Women’s History Month & Votes for Women

March is women’s history month.

In 2016, for the first time in American history, a woman, Hillary Clinton, was nominated as the Presidential candidate for a major American political party. Since the presidential election, more than 500 women have signed up nation-wide to run for political office.

As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

In the 1820s and 30s most U. S. states had extended the right to vote to all white American males, regardless of property ownership or financial status. It would take women another 100 years to achieve that same status, thanks in large part to suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for the right to vote.

Wyoming was the first state in America to offer women that right. In 1869 Wyoming was still a territory; it passed a law stating that any woman who had reached the age of 21 and resided in the territory may vote. Today it’s known as the “equality state.”

50 years later America caught up with Wyoming and granted all women the right to vote when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 26, 1920.

November 2nd of that year marked the first time that more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections.

The fight for the ballot box was a hard fought battle for many women.

This month we acknowledge the accomplishments of all women, but especially those who fought so hard to allow women a voice in their government and an opportunity to have our voices heard at the ballot box.

The Chesapeake Public Library system has many books and movies on voting, voting rights, and famous American suffragists, available here. Check out books like:

A Voice of Our Own book cover The Woman's Hour book coverNot For Ourselves Alone book coverOne Woman, One Vote cover

Want to register to vote in Virginia or update your registration? Visit the Virginia Department of Elections at https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation

War of the Worlds Listening Party

On Halloween Eve, 1938 Orson Welles and his radio troupe “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” were putting the finishing touches on a play to air that night. They had struggled with adapting the book by H.G. Wells, “The War of the Worlds.” Their radio version just wasn’t keeping anyone’s interest. So they spiced it up by including some real names of towns and local institutions.  CBS radio executives quickly squashed those plans and demanded that Welles substitute fake names for those of real places. For instance, “Langley Field” became “Langham Field.” Welles was convinced this would doom the production to be received as a laughable mess. He could not have been more wrong.  Although reports of mass hysteria were exaggerated, the broadcast managed to convince some listeners that an alien invasion of Earth was in progress and that humans all over the world were in peril!

How could this happen? The Mercury Theatre on the Air was not the most popular radio program on Sunday nights. That distinction went to NBC’s Chase and Sanborn show which featured Edgar Bergen and his puppet Charley McCarthy.  So there was speculation that perhaps listeners tuned in late to the War of the Worlds and did not hear the disclaimer at the beginning. Also, it’s important to remember the political events of the time. The U.S. was in a general state of unease and concern over the goings on in Europe in the preceding months and radio was their trusted lifeline to know what Hitler was up to now. When radio presented the public with “information” they believed it. (Fake News was not yet a thing.)

The twenty-three-year-old Welles faced a firestorm of criticism the day after the broadcast when it became clear that some people panicked, especially those in areas near the reported epicenter of the alien landing in New Jersey.  Reports of people committing suicide and dying from heart attacks were never substantiated though, and a single lawsuit that was later filed against CBS was dismissed. The lesson learned for broadcasting was that radio was a powerful medium with tremendous responsibility to the public that should not be taken lightly.

On October 29th from 1:30- 2:30 Russell Memorial Library will host a War of the Worlds Listening Party to hear what all the fuss was about! Participants will take a mini alien home to remember the event and to remind themselves to carefully evaluate the information they receive from media sources in our present time.

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the battle before I decided to see the movie. My friend, a history buff, gave me a crash course before the movie, making me wish I learned more about it in school or elsewhere. The Battle of Dunkirk may have been a military failure for the European Allied Powers, but it still boosted morale for them, and for the British in particular. It’s the turning point in the war before the US joined it. The story had my interest before viewing the movie, and coming out of the movie the interest was exponentially higher; Dunkirk is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever viewed, and much of the public—and critics online—agree.

To be clear, Dunkirk is not something to watch if you need an escape. Expect an intense, stressful movie experience if you do view it. I already love movies, but found myself more engaged during this one than most. My eyes were wide the entire two hours; I rarely looked away from the screen. I didn’t even check my watch, which is a habit for me even during the most entertaining movies. Every few minutes I had to pause, ensure I could still breath, and unclench my jaw or my fists.

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“A penny for the Guy”

Image result for plastic ono band

There’s nothing I can write about Guy Fawkes, or Guy Fawkes Day, that hasn’t already been written.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I majored in history and all, but there simply isn’t, and I simply won’t.  If you don’t yet know the story of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, there are plenty of books and web pages that can clue you in.  As my dad always used to fondly tell me whenever I asked him a question, “You look it up.”  I must have taken his advice to heart because I now do exactly that for a living. Continue reading ““A penny for the Guy””

Oral History – Everyone Has a Story

The Chesapeake Genealogy Enthusiasts met on November 9, 2015. Some attendees shared photographs along with memories. Kevin Clement presented the lesson, “Oral History.”

Oral history is a field of study where professionals collect systematically the testimony of living people about their personal experiences. Even though it has been argued that only trained professionals can conduct legitimate oral history, it is important for families to collect and maintain the oral memories of its members.

Families should consider preserving their own memories. My grandfather used to tell marvelous stories of his time as a missionary in Africa. I have shared a couple of these stories throughout my life, but I am positive that I do not give the tales the same flair that my grandfather had given them. How grand would it be if I had an audio or video recording of him telling these stories so I could replay the recording over and over again and hear his voice? It is too late since my grandfather passed away in 1978, but it may not be too late for others. Look to your relatives still living and begin recording their memories. More importantly, do not fail to record your own memories for future generations.

Graduation photo of my grandfather, Frank Manning, missionary and storyteller.

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