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August Teachers Institutes At Wistariahurst

August Teachers Institutes at Wistariahurst

In 2016 Wistariahurst was one of 20 institutions across the country awarded a Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School teachers grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. These grants fund week-long, intensive learning opportunities for k-12 teachers and education professionals from across the country. Each institute utilizes a particular place of historical significance to bring concepts from the past to life for the participating teachers with the hope that they will then take what they learn and integrate it into their lesson plans and classrooms.

As one of the chosen institute sites, in August Wistariahurst will host over 70 teachers from across the country.

Inspired by the two women who helped to define Wistariahurst’s history, the team at the museum designed a curriculum titled “Women Making Change: Activism and Progressivism at the turn of the 20th Century. The institute brings community partners, scholars, and primary source material together explore the lives and actions of women in Holyoke in the early 20th Century. Using the entire city of Holyoke, the first planned industrial city in the United States, as our “landmark” and campus, we will be taking the teachers on a journey from the mill floors, where, in Holyoke’s early days, approximately sixty percent of the workers were women, to the highland seat of Wistariahurst, where the wealthy sisters Katharine and Belle Skinner championed education, services, and safety for the working women of Holyoke.

The institute is designed to accomplish several goals over the course of the week:

  • Teachers will leave with a renewed eagerness to look at their home communities with fresh eyes, so that they may find traces of the past inscribed on the landscape and be inspired to use the preserved aspects of their towns to teach history.
  • The teachers will be presented rigorous historical content related to women’s history, the settlement house movement, union organizing in the mills, women’s social clubs, and education and entrepreneurship among women during that time period.
  • Participants will have the opportunity to handle primary source material from the Wistariahurst archives, the Holyoke History Room, and the Sophia Smith collection. They will leave having the knowledge and skills they need to do their own archival research and uncover fresh local stories to integrate into their teachings of history.
  • Teachers will actively work to make women from the past, especially figures from their own communities’ local history, more visible in the history they teach in their classrooms.

As the teachers study Holyoke’s past, they will also be immersed in its present. With field trips, community partners, speakers, and their own independent wanderings, the participants will have the chance to meet and be a part of our community for they week they are residing here.

Hosting the two workshops for schoolteachers affords Wistariahurst the opportunity to take two of our core values – education and history – and extend our impact to a national level.


The Women Making Change Teachers Institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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