This Week @MHS

Our winter programming is in full swing this week with three evening programs, a brown-bag lunch, and a Saturday tour. Here is a look at what is planned:

On Tuesday, 14 January, at 5:15 PM: “Wealth and Beauty in Trees”: State Forestry & the Rehabilitation of Massachusetts’s Economy, Landscape, & Culture, 1898-1919 with Aaron Ahlstrom, Boston University, and comment by Brian Donahue, Brandeis University. Massachusetts currently stewards 311,000 acres of state forests and parks. This public land system originated in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century efforts to strengthen the Commonwealth’s economy, rehabilitate its unproductive landscapes, and revitalize its rural communities through scientific forestry. This paper offers new perspectives on Progressive Era conservation by analyzing how state foresters sought to improve rural landscapes’ profitability and aesthetics by educating private woodlot owners, suppressing forest fires and pests, and reforesting newly-acquired public lands. This is part of the Boston Seminar on Environmental History series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 15 January, at 12:00 PM: Career Activists: Women’s Organization & Social Reform in New England, 1830-1890 with Kathryn Angelica, University of Connecticut. This talk looks at the evolution of women’s organizations throughout the nineteenth century in New England, focusing on “career activists.” These women negotiated between public and private spheres while leading lives defined by their activism. The project examines the political implications of social reform and questions both the narrative of the two-dimensional benevolent woman and that of sporadic, passion-fueled benevolence. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 15 January, at 6:00 PM: Deborah Sampson: A Revolution of Her Own! with Judith Kalaora, founder of History at Play. Deborah Sampson was the first woman to fight in and be honorably discharged from the American Military. An indentured servant by age five, Sampson grew up in a man’s world, where women were naught but second-class citizens. As a self-educated master-less woman, she felt a higher calling, and in the final years of the American Revolution, Sampson bound her chest, tied back her hair, and enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army, as “Robert Shurtlieff.” Judith Kalaora reimagines Sampson’s remarkable story through living history performance. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members, EBT or ConnectorCare cardholders and Boston Public School students).

On Thursday, 16 January, at 5:15 PM: “Increasing her Stock”: Two Harriets and the Louisiana Borderlands with Rashauna Johnson, Dartmouth College, and comment by Jen Manion, Amherst College. This paper uses the sexual biographies of two enslaved women, both named Harriet, in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes to explore the workings of intimacy and empire in the plantation South during its transition from borderlands to hub of King Cotton. This is part of the Boston Seminar on African American History series. Seminars are free and open to the public. 

On Saturday, 18 January, at 10:00 AM: The History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

Abigail Adams: Life & Legacy Pop-Up Display
Abigail Adams urged her husband to “Remember the Ladies” and made herself impossible to forget. But Abigail is memorable for more than her famous 1776 admonition. This final Remember Abigail display uses documents and artifacts through the ages to consider the way Abigail viewed her own legacy and to explore how and why we continue to Remember Abigail.

Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre
On the evening of March 5, 1770, soldiers occupying the town of Boston shot into a crowd, killing or fatally wounding five civilians. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston  Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women—Fire! Voice from the Boston Massacre explores how this flashpoint changed American history. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.