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WWHP Newsletter Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 2002

Tuckerman Hall Celebrates Centennial

Tuckerman Hall as seen on a vintage postcard.

On October 6, 2002, Tuckerman Hall celebrates its centennial. The celebration begins at 2:30 p.m. and includes opening remarks by Congressman James McGovern, a short lecture by architect Bettina Norton, and performances by soprano Maria Ferrante, Boston Pops Pianist and CMSO Principal Guest Conductor Myron Romanul, and guest artists. The afternoon will conclude with a High Tea Reception catered by the Worcester Club, with participation by WWHP, the Worcester Women’s Club, and Preservation Worcester. Tickets are $20 for non-members and $15 for members.

Tuckerman Hall was designed in 1902 in the neo-classical style by Josephine Wright Chapman, one of the nation’s first female architects. Since its spectacular interior restoration in 1999, Tuckerman Hall has been designated as an official project of Save America’s Treasures. Tuckerman Hall has begun a campaign to restore its exterior.

For information on tickets for the October 6 event, or to find out how you can support the exterior restoration, call (508) 754.1234, e-mail info@tuckermanhall.org, or visit Tuckerman Hall on the web at www.tuckermanhall.org.

Who We Are

WWHP was founded in 1994 by a small group of women believing that Worcester and its people deserve recognition for the significant role they played in the national struggle for women’s rights and racial equality. Today, the WWHP is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that promotes the research of local women’s history, offers educational programming, and sponsors public events. In the spirit of the abolitionists who organized the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850, the WWHP seeks to build a strong foundation of community support by involving women and men from all races, classes and creeds in support of its mission.

A Fond Farewell

Jessie Rodrique (center) with JoAnn May and Herbert May Jr., at the launching of the Women’s Heritage History Trail booklet.

June 30, 2002, was the last day of work as WWHP Project Coordinator for Jessie Rodrique after over four years in this position. Jessie, who has a Ph.D. in Women’s History and a special commitment to public history, led the historical research efforts of WWHP and facilitated links with other organizations in addition to the role she played in coordinating WWHP activities. She will be sorely missed. Members and friends of WWHP bid a fond farewell to Jessie and wish her well in future endeavors.

Keeping Our Dreams Alive

An Interview with Harriet Miller Hight

The following is excerpted from the oral history interview of Ms. Harriet Miller Hight. The interview is one of 12 interviews conducted by youth from the Charles Houston Cultural Project’s Saturday School Program. The focus of the session was Civil Rights In Worcester from 1960 through the early 1970s.

Whether it’s a firefighter or a ballerina, as children we say we know what we want to be when we grow up. However, many of us will end up doing something completely different. Such was the case with Ms. Hight. As a child living in a very homogeneous community, if asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would probably have answered “a princess” or “a housewife.” She was unaware of not only the battle for equality, but also that a local minister, Reverend Gordon Torgersen, and a national minister Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would inspire her to serve in that battle. Harriet Wright did not know that she would accept the opportunity to assist in tearing down the fort of injustice, which her forefathers built. This acceptance would engender a lifelong commitment to justice and equality.

She was born Harriet Wright on February 20, 1913, in Worcester, Massachusetts. During her early childhood, she and her family moved back and forth between Worcester and Shrewsbury until the death of her father around 1922. At that time, the family moved permanently to Shrewsbury. “Four years later, my mother passed away . . . leaving my oldest and only brother in charge. When we lived in Worcester, I attended the Woodland Street School. In those days…I remember playing Rover-Rover, marbles, walking to school, coming home for lunch, and there were no children of color at my school or in my community. My world was made up of WASPS and a few Italians.”

