Learning Ahead: Women’s History Month

Local Women & Local History:
Understanding New England Women’s Lives from the Past

Western Massachusetts Changemakers

Juanita Nelson (1923-2015) was an American social activist who made her home in Deerfield, MA.

Western Massachusetts is home to so many women changemakers who have dedicated their lives to enacting social change through the arts, critical inquiry, and learning. Still today, there are many women poets, writers, activists, artists, teachers, educators, and scientists that reside in Western Massachusetts and continue to work towards positive social change that fosters female empowerment, diversity and making women’s voices even louder in our globalized society and economy. Here, only a few women from history will be explored, however note the incredible number of talented women today in Western Massachusetts that continue to demonstrate the importance of women’s rights. March is Women’s History Month, a national observation that honors and pays tributes to those women who dedicated their lives to social justice, the environment, education, and  positive change for society. Their fortitude and perseverance as pioneers is honored during the month of March. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Women’s History via Higher Education in Western MA

Exploring Women’s History via Higher Education

Did you know that Western Massachusetts is home to the first women’s college in the United States? In 1837 a female seminary was founded by chemist and educator Mary Lyon. This seminary is now Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. The college was founded at a time when women still did not have the right to vote, yet its founder’s famous words, “Go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do,” certainly inspired young women to think beyond social boundaries in order to achieve, inspire and demonstrate the strength and dynamic voice of women.

Mt. Holyoke is the first of the seven sisters, a group of liberal arts colleges in the Northeast that were started as women’s colleges. Some of these schools are still women’s colleges today and two of them are here in Western Massachusetts: Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley) and Smith College (Northampton).  Read the rest of this entry »

Sense of Place: Women in Art History

Think about this:

  • Throughout history, women have been an integral part of the art world. As patrons, historians, innovators, critics, and creators, their contributions are widespread. Why is it that they are underrepresented in art history?
  • When art history is considered, what media come to mind? How about textile arts? Culinary arts? Decorative arts? Are these considered fine art?
  • How have gender biases influenced our art history narrative?
  • How have women generated social change throughout history? How do they now use visual art and language art to address contemporary issues?

Khan Academy has a great discussion page that address some of these issues: A Brief History of Women in Art.


Download our March/April edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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African American History in Western Massachusetts

Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad

In addition to your literary explorations of African Americans’ creativity and contributions to U.S. literature, explore African American History Month in Western Massachusetts through the different cultural organizations and institutions that educate the public on the history of African Americans in our region.

One of the most significant pieces of New England history is the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes, stops, and places throughout 14 northern states that were established to help escaped slaves to freedom.

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Local Learning Resources on The Underground Railroad

Sojourner Truth: Connecting Local Places with National History

The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History & Underground Railroad in Florence, MA, features The Ross Homestead which is on both the National  Register of Historic Places and the National Park Services Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The center offers walking tours of Florence including the African-American history trail, Sojourner Truth’s house, and other abolitionist sites. Additionally, there is a memorial statue of Sojourner Truth in Florence, MA, to honor her life and work. A former slave, abolitionist and social activist, Truth lived in Florence from 1843-1856. The Sojourner Truth Memorial organization offers a free map on their website of a self-guided walking tour of Sojourner’s house and historic sites. Read more in our post, Sojourner Truth Memorial: American and Western MA History. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Sesame: Celebrating Women’s History with Children’s Picture Books

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Women In History: Three New Books

For more than thirty years, the National Women’s History Project has been devoted to “writing women back into history.” They created a national clearinghouse of multicultural women’s history, which includes information, materials, resources, referrals, training and strategies to anyone interested in learning about women’s roles in American history. Their successful lobbying efforts led Congress to recognize March as Women’s History Month, which has become a time to celebrate the bold and beautiful, courageous and curious, strong, smart, and compassionate women in our collective history. We have so much to learn from their example, which is why we need to keep getting books about these women into children’s hands. Here are three new books that recognize girls with big dreams. But first, recognition of a local woman who left her imprint on American history and on our own local history… Read the rest of this entry »

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