2010 Public Programs

  • Tuesday, March 30
    Third Annual Adopt-A-Book Evening

    See books, pamphlets, newspapers, prints and other items that have found a home at AAS and make a contribution to help the library take in other waifs and strays. AAS curators will give a brief overview of what they buy and why.

    2010 Adopt-A-Book Catalog

  • Wedesday, April 14 - 7:30 p.m.
    "Uncivil Discourse:
    A Conversation with Jim Leach and Jill Lepore"

    The chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Jim Leach, will join historian and essayist Jill Lepore for a public discussion on the state of political discourse in America, past and present.

    This program is part of a fifty-state American Civility Tour that Leach is conducting to raise awareness of how divisive and potentially dangerous harsh and hateful language can be. Leach believes that the exchange of ideas and the consideration of other viewpoints are central to the humanities and that we need to bring this spirit of reason back into politics.
    This event is sponsored by the NEH in partnership with the American Antiquarian Society and Mass Humanities, the state-based affiliate of the NEH.

    This program was filmed by WCCA-TV and will soon be broadcast on Worcester's Channel 13 as well as available on WGBH's Forum Network. Please Learn, Create, Present, and Connect with WCCA TV 13 at their website

    Jim Leach, NEH photo by Greg Powers and Audrey CreweJim Leach is the ninth Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nominated by President Barack Obama on July 9, 2009, and confirmed by the Senate in early August, Leach began his four-year term as NEH Chairman on August 12, 2009.
    Leach previously served 30 years representing southeastern Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus. After leaving Congress in 2007, Leach joined the faculty at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, where he was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs until his confirmation as NEH chairman. In September 2007, Leach took a year's leave of absence from Princeton to serve as interim director of the Institute of Politics and lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Leach graduated from Princeton University, received a Master of Arts degree in Soviet politics from the School of Advanced International Studies at The John Hopkins University, and did additional graduate studies at the London School of Economics.

    Lepore and LeachJill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her most recent book, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (Knopf, 2005), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History; winner of the New York City Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Award; and an ALA Notable Book. She is also the author of A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States (Knopf, 2002); Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press, 1999); and The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (Knopf, 1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, and the Berkshire Prize. She is also co-author with Jane Kamensky of the novel, Blindspot (Spiegel and Grau, 2008).


  • Thursday, April 15 - 7:30 p.m.
    "Empire of Liberty"
    by Gordon S. Wood

    Empire of LibertyPulitzer-prize-winning historian Gordon Wood will discuss his latest book Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford University Press, 2009). This book covers the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812, a time marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life. The founders of the nation had high hopes for the future of the nation but few of their dreams worked quite as they expected. They hated political parties but parties nonetheless emerged along with a vibrant and raucous popular democracy dominated by the "middling sorts" composed of merchants, artisans, and entrepreneurs with a fierce belief in equality. While many of the founders hoped to eventually abolish slavery by 1815 the institution was stronger than ever and starting to expand westward. These are just a few of the themes that Professor Wood explores as he describes this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.

    Empire of LibertyGordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor Emeritus at Brown University. His 1969 book, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes and was nominated for the National Book Award. His 1992 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Emerson Prize. His other works include The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin and The Purposes of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. Dr. Wood contributes regularly to The New Republic and The New York Review of Books.


  • Thursday, April 22 - 7:30 p.m.
    "Researching and Writing African American Biography: The Life of William Wells Brown"
    by Ezra Greenspan

    William Wells Brown: A Reader

    This illustrated talk combines two stories: a narrative of the life of the most prolific and pioneering African American writer of the nineteenth century, and an account of a biographer's journey to present that life to a twenty-first-century public.

    Brown personified the American Dream. Born into slavery and locked into illiteracy until his escape at age 19, he became an internationally renowned antislavery activist-writer who resided and traveled widely across the northern United States and the British Isles. Over the course of a life devoted to personal and collective reform, he wrote a series of remarkable books that includes the first African American novel, the first printed African American play, the first African American travelog, the first African American panorama displayed in Britain, and the first history of African American military service in the Civil War. This talk will present this remarkable life story via an account of a year-long, ongoing research journey to retrace the course of Brown's life and gather material for a comprehensive biography.

    Ezra Greenspan is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Chair in Humanities and professor of English at Southern Methodist University. He is a literary and cultural historian who studies the history of print culture in its various manifestations in the United States. Dr. Greenspan is interested, in particular, in the central activities (such as writing, reading, printing, and publishing) and institutions (such as libraries, bookstores, and schools) of American print culture. Among his many publications are: George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher
    (Penn State Press, 2000), Walt Whitman's Song of Myself: A Sourcebook and Critical Edition (Routledge Press, 2004), William Wells Brown: A Reader
    (University of Georgia Press, 2008) and Walt Whitman and the American Reader (Cambridge University Press, 1990). He is the co-editor of the journal
    Book History the annual journal of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, Inc. (SHARP). Book History
    is devoted to every aspect of the history of the book, broadly defined as the history of the creation, dissemination, and the reception of script and print. Currently Professor Greenspan is in residence at the American Antiquarian Society as the Mellon Distinguished Scholar where he is working on a comprehensive literary and cultural biography of William Wells Brown.

