New York Heritage Weekend, May 19 and 20th

Organizations throughout the state will celebrate New York history during this year’s New York Heritage Weekend on May 19th & 20th. Now in its 3rd year, the weekend will offer special programs, discounted or free admission to sites and events that celebrate national, state or local heritage.

Guided hikes, local history festivals, historic garden events, open historic houses, and events that explore all kinds of New York culture and history are on tap. Last year Heritage Weekend hosted 166 Heritage Weekend events with 143 federal, state, and private organizations. For a full searchable listing of events, and maps see www.heritageweekend.org .

Not only does this Heritage Weekend celebrate New York’s rich history, but it also boosts local economies. According to recent studies, tourism generates 81 billion dollars and sustains over 670,000 jobs in New York. According to a recent study recent commissioned by the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce, 78% of US domestic travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities.

“Heritage Weekend opens the door to so many of New York’s great historic and cultural treasures,” said Beth Sciumeca, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “Once that door is open, people will find that there is a lifetime of places to experience throughout the state.”

New York Heritage Weekend 2012 is funded in part by The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and sponsored by I Love NY, National Park Service, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and participating event partners.

Unique Activist New York Exhibit Opens in NYC

&#8220Activist New York,&#8221 the inaugural exhibition in the Museum of the City of New York’s new Puffin Foundation Gallery, will examine the ways in which ordinary New Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the city’s &#8211 and the nation’s &#8211 future. Centuries of activist efforts, representing the full spectrum of political ideologies, will be illuminated through a series of installations featuring 14 New York movements ranging from the mid-17th century to today.

The exhibition will feature historic artifacts and images from the museum’s collection as well as pieces on loan from other collections, along with interactive elements that enable visitors to explore and express their own views. For the first three weeks of the exhibition attendees will have a chance to view the original “Flushing Remonstrance,” the 1657 landmark document protesting restrictions against Quakers in New Amsterdam.

&#8220Activist New York&#8221 begins and ends with questions of religious freedom, from the struggle for religious tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, to today’s debate over a Muslim Cultural Center near Ground Zero. In between, the exhibition examines a wide range of social movements that transformed laws and assumptions regarding race, gender, class, sexuality, economic justice, and other issues.

The Puffin Foundation Gallery is situated in a newly renovated and climate-controlled 2000 square foot south gallery on the Museum’s second floor, and named for the foundation that has supported the gallery with a gift of $3.25 million.

The exhibition unfolds through a series of 14 examples of New York activism:

1. Let Us Stay: The Struggle for Religious Tolerance in Dutch New Netherland, 1650-1664

The exhibition features the Flushing Remonstrance, one of the earliest arguments for religious liberty and tolerance in American history.

2. Beware of Foreign Influence: Nativists and Immigrants, 1830-1860

This section explores efforts to prohibit or limit immigration and contain its impact on 19 th -century New York. Nativists fought to curtail the largely Catholic immigrant community’s access to citizenship, the vote, and public office. The section also illustrates the ways Catholic New Yorkers combated nativism by establishing their own independent institutions to support their community.

3. What Has New York to Do with Slavery? 1827-1865

While New York City was a center of the abolitionist movement, it was also home to many people who sided with the Southern slave owners. This conflict was dramatically revealed in the Draft Riots of July 1863, where the issues of class and race came to a head in a harrowing, violent confrontation. The exhibition chronicles the efforts of both sides of the debate.

4. New York is the Battleground: Woman Suffrage, 1900-1920

In the early 20 th century,New York became the epicenter for organizational activity of the national woman suffrage movement, with suffragists pioneering new methods of behind-the-scenes organizing and media-savvy publicity. The installation also documents the movement against woman suffrage through anti-suffrage images and messages published by aNew York lithograph firm.

5. Houses of Welcome: The Settlement House Movement, 1890-1925

Immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century faced overcrowding, illness, and poverty. This section of the exhibition shows how a new type of agent for change—the settlement house worker—combated those conditions by moving into slum neighborhoods to provide instructions in parenting, health, and citizenship.

