Blondie, MassMoCA, the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace, Shaker Museums, Dogs, and the Impossibility of Failure – Part 2
Detail from a hand quilted replica of a quilt made by Susan B. Anthony at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Musuem.(If you have not read "Part 1," and want to, please just scroll back to the post immediately prior to this one.) We left off on the last post with my husband, Bill, and I out in Western Massachusetts having been to a Blondie concert, MassMoCA and the Museum of Dog. I've saved the historical sites for this part of the story. As many of you know, I have been involved at some level with the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community for quite a few years. I have volunteered on work days, taught rug hooking, and demonstrated the craft for Open Farm Day and Harvest Festival there. I have unabashedly fallen in love with the place, so aptly known as "Chosen Land" to the Shakers, and with the people there. Along with a truly dedicated staff and team of volunteers, for whom the work is clearly deeply meaningful, there are the living Shakers themselves, Brother Arnold and Sister June. For them, Sabbathday Lake is home, and because of them, it is a sacred place that can not be, and I do not believe will ever be, considered wholly a museum. In spite of my involvement with Sabbathday Lake and my interest in Shaker history, I had never been to any of the Shaker museums that are just a day's drive or less from home. It was at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace, in Adams, that the very kind and capable staff recommended a visit to the Hancock Shaker Village, only about thirty minutes from there. But first, let's talk about the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum. The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum is extremely well done in every possible way. I would highly recommend you click on the link and thoroughly explore their website and then make plans to visit. Upon entering the gift shop, where you must purchase your tickets before going in to the homestead, you will be greeted by knowledgeable and friendly staff members who have a clear enthusiasm for the museum and its history. You will have the choice of having a docent give you a guided tour, using an electronic audio/visual tour device, or simply going through the home in a self guided way, reading the plentiful and detailed exhibit descriptions in every room. My husband chose the A/V tour and I chose to just walk through the museum on my own. This museum is so professionally and engagingly arranged and annotated that I was taking mental notes on how this example might inform decisions for our own historical society back home. Every aspect of Susan B. Anthony's remarkable life is covered, from her family of origin, to her early life and career as a teacher, to her work in the temperance, abolitionist, and of course, women's' suffrage movement. All of this history and context comes very much alive with the extraordinary collection of artifacts, documents, and ephemera belonging to her and/or her life story. I think my favorite artifact in the museum (a photo is in the slide show below) is the plaster cast made of her clasping hands with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I felt goosebumps as I looked at this incredible object. And, being a fiber/textile geek, I was also very interested in the completely hand-quilted replica of a quilt that Susan had made as a young person. Additionally, there are antique woven coverlets, linens, dresses, and the tools of carding and spinning in the home. It is beyond the scope of this post to tell the entire story, but again, the museum website is extremely thorough, much like the museum, so click on over to that for so much more information, including on the restoration of the home itself. Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, fourteen years before women were finally given the vote in the United States. It is unfortunate that she did not live to see the final fulfillment of that dream, but she left behind millions of grateful women, including those of us who were not yet born. My grandmother was three years old in 1906 and seventeen years old before women had the vote. I have thought about that often, that my own grandmother was born in a time when she might never have expected to vote. It means that we have not had this privilege in America for very long. Let us never fail to exercise it. Susan B. Anthony may have been certain that eventually her work would win the day, even if she wouldn't live to see it. She is quoted as saying, "Failure is impossible." The gift shop at her birthplace has silver toned bracelets with these words in them, and I couldn't leave without one. Here are the photos I took, with permission, which do not begin to do justice to the museum.
"The Shakers at Mount Lebanon led the largest and most successful utopian communal society in America for 160 years, from 1787 to 1947.From this central community developed the Shakers’ ideals of equality of labor, gender, and race, as well as communal property, freedom, and pacifism. From Mount Lebanon also grew the now famous Shaker aesthetic of simplicity, expressed in their objects, furniture, buildings, and village planning.
With over 6,000 acres and 100 buildings, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village was a driving force in the agricultural, industrial, commercial, and institutional activities of its day. The Village was divided into smaller "Family" groups (Church, Second, Center, North, East, South, and so on.), each with its own leadership, members, and commercial activities. As the Shaker community declined in population in the early 20th century, the site was gradually sold to various private owners, including the Darrow School, which still inhabits Mount Lebanon’s Church and Center Families, and the Abode of the Message which inhabits the South Family's buildings.
- Parris House Wool Works