skip to Main Content
Women Making Change NEH Institute Logo
WMC Banner

 Schedule is subject to change, but content will remain consistent with the schedule below.

Syllabus/Program of Study PDF to Download

Preparations and Advance Readings

Before the institute, participants are asked to prepare by doing readings and viewings in order to get an orientation to the time period and historical content we will be studying — the field of women’s history, learning history from the landscape, and the
power of history to shape our present.  Participants are strongly urged to do as much reading/viewing as possible prior to attending the institute.

All of the readings are shared on a private Google Drive in order to maintain copyright compliance. If you are unable to access the shared drive please contact the project director Penni Martorell by email.

Advance Viewings & Readings  in order of priority

  1. Hymowitz, Carol, and Michaele Weissman. A History of Women in America. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981.
    Chapter  8 On the Loom: The First Factory Women pp 122 – 137
    Chapter 14 Bread and Roses pp 234 – 263
  2. Morales, Sylvia, Jacob Atlas, Heidi Schulman, Kyra Thompson, and Jane Fonda. A Century of Women: Part 1. New York, N.Y: Ambrose Video [distributor, 1994.]
  3. Bauman, Suzanne and Rita Heller. The Women of Summer: An Unknown Chapter of American Social History. Filmakers Library. Released 1986. 57 minutes.
  4. Glassberg, David. Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life. “Chapter 1.” Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001 pp 3-22
  5. Green, James R. Taking History to Heart: the Power of the Past in Building Social Movements. “Prologue: Making Movement History” Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
  6. Kilborne, Sarah S. Book TV “American Phoenix” C-Span2  https:/


NEH Participants will be welcomed by institute faculty, special guests and Wistariahurst staff at the Homewood Suites Hotel at an opening reception. Scholars will be provided with an agenda, a journal, and given details regarding the Museum, their accommodations, and other resources for the week.

Following introductions and snacks, participants will view Creating Holyoke: Voices of a Community in Holyoke, a documentary made possible by NEH and WGBY in 2010 which will provide an introduction to the history of the host City.

Readings to prepare for Monday

Hewitt, Nancy, Ed. No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism. Chapter 1 “From Seneca Falls to Suffrage? Reimagining a ‘Master Narrative in U.S. Women’s History. Piscataway, NJ, Rutgers University Press. 2010.  pp15-38

Navarra Thibodeau, Kate. Destination Holyoke. Holyoke, MA: Wistariahurst Museum, 2006.
“Holyoke’s Neighborhoods” pp 19-30
“Laboring in Holyoke’s Industries” pp 31-76


Transportation from the Homewood Suites Hotel to Wistariahurst Museum will be offered at 7:50 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. Morning sessions begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. The first official day of the Women Making Change Institute will provide an overview of Holyoke History, an introduction to turn of the 20th Century labor history, and a framework for studying women’s history.

Guiding Questions

  1. What would be lost by studying labor history during the Progressive Era without examining gender differences?
  2. How do we tell cohesive stories about women’s history during the Progressive Era and address class, racial, and ethnic differences?
  3. Why do individual stories matter, and how can we help students connect to the stories as well as to a broader historical context?

Visiting Lecturer: Dr. Jennifer Hall-Witt

Dr. Hall-Witt will open the institute with her lecture Her-Story vs. Their Many Stories: Thinking about Women’s History during the Progressive Era. This lecture introduces participants to the study of women’s history and labor history during the Progressive Era. It aims to provide a national context for thinking about the Settlement House movement, the Women’s Club movement, and factory labor, taking into account how experiences differed along class, racial, and ethnic lines.

Field Trip – Tour of Holyoke

Participants will tour the various parts of the city — “The Highlands,” “High Street” and “The Flats” to view how the landscape of the cities mirrors the economic and social status. They will embark on a walking tour of downtown led by Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of Holyoke, Marcos Merrera.  On the tour, educators will learn about the planned industrial cities like Holyoke and how the design of the landscape affected its inhabitants.

Performance of “The Recognition of Inherent Dignity: Women Change Makers in the Progressive Era”

After lunch by the Canal, participants will see a one-woman performance created by Enchanted Circle Theater, using words drawn from letters, photographs and diary entries. Participants will have the opportunity to talk with the teaching artist and director on how to bring history alive and will be lead through a writing activity.