6. I Am a Working Girl! Upheaval in the Garment Trades, 1909-1915

This installation examines the events that led to reform and improvement of deplorable workplace conditions, including the 1909 &#8220Uprising of the 20,000,&#8221 an industry-wide strike by workers affiliated with the fledgling International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, and the 1911 Triangle Waist factory fire tragedy.

7. Art for the Masses: An Activist Theater, 1930-1945

This movement looks at the politically engaged New Yorktheater groups that used their art to confront Depression-era poverty, labor exploitation, political corruption, racial tension, and the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe.

8. We Shall Not Be Moved:New York and Civil Rights, 1945-1964

This installation revealsNew York City’s role in the early Civil Rights struggle of the post-World War II era, from the “Boycott Jim Crow” and anti-lynching movements through the emergence of CORE and SNCC, to the Black Power era of the mid-1960s.

9. What’s Wrong with New York? Conservative Activism, 1962-1973

This segment of the exhibition looks at groups, such as “Parents and Taxpayers,” that were unhappy with a leftward drift in the city and blamed it for an increase in disorder, crime, and the swelling municipal budget. Many joined a new third party, the Conservative Party of New York, formed in 1962.

10. Stop the Wrecking Ball! Preserving Historic New York, 1955-1970

This case study shows how the loss of some of the city’s greatest cultural and architectural landmarks fed the efforts of the early historic preservation movement and eventually led to the creation of New York’s groundbreaking Landmarks Preservation Law.

11. “Gay Is Good”: Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians, 1969-2012

This installation shows how the Stonewall Riots galvanized the modern gay rights movement in New York and led to the creation of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, and other organizations. The installation brings the story up to date with the successful campaign to secure the legalization of gay marriages in New York State.

12. “Don’t Move, Improve”: Reviving the South Bronx, 1970-2012

The South Bronx became an international icon of urban blight in the 1970s. This section of the exhibition examines grassroots advocacy groups, community organizations, and church congregations that took ownership of the rebuilding of their neighborhoods into livable, affordable communities.

13. Love Your Lane: Bicycle Advocacy, 1965-2011

Amid concerns about ecology, traffic congestion, and pollution, pioneering activists lobbied for changes in the traffic laws. Today, as part of the Bloomberg administration PlaNYC’s effort to build a greener, more sustainable city, bike lanes proliferate, as does agitation against for and against them, as this installation documents.

14. Park 51: 2010-2012

This section provides a detailed exploration of the controversy over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, which is reminiscent of the long and turbulent saga of activism surrounding issues of religious expression in New York City.

Interactive elements throughout the exhibition provide opportunities to dig more deeply and bring the historic stories up to date. A series of touch screens present a timeline of the history of activism in the city, with more than two hundred examples ranging from slave revolts of the 18th century to the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 to the woman behind the movement that led to New York’s 1978 “pooper scooper” law. Additional kiosks with touch screens invite visitors to explore the work of contemporary activist groups and send email messages to these groups expressing the visitors’ views on current activism. In addition, members of the general public may submit photographs of contemporary activist in the city to a photo blog housed on the Museum’s website (www.mcny.org) and carried live in the Puffin Foundation Gallery.

&#8220Activist New York&#8221 has been organized by an exhibition team led by Sarah M. Henry, the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Steven H. Jaffe served as guest curator, and Christina Ziegler-McPherson as associate guest curator. The exhibition team was aided by the Puffin Foundation Gallery Advisory Committee, chaired by Peter G. Carroll, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, and comprising scholars and activists Esther Cohen, Joshua Freeman, Victor Navasky, Bruno Quinson, Christopher Rhomberg, Tom Roderick, and Perry, Gladys, and Neal Rosenstein.

Photo: Picketers during a 1910 garment workers strike (Library of Congress)

Women’s Rights Sites Offer Field Trip Funds

Women’s Rights National Historical Park is offering an opportunity for school and youth groups to submit applications for transportation funding to visit the sites associated with the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention. This is part of an ongoing effort by the National Park Service to bring under-served and underrepresented school and youth groups to place-based learning experiences in national parks.

“Women’s Rights National Historical Park interprets the history of the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention,” said Park Superintendent Tammy Duchesne. “This program represents a unique opportunity for school and youth groups to visit these nationally significant historic sites.”

