Thursday, August 3, 2017

Teachers Gather from Across the Country to Study Women’s History in Holyoke

On Sunday, July 30th, teachers and education professionals from across the country arrived in Holyoke for the start of one of two, week-long intensive history summer institutes hosted this August by Wistariahurst Museum and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The second group will arrive Sunday, August 6th. The institutes, titled Women Making Change: Activism and Progressivism at the Turn of the 20th Century pull together scholars, speakers, and community partners to explore women from Holyoke’s industrial past in order to demonstrate to teachers many ways that more stories of women from any town’s local history can be better integrated into the national themes of American history being taught in K-12 classrooms. The institute topic is one of twenty being offered around the country as part of the NEH’s Landmarks of American History and Culture: Workshops for School Teachers program.

The participants of Wistariahurst’s institute arrived on Sunday and will spend the entire week utilizing the City of Holyoke as their educational campus. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for us to showcase Holyoke’s significance as an historic site of national importance to these group of teachers,” says Kate Preissler, Wistariahurst Director. “We’re proud to stand alongside other historic entities and institutions of higher ed across the country in working to broaden the narrative of American history being taught in our classrooms.”

The project is funded by a Landmarks of American History and Culture: Workshops for School Teachers grant, which supports one-week workshops for K-12 educators that address themes and topics in American history, government, literature, art history, and other humanities fields related to historic landmarks.

The content of the institutes will focus on the work of Holyoke women in the late 19th and early 20th century who were working to make change at all levels of society – from the Skinner sisters, Belle and Katharine who founded the Skinner Coffee House to Anna Sullivan, who led the movement to unionize the workers of Holyoke’s textile mills. The teaching institutes are designed to use the physical landscape of the City of Holyoke to guide teachers through historical content that many teachers may not have had the opportunity to previously learn. The core of the institute consists of discussions, activities, and lectures with area scholars. Visiting scholars presenting at the institute include Dr. Jennifer Hall-Witt of Smith College, Dr. Kathleen Banks Nutter of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, Dr. Mara Dodge of Westfield State University, Dr. Eileen Crosby of the Holyoke History Room, author and performer Sarah Kilborne, scholar Naiomi Robles, and Maria Salgado- Cartagena of Hampshire College and Holyoke Bound.

“What better place to come study women’s history during the industrial age than Holyoke?” says Penni Martorell, City Historian for Holyoke and Project Director of the institute. “The history is right here, visible across our landscape and we have some of the top scholars in the field here in the Pioneer Valley.”

In addition to studying at Wistariahurst, participants will have the chance to explore many corners of the City as they work with materials at the Holyoke History Room, take a history tour of the City, view a performance by Enchanted Circle Theater, visit Skinner State Park, and participate in hands-on teaching workshops.

Community entities providing services to the teachers during their stay in Holyoke include Homewood Suites, Vega Yoga Mobile, Serenity Yoga, Hamel’s Catering, Open Square, and Gateway City Arts.

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