Reflection Circle

Education Coordinator will lead writing exercise on theme of “Women and Landscape”

Readings to prepare for Tuesday

  1. Addams, Jane. “The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements.” Twenty Years at Hull House. Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1999. pp 113 – 128.
  2. Garside, Patricia. “The Impact of Philanthropy: Housing Provision and the Sutton Model Dwellings trust, 1800-1895.” The Economic History Review, New Series Vol 53, No 4 (Nov., 2000)  pp 742-766
  3. Schneiderhan, Erik.. “Pragmatism and Empirical Sociology: The Case of Jane Addams and Hull-house, 1889-1895”. Theory and Society 40 (6). Springer: 589–617.
  4. United Neighborhood Houses of New York. The Enduring Advantage of Settlement Houses.
    United Neighborhood Houses. October 2011.
  5. Familiarize yourselves with the Finding Aids at the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

Jane Addams Papers Finding Aid                                             Employment Collection Finding Aid
Dorothy Kenyon Papers Finding Aid                                         Settlements Collection Finding Aid
Ellen Gates Starr Papers Finding Aid                                        Suffrage Collection Finding Aid
Mary van Kleeck Papers Finding Aid                                        Women’s Rights Collection Finding Aid


In the morning, educators will learn about archival research, be introduced to two of our case-study historical women, and learn about the national settlement house movement and the legacy of large-scale philanthropists.

Guiding Questions

  1. What advantages and disadvantages did wealth impose on high society women interested in making change?
  2. What motivates or inspires an individual to become a philanthropist?
  3. How does philanthropy differ from activism?
  4. How important is personal sacrifice to altruistic action?

Introduction to Archival Research – Primary Document Activity

Participants will be introduced to primary resources, and the basics of archival research such as utilizing finding aids, handling documents, and interpreting the information found.

Lecture and Discussion

Sarah Kilborne will introduce us to Ruth Isabelle Skinner and Katharine Skinner Kilborne in her presentation Sisters for Social Change: Belle and Katharine Skinner and the Creation of the Skinner Coffee House.  Belle and Katharine Skinner, inspired by their father’s legacy, used their wealth and social standing to improve the lives of working women in Holyoke, creating a settlement house that provided recreation and development for generations of girls and women.

Afternoon Lecture and Discussion

Dr. Kathleen Banks-Nutter will present “Creation of a New Harmony”: The Settlement House Movement in Turn-of-the-Century America about the national settlement house movement by looking at Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr at Hull-House and Vida Scudder at Denison House in Boston, with the labor organizer Mary Kenney O’Sullivan as the connecting thread. She will lead a primary resource activity and allow time for participants to share their findings.

House Tour and Open Work Session

Docent led tours of the Skinner family home, Wistariahurst, will be available for those interested in seeing more of the house and learning about the Skinner Family. Two staggered tours will be conducted during the open work session. Open work session is to provide educators with time to outline their ideas for projects/plans/activities to bring back to their classrooms.

Reflection Circle

The day will end at Wistariahurst and our discussion will lead into a reflection time for writing on the theme of “Wealth, Philanthropy & what it means to be of service.”

Readings to prepare for Wednesday

  1. Davis, Clark. “An Era and Generation of Civic Engagement: The Friday Morning Club in Los Angeles, 1891-1931.” Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Summer 2002), pp 135-168. University of California Press.
  2. Gover, Tzivia. “Mrs. Elizabeth Towne: Pioneering Woman in Publishing and Politics (1865 – 1960).” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Vol. 37 (1) Spring 2009. Institute for Massachusetts Studies, Westfield State College.  pp 48 – 63
  3. Nutter, Kathleen Banks. “Women Reformers and the Limitations of Labor Politics in Massachusetts, 1874-1912.” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Vol. 41 (2), Summer 2013. Institute for Massachusetts Studies, Westfield State College. pp 72 -99


This day is designed to transition the conversation from philanthropy through hobby campaigning and social charity efforts into the realm of activism. Participants will use the story of Elizabeth Towne, who somewhat defies categorization, to pick apart the different ways that women were making change depending upon their social class and circumstances.

Guiding Questions

  1. How did a woman’s economic class help to determine the ways in which she could be involved in social causes?
  2. What accounts for the rise of women’s clubs in cities across the S.? What functions did women’s clubs play in their members’ lives?
  3. If you had to focus on one cause, one effort at reform during the Progressive era in the US in your classroom, which would you choose and why?

Introducing Mrs. Elizabeth Towne – Create an Exhibit Activity

Educators will begin the day by re-opening the time capsule left by Elizabeth Towne and use it to piece together a story of her work and history and gain insight into using material culture to enliven a classroom.

Field Trip

Our group will head to the Holyoke History Room where Dr. Eileen Crosby will provide a brief introduction to The Holyoke History Room of the Holyoke Public Library which is home to a robust collection of more than thirty scrapbooks from women’s club organizations like the Holyoke Women’s Club, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and the Women’s Civic Union. Many clubwomen self-consciously documented their clubs’ activities in scrapbooks from the late nineteenth century until at least the 1950s. Participants will explore a hands-on exhibit of scrapbooks, clippings, and club histories and will consider how Holyoke’s women’s clubs varied in origin, mission, and composition as well as how they may have changed over time. We will reconvene as a group to share preliminary findings.


Dr. Kathleen Banks Nutter will return to preset “Fighting the Good Fight: American Women Activists of the early Twentieth Century” focusing on various “causes and circumstances” such as suffrage, labor, birth-control, and radical politics by profiling a few women, well-to-do white women reformers, working-class immigrant women, women of color, some familiar names and some not so much.  She will lead a primary resource activity and allow time for participants to share their findings.