Any New York State school or youth group staff person, teacher, or administrator wishing to obtain funds for bus transportation to Women’s Rights National Historical Park may apply. Applications for transportation funding will be accepted for both ranger-guided and self-guided programs.

Applications may be found on the park’s website– they must be received by close of business Friday, May 4, 2012. Applications may be e-mailed to Park Ranger David Malone at [email protected], or faxed to (315) 568-2141. They may also be sent by US mail to Park Ranger David Malone, Women’s Rights NHP, 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148.

All applicants must register on the Federal Central Contractor Website and must also have a DUNS number. All applications will be evaluated, and those groups which receive funding will be notified after Friday, May 11, 2012. All field trips must be completed by July 31, 2012, in order to receive funding.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park describes its various educational opportunities under the “For Teachers” link on the park website.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming programs.

You can also learn about the park’s latest activities by reading its most recent newsletter [pdf].

Photo courtesy New York, We Are on Our Way!.

Suffrage Campaign Wagon on Display at Capitol

A horse-drawn suffrage campaign wagon used by suffragist Edna Buckman Kearns to organize for Votes for Women is on exhibit at the state capitol in Albany, through May 2012. The artifact of the suffrage movement is representative of the tens of thousands of women nationwide who participated in the 72-year movement to win the right to vote for women.

The story of the Edna Kearns suffrage campaign wagon is detailed in a blog and web site called Suffrage Wagon News Channel (suffragewagon.org), which for the past two years has been publishing news and stories of the Votes for Women movement. Suffrage Wagon News Channel is published by Marguerite Kearns, the granddaughter of Edna Buckman Kearns, and it features the writings and organizing of Edna Kearns who worked on Long Island and New York City as an writer and editor of suffrage news as well as an on-the-ground organizer for the state and national campaigns.

“All types of people are amazed when they hear stories of the suffrage movement,” says Marguerite Kearns, who said she grew up listening to family stories about Grandmother Edna, but she didn’t learn about the suffrage movement in school.

“My grandmother died in 1934, so what I know is from the papers my grandmother saved. As I read my grandmother’s writings and news clippings, I am touched by the dedication and persistence of her generation. We stand on strong shoulders, and this type of strength is something we don’t have to reinvent. It’s part of a collective memory that comes alive when stories of the movement are shared.”

Suffrage centennials have been celebrated in the western states where women first won the right to vote. Oregon, for example, has numerous events scheduled for its centennial in 2012. And New York State is putting preliminary plans in place to celebrate its centennial in 2017. The national centennial for Votes for Women is set for 2020 in the United States.

The exhibit is sponsored by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo at the state capitol to recognize women’s accomplishments and as a way to make history more real for his three daughters.

The Great Bare: The Celebrity of Adah Menken

Adah Menken, dubbed “The Great Bare” by writer/admirer Mark Twain, was the first media celebrity, who was known around the world as “The Naked Lady” because her stage show featured her nude (in a sheer body stocking).

Her star power inspired poets like Walt Whitman and writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used Menken as the basis for the classic Sherlock Holmes supporting character of Irene Adler. Her popularity was fueled by a new advent of the period, mass circulation newspapers.

Their reporters couldn’t wait to write about her latest adventure, according to biographers Michael and Barbara Foster, who call her the originator of the modern celebrity femme fatale.

In a century remembered for Victorian restraint, Menken’s modern flair for action, scandal, and unpopular causes &#8211 especially that of the Jewish people &#8211 revolutionized show business. On stage, she was the first actress to bare all. Off stage, she originated the front-page scandal and became the world’s most highly paid actress—celebrated on Broadway, as well as in San Francisco, London, and Paris. At thirty-three, she mysteriously died.

“Menken was an original who pioneered in several areas we now take for granted,” said the Fosters, authors of the newly published A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835 – 1868 (Lyons Press, 2012). “Adah invented ‘stardom’ in the modern, media-driven sense, making use of the newly invented newspaper, the telegraph, photography, railroads and steamships to become the first global superstar — number one on Broadway, the rage of gold rush San Francisco, the toast of Victorian London and Paris. Onstage, Adah risked her life every evening in the Civil War sensation Mazeppa, in which apparently stripped naked she rode up a four-story stage mountain tied to a stallion. The mix of sexuality and danger made her the Civil War siren, the highest paid actress in the world, and caused her death at 33.”

