WWHP Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 11, Winter 2001
WWHP Wins the T&G’s Visions Award
WWHP has won the Telegram & Gazette’s Visions Award in the category of Cultural Enrichment.
The Worcester Women’s History Project, through the Women 2000 conference held in October, reclaimed an important part of the history of women’s rights and of the heritage of the city. “Angels and Infidels,” an original play recreating the first National Women’s Rights Convention held in Worcester in 1850, premiered as part of the October conference and brought the issues and events to life, particularly through performances given for students.
The Cultural Enrichment Award is given to a person or group for the year’s outstanding contribution to the arts or cultural life o the region. It includes a cash prize of $2,500.
The award ceremony was held on January 22 at 4 p. m. at Mechanics Hall, followed by a reception.
The Telegram & Gazette Visions program was created by the newspaper for community improvement. It was launched as Visions 2000 in January 1991 to promote progressive change, to encourage community involvement and to recognize exceptional contributions by individuals and organizations.
Gifts and Generosity
Since Women 2000, WWHP has received $10,000 from the Greater Worcester Community foundation. WWHP has also received $3,150 from the Worcester Cultural Commission for the Worcester Women’s History Heritage Trail.
Women’s History in the Schools
Notre Dame Academy celebrates Women’s History Month this March with special events and assignments. Students will read Susan B. Anthony Slept Here, The Declaration of Independence as it pertains to women’s issues, and The Yellow Wallpaper. Each history class will create a newspaper describing the issues and events that affected women in the 1800s. Students will also pretend to be a woman from history and write letters to someone in the present describing life and issues of the 19th century. And finally, students will create book covers for a biography of women who represent a particular branch of study.
Women 2000 History Reclaimed
A weekend-long celebration to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first National Women’s Rights Convention (held in Worcester, Massachusetts), Women 2000 encompassed everything its organizers could have hoped for: enthusiastic participants, dynamic presenters, empowering educational sessions, diverse cultural offerings, a host of exhibits—and picture-perfect autumn weather to boot!
Sponsored by the Worcester Women’s History Project and held October 20– 22 at the Centrum Centre and historic Mechanics Hall, the conference began Friday evening with a keynote address by scholar and author Jill Ker Conway, who emphasized the importance of acknowledging, studying and honoring women’s history. As mentioned several times throughout the weekend, it was the discovery of a lowly footnote about the original 1850 convention that led to a renewed recognition of Worcester’s role in the history of the women’s rights movement. Conway’s remarks were followed by a stirring performance from Sol y Canto, a musical group whose Latin rhythms thoroughly energized the audience for the activities ahead.
Saturday overflowed with educational workshops—thirty in all—on a wide variety of topics in history, law, politics, arts and culture, health, and employment. A few of the highlights included:
- a screening of the much-heralded A Hero for Daisy (with writer and director Mary Mazzio), a film depicting the struggle for Title IX equality in women’s athletics as illustrated by the “strip-in” protest of the 1976 Yale women’s crew team which called national attention to the unequal treatment of female athletes. (Anyone who cares about positive role models for children or about equal rights—or who just always wanted to be an athlete—must see this film! Get more information at www.aherofordaisy.com.) In collaboration with ESPN, Mazzio is now working on a series of films and educational curricula to showcase women’s leadership in athletics.
- a seminar on community organizing and political activism by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus which outlined practical strategies for effecting political change on local, state and national levels. A nonpartisan organization whose mission is to increase women’s political participation and encourage women to run for public office, the MWPC provides assistance to concerned citizens and potential candidates on navigating the political arena (for information, contact email@example.com).
- a discussion led by Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (www. NCLRights.org) and Josephine Ross of Boston College Law School on legal issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, focusing primarily on same-sex marriage and child custody. The thoughtful eloquence and determined advocacy of these two presenters underscored the critical importance of these topics to the broader community of women and men committed to full civil rights and equality under the law for all.
Saturday also featured a luncheon panel of accomplished women in health, education, law and politics; a poetry reading; a dinner honoring local women leaders; and an evening performance of “Angels and Infi-dels,” a historic re-enactment of scenes from the 1850 conference. This original dramatic presentation was an inspiration to all and a reminder of the vital link between understanding history and creating positive change in the present and future.
Sunday’s events included an informative panel on women’s health issues with faculty members from the University of Massachusetts Medical School; moving remarks from the biographers of several leaders of the 1850 convention; and a closing concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock, an a cappella group of six women with the most powerful and lyrical voices, hands and harmonies this side of Paradise! Their performance was a most fitting and inspiring close to a truly magical weekend.