House Tour and Open Work Session at the Library or Wistariahurst

Docent led tour of the Skinner family home, Wistariahurst will be available for who have not yet had a chance to see the house and learn about the Skinner Family.  This last tour will be conducted during the open work session. Open work sessions allow time for educators to outline their ideas for projects/plans/activities to bring back to their classrooms.

Reflection Circle

Theme of “Whose Voices Do We Hear, Whose Voices are Hidden?”

Optional Activity  5:00 p.m. Yoga at Wistariahurst – in the garden or in the music room weather dependant.

Readings to prepare for Thursday in priority order

  1. Hymowitz, Carol, and Michaele Weissman. A History of Women in America. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1981.
    Chapter 17 Don’t Steal a Job from a Man pp 303 – 311
  2. O’Farrell, Brigid. Wurf Memorial Lecture “She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker.” Harvard Law School, 2012. pp 9-27 required – the rest is optional
  3. Dodge, Mara. “Anna B. Sullivan, 1903-83: The Formative Years of a Textile Mill Union Organizer (Holyoke, Massachusetts) .” Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Vol. 36 (2), Summer 2008. Institute for Massachusetts Studies, Westfield State College. pp 184 – 218
  4. Cobble, Dorothy Sue. The Other Women’s Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America.” The Missing Wave” (Princeton University Press, 2004). pp 1 -10
    “The Other Labor Movement”  pp 11 – 49
  5. Curran, Mary Doyle, The Parish and the Hill. New York: The Feminist Press, City University of New York: 2002. Chapter 1 , Irish Parish and Money Hole Hill. Pp 1 – 19.
    Chapter 4, Maggie’s Boy. Pp 87 – 115.


The fourth day of Women Making Change will take participants into the lives of the female textile workers in the Holyoke Mills. Educators will be introduced to the topic of union organizing, the treatment and conditions of women in the mills and activism stemming from that treatment.

Guiding Questions

  1. Why were women workers attracted to the trade union movement during this time period, what role did they play in it, and how were they treated by male labor leaders?
  2. How did the motivations and experiences of female workers and female labor organizers differ from the other women we have looked at thus far?
  3. What do the stories of local women such as Anna Sullivan or the four women activists profiled in Common Sense and a Little Fire (who did not achieve national fame), teach us about women’s experiences and role in history?


Dr. Mara Dodge will provide a national timeline and overview of women’s role in the workforce, working conditions, and labor union organizing, 1900 to 1940. She will discuss the 1911 Triangle Fire (with a viewing of a bit of a documentary), women in the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union), WTUL (Women’s Trade Union League), New Deal policies towards women, Eleanor Roosevelt’s influence, and explore the life of Holyoke native Anna Sullivan who became a leader in the national textile union (TWUA).


Viewing and Discussion

The group will view “Uprising of ‘34” about the 1934 Textile Mill Strike. Dr. Dodge will lead a discussion after the viewing.

Field Trip and Discussion

The group will visit Skinner State Park atop Mount Holyoke and take in the view. Facilitated discussion about “What is Missing and What We Are NOT Talking About.”

Open Working Session

Time will be set aside in the afternoon for participants to leisurely take in the surroundings, network with their peers, and discuss their projects with our Education Coordinator.

Reflection Circle

Writing exercise & sharing on theme of “Protest, resistance, & fighting for your life.”

Optional Activity

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Storytelling and Puerto Rican Women with Maria Cartagena. (First Week at Wistariahurst), (Second week at Homewood Suites by Hilton Holyoke)

Viewings to Reflect upon

  1. Greaves, William. American Experience: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice. , 2015. Internet resource.  Accessed 6/8/2017


The last day of the institute will focus on bringing the content learned back to the classroom and reviewing resources available for continued exploration.

Guiding Questions

  1. How does the information conveyed this week change my perspective on something I already teach?
  2. In what areas of my teaching are women absent?
  3. What ideas do I have about how to research this type of material in my own community?

Open Work Session

Wistariahurst Archive and Library will be available for those interested in further archival research. Otherwise continue to work on your project plan.

Small Group Discussions

Participants will share their ideas with colleagues and get feedback and suggestions for classroom and project use.

Presentations Activity

Educators will give 2 minute presentations about their projects sharing their ideas for application in the classroom, and indicating what they learned and were inspired by during the institute.

Closing Remarks

Penni Martorell will provide an overview of the material covered during the week, stressing key take-away content and covering a high-level view of how all the information fits together. She will also present a section on how teachers can continue to explore these topics in their own communities and how our website will continue to provide resources and points of connection as their work progresses.


Participants will be asked to provide online, feedback on their experience during the institute at this URL:

Optional Activity

After the day’s activities join scholars for some relaxed social time. at the Beer Garden on Race Street

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.

Back To Top