Category Archives: Women’s History

Can you please help us understand the value of this gift?

Our schools’ two piece high chest left; on the right high chest attributed to Eliphalet Chapin, East Windsor, Connecticut, 1771–1795

The class began wondering about the value of this antique gift that resides in our school’s beautiful Cone Lounge. (See more in our slides here.) Our athletes sign commitment letters to their future schools there. Other students have met there because they are part of clubs who have a special event there or perhaps they observed a special Passover Seder ritual feast there. One of the intriguing goals for the class was to find out more about this piece of antique furniture that stands between the two doors of Cone Lounge. Another dimension of our inquiry became the project to write about the social history fo our community asset that is in plain sight. Some call this hidden history; for project-based learning classes, this type of public history is an authentic way to spread the learning outside the classroom walls, and writing and sharing to our community will help students leave a more meaningful footprint of learning behind. In order to appreciate the value of these high chests in colonial culture, the class read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s “Furniture as Social History: Gender, Property, and Memory in the Decorative Arts.” We also enjoyed reading (great reading quiz scores) Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains; Chapters 4-5 animate the cultural context of such a high chest. Along with appreciating the value and roles these cultural artifacts played in colonial culture, the opening chapters also answered many great student questions. As we were coming to terms with researching colonial slavery and making new discoveries about the lives of slaves in our historic homes on main street, students pondered deeply the dynamic among slaves and slave owners. What was slavery really like here? How did New England owners keep slaves from running away? What were the conditions of indentured servants? Imagining the fears associated with running away in colonial times did help us imagine a world of colonial paths which when we stripped away highways, railroads, and canals, only had wagon ruts and horse traffic added to the distinctions that served when they were Native American trails. We read chapters in the seminal text for Connecticut History, Complicity, and learned about the violence whims the owners of Venture Smith and his wife’s owners had on their lives. Now as we prepare for our upcoming community presentation on April 23rd, we want to learn who made this piece of furniture and try to explain the context in which Dorothy Fuller Bissell (class of 1916) made this gift. Can you please help? Feel comfortable connecting with us on the class Twitter account: https://twitter.com/caisct_pbl or just by commenting on this post. Thanks!

Reverend Calvin Philleo: Suffield Resident, Family Man, and Born Abolitionist

After being informed that there was a dark chapter to the life of Calvin Wheeler Philleo that we had missed, we pressed on with our research and found three possible books of interest that could illuminate the lives of Prudence Crandall and her husband Calvin.

(1) The Fillow, Philo and Philleo genealogy. A record of the descendants of John Fillow, a Huguenot refugee from France

The excerpt below contains information about Rev. Calvin Philleo the Husband of Prudence Crandall. It gives us insight into his family, origins, and a brief snapshot of his life.


The excerpt below contains the vital information concerning Rev. Calvin Philleo’s only son, Calvin Wheeler Philleo. Calvin Wheeler is of Rev. Calvin’s first marriage to Elizabeth Wheeler, and not the child of Prudence Crandall. From the third book, we examine (below) the marriage between Rev. Calvin and Prudence Crandall resulted from Calvin’s wish for a mother to his three children from the previous marriage (many of Prudence Crandall’s friends and William Lloyd Garrison disapproved of the union between the Reverend and Prudence)**See Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

Link to book by Van Hoosear, D. H. (David Hermon), b. 1844


A record of the marriage between Calvin Wheeler and Elizabeth. P. Norton which we extracted from the Town of Suffield’s public archives.

Suffield, November Seventh, Eighteen Hundred and Forty Nine.  Calvin W. Philleo and Elizabeth P Norton…officially joined in Marriage by me.  [name]…Minister of the Gospel


We are beginning to construct a family tree of the descendants of Rev. Calvin Philleo based upon the records we have at our disposal.

(2) Calvin’s Own Writing

While diving deeper into the life’s work of Rev. Calvin Philleo we discovered that his son, Calvin Wheeler, also was an excellent public speaker and an author. “He commenced a serial entitled ‘Akin by Marriage’ and “Twice Married: A story of Connecticut Life” (Hoosear, 114). Hopefully, within these writings, we can find more details about the life of his father, and his father’s second wife, Prudence. Pictured below is the cover as the book is published!

