“Trailblazers by Timing, Activists by Choice”

A Review of the Celebratory Events Marking WWHP’s 15th Anniversary and the 160th Anniversary of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention

On October 22, 2010, one hundred people were treated to a wonderful evening in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Worcester Women’s History Project and the 160th anniversary of the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. The event was held in the Blue Lounge, located in the Student Center at Worcester State University.

The evening began with a warm introduction by WWHP President Fran Langille, which ended with a moment of silence in honor of Abby Kelley Foster. Langille then called Worcester Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien to the podium to read a proclamation declaring October 22, 2010 as Worcester Women’s History Project Day in the City of Worcester. Mayor O’Brien was followed by Senator Harriette L. Chandler, who read a resolution from the Massachusetts State Senate congratulating WWHP on its 15th anniversary. Both the proclamation and resolution were printed in the program booklet we received upon arriving at the event.

After these presentations, we were served an excellent dinner, provided by the dining hall staff at Worcester State University. During dinner, Fran Langille wel-comed the Worcester State University Chorale to sing “Happy Anniversary” (to the tune of “Happy Birthday”) to WWHP, as part of the Chorale’s “birthday gram” fundraiser for an upcoming trip to Germany in May.

During dessert, WWHP founder Lisa Connelly Cook spoke about “WWHP and Community Memory.” In her speech, Cook told us the history of how the project was formed and how Women 2000 came together. She named many people who were involved from the beginning; many of whom were in the audience. Cook commented: “Struggles women endured in the past have changed and stayed the same in many ways since 1850.” She also mentioned that WWHP is not the first group to recognize the 1850 Convention, but rather it was the Worcester Women’s Club, formed in 1880 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the convention. Cook closed her talk by saying; “The memory of the 1850 Convention has been kept alive by the community.”

Fran Langille returned to thank all the past WWHP presidents, past Steering Committee members, and Nancy Avila, who Langille dubbed “the woman behind the women.” Langille also thanked many others who made the evening possible, including Louise Gleason for going through WWHP memorabilia; Bill Wallace, Director of the Worcester Historical Museum; Judy Finkel and the Events Committee; Sue Vogel for the centerpieces; and Lynne McKenney Lydick for the vision of the 15th anniversary event and for her “energy and unrelenting enthusiasm.” Langille then adjourned the group to the auditorium for a remarkable performance of “Madame Secretary, Frances Perkins” by Ann Marie Shea, preceded by an introduction from Lynne McKenney Lydick. After the play, John B. Anderson, former mayor of Worcester and Holy Cross professor emeritus of history, led a Q&A session.

The celebratory weekend continued the following day with the WWHP Annual Meeting, held in the Saxe Room at the Worcester Public Library. Fran Langille opened the meeting wearing her costume from the 2000 performance of “Angels and Infidels” and greeted us with the same welcome that was used to open the 1850 Convention. She then thanked those who made the program possible and acknowledged WWHP’s receipt of a two-year grant of $5000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Langille’s President’s Report was followed by a report from Events Committee Chair, Judy Finkel. Finkel did a Year in Review of events from 2010, including Women in Print, Abolitionist Family Letters, the bus trip to Plymouth, and the 15th anniversary celebratory events.

We then heard the Oral History Project Committee report from Co-Chairs Charlene Martin and Maureen Ryan Doyle. They recounted OHP programs from the past year, including a talk by Dr. Steven Knott held at Assumption College and a workshop held at the Worcester Historical Museum on how to conduct oral history interviews. They also are in the process of doing research at the Schlesinger Library for a book which will be called Voices of Worcester Women and have many more exciting events coming up in 2011.

Mary Plummer gave a brief report from the Membership Committee, which sets up a table at events and conducts the March membership drive. This was followed by Beth Harding’s report from the “Yours for Humanity - Abby” Committee. This committee is currently working on finding new places to perform the play, such as public schools and after school programs. Lynne McKenney Lydick also conducted a WISE program at Assumption College throughout the fall entitled “Women in Struggle for Equality.”

Mary Plummer then spoke in Heather-Lyn Haley’s place on behalf of the Nominating Committee and commented that Haley is WWHP’s liaison with the Worcester Cultural Coalition.

Following approval of the 2009 Annual Meeting minutes and the budget for 2011, Fran Langille mentioned WWHP will be having two events in March, 2011: Women in Print and a collaborative event with the Master Singers of Worcester. A vote was then held to elect officers, Steering Committee, and Nominating Committee, which passed. Election results: President for 1-year term: Frances Langille; Vice President for 1-year term: Doreen Velnich; Treasurer for 2-year term: Barbara Kohin; (Clerk is Mary Plummer until 2011 annual meeting.). Steering Committee 3-year terms: Kathleen Comer, Maureen Ryan Doyle, Patricia Faron, Barbara Kohin, Charlene Martin. Nominating Committee 1-year terms: Heather-Lyn Haley (chair), Karen Folkes, Regina Edmonds, Ellen More and Linda Barringer.

Langille bid farewell to departing Steering Committee members, Arlene Vadum and Heather-Lyn Haley, and adjourned the meeting with an invitation to partake in cider, lemonade, and cookies provided by the Events Committee.

The meeting was followed by Ranger Chuck Arning’s presentation, “Developing the Women’s Political Voice.” Arning began by discussing an anti-slavery group called Friends of Freedom, which met annually in the Blackstone Valley from 1836-1865. Gradually more women became involved. He then showed a video, which many members of WWHP were involved in making, along with John McClymer from Assumption College. The video particularly focused on Elizabeth Buffum Chase from Rhode Island and Worcester’s own Abby Kelley Foster.

The weekend’s events concluded with the “Mothers of Conservation Nature Walk,” held at Broad Meadow Brook by the Massachusetts Audubon Society on October 24, 2010. All of these festivities were a fitting tribute to the present and past trailblazers and activists involved in shaping Worcester women’s history.

Published Date: 
February 19, 2011