen H. Case is managing director and general counsel of Emerald Development Managers LP. He is a member of the board of the American Revolution Center. Mark Jacob, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, was part of the team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. To satisfy his personal curiosity, Case has made himself an expert in the Peggy Shippen story, reading all available histories that examine her story and tracking down Peggy’s letters at various repositories of historical manuscript.

Mark Jacob, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, was part of the team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. He is co-author of the newspaper’s “10 Things You Might Not Know” feature. He has co-written four other books, including What the Great Ate.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Abolition Hall of Fame Induction Events, Symposia


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The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will honor its three 2011 inductees at commemoration ceremonies October 19 – 21, 2012. Abby Kelley Foster, Jermain Wesley Loguen, and George Gavin Ritchie will be honored with a variety of programs during the three days of the event.

The commemoration weekend opens at 3 p.m. Friday, October 19 at the Women’s Studies Center at Colgate University with a panel presentation on Abby Kelley Foster facilitated by Judith Wellman PhD. Friday evening at 7 pm performers from Milford NY will present an antislavery concert Songs and Stories of the Hutchinson Family Singers.On Saturday, October 20 at 10:00 a.m. an exhibit on George Gavin Ritchie arranged by Colgate Library Special Collections opens at the Case Library. Kate Clifford Larson PhD keynotes the buffet luncheon at 11:30 in the Hall of Presidents at Colgate. Dr. Larson will speak on Harriet Tubman and upcoming events in 2013 for the Tubman centennial. The Upstate Institute Abolition Symposia begins at 1 p.m. in Golden Auditorium at Colgate. Programs on Foster, Loguen and Ritchie will be presented during the afternoon symposia.

At 4:45 p.m. Robert Weible, State Historian of New York and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum, will present the keynote An Irrepressible Conflict: New York State in the Civil War at the annual dinner catered by the Colgate Inn. After living portrayals and dramatic presentations at 7 p.m., family members, scholars, and association representatives will unveil the honoree banners to hang in the Hall of Fame.

On Sunday, October 21, the Deli on the Green in Peterboro will open at 8:00 for breakfast. Exhibits at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro will open at 9 a.m. An exhibit on Jermain Wesley Loguen will open at 11:00 a.m. at the Onondaga Historical Association (OHA) in Syracuse. At 2 p.m. the OHA will conduct a walking tour of abolition sites in Syracuse. (Reserve at 315-428-1864 by October 16)

These programs are supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities, Abolition Agitation in New York State Sparks the War for Liberty and Justice, and with funds from the New York Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, a state agency, and the Cultural Resources Council, a regional arts council.

The public of all ages is encouraged to participate in all or parts of this annual event to learn of the important role that Central New York played in the ignition of the Civil War. For more information: www.nationalabolitionhalloffameandmuseum.org, nahofm1835@gmail.com, 315-366-8101, 315-684-3262. Reservations for lunch, dinner, and conference packages by October 10 at mercantile.gerritsmith.org or to National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13035.

Lippard and Conceptual Art Focus of New Exhibit


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Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, the first exhibition to explore the impact of the feminist writer, curator, and activist Lucy R. Lippard on the Conceptual art movement, is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through February 3, 2013.

Using Lippard’s influential 1973 book Six Years, which cataloged and described the emergence of Conceptual art in the late sixties and early seventies, as a critical and chronological framework, the exhibition illustrates the dynamics of Lippard’s key role in redefining how exhibitions were created, viewed, and critiqued during that era of transition. Continue reading

Dolly Sloan and The Lawrence Strike Children in NY


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Artist John Sloan is better known but his wife Dolly was a tireless campaigner for causes in the Village. Sloan’s diaries are full of vignettes describing her buzzing off to demonstrations for the Socialist Party, the International Workers of the World (IWW), and Suffrage. He seems to be following her, and soaking up the atmosphere, more than out there professing his beliefs.

However, Sloan supported votes for women and rights for workers, and drew illustrations for such left wing publications as The Call. Continue reading

New Project: Virtual Center for Prison Memories


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The Prison Public Memory Project, focused on making prison history relevant as a guide to the future, today launched a website and blog (www.prisonpublicmemory.org) featuring its work in Hudson, NY a small town that is home to an historic prison and the site of the Project’s pilot effort.

Hudson Correctional Facility, a medium-­‐secure state prison for men that opened in 1976, was originally built in the 1800’s as the House of Refuge for Women, the first reformatory for women in New York (1887 – 1904), and then transformed into The New York State Training School for Girls (1904-­‐1975) where famed jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and other girls found to be delinquent by the courts were sent to be reformed.
Since 2011, Prison Public Memory Project founders and a growing team of contributors based in the Hudson Valley and around the state have been interviewing Hudson area residents including prison ‘alumni’; conducting research in local and state archives and libraries; and developing educational, interpretive and cultural activities to be offered in Hudson and on the website later this year and
next year.

Visitors to the website can view current photos of former prison workers and inmates and listen to audio clips from their oral histories; see old photographs and maps of the prison; and read prison documents and letters from the 19th and 20th centuries. Short articles tell about ordinary as well as extraordinary prison-­‐related events and people that influenced local, state, and national history. One section of
the website invites visitors to become history detectives helping the Project team answer questions and find evidence and visitors are encouraged to contribute in other ways.

Even before its public debut, the website-in-progress grabbed the attention of a few people who offered their own stories and questions and photos. One woman wrote in “My mother’s stories of the (NYS Training) school (for Girls) were brutal, I want to find out if I have another brother or sister. maybe someone has information to help me.” Another woman wrote ” i was sent too hudson in 1964. it wasnt a very nice place to be. but i made my bed so i had to lay in it… once you got use to being there it wasnt, a bad place… it made me a better person some of these young girls now should have a place like that it taught you respect for your self and others.”

Project founder/director Alison Cornyn anticipates more public input as the site is officially launched and word-of-­mouth spreads. “Prisons, especially old prisons like  the one in Hudson, have touched thousands of lives over the course of their history, in both profound and ordinary ways. Using history, art, dialogue and new communications technologies, The Project will craft safe spaces and new opportunities for people from all walks of life – including those who lived and worked inside the walls ‐ to connect with the past and each other and engage in conversation, learning, and visioning regarding the role of prisons in communities and in society today and in the future”, said Cornyn, a Brooklyn based
interdisciplinary artist and new media producer whose previous projects have garnered numerous awards.

Illustration: New York State Training School For Girls.

Sir William Johnson’s Bookshelf: Millenium Hall


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Sir William Johnson’s 1774 inventory of his New York western frontier estate, Johnson Hall, revealed a superb collection of books and other reading material.

Books were a bit more difficult to acquire in 18th century Johnstown than at present, so one could presume that selecting titles was considered, even more precisely than today, by recommended taste, by familiarity with an author, or perhaps from curiosity after having read a report of the book in the newspapers that arrived from New York City or from England via a New York City agent.
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