History senior Melissa Zablonski conducted her research on the Revolutionary War pensions for widows under direction of Professor Barbara Tucker. Melissa’s paper entitled “The Pension Widow: Defining the Criteria for Women in the Revolutionary War Pension Process” has been recently accepted to the program of the conference organized annually by the International Journal of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. According to the abstract, Melissa’s project “examines whether or not proper guidelines were followed for the granting of Revolutionary War pensions to widows. Pension applications, probate files, town documents, politician correspondences, and service records are among the sources used to identify the characteristics that differentiate those widows whose pension claims were accepted from those whose were rejected. Most significant are the records and proceedings of the period’s most prestigious social societies, including the Freemasons and the Society of the Cincinnati. Conclusions made from the analysis of these primary sources suggest that need and the accomplishments of her husband’s service were not always the most significant criteria in the selection process. The social status of the widow, her family, and her acquaintances – i.e. their membership in organizations such as the Freemasons or Society of the Cincinnati – strongly influenced whether or not her claim was accepted. Equally strong were her ties to education and prestigious colleges. However, for a woman without social ties, acceptance was unpredictable. A widow who met the criteria of the pension laws was often rejected if these unofficial, social criteria were unmet. This evidence suggests that the fears evinced by the original government officials, including fraud and favoritism, had merit.”
Professor Ann Higginbotham, who will be retiring on January 1, 2015, has been teaching at Eastern since 1985. She has served as the chair of the Department of History (previously History, Political Science, Philosophy, and Geography); served in various capacities in the Eastern’s chapter of AAUP as well as in its national structures; served on and led countless university committees; was an active member of the Eastern’s Senate; and mentored new faculty members. Most importantly, Dr. Higginbotham was always devoted to Eastern’s students, providing them with exceptional education and individualized attention, and motivating them to do better and reach higher.
A reception for Dr. Higginbotham will take place on Friday, January 16, 2015, at 3 – 6 pm, in Science 301.
On November 18, 2014, the Department of History celebrated the 125th anniversary of Eastern with a luncheon event in Betty Tippton Room. The invited guests included President Nunez and Provost Free who both spoke about the significance of history and the accomplishments of the History faculty and students. Many History seniors and members of Phi Alpha Theta also attended. All attendees partook in an excellent Victorian lunch, and reviewed a brief history of our department researched by Professor Ann Higginbotham, and a gallery of achievements by history alumni, prepared by Professor Caitlin Carenen.
Professor Emeritus Emil Pocock provided an interesting slide show, which included postcards of historic Eastern Connecticut from his private collection. Professor David Frye introduced a special historical quiz; the coveted prize for the quiz winner was an authentic antique spool from the collection of the Windham Textile and History Museum. Professor Barbara Tucker presented a talk about Eastern’s past and present. But the most attractive part of the program was a humorous dramatic skit performed with gusto by the members of the History Club, advised by Professor Roland Clark, who treated the audience to their rendition of the murder of Julius Caesar. Professor Anna Kirchmann, Chair of the Department, thanked all those who contributed to the festivities.
History majors from HIS 400 seminar in American History toured the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic. The tour was led by the Museum’s Educator and local historian Beverly York. Among other things, the group had a chance to see the upcoming exhibit on the work clothing, which will soon be open to the public. Over the years many history majors held their internships at the museum, contributing greatly to a number of permanent exhibits there. Eastern’s History Club also volunteers at the museum.
On Saturday, October 18 seven members of the History Club travelled together with professors Roland Clark and Dominic DeBrincat to attend the fall conference of the New England Historical Association at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. As part of the conference Miles Wilkerson, an Eastern History major, presented a paper about the role of CIA-sponsored terrorism in restricting civil liberties in Castro’s Cuba. Dr. DeBrincat spoke about how the courts shaped Connecticut’s maritime economy during the colonial period. The History Club played an active part in conference discussions and spent the time relaxing, discussing important historical problems, and enjoying the region’s beautiful foliage this time of year.
On Saturday, September 27, the History Club travelled to Norwich for the annual Renaissance Faire, accompanied by professors Roland Clark and David Frye. Among other things, the fair featured jousting matches, weapons exhibitions, Shakespeare renditions, period singers, and a rat circus. Not to be outdone by the costumed performers, members of the club joined in the fun and some also came dressed in renaissance attire. It was a hot day but lots of fun was had by all.