Ms. Hight’s exposure to the Black community began in the early 1960s. “This was a very interesting period in my life and one I will always remember . . . My biggest inspiration was the minister of my church, First Baptist Church, Reverend Gordon Torgersen . . . He inspired me, through his sermons and talking with him informally, to want to do something…I did not know any colored people so I decided to become involved with the local NAACP and the Massachusetts Council of Churches.” Through Ms. Hight’s association with the latter, she participated in the March on Montgomery in March of 1965. “We joined the group from Selma lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I admired very much as well as his wife Coretta . . . The march’s purpose was to demonstrate support for the legislation presented by President Johnson to guarantee all Blacks the right to vote; our slogan [was] ‘One Man, One Vote’.” Reverend John Ambler, Robert Baggs, Kenneth Bath, Joan Bott, Charles Munion, and Robert Snyder accompanied Ms. Hight, her son Dusty, and her husband, the late Dr. Erwin C. Miller, on the march. "There was a wonderful sense of brotherhood. For one glorious day we were all united in one common goal.”

After the Montgomery March, Ms. Hight focused on Worcester’s community. “One summer, I volunteered to read stories through a program created by Betty Price. During one of the sessions that met in the afternoon, I noticed a group of boys standing aside and approached them about reading Amos Fortune, A Free Man . . . After we finished reading the story, I took them up to Jaffrey, New Hampshire to see his grave and to meet the author . . . Another summer we created a summer school program, where I volunteered to teach youngsters how to write poetry. I also worked on the Worcester Council of Churches’ Housing Committee and assisted in the creation of MICA, an interracial, interfaith group. MICA bought old three-deckers and refurbished them to rent out to minority and poor families. There was also the option of ‘sweat equity’ in lieu of rent. MICA eventually sold all the revamped houses and, using the $900,000 that we received from the Massachusetts Housing Finance Authority, built modern housing for families. I was also the president of United Church Women, which through JOB CORE formed WICS or Women in Community Service, an organization devoted to job training for girls.”

At the state level, Ms. Hight served on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Council of Churches’ Committee on Race, which helped local black communities. In 1969, amidst a growing chorus of self-determination by the black leadership, this committee by the vote of executive committee became the Black Ecumenical Council.

Nowadays, nearing the age of 90, Ms. Hight is not as socially active as she once was. However, through her generous donation, she created the “Keeping The Dream Alive” scholarship program, administered by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The scholarship program helps to eliminate the financial barrier faced by many minority and economically disadvantaged students that wish to attend college.

“We’ve come a long way, black people in fine positions of leadership…However, I’m afraid there is latent discrimination and we need to work to overcome that…Diversity is the name of the game and we have got to work towards that…Everyone is worthy.”

Photographs by William “Bill” Byers.

The Untiring Labors of Sarah Earle Hussey

Sarah Hussey Earle (1799–1858) was an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born on Nantucket to a Quaker family and was a cousin to noted abolitionist Lucretia Coffin Mott.

Sarah Hussey Earle was a key figure in Worcester, and throughout New England, in movements for social reform. Known for her efficient organization and leadership skills, she began fundraising efforts in the Cent-A-Week Society for the American Anti-Slavery Society, which met at her home, at 262 Main Street, as early as 1834. In 1838, her home was designated as one of four locations in New England and New York where other organizers could obtain cards and “explanatory tracts” to assist fundraising efforts for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Like thousands of other abolitionist women of her day, she used her right to petition as a protest against slavery. In 1837, she was among 169 Worcester women who signed a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives against the annexation of Texas. She was a founder of the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Sewing Circle, served as its first president in 1839, and remained an active member until 1857, the last year of its existing records. From 1840 until her death in 1858, Earle served on the business, executive, and nominating committees of the South Division Anti-Slavery Society; before she died in 1858, she was elected as one of the South Division’s vice-presidents, the first woman to serve in that capacity. Earle was the local liaison for collecting goods for the Anti-Slavery Fairs in Boston and, beginning in 1848, coordinated the Worcester Anti-Slavery Bazaar. In 1853, she formed the Worcester City Anti-Slavery Society at her home along with her husband, John Milton Earle, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and many others, and served as its president in 1855.

Sarah Hussey Earle’s activism also included working for women’s rights and temperance. She was one of the regional organizers of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester in 1850, and gave the opening address. She was elected to the business committee of the second National Woman’s Rights Convention, also held in Worcester the following year.