Although all were reluctant to see the conference come to an end, happily the Worcester Women’s History Project (www.worcesterwomen.com) will go on. Current activities include establishing a women’s heritage trail in Central Massachusetts and hosting future events to keep the marvelous spirit and commitment embodied in Women 2000 alive. The hard work and dedication of the WWHP’s many members is a testament to the power of a community of women to reclaim history for the benefit of all, as well as a tribute to the leaders of 1850 and beyond who worked so diligently to secure many of the rights cherished today—and those for which the struggle continues.
Reprinted with permission from the Massachusetts Association for Women in Education (MAWE) Winter 2000/ 2001 newsletter. MAWE is organization that supports professional development and equal opportunity for women in education. MAWE collaborated with Women 2000 to raise awareness of the
A Note from our President
It is hard to believe that it has been four months since Women 2000. Fortunately, the frantic pace of work that many of us experienced in the months leading up to the celebration is a thing of the past, and in these last four months we have been able to rejoice, reflect, and recommit ourselves to the mission of the Worcester Women’s History Project.
Women 2000 was, by all accounts, a marvelous event. The most frequent comment that many of us heard about the conference was that “this was the best conference I’ve ever been to.” The full houses for “Angels & Infidels” were a thrill to behold. We, the members of the Worcester Women’s History Project, can feel tremendous pride in the weekend celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first National Women’s Rights Convention. Turnout at all of the events was good, people enjoyed themselves, and our message reached beyond those who attended the weekend celebration—into the schools, the communities of Central Massachusetts, and even across the nation and other parts of the world.
In the last few months, the WWHP has been recognized by receiving two prestigious awards. In October we received the Beacon Award from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester. The Beacon Award is given to a person or organization that has made a positive difference in the Worcester community. In January we received the Telegram & Gazette Visions 2000 award for Cultural Enrichment. The award is given to a person or organization that has made a significant contribution to the cultural life of the Worcester community. We are both humbled and grateful to have received these awards, and will continue to live up to the high standards that these awards challenge us to.
The big anniversary celebration is over, but the Worcester Women’s History Project is not going away. The WWHP steering committee has agreed that for the coming year, the focus of our educational work will be to highlight the importance of the dual struggle for gender and racial equality that characterized the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. With this focus as our guide, our annual Women’s History Month event will be a presentation by the “Rich Sisters” of 19th-century Worcester. The Rich sisters were part of a large African-American family that played a significant role in building the black community of Worcester in the 1800s. The event will be held at Emmanuel Baptist Church, on Sunday March 11 at 3:00 p.m. (See announcement).
The major project of the WWHP in the next few years will be to create a Worcester Women’s Heritage Trail. During this first year, we will try to create a trail that will tell the story of the first National Women’s Rights Convention and of life in Worcester at the time of that convention. In the future, we will expand beyond the 1850s and beyond Worcester to create a Worcester County history trail that eventually will tell our story up to the present.
We welcome everyone to join the WWHP and we encourage all members to become involved—with the heritage trail, with planning an October event, with fundraising, and in many other ways. Abby, Lucy, Paulina, Lucretia, Sojourner, William, Frederick, and others, we thank you for paving the paths that we walk today, and we are pretty sure you’d be pleased by what we are doing.
From Washington to Women 2000, September 26, 2000
Warm greetings to all those gathered in Worcester, Massachusetts, for Women 2000, the citywide celebration sponsored by the Worcester Women’s History Project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first national Woman’s Rights Convention.
Throughout our history, America has been blessed with great leaders and thinkers, visionaries who have told us not only who we are, but also who we can become. In 1850, more than a thousand of these extraordinary women and men—including Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison—came together in Worcester to join forces in the epic struggle for women’s rights and racial justice.
Thanks to the courage and determination of Americans like these early civil rights pioneers, our nation has moved closer to fulfilling our fundamental ideals of justice and equality. Women and minorities now serve at the highest levels of government, as Justices of the Supreme Court and in increasing numbers in the Cabinet and the United States Congress. They are breaking through the glass ceilings of corporate management to lead some of our country’s most prominent businesses. As parents and partners, entrepreneurs and artists, politicians and scientists, they are helping to build an America in which all citizens, regardless of gender or race, are free to pursue and achieve their dreams.
As we celebrate this American milestone, we recognize that the suffragists left our country a living legacy and a continuing challenge. The legacy is full citizenship for every American; and the continuing challenge is to honor that legacy by using our skills and energy to widen the circle of opportunity for all of our nation’s people.
I commend the members and supporters of the Worcester Women’s History Project for preserving this vital part of America’s past for the benefit of generations to come. Hillary joins me in extending best wishes for a memorable event.