Friends, if you’re in New England anywhere near the Piscataqua River, come out and see me talk about my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright*, at the Berwick Academy as a guest of the Old Berwick Historical Society’s Forgotten Frontier lecture series this winter and spring. Last night, I was a guest of Bowdoin College where I also gave a talk about my book–the audience there will be hard to beat. They were so attentive and asked so many questions that they kept me more than an hour AFTER my 40-minute talk with their questions and responses. Whew! And thank you! Continue reading
The Junto is on fire this week! First, they published Casey Schmitt’s review of Sowande’ Mustakeem’s Slavery at Sea, and then followed it up with Rachel Herrmann’s in-depth interview with Mustakeem about the writing of the book. Here, Mustakeem reminds us of the importance of thinking critically about the entire population of captured Africans who became our ancestors in the U.S.–it wasn’t just healthy, able-bodied young men, but it included older people, sick people, and of course, girls and women as well as men.
Today, Sara Damiano has published a wonderful guide to assigning and using more primary sources by women in the first “half” of the U.S. History survey. (I say “half,” because when one starts a class in 1492 and ends in 1877 that’s 385 years; so if the following course begins in 1877 and goes roughly through 2001, that’s only 124 years. I’m not sayin’–I’m just sayin’.)
Damiano says that in making a concerted effort to include primary sources by women throughout the course, rather than limiting their appearance to a sprinkle here and there, meant that she could engage questions about gender across time and space, and that it forced her to rethink the whole purpose of assigning students primary sources in survey classes. Check it out. She’s got a nice checklist that outlines her method.
Be sure to take full advantage of every source you see:
Finally, did you know that there is a new blog called the Stars Hollow Historical Society? This seems totally brilliant, and well-timed to correspond to the Gilmore Girls reboot that debuted over the holidays. They’re accepting pitches and submissions from anyone who wants to write about “public history and heritage tourism” in the Gilmore Girls. (I love the concept of the blog but the bright salmon-pink background is just too much. It hurts to read, whereas anything involving the Gilmore Girls, public history, and representations of heritage tourism in Stars Hollow should be nothing but a pleasure! I love the pink, but tone the shade down a bit to enhance the contrast?)
More girls, just for fun. There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder/Thought I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk any louder?
Take it away, girls and boys–
Max Nelson offers a fascinating overview of a current exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, “Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America.” I find this subject both touching and horrifying, especially considering the understandable impulse to commemorate lost children. But as Nelson notes (per the exhibition), the practice of painting or sculpting the recently deceased continued long after the invention of photography and the democratization of family portraiture. In fact, “mortuary photography”–photographs of the recently deceased, especially babies and children–was a big chunk of the business in early photography.
There’s a painting I’ve been using in my classes to illustrate the changes in how free Americans envisioned marriage and family life from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The Ephraim Hubbard Foster Family presents such a lively contrast to the dour mid-eighteenth century puritan portraits of husbands and wives–the fresh, blushing complexions! The number of children, who appear to have been painted as individuals! The focus on parental youth and beauty! I’ve wondered for a long time if the child so extraordinarily costumed on the window sill is in fact a dead child, but having reviewed the online images this exhibition offers, I don’t think this is the case. Here’s the portrait: Continue reading
Teaser Tuesday is back, my friends. Today’s excerpt from my new book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, focuses on the education of girls and the racial and cultural politics in the Ursuline convent and school. When she’s enrolled in the school, her name is first written into the boarding school records as “a little English girl named Esther.” After having called her Mali while she lived among the Wabanaki, I resume calling her by her given name, and I hint here as to why it’s important that she was identified as “English” rather than “Wabanaki” or “Sauvagesse.”
In this excerpt, I pull back a little from the particular experiences of Esther to analyze the problem of education for girls at the turn of the eighteenth century, which was seen by elites as both potentially dangerous but necessary. How much education was too much? How did European and North American cultures ensure that girls’ and boys’ educations remained separate and unequal? You’ll also see me indulge in one of my favorite tricks when I don’t have specific information about Esther. Can you spot it? Continue reading
In today’s Teaser Tuesday, in which I present a snippet from my new book The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright and share a little information from behind the scenes, we follow Mali/Esther as she crosses the border into the city of Québec in the autumn of 1708. She was probably in the company of one of the mission priests who had worked with Wabanaki people for nearly thirty years, Jacques Bigot. When she arrived, she was installed at the home of the elderly Governor of New France, Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil. With his significantly younger Acadian-born wife, Louise-Élisabeth de Joybert, Marquise de Vaudreuil, he spent most of the 1690s and 1700s filling up their châteaux in Montreal and then in Québec with their eleven children, so Mali would have been in the company of a number of children close to her in age.
With her move to Québec, Mali moved into a highly status-conscious world dominated by French- and Canadian-born nobles. Why would a New England-born Wabanaki twelve year-old be taken into the home of the governor of New France? Read on and enjoy this excerpt from chapter 3 and a little smidge from chapter 4: Continue reading
Remember a few weeks back when I asked “What’s for breakfast in early New England?” Today’s Teaser Tuesday from my new book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, is about food as well, although it’s not nearly as savory as my earlier exploration of colonial foodways. Indeed, today write about the privation that many Wabanaki people suffered as a result of the cycles of warfare and famine that were unleashed by colonialism in Acadia.
All of the available evidence suggests that the people that Esther (or as I rename her in chapter 2, Mali) lived with for five years often suffered from extreme hunger. When once I imagined Esther at age 7 skipping off into captivity in August enjoying the bounties of the blueberry and salmon harvests, the brutal reality that awaited me in the archives was of nearly unrelieved suffering, especially of children, as you will see if you read on.
This excerpt is like last week’s, from chapter 2, as Esther followed her captors into the Maine woods, and explores a recurrent calumny we see in intercultural conflict in the early modern period: cannibalism! Continue reading