In October 1853, Earle was elected to the business committee of the County Temperance Convention in Worcester, the only woman to hold such a position; in June 1854, the New England Woman’s Rights Convention in Boston elected her president. Sarah Hussey Earle read and supported Paulina Wright Davis’s feminist journal, Una, during its two years of publication, and also signed the petition for the Disunion Convention held in Worcester in 1857. She was especially remembered by the Worcester community for her anti-slavery work. Sarah Hussey Earle’s obituary noted that “aside from her own family circle, no one has cause to mourn more deeply than the slave, for whose interests her labors were untiring.”

The above is just one of the many entries in The Worcester Women’s History Heritage Trail guide Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, which is available for purchase by calling the WWHP office at 508.767.1852. The cost is $10. The guide may also be purchased at Tatnuck Booksellers and the Worcester Historical Museum.

Bringing Her Footsteps into the Classroom

Karen Board Moran (WWHP vice president) asks Jack Whittaker (Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor Ranger), "Sir, they say you are a woman’s rights man. Are you really willing to give up your power to the fairer sex?”

Twenty educators from across Worcester County gathered at the Worcester Public Library on February 6 for a rehearsal of the Heritage Trail slide show, a field trip to the new library, and an introduction to the resources of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester Historical Museum and Preservation Worcester. The mission for Professional Development Points was to follow the footsteps of women in their community’s past and develop a lesson for their students in the present. These lessons were shared at the follow-up meeting at the Alliance for Education on March 6.

Rags to Riches

Eliza Betsey Bowen Jumel (1769– 1865) lived in poverty in Rutland, MA. Madame Jumel changed her circumstance to later marry Aaron Burr and socialize with many of our nation’s “founding fathers.”

Sharing Discoveries

Gilda Green guided her English as a Second Language students at Doherty High School from what they knew about the dynamic 20th-century female leader Indira Ghandi back to the 19th-century reformer Abby Kelley Foster. She challenges students speaking eleven different languages to read and share their discoveries in English.

A Day in the Life of America Museum Exhibit

Claire Berkowitz will challenge her students to find the people who contributed to the abolitionist movement and women’s rights movement in the mid-19th century. Each student will then create a portrait and a page for a museum gallery guide about that person or place.

Many educators chose to incorporate the resources without creating a separate unit and found the ideas presented “very easy to adapt to my class.” Several commented that the workshop refreshed “my thinking and focus toward local history and its potential for use in the classroom,” “I will be more mindful of our rich history & pass it on to my students,” “I became aware of a wealth of resources available,” “I would like to attend future workshops to share ideas.”

WWHP plans to host at least one teacher workshop a year and eventually compile the lessons produced in a curriculum packet and/or post them on our website. If you would like to help organize such an event, contact Karen at 508-865-2023 or kboardmoran@earthlink.net or attend the Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, September 25, 4–6 p.m. at the YWCA.

Setting Forth on the Worcester Women’s Heritage Trail

by Susan Elizabeth Sweeney

On March 16, 2002, WWHP launched the Women’s History Heritage Trail with a gala event, open to the public, in the Saxe Room at the newly renovated Worcester Public Library. A considerable crowd—standing room only—gathered to learn about the new trail and rave about the accompanying booklet.

Linda Miller, March Event Committee chair, felt the afternoon was a wonderful way to honor Women’s History Month and “the culmination of at least two years’ worth of research and work" on the trail. She was pleased by the large audience (which included visitors from several other New England cities) and its enthusiastic response.

Attendees were greeted by the exhibit “Reclaiming Our Heritage,” created by Carolyn Howe and her students at Holy Cross College, which was displayed at the library for the month of March. The afternoon officially began with Linda Miller’s warm welcome and the presentation by Karen Moran, WWHP Vice President, of Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. This 48-page booklet explores the actual places where social reformers met in Worcester; the figures from Central Massachusetts who led the national struggle for equal rights; and the many individuals and families who worked for justice and equality. Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century was produced by Jessie Rodrique, and the Heritage Trail Committee, with support from the Worcester Cultural Commission and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. City Councilor Joe Petty graciously accepted a copy on behalf of the City of Worcester. In addition to

Mr. Petty, special guests included JoAnn May and Herbert May Jr., Helen E. Davis and Russell Davis, and Benetta Koufour, whose ancestors—the May family, the Davis family, and Bethany Veney—are profiled in the booklet for their contributions to social reform.

