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Women Making Change: Turn of the 20th Century Activism and Progressivism

“We can do it if we prepare now, and prepare best by putting off our old habit of littleness and putting on the new habits of unselfishness and courageous endurance.” – Belle Skinner

Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide K-12 educators with the opportunity to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics and issues in American history and culture, while providing them with direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence.

We are not currently accepting applications.  Please use the  Teachers’ Resources and Activity Plan web page to take advantage of the shared learning that took place during the 2017 institutes.

Founded in 1848 as one of the nation’s first planned industrial cities, Holyoke Massachusetts was once home to premier paper, cotton and silk mills and the highest number of millionaires per capita in the nation. The history of Holyoke offers a microcosm of American industrial development and the influence it had on class stratification and gender roles. The City’s landscape and deliberate design physically reflects that class stratification. One cannot wander the city with out a profound sense of the effects of industry — environmentally, socially and culturally. Less visible in the landscape, but present in the rich archival materials held and made available for research by the City, is the history of organizing and activism in the early 20th century and of the women who were active participants in the change-making of that time. The institute will explore three models of activism during this time period: wealthy philanthropists; middle-class empowerment of females in professional workplaces; and union organizers in the mills. Women Making Change aims to illuminate the intersection of gender and class at this point in American history and do so in a way that provides specific and diverse examples of women employing agency and intelligence to participate in the public realm and change the course of history.

This institute will work to improve competency and comfort in two key areas: 1) Women’s history and 2) The use of primary sources in the classroom. Participants will actively pursue their own research, using archives, objects, and a variety of sources to construct materials for use in the classroom. Along the way they will engage directly with top scholars in the field. Teachers will leave this institute having a better conceptual framework of how to address women’s history in the classroom and how to look critically at representations of women in historical narratives. They will be given the opportunity to undergo basic training as historical researchers including using oral histories, utilizing research archives, handling artifacts, and investigating primary sources.




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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