ISBN 13: 9781363631391

As of today [2/23/19], we have not yet managed to secure our own copy of this book for our research but we will update this segment with a synopsis and takeaways when we do.


(3) Prudence Crandall’s Legacy

ISBN-13: 978-0819576460

Prudence Crandall’s Legacy, written by Donald E. Williams, is a work that we, in our American Studies class, have become well versed in. It documents the life of Prudence Crandall, her struggles and successes, but it also provides a unique perspective on the relationship and influence between Crandall and her husband Calvin.

Takeaways:

The following are takeaways and important quotes taken from our in-class collaboration regarding the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:

  • “She was in name Prudence Philleo, but in every other respect she lived as Prudence Crandall, making her own decisions and earning her own keep” (Williams, 237)
  • “Education offered the potential for opportunity, self-sufficiency, even freedom, especially for women, blacks, and the poor. Crandall discovered, however, that educating the oppressed involved risk and clashed with deep-rooted traditions in American society.” (Williams, 1)
  • “More important, Garrison finally saw the school in action; students were learning their lessons assisted by devoted teachers such as William Burleigh, Prudence, and Almira. To see the realization of Crandall’s efforts- a true working school for young black women- and to know it existed in part because of his work with Crandall and his advocacy in the Liberator was deeply moving for Garrison.” (Williams, 150)

From the Seneca Baptist Association, our class has uncovered documents about some of the Rev. Philleo’s accomplishments in Suffield:

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Driving Questions:

What were the emotional dimensions to the marriage of Prudence Crandall and Rev. Philleo?

  • We know a large part of their marriage agreement was that Rev. Philleo needed a mother for his three kids. Was this the only reason they married or was there more to their marriage?
  • We also know from the book Prudence Crandall’s Legacy that many of her friends and William Lloyd Garrison did not approve of their relationship. Did anybody support their marriage? Other friends? Family members?

Prudence Crandall is the primary educator of Sarah Harris at the school she sets up, has the historical record forgotten her legacy as a teacher? 

  • Has her legacy as an educator become clouded by her high profile court cases and her relationship troubles?
  • Is the fact that Sarah Harris desired to one day be an educator the only reason Prudence taught her?
  • Why did Prudence persevere with her school after all the public backlash she faced?

What did the Rev. Calvin’s son address the town of Suffield about in 1856? 

  • We know this was a big election year, could his address possibly have anything to do with this?

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Interview Planning and Oral History Methods

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Interview Planning

In the future to help create history and gain more insight into women’s history and Suffield history, I would like to interview Elaine Sarsynski and keep a record of our interview. I have made a list of questions which I will double check with Mr. Yuan again to make sure they are all ok. I plan on asking her about many questions related Suffield, Women’s history, and maybe a bit of her personal life to shed some further detail on the whole topic. I will make a detailed list of questions and go through them with Mr. Sullivan, the class, and Mr. Yuan before the interview. The main question that I want to answer is what hardships did she encounter on her journey to the top. First, I want to know what hardships she faced because she was a woman when she was young, and in high school and college. Then I want to know if it was harder for her to make her way in the workforce because she was a woman. Then if being a mother complicated her career path more. Then, I want to know why she made the decision to leave the corporate life to make her attempt at politics, did this have anything to do with promoting women’s rights? When she was running for First Selectwoman, what challenges did she face. What challenges did she face just because she was a woman? After winning the position of First Selectperson, what initiatives did she implement were any of them aimed at promoting women’s rights? Are the political parties in local politics much different than the political parties in national politics?

Oral History Methods

Oral history is not folklore, gossip, hearsay, or rumor. Oral historians attempt to verify their findings, analyze them, and place them in an accurate historical context.