Moreover, it wasn’t that Adah did these things to garner attention or as cheap publicity stunts. The Fosters believe that “Swimming Against the Current”&#8211an essay she wrote in defense of Walt Whitman&#8211was an essential part of her personality. There was nothing contrived about her.

A Dangerous Woman is the first book to tell Menken’s fascinating story. Born in New Orleans to a “kept woman of color” and to a father whose identity is debated, Menken eventually moved to the Midwest, where she became an outspoken protege of the rabbi who founded Reform Judaism. In New York City, she became Walt Whitman’s disciple. During the Civil War she was arrested as a Confederate agent—and became America’s first pin-up superstar. Menken married and left five husbands.

Michael Foster is a historian, novelist and biographer. A Dangerous Woman is his fifth book. Barbara Foster is an associate professor of women’s studies at City University of New York.

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

Womens Rights NHP Showing Top Secret Rosies

Women’s Rights National Historical Park will show the documentary film Top Secret Rosies this Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31, at 12:00 noon.

Top Secret Rosies documents the lives of the female mathematicians who designed ballistics tables and programmed computers for the United States Army during World War II. This film is 60 minutes long.

The film is being shown as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s first Winter Film Festival. The park exists to commemorate and preserve the events of the First Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. &#8220We are proud to be part of the National Park system, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating our shared history and culture through film,&#8221 said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne.

The park is also showing the film as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month in March. &#8220We are inspired by the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other women and men who struggled for equal rights in this country,&#8221 said Duchesne. &#8220Their stories continue to resonate with people across the globe.&#8221

Top Secret Rosies is approximately 60 minutes long and intended for a general audience. All Winter Film Festival movies will be shown at 12:00 noon on Fridays and Saturdays, November through April, in the Guntzel Theater, located at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park Visitor Center at 136 Fall Street in downtown Seneca Falls. Because film lengths vary, visitors are encouraged to call if they are interested in a particular showing. All park programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit call 315.568.0024.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites for Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming events and programs.

100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA

March 12, 2012 marks the 100th Anniversary of Juliette Gordon Low founding the Girl Scouts in the United States. New York has always played an important role in Girl Scouts history.

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Girl Scouts of the USA had their own building, a replica of Our Chalet in Switzerland, a World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGGS) International Center.

It was located at the beginning of the Children’s World in the amusement area and served as a welcoming center for Girl Scouts and their friends. Queen Elizabeth of England and Crown Princess Ingrid of Denmark and Iceland were among the visitors to the Chalet. Special World’s Fair gifts and souvenirs, as well as Girl Scout equipment, could be purchased there. Learn more at the Girl Scout National Historic Preservation Center in New York City.

Americas First African American Woman Judge

A long overdue biography of the nation’s first African American woman judge elevates Jane Matilda Bolin to her rightful place in American history as an activist, integrationist, jurist, and outspoken public figure in the political and professional milieu of New York City before the onset of the modern Civil Rights movement. Jacqueline A. McLeod’s, Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin is published by the University of Illinois Press (2011).

Bolin was appointed to New York City’s domestic relations court in 1939 for the first of four ten-year terms. When she retired in 1978, her career had extended well beyond the courtroom. Drawing on archival materials as well as a meeting with Bolin in 2002, historian Jacqueline A. McLeod reveals how Bolin parlayed her judicial position to impact significant reforms of the legal and social service system in New York.

Beginning with Bolin’s childhood and educational experiences at Wellesley and Yale, Daughter of the Empire State chronicles Bolin’s relatively quick rise through the ranks of a profession that routinely excluded both women and African Americans. Deftly situating Bolin’s experiences within the history of black women lawyers and the historical context of high-achieving black New Englanders, McLeod offers a multi-layered analysis of black women’s professionalization in a segregated America.

