A typical day in the Education Department at CHS begins with educators teaching classes of students, both on-site and off-site, until midday. Then, we spend hours prepping materials for upcoming programs, (think—sorting through thousands of colorful beads for Native American bear claw necklaces, cutting out hundreds of pieces of paper—some sticky—for colonial hornbooks, and peeling off the last remnants of toilet paper from its rolls so that the rolls can be turned into binoculars or holiday poppers!), creating lesson plans, holding teacher workshops, and doing countless other tasks.Sometimes the fun of teaching extends into the afternoon when after-school groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or camps visit CHS. I love these days! Over April vacation, we had a Junior Girl Scout troop spend the afternoon at CHS.
The girls were working toward completing their Agents of Change Journey, which focuses on the strengths of women and girls and how these strengths can be used to create a difference or a change. The girls explored the lives of three women with Connecticut connections and saw how they had each done something considered out of the ordinary for the times in which they lived. We observed items from the CHS collection and did lots of hands-on activities.
Hannah Bunce Watson (1750-1807) took over as publisher of the Connecticut Courant when her husband passed away in 1777, making her the first woman to publish a newspaper in Connecticut. The Connecticut Courant, now the Hartford Courant is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. The troop learned how difficult it would have been to print in the 1700s—without computers or Spell Check—by using cut-out letters to print their names backwards.
Isabella Beecher Hooker (1822-1907) was an advocate for women’s suffrage. In 1869, Hooker founded Connecticut’s Women’s Suffrage Association, which she actively led for over 30 years. The girls chose current issues that they each felt strongly about and made their own posters to speak out about the issues.
Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946) grew up in Ohio before coming to Connecticut to attend Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT. Her love of design paved the way for a career as an architect, which was a field largely dominated by men. Hill-Stead, originally a retirement home designed by Theodate for her parents, is now a museum in Farmington, CT. The girls were inspired by Theodate to work together and build their own wooden arches.
The girls seemed to take away a lot of information about these three women, who were each agents of change in their own time. As one member of the troop said, “I really liked learning about some great women in history. Some even had funny names.” (I can only assume that she was talking about Theodate…..).
Posted by Erin Strogoff-Coordinator of Youth & Family Programs