Process:

  1. Formulate a central question or issue.
  2. Plan the project. Consider such things as end products, budget, publicity, evaluation, personnel, equipment, and time frames.
  3. Conduct background research.
  4. Prepare questions for interviews
  5. Review questions with classmates and teacher
  6. Interview.
  7. Process interviews.
  8. Evaluate research and interviews and cycle back to
    step 1 or go on to step 7.
  9. Organize and present results.
  10. Store materials archivally.

History of Women’s Athletics

women

When searching the archives for information on women in sports at Suffield Academy, I came across a 1974 issue of The Bell. Dennis Kinne, the athletic director at the time, reached out to the female students, offering them opportunities to participate in male teams such as track & field and cross country.  This is very interesting, especially when comparing this historical moment to Suffield Academy’s athletics today. With women very integrated in our culture today, both athletically and academically. I am interested in finding out more about how women integrated into the athletic aspects of life at Suffield Academy. There must have been certain issues and challenges that Suffield Academy had to overcome involving athletic integration that would be very cool to discover and bring to light. Researching this topic will also bring to light the issues of gender equality present during the 1970’s, and I am very interested in comparing that to Suffield today. Another aspect of Suffield Academy’s history that I am interested in learning about is title IX and how it affected the athletics teams. Did Suffield lose any teams or gain any teams after title IX was enacted? This is an aspect I am hoping to learn about along with co-educational teams becoming competitive on campus.

Successful Suffield Woman

Elaine Sarsynski featured in an article from Workingmother.com

https://www.workingmother.com/profile/elaine-sarsynski

What challenges do women in Suffield have to overcome in order to be successful in business and politics? Elaine Sarsynski lives in Suffield and is a successful businesswoman. She is also the mother of three Suffield Academy graduates, one of them is our current Chinese teacher. Mrs.Sarsynski earned her MBA in accounting and finance from Columbia University. She was one of the top executives at the Aetna insurance company, where she was vice president of real estate investments. Mrs.Sarsynski has earned top positions and board seats at many multinational corporations. She is one of the top consultants in her field. Mrs.Sarsynski was elected to be the first ever women selectperson in Suffield town history, she must have overcome big challenges to do that. how did she pave the way for other women interested in politics and business, has the position become more diverse since she left? Have other women been elected selectperson since she left office?

Women’s Rights Movements in Connecticut

For our project-based learning topic of women’s history, I would like to research about women’s right to vote specifically within Connecticut. I would investigate how this process morphed and changed overtime and how people adapted to this change. I would specifically like to compare Connecticut’s women’s rights movement to other parts of the country. I would compare its progress within the movement and overall impact on the passing of the 19th amendment and see if this movement was just as strong as the women’s movements in New York and other large and populated states. I would also include the states reaction to the 19th amendment and whether the men of this state were accepting of this change.

Source: https://ctstatelibrary.org/RG101.html

Photo Source: https://connecticuthistory.org/19th-amendment-the-fight-over-woman-suffrage-in-connecticut/

Driving Question: From my research, so far, I have learned about the CWSA or the Connecticut Women’s Suffrage Association. Were there any women in Suffield apart of this association?

Skills Required: Research skills, Networking skills, Organization skills / Statistical analysis.

Image from CT History Blog

Connecticut Women’s Organizations

Many people have heard of the big international women’s groups like the National Organization for Women. I would like to investigate women’s organizations here in Connecticut. Through my preliminary research I have come upon local chapters of the big women’s organizations. I want to know who started them and if anyone of interest joined any of these organizations. The organizations I would like to look into are: Daughters of the American Revolution, The Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, Connecticut Branch of the Housewives League, and Connecticut Women Suffrage Association.

 

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Newspaper article from the Hartford Courant talking about the different Woman’s Organizations meeting and the different women who head them up.

 

Driving Question:

How much did women organizations do to improve the life and rights of women?

Skills Required:

Researching and precise reading of sources.

Source:

“WOMAN ORGANIZE DEFENSE COMMITTEE.” The Hartford Courant (1887-1922), Jun 02, 1917, pp. 8. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/556481481?accountid=46995.