Linking Bolin’s activist leanings and integrationist zeal to her involvement in the NAACP, McLeod analyzes Bolin’s involvement at the local level as well as her tenure on the organization’s national board of directors. An outspoken critic of the discriminatory practices of New York City’s probation department and juvenile placement facilities, Bolin also co-founded, with Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wiltwyck School for boys in upstate New York and campaigned to transform the Domestic Relations Court with her judicial colleagues. McLeod’s careful and highly readable account of these accomplishments inscribes Bolin onto the roster of important social reformers and early civil rights trailblazers.

Author Jacqueline A. McLeod is an associate professor of history and African & African American studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver and co-editor of Crossing Boundaries: Comparative History of Blacks in Diaspora.

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

Women’s Writes: A Reading and Writing Workshop

The weekend of March 3rd and 4th, Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) is presenting Women’s Writes, a reading and writing workshop featuring two popular authors, Nava Atlas and Kate Hymes. The weekend kicks-off on Saturday, March 3, at 3pm with a guided tour of HHS’s Deyo House, which is set and interpreted in the Edwardian period, a popular time for many celebrated women authors.

At 4pm, Nava Atlas will read from her latest book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, which explores the writing life of twelve celebrated women writers, including such renowned authors as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Madeleine L’Engle, Anais Nin, George Sand, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf through their journals, letters, and diaries. On Saturday evening at 7, the Wallkill Valley Writers will read from their anthology which includes personal essays, poems, and stories.

Sunday, March 4 will feature two three-hour Wallkill Valley Writers Workshops led by Kate Hymes. Session 1 is from 9– 12pm and Session 2 is from 1-4 pm. Anyone with a desire to write, whether a beginner or experienced, is invited to attend these workshops which will be held in a safe environment. Sources culled from the HHS archives and other local history will serve as an inspiration for writing throughout the weekend.

Saturday includes a book signing and refreshments. Fees are as follows: Saturday Deyo House Edwardian tour and reading with Nava Atlas: $15. Saturday evening reading with Wallkill Valley Writers: $5. Sunday per session: $40. Full weekend including one workshop on Sunday: $50.

To register or for more information, call 845-255-1660, x103 or email Jan Melchior at [email protected]

About the Presenters

Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of visual books on family themes, humor, and women’s issues, including The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life (2011), exploring first-person narratives on the writing lives of twelve classic women authors, and commenting on the universal relevance of their experiences to all women who love to write. Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife (2009) is a satiric look at contemporary marriage and motherhood through the lens of a faux 1950s cookbook. Nava Atlas is also the author and illustrator of many books on vegetarian cooking, a book on leafy greens will be on the shelves in the spring of 2012. An active fine artist specializing in limited edition artist’s books and text-driven objects, her work is shown and collected by museums and universities across the U.S.

Kate Hymes, a poet and educator living in the Hudson Valley, leads weekly writing workshops and writing retreats. She has over twenty years experience as an educator with experience teaching writing on college level, and over ten years leading workshops for people who make writing an artistic practice. Kate is certified to lead workshops using the Amherst Writers and Artists method. She has co-led trainings with Pat Schneider and other AWA instructors to teach others how to lead workshops. Kate and Pat also lead the workshop: If We Are Sisters: Black and White Women Writing Across Race. Kate serves as Executive Director of the Hudson Valley/Catskill Partnership: Regional Adult Education Network providing technical assistance and staff development to adult educators in a ten-county region of New York State. Kate currently serves as a member of the Dutchess County Arts Council and as panelist for Special Project, New York State Council on the Arts. She has a Master of Arts in American Literature from SUNY Stony Brook.

Last Chance for 2012 Woman of History Award

Time is running out to nominate your candidate for the Martha Washington Woman of History Award which will be bestowed by Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in March, 2012. The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, January 6, 2012. The nomination field is open to any woman who has cultivated interest and awareness of Hudson Valley history, either locally or nationally.

Previous award-winners include Janet Dempsey, local historian and author, Barbara Bedell, Times Herald Record columnist, Mary McTamaney, City of Newburgh historian and, most recently, Mara Farrell, community activist.

The nomination form is available online (pdf).

Illustration: Martha Washington