  • Tuesday, May 4 - 7:30 p.m.
    "New England's Other Witch Hunt: John Winthrop, Jr. and the Hartford Witch Hunt of the 1660s"
    by Walter W. Woodward

    John WinthropIn the years before Salem, Connecticut, not Massachusetts, was New England's most zealous prosecutor of witchcraft. Not only did Connecticut conduct the first witch hanging in New England, it executed each of the first seven persons indicted for that crime. This talk focuses on John Winthrop, Jr. and the Hartford Witch hunt of the 1660s, showing how this alchemist, physician, political leader, and authority on the occult intervened to transform Connecticut from New England's fiercest witch hunter into a colony that ended executions permanently a generation before Salem. This talk is based upon the new book Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchehemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

    Walter W. Woodward is the Connecticut State Historian and an assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut. He has published widely on Early America, the Atlantic World, and Connecticut history.


  • Tuesday, May 18 - 7:30 p.m.

    "'A very radical proposition': Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Meanings of the Vote"
    by Lori D. Ginzberg

    Elizabeth Cady StantonBrilliant, self-righteous, charismatic, intimidating, and charming, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the founding philosopher of the American movement for woman's rights. To many she was a dangerous radical, whose words threatened men's exclusive control over politics, the stability of marriage, and the sanctity of religion. In advocating women's right to vote at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848, she expressed the radical possibilities of American liberalism; at the same time, in her refusal to examine closely the racist and elitist implications of some of her most deeply held beliefs, she exposed the limitations of the feminism she would help make part of the very air we breathe. Lori Ginzberg, author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009), will explore some of these implications for our understanding of the vote, of individualism, and of Stanton herself.

    Lori D. Ginzberg is professor of history and women's studies at Penn State University with a longstanding interest in the intellectual and political history of American women. She is the author of several books, including Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the 19th-century United States (Yale, 1990) and Untidy Origins: A Story of Woman's Rights in Antebellum New York (UNC, 2005).

    Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Worcester Chapter and the Worcester Women's History Project

    League of Women Voters LogoWorcester Women's History Project



  • Thursday, June 3 - 7:30 p.m.
    "A Rumor that Almost Sparked a Revolution in 1774"
    by T.H. Breen

    American Insurgents, American Patriots
    This presentation explores the complex relation between the members of the First Continental Congress and the insurgents of New England. It argues that at a key moment almost two years before the Declaration of Independence the people were prepared to resist Great Britain, with arms if necessary. The lecture is drawn from T.H. Breen's new book American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010).

    T.H. Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of History at Northwestern University. He is the author of several works of history including Tobacco Culture: the Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of Revolution (Princeton University Press, 2001) and Imagining the Past: East Hampton Histories (winner of the Historical Preservation Book Prize) and Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (Oxford University Press, 2004) Additionally, Professor Breen has written for The New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, and The New York Times Book Review.


  • Thursday, September 16 - 7:30 p.m.
    Last Stand at the Little Bighorn: A Centennial Catastrophe

    by Nathaniel Philbrick

    The Last StandThe news of Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn reached the East Coast just as the nation was celebrating the centennial of its birth. In this lecture based on his latest book The Last Stand (2010), bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick details how this news affected our national identity and how the epic battle in Montana was a defeat for Sitting Bull and his people, as well as George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry.

    Photo by Mike HillNathaniel Philbrick is the author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (2006), which was a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award and won the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction. Philbrick is also the author of the acclaimed international bestseller In the Heart of the Sea (2000), which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. Among the other books he has written are Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition, 1838-42 (2006); Revenge of the Whale (2002), an account of the Essex disaster for young readers; and The Mayflower and the Pilgrims: New World: The Story of Plymouth Colony for Young Readers (2008). He is founding director of the Egan Maritime Institute on Nantucket Island and a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association. A champion sailboat racer, he has also written extensively about sailing.



  • Tuesday, September 28 - 7:30 p.m.
    Discovering the Great Divorce

    by Ilyon Woo

    The Great Divorce
    In 1814, Eunice Chapman's estranged husband stole away her three children and took them to live among the Shakers. At a time when wives and mothers had few rights to speak of, Eunice Chapman waged a colossal campaign for her children's return, lobbying the New York legislature year after year, courting politicians, penning thrilling narratives about Shaker captivity, and finally rallying a mob to bring her children home. In the process she drew the attention of such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren and won unprecedented rights as a wife and mother. Drawing on her newly published book The Great Divorce, Ilyon Woo will discuss this sensational story and the key historical evidence she found at AAS.

