Date of Award

5-3-2018

Degree Type

Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Meredith Roman

First Reader

James Spiller

Second Reader

John Daly

Abstract

Every nation and civilization has a central founding narrative that is ingrained in its history. In Ancient Rome, the story of Romulus and Remus was central to Roman identity and culture. The same can be said for the United States, where the American War of Independence (1775-1781) featured thirteen culturally different North American colonies who miraculously banded together to seek independence from the then largest colonial superpower in Imperial History. The American Colonies cast a bold —and potentially dangerous —stone into the waters of Imperial History when, in April of 1775, the first shots of Independence were fired the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. Famous essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson would later observe this event with poetic grace, and rightly title the events on April 19, 1775 as the “Shot[s] Heard Around the World.” Colonists sought independence from Great Britain not just for the sake of individual liberty. As many modern historians have suggested, the reasons for such a miraculous spark of rebellion were multi-faceted and complex. These revolutionary events were triggered by changes in economics, a varying social atmosphere, and political landscapes heavily influenced by Enlightenment thought, and the events that transpired from 1775-1781 were filled with unique players on an ever-changing stage. Popular memory of the American Revolution is often framed with images of powdered wigs, buckled shoes, and musket fire. Many may recall famous figures like George Washington, the General of the American Continental Army and the nation’s first president; Benjamin Franklin, the witty philosopher, inventor, and diplomat; and — thanks to a blockbuster Broadway show — Alexander Hamilton. Others may recall historically significant documents like the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine’s iconic pamphlet Common Sense. However, the cherished popular founding narrative of America overlooks the contributions of women; this exhibition intends to highlight these perspectives. Furthermore, the mission of this virtual exhibition at the Museum of Revolutionary Women (MRW) is to bring the historical investigations of contemporary historians into the realm of public history, or what the National Council on Public History defines as “the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world.” While there is a significant amount of new academic research, there has been little done in the realm of public history to bridge these new findings. New research and cross-discipline methodologies — especially from anthropology and gender studies — are shedding light on the historical accounts of marginalized groups and those often left out of the historical narrative. Moreover, eighteenth century women — including Anglo-Saxon, African American, and Native American — actively participated in and commented on the changing world around them in the context of the American Revolution by spreading revolutionary ideology; preserving their values as cultural leaders; engaging in economic boycotts, political discourse, and espionage; and supporting the Continental Army. Above all, this exhibition is an attempt to showcase the participation and choices — or what historians and sociologists call agency — of women in eighteenth century Colonial America. Women were not static background players on the grand stage of history; rather, they were major — if not central — figures whom uniquely contributed to our founding. The effort here is not to realign the historical gaze of early American history away from the founders, major battles, or any other prominently analyzed feature of the Revolution. The MRW seeks to broaden viewer’s perspectives and add to existing knowledge with the hopes of creating a more full and enriched picture of America’s founding.

Comments

This MA Capstone is divided into two parts: 1.) A Virtual Exhibition Tour created via Google Slides, and 2.) A Detailed Companion Catalog. You may view the virtual exhibit here.

The Museum's Companion Catalog is meant to reflect the exhibition by providing additional detail, research, and clickable images and links for further reading and investigation.

MA Companion Catalog FINAL.pdf (30129 kB)
Museum's Companion Catalog

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