Dearfield Colony restoration update

A volunteer cleaning up the Dearfield Colony. Photo by the Denver Post.

I wrote about the Dearfield Colony last summer, and current efforts by various local organizations and citizens to preserve what’s left of an important site for African American history in the west.  There’s an article today in the Denver Post containing an update on Dearfield, and on a recent site clean-up.  Dearfield was founded by Oliver Toussaint “O.T.” Jackson in 1908, and a handful of householders broke ground there in 1910.  “Early residents lived in tents, dugouts and even caves.  But in 10 years, Dearfield had grown to 700 people and boasted a church, schoolhouse, filling station, lunchroom and dance pavilion.”  The Dust Bowl put an end to this lively experiment, and the colony was abandoned in 1948.

Says La Wanna Larson, executive director of the Black American West Museum in Denver, “This town is in huge peril.  It will not stand another winter.”  The Greeley Museums, the Black American West Museum, and Weld county Commissioner Bill Garcia are working together to save the site and erect a monument to commemorate the centennial of the colony’s founding this year.

The Post also notes 100th anniversary celebration events:

The Friends of Dearfield will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the community with a celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 28.

The Black American West Museum will host a series of afternoon teas, lectures, tours, festivals and programs featuring the history and accomplishments of the settlers of Dearfield throughout the year. Participants also will be given the opportunity to tour Dearfield. For more information, call 303-482-2242.

Sounds like it’s time to plan a field trip!

Fort Ticonderoga

Tom Watson has a post on the peril that faces Fort Ticonderoga now, and about the nice afternoon he spent with his family there this summer.  Fort Ticonderogawas originally the French Fort Carillon, built during the Seven Years’ War, and renamed Ticonderoga when it was taken over after the British victory over France in that war.  Ticonderoga is known to most U.S. Americans (if it’s known at all) as the site that Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys daringly captured from the British in 1775, sending its artillery overland to Boston to help George Washington liberate Boston in 1776.  Ticonderoga then served as a base of operations until it was lost to the British again in 1777, but the American forces were able to contain the British at Ticonderoga by halting their advance at the Battle of Saratoga, September 19, 1777, and eventually forced the British to surrender Ticonderoga again the following month.  These two engagements–Ticonderoga and Saratoga–were sufficient to help secure French assistance on the American side, which is why they are known as the “turning point” in the military history of the American Revolution.  

From a purely jingoistic perspective, Fort Ticonderoga is clearly one of the most important historical sites for the history of the Revolution, linked as it is to the greatest American victories in the first half of the war (1775-1778), and credited (in part) with securing French intervention, which proved decisive in 1781.  And, let’s face it:  the other tales of the first half of the war around New York and Philadelphia are for the most part stories of British victories and American failures.  Watson nicely describes his most recent, and why sites like Ticonderoga are worthy of our patronage and our money:

We visited Ticonderoga – my third visit, my children’s second – last week on the way home from Lake George, and spend an hour wandering the battlements and peering at the collection of arms and other archeological wonders in the simple galleries housed in reconstructed barracks. It remains a wild and beautiful spot, its bloody history aside, and the views across the farmlands and up toward Mount Defiance (where the British mule-hauled cannon to eventually force Ticonderoga’s surrender from the rebels) are singularly beautiful. Moreover, they tell almost the complete story of New York’s importance to the new United States – sitting astride one of the great inland trade routes linking Canada with Albany and the Mohawk, New York and the Hudson.

Watson links to a New York Times article that explains the financial and management problems that face the fort.  Memo to people working in museums and historic preservation:  don’t depend on a single quirky and immensely wealthy donor to bankroll your project.  Keep cultivating other donors, and be sure that the public knows about the important work you do in preserving local and national history.  And everyone, when you travel, please consider dropping in on that old house museum, or that historic site you’ve always meant to get to, but you’ve always been in such a hurry to get somewhere else you’ve never made the time to get there.  You never know when it might not be there for you to visit.

Sarah Palin round-up: git along, little mommies

Melissa from Shakesville saw the ABC interview, and hated it.  Her one word verdict?  Terrifying.  (Shakesville has posted more of the video here.)  She writes, “[t]his is not a person who’s remotely prepared to lead this country.”  Me, I’m not so sure Palin was worse than other first-term governors like Tim Kaine (D-VA) or Bobby Jindal (R-LA) would have been–but they’re not VP nominees, and she is.  Moreover–George W. Bush?  Hello!  Dems, please note:  the more the campaign is about Palin, the better it is for John McCain.  (Yes, Historiann is writing about Palin again, but please note:  this is a women’s history blog, and like it or not, Sarah Palin is American women’s history.  Strangely, neither political campaign has yet contacted Historiann for advice, so I think it’s safe to say that the conversation here will have little if any bearing on the fate of the republic.)