    Ilyon Woo holds a B.A. in the Humanities from Yale College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She conducted research for The Great Divorce at AAS in 2004-2005 as a Kate B. and Hall J. Peterson Fellow.

    This program is co-sponsored by Fruitlands Museum, which is holding a companion program on Friday, September 24, consisting of dramatic readings of historical texts used in this book.


  • Tuesday, October 12 - 7:30 p.m.
    Betsy Ross: The Life behind the Legend

    by Marla R. Miller

    Betsy Ross
    Legend has it that Betsy Ross created the first American flag. The truth is far less certain and far more interesting. In this program Marla Miller, author of the recently published Betsy Ross and the Making of America, describes how she came to research and write the first scholarly biography of Ross. The story she uncovers is a richly textured study of Ross's long and remarkable life, which included three marriages, seven children, and a successful career as a seamstress and upholsterer. The book also examines the world of Philadelphia artisans and provides new insights into the world of middle-class crafts people, women, and work during the tumultuous years of our nation's founding.

    Marla R. Miller is an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is director of the public history program there. She has won the Organization of American Historians' Lerner-Scott Prize for the Best Dissertation in Women's History and the Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Colonial History. Her first book, The Needle's Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution (2006), won the Costume Society of America.s Millia Davenport Publication Award for the best book in the field for that year.



  • Thursday, October 21 - 7:30 p.m.
    Reflections on A Midwife's Tale

    by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    The Seventh Annual Robert C. Baron Lecture

    A Midwife's Tale
    The book A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 quickly became a model of social history when it was published in 1990. The book examines the life of one Maine midwife and provides a vivid examination of ordinary life in the early American republic, including the role of women in the household and local market economy, the nature of marriage, sexual relations, family life, aspects of medical practice, and the prevalence of crime and violence. The book won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Bancroft Prize. A Midwife's Tale was also developed into a film of the same name which aired on The American Experience television program. In this lecture Professor Ulrich reflects upon some of the scholarly, popular, and political responses to the book and considers its impact on her own more recent work.

    This lecture is part of the Antiquarian Society's annual meeting, and it is anticipated that this will be a well-attended event by both the general public and AAS members alike. Unfortunately, our seating is limited. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., so please plan accordingly.

    Laurel Ulrich

    Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University, where she
    teaches in the History Department. She is also the author of Good Wives: Image and Reality in
    the Lives of Women in Early New England, 1650-1750
    (1982); The Age of Homespun: Objects and
    Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
    (2001); and Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007).

    Named in honor of Robert C. Baron, past AAS chairman and president of Fulcrum Publishing, the annual Baron Lecture asks distinguished AAS members who have written seminal works of history to reflect on one book and the impact it has had on scholarship and society in the years since its first appearance.



  • Tuesday, November 9 - 7:30 p.m.
    John Peter Zenger and His Brief Narrative

    by Paul Finkelman

    A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger
    Published in 1736, A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger is one of the most significant publications of colonial America and represents a major turning point in the history of freedom of the press and in the political development of colonial America and the early republic. John Peter Zenger was the first colonial publisher acquitted on a charge of libeling the governor. Zenger later published his own narrative of the trial, which became the most widely read American publication before the Revolution. This talk, based on a new edition of the Zenger narrative edited by Professor Finkelman, will explain this landmark legal case and show how it affected later developments, including the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

    Paul Finkelman is the President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy and Senior Fellow in the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. His many books include Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court (2008) and A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States (2002), which he co-authored; The Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (2006) and The Encyclopedia of the New American Nation (2006), which he edited; and Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (2001). Finkelman has also published numerous scholarly articles on American legal history and civil rights, and he lectures frequently on these subjects.



  • Tuesday, November 16 - 7:30 p.m.
    Random Notes from a Book History Bureaucrat

    by John B. Hench
    Twenty-seventh Annual James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture

    John Hench
    This talk by John B. Hench, retired vice president for collections and programs at AAS, will combine elements of memoir, reflections on the development and influence of the Society's Program in the History of the Book in American Culture, and notes on some of the themes in his recent scholarship on publishing in the World War II era.

    John B. Hench worked at AAS for 33 years beginning as editor of publications in 1973. He is the author of Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II (2010). Additionally, he co-edited The Press and the American Revolution (1981) and Printing and Society in Early America (1983).

    The Wiggins Lecture is named for James Russell Wiggins (1903-2000), chairman of the Society from 1970 to 1977. He was editor of the Washington Post and, until his death at the age of 96, editor of the Ellsworth (Maine) American. Wiggins also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1968.

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