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Theme of the Month

Women’s History Month 2016: “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government”

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"The Suffragists' Calendar, a Year-Book for Every Thinking Woman," P.F. Vollard & Co., 1916. From the the Gertrude Weil Papers, State Archives of North Carolina. Online at NC Digital Collections.

“The Suffragists’ Calendar, a Year-Book for Every Thinking Woman,” P.F. Vollard & Co., 1916. From the the Gertrude Weil Papers, State Archives of North Carolina. Online at NC Digital Collections.

March is Women’s History Month!  And the selection of March for the commemoration is no co-incidence.  On March 8, 1908 amidst a police presence, female garment workers took to the streets of New York City to commemorate the march of their needle-worker forebears on March 8, 1857.  Both marches demanded better working conditions, shorter days, and equal rights.  The 1908 march also demanded the vote.

The following year, 1909, the Socialist Party was in full-swing advocating the cause of women, and the first National Women’s Day in the U.S. was designated by the Socialist Party of America to remember the march of the prior year.  By 1911, as an outgrowth of the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen the year before, International Women’s Day was celebrated on the last Sunday in February for the first time in a number of European countries.  In 1913, March 8 became firmly established as the annual celebration of International Women’s Day.  Sixty years later, the United Nations would designate 1975 as the International Women’s Year.

Although these events were celebrated in the U.S. with increasing advocacy for equality and the illumination of women’s history, it was not until 1981 that Congress authorized the president to proclaim the week of March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.”  The year before, President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation marking the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.  From then until 1987, Congress passed annual resolutions marking the week each year until a petition in 1987 by the National Women’s History Project succeeded in securing Congressional approval for March as National Women’s History Month.  All presidents since have issued proclamations for Women’s History Month in March.

This year’s theme for the national celebration — “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government” — is opportunity to share the extraordinary work of North Carolina’s women in the history of the women’s movement and in working to improve the lives of others. Throughout the month, we’ll share biographies, images, historical collections, and books that help tell these stories.

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Celebrating African American History Month: New NCpedia biographies

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Celebrating African American History Month: new NCpedia biographies

 February is African American History Month and this year’s theme for the national observance is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories”.

Photo of Willie Otey (Willie Kay), ca. 1910, by Manly W. Tyree. Copy courtesy of Ralph Campbell, Jr. Item N_93_9_66, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina.

Photo of Willie Otey (Willie Kay), ca. 1910, by Manly W. Tyree. Copy courtesy of Ralph Campbell, Jr. Item N_93_9_66, collection of the State Archives of North Carolina.

This week NCpedia added two new resources that share two memories for African American history in North Carolina.  These stories are available thanks to collaboration with North Carolina curators and librarians.

Willie Otey Kay:  The first is a biographical essay on Willie Otey Kay — Raleigh dressmaker par excellence — written with Diana Bell-Kite, a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History who developed a new exhibit at the Museum, “Made Especially for You by Willie Kay”. If you haven’t visited the exhibit, do! It’s a wonderful window into the life and art of an amazing woman whose work transcended racially segregated society in Raleigh during the 20th century. Her life, work and legacy were featured in numerous publications, including McCall’s, Life, and the News & Observer. That legacy included both her enduring creations as well her descendents’ impact in the push for civil rights both locally in Raleigh and beyond.  The NCpedia article also includes images shared by the Museum of History and the State Archives of North Carolina.

 

Dr. C. B. Smith (left) and J.W. Mitchell, at the Negro 4-H Short Course at A & T College, Greensboro. From the "Annual Report of Agricultural Extension Work in North Carolina 1938." NCSU Libraries’ Digital Collections: Rare and Unique Materials.

Dr. C. B. Smith (left) and J.W. Mitchell, at the Negro 4-H Short Course at A & T College, Greensboro. From the “Annual Report of Agricultural Extension Work in North Carolina 1938.” NCSU Libraries’ Digital Collections: Rare and Unique Materials.

John W. Mitchell:  The second entry shares the life and work of John W. Mitchell, a “pioneering African American extension agent and educator who became one of the most well known Cooperative Extension agents in the nation.” Mitchell came to the state’s cooperative extension service in 1922 and became the head of the district office at A&T State University in an era when 4-H clubs and extension services were segregated, along with many aspects of life and opportunties for African Americans. He later went on to the U.S. Agricultural Extension Service and became one of the nation’s top agricultural experts.

This biography was contributed to NCpedia by James Stewart, a digital projects librarian at NC State University.  James works on projects in the “Better Living” collection at NCSU Libraries.  This is the first contribution to NCpedia from a new collaboration with NCSU Libraries!!

 

Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library

 

National Poetry Month: North Carolina’s Poets and a Celebrity Look-A-Like

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National Poetry Month:  North Carolina’s Poets and a Celebrity Look-A-Like

North Carolina Celebrity "Look-A-Like"

North Carolina Celebrity “Look-A-Like” Image credit (right image): Joella Marano, Wikimedia Commons

It’s National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate than with a little “poetic license”!

Most of us can likely guess who’s on the right. But the soulful portrait on the left is probably a little more obscure.  In NCpedia’s biographical entry, from UNC Press’s Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, North Carolina literary historian Richard Walser described the gent as “rather poetically careless of his appearance” and that his “contemporaries described him as a gentle man of an even disposition, joyous, considerate, companionable.”

The subject was John Charles McNeill, North Carolina poet, journalist, and lawyer, born in 1874 in then Richmond, now Scotland, County.  He attended Wake Forest College, graduating in 1898, and soon after hung up his shingle as a lawyer in Lumberton.  Although he would practice law in both Lumberton and Laurinburg, by the turn of the century he had begun to write poetry in earnest, publishing initially in the Lumberton Argus (where he had purchased an interest).  Not long after, he stopped practicing law to write full-time, signing on with the Charlotte Observer in 1904.  He was also elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1903, where, with a mind for temperance, he introduced bills to prohibit sale of alcohol and fireworks.

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Quilting in the Old North State: A New North Carolina History in NCpedia

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Quilting in the Old North State: A New North Carolina History in NCpedia

By Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library

This week, as we near the end of Women’s History Month and National Quilt Month, NCpedia published a seven-part history of quilting in North Carolina, with many, many thanks to Diana Bell-Kite, a curator at the North Carolina Museum of History, who took time to research, write, and share this history with us.  This contribution filled an important space in NCpedia’s coverage of the state’s history and it coincided, serendipitously, with the tapestry theme of Women’s History Month: Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Whether you’re interested in quilting or you want to learn more about material culture and social history from the 18th to the 21st century, please visit this content.  And we’ve added numerous images of quilts from the Museum’s collections.

Funeral Ribbon Quilt, Lee Co., NC, 1958

Funeral Ribbon Quilt, Lee Co., NC, 1958, from the NC Museum of History

First a little about National Quilt Day and Month. National Quilt Day appears to have grown out of an event called “Quilters’ Day Out”, originated by the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society and celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of March in 1989.  The National Quilting Association held its annual quilt show and conference in Lincoln, Nebraska a few years later in 1991 and decided to build on the enthusiasm and interest created by the Kentucky event, establishing National Quilt Day that year.  Somewhere along the line, National Quilt Month formed as a month-long celebration.  (If you know more about the origin of these events, please let us know!) (more…)

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