Here’s a case in point where attention to Palin works right into the McCain campaign’s strategy:  Bob Herbert writes, “While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.”  Oh, really?  Have you been napping for the past eight years, Rip Van Herbert?  What did they slip into your Knickerbocker Punch?  It’s this kind of hyperbole–suggesting that Palin is uniquely stupid and/or unqualified–that suggests that Palin Derangement Syndrome is a real phenomenon.  Herbert goes on to write, “How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket?”  Well, at least this time she’s the VP nominee, and not at the top of the ticket like in 2000 and 2004.  Shouldn’t we celebrate the Republicans’ new seriousness because she’s not at the top of the ticket?

Shaker CE notes the unfortunate way in which Barack Obama talked about Palin recently in a post called “You’re As Good As Your Womb:  Not Hopeful, Not Change:”  “Look, she’s new, she hasn’t been on the scene, she’s got five kids. And my hat goes off to anybody who’s looking after five. I’ve got two and they tire Michelle and me out.”  CE writes,

This has been a prominent, and troubling, feature of the discourse ever since McCain announced Palin as his VP pick: When people speak about Palin’s political biography, they talk mostly – or at least first – about her kids. Some argue that such is the case because Palin herself has made them an important part of her political biography. That is, I think, only half-correct, because it’s ignorant of the bigger picture: Sarah Palin defines herself to the public as a mother because she has to.

It isn’t really about ingratiating herself with the right-wing base, though that’s part of it; Palin wouldn’t be able to escape defining herself in large part as a mother even if she were the most progressive politician in the country.

That’s because we still define women by their childbearing status, and we look at children as a reflection on their mothers.

And speaking of mothers, Judith Warner attended a (totally mobbed) Palin campaign rally last week in Virginia, and says that Palin’s appeal to conservative women is “No Laughing Matter.”  (The article gets better than it starts out–read through to the end, although even the passage here makes Warner sound like an anthropologist documenting her field work among a tribe of suburban Americans she’s never encountered or seriously considered before.)  Warner notes all of the women who brought their children to the rally–and not just because many of them are probably their children’s full-time caregivers.  She writes of a woman at the rally, who recounted a recent conversation with her daughter:

“My daughter asked me, ‘Mom, would you do that if you had the opportunity?,’” she recalled, as the six-year-old in question looked on. “I said ‘I don’t know. Maybe she was born to do that. Maybe that’s the sacrifice she has to make to serve her country.’”

The daughter lifted high her hand-painted, flower-adorned Palin sign.

“She’ll really be a big step forward for women,” the mother said.

No, it wasn’t funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education.

“Palin Power” isn’t just about making hockey moms feel important. It’s not just about giving abortion rights opponents their due. It’s also, in obscure ways, about making yearnings come true — deep, inchoate desires about respect and service, hierarchy and family that have somehow been successfully projected onto the figure of this unlikely woman and have stuck.

Conservative women are jazzed about seeing one of their own in presidential politics, and it’s totally without precedent.  They are just as excited about the possibilies for their daughters as many of Clinton’s supporters were about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency for their daughters.  You don’t have to like Sarah Palin, libs, but understand why others might reasonably support her.  Insulting her as a strategy to win their votes will fail, because it will feel like you’re insulting them.  (Kinda like most of the comments that this article by Warner attracted!)

Every day of this wretched campaign, I’ve come to a greater appreciation of Elizabeth I‘s political strategy:  eschew marriage and motherhood, but hold them out as bargaining chips in diplomatic engagements.  You won’t believe how long Gloriana was able to parlay the possibility of dynastic marriage and motherhood–well past menopause, by my calculation, and into her late 50s.  (Maybe some of you early modern British historians can set me right on this, as it’s been a while since I’ve read on this subject.)  But, the promise of a strategic marriage and the production of a new heir isn’t a card that women politicians in democratic republics can play–instead, marriage and motherhood are used against them in ways that men’s marriages and children are never used against male politicians.  (Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, whose husband’s finances were a large part of her undoing during her Vice Presidential run in 1984.)  It looks like our consensus on the Age of Revolutions–that while some men achieved greater representation, women lost what little claim to political power they had–still holds true.  Modernity is all about the erasure of women from the public sphere, and we still haven’t found a way to beat that back or reverse it in any meaningful way.

We "love" our "readers!"

And by “we,” of course, I mean “me,” Historiann.  (There is no we, unless you count my family member Miles who runs this blog and hosts it!  Thanks again, Miles!)

This is just a little shout-out to all of you early American history, women’s history, Barbie, and cake fans (and the few, the proud John Adams haterz too) out there.  And of course, all foes of bullies, everywhere–thank you for your words of encouragement and solidarity.  Once again, I am humbled and saddend by the stories you tell in e-mails and comments on my posts on bullying in academia.  And, I’m very encouraged by Rad Readr’s report that his dean is going to use the Chronicle article on academic bullying as the starting point of a conversation with department chairs about bullying.

As one of my intrepid correspondents wrote:  bullying “turns what should be the best profession in the world into a weekly ordeal.”  That’s exactly how I feel–how dare these bullies try to steal a profession that we love!  So after dessert, let’s take back the playground.

Cake today provided by Cakewrecks.