The audience also enjoyed a performance by the Uppity Women (Nancy Avila, Marge Connelly, Lisa Connelly Cook, Betty Hoskins, Carolyn Howe, Elise Kreiger, and Shirley Wright). This a cappella group sang four songs especially chosen for the occasion: “One Hundred Years Hence,” “Harriet Tubman,” “One More Step,” and “There’s a Long, Long Trail A-Winding.”

The highlight of the afternoon was a “virtual tour” of the first phase of the Worcester Women’s History Heritage Trail. The 45-minute tour took the form of a multimedia presentation, featuring costumed performers as well as a slide show of historic images. Lynne McKenney Lydick and Emily Thomas narrated the show, with voices provided by Karen Moran and Laura Howie. Linda Rosenlund, Dorista Goldsberry, Karen Moran, and Gina Moretti-MacConnell wrote the script and designed the slide show.

The audience found the tour enjoyable, informative, and inspirational, judging by the discussion that followed. One woman remarked: “As someone who was born and brought up here, I had heard only bits and pieces of this information,” and added that the Heritage Trail “really brought it all together, including much more than I had known before, especially about the individual people, events, and places.” Representatives from other local history organizations praised the trail, slide show, and booklet, and urged the WWHP to consider expanding the trail to include sites throughout the state. Several people wanted to arrange another performance of the virtual tour. Others spoke about their own family history and the contributions their relatives made to social reform in New England. Karen Moran passed out nomination forms (also available at www.worcesterwomen.com) and urged everyone to consider nominating relatives and community leaders for inclusion on the Heritage Trail. Karen also explained how the trail fits into the WWHP’s mission and future plans.

The afternoon concluded with another performance by the Uppity Women and a reception presided over by “the Rich sisters.” The Riches—another local family profiled in Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century—played an historic role in Worcester’s African-American community. Ogretta McNeil, Mary Collins, and Shirley Carter, who research the Rich sisters’ lives and represent them in performances, served complimentary tea to the audience along with pastries donated by Crown Bakery.

This successful event was organized by the March Event Committee (Dorista Goldsberry, Heather-Lyn Haley, Laura Howie, Linda Miller (Chair), Karen Moran, Jessie Rodrique, and Emily Thomas) and inspired by Heritage Trail Committee (Shirley Carter, Mary Collins, Dorista Goldsberry (Chair), Carolyn Howe, Laura Howie, Carol Kozlowski, Judy Nelson, and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney).

President’s Corner

Many, many thanks to our dedicated volunteers and supporters who have given of their time, talent, and money, and have provided encouragement. Most important, thank you to those who believe in the mission of our organization.

During the past year, WWHP continued to document and celebrate the contributions of Worcester County Women. We began the year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the second National Woman’s Rights Convention, held in Worcester in 1851, with Dr. Johnetta Cole’s dynamic lecture on the “Difficulties of Linking the Struggles for Racial and Gender Equality.” With pride, we presented to the community a booklet, Worcester in the Struggle for Equality in the MidNineteenth Century, that documented our research efforts. Teacher workshops and a slide show presentation in March reflected this research and enabled audiences to “walk in the footsteps” of Worcester County women and men who were activists from 1830 to 1860. We were encouraged and inspired with the community support of these programs.

The theme for special events and new programming in 2002–03 will move from the 1830–60 period to following the footsteps of Worcester County women from the post Civil War period to the 19th Amendment (1865– 1920). We will continue the mid-nineteenth-century programming we have developed and we encourage nominations for our Women’s Heritage Trail from any period to be added to our database.

The strategic planning process has provided an important “road map” for the future work and operations of WWHP. We begin the new fiscal year with a new vision statement, an expanded mission statement, explicit core values, and five major strategic goals along with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The level of our staffing will be reduced. Volunteers, who have been the key to our success in the past, will become more involved in the implementation of our programs.

Please consider becoming a member of WWHP or getting involved as a volunteer. You can become part of this important adventure of recovering and promoting women’s history and the region’s role in the national struggle for equality.

Dorista Goldsberry

Works In Progress

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