Workplace frenemy: the insinuating bully

image from the novel by Megan Crane

We get mail (well, OK:  pony express) here at HQ.  From our mailbag today is a savvy analysis of a very special kind of bully.  Fans of Sex and the City (the TV show) will recognize the word “frenemy”–an enemy who acts like (and may actually believe) ze’s your friend.  An anonymous correspondent writes,

There is a kind of bullying that I haven’t seen discussed before:  the frenemy. This is something a sociopath colleague has worked to perfection. He provides inside information things that as an assistant professor you’re not supposed to get, he gives “advice” that’s only in your best interest, he warns you about others who are out to get you, he vows to “defend” you when other people try to bully you, etc. (Needless to say, there are disturbing hints that behind your back he is doing nothing of the sort.)  At the same time, of course, he makes it clear how dependent you are on him: his patronage, his good graces, etc. There was/is a double effect in this kind of “information banking” style of bullying; because it’s kept secret (and is based in many ways on the fact that it is secret), other people in the department are often unaware of what’s going on. To this day I think that some of the senior faculty in our department have no idea that this individual has hazed every single junior member of our department at some point.   

Have you ever had a frenemy at work?  I recognize the type described here.  You know hir–ze approaches you shortly after the faculty retreat at the beginning of the year and invites you out to lunch.  Ze tells you all about the other finalists for your job, and reassures you that you were so very much better than those other pretentious losers.  Ze then warns you who you need to watch out for–because although most of the department are very happy that you took the job, there are others who are not so impressed.  And this person, your frenemy, is going to watch out for you.  Aren’t you the lucky one! 

Your frenemy will tell you what people are really saying about you in tenure and promotion committee meetings–stuff that doesn’t make it into your annual review letter, which is always very positive and says that you’re on track to win tenure–but ze says you should know what people really think of you nevertheless.  Ze will warn you darkly about trusting anyone else in the department–ze knows, because ze’s been treated badly by them.  Ze will listen sympathetically to your frustrations as a junior faculty member–and will collect any and all information you volunteer about your hopes, dreams, and love life.  Ze will remind you how much you owe hir–ze will expect proof of your loyalty.  If not this year, then someday.

Oh, you know hir, too?  (Does this sound like a Joyce Carol Oates novel yet?)  Readers, do you have any advice for our colleague, or for others who are dealing with their own frenemies?  Talk amongst yourselves–I’m so skeeved out that I have to go take another shower.

And on another note:  We Don’t Like Ike.  To all of our friends and readers in Houston and elsewhere in East Texas, stay safe and dry this weekend as the storm bears down on y’all.  We’ll be thinking of you–let me know if you’ll need the guest room at Historiann HQ in case of evacuation.

Department of Corrections

I have been reliably informed by a colleague at my former institution that I was mistaken on the facts about my major antagonist’s career.  I had written on my blog in this post that,

[m]y major foe at my former university was someone who was tenured but simultaneously (and humiliatingly) denied her promotion to Associate Professor.  She had published a book after all in a department that didn’t require a book, whereas men in the department had recently been promoted to Associate Professor before tenure and, in one case, without a book at all.  (That’s right:  men without books?  Can’t wait to promote you!  Women with books?  Wait a year or two, then apply again.)  There was a whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment right around the time I was hired, either within their department or at the college review level.  Need I point out that the curious creature known as the tenured Assistant Professor was a pink-collar only rank?  Unfortunately, this individual’s experience resulted not in anger and radicalization, but in shame and internalization, which was then directed outward not at the people who caused her misery, but at other targets below her on the hierarchy. 

(I’ve highlighted the incorrect assertion in bold letters.)  My colleague-informant at my former university says that my major antagonist was not denied promotion when tenured, but rather tenured and promoted at the same time.  Portions of this post were then quoted in the story published by the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this week (which I again blogged about here), so my error was repeated and amplified.  I apologize for my error, and take full responsibility for it.  Speak, Memory! 

By way of explanation, I can only think that at this distance, I’ve conflated her story with those of the “whole class of women assistant professors who got that treatment” within the space of a few years, right before and right after I joined that department in 1997.  Of four women up for tenure, one was tenured and promoted (she had a book); one was tenured but denied promotion at the college level (although she had published a book); one was tenured but denied promotion by the department, and one was tenured and (as I recall) didn’t even apply for promotion that year because of what she had seen the other women go through.  Clearly, this is a shameful record that strongly suggests sex bias and mistreatment of women, which was part of the larger story at my former institution, and which was clearly relevant to the way I was mistreated as a young woman and a women’s historian there.

But, I was still wrong on the facts of the one case, and I deeply regret not checking my memories with my former colleague before going public with the misinformation on this blog.  I am very sorry.  But, given the new facts at hand, they beg the question, why was this woman so miserable?  Her case may prove the larger point that bullying can infect the whole atmosphere and poison people who aren’t themselves the objects of bullying behavior.  I also strongly suspect that she was herself mistreated, even if she wasn’t denied her promotion.  The bare facts of someone’s rise through the ranks don’t reveal what the experience felt like.