Author Archives: cheveriea


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.”

Congratulations, Melissa!

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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.

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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.

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Eastern’s History Club held their biannual Trivia Night competition on Thursday, November 13. As usual, the event was a great success.

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Member of Eastern’s History Club painted the rock outside the Facilities Building this week in preparation for their Trivia Night and History Day celebrations next week.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After all the time I had spent sitting in various history classes talking about people, events, and ideas from places I had never seen, I wanted a chance to experience all these places first hand. Last spring semester, I studied abroad in Paris. It is really difficult to some up an incredible four month experience into just a few paragraphs, But I guess I will have to try my best.

Studying history in Paris opened the doors to all kinds of opportunity. The city sort of just becomes your classroom. In fact, one of my classes were spent half in the classroom and half at various museums and other historic sites. How many times in your life do you get to say you’re late to class in the Louvre? Because we don’t really have the old buildings, cathedrals, and grand palaces, it is such a different world. You feel so small when you look at the grandeur inside palaces like the Louvre, and even Chateau Chantilly, which was meant as a hunting location for the king, but was just as lavish as the rest. When I walked through Versailles, I could really feel why it was that there was a revolution in France. The whole palace was just so opulent and decorated, no expense spared.

I also got the chance to teach alongside a professor there, some American history to a class of French students. The class was fairly proficient in speaking English, yet Speaking to them was very different. I had to watch how I said things, making sure I didn’t use idioms and turn-of-phrases that they wouldn’t understand. It was also very interesting for me to talk to a group that knew so little about American history, since I’m used to being around Americans who get plenty of that even just in grade school.

One of the most challenging parts for me was learning the language, which I must admit I haven’t quite mastered yet, but I picked up a French minor at Eastern in the hopes that I get better, rather than lose everything I have learned. Sometimes, you know exactly what you want to say and how to say it, but you’re so worried about sounding dumb that you end up messing up anyway. There is certainly a certain level of confidence you need to gain, and that can be the greatest obstacle to get around.

Yet it wasn’t just Paris and the French that I now had access to. I was in an international program and became friends with people from all over the world. Two of my best friends while I was there were from Panama, and the other from South Korea. On many weekends, I traveled. Sometimes going to other places in France, like Strasbourg, Normandy, and Chantilly, but I also was able to see and experience other countries as well, including Spain, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and the U.K. and even Morocco. It was a great chance to experience all these other cultures, even if it was just for a few days. Morocco was the most interesting for me, simply because the culture there is so different than what I am used to. But one of my favorite things I did abroad was hike through the little mountain village of Fatima in Morocco to get to see waterfalls running down the mountain and look out at beautifully unfamiliar landscapes.

In the end though, it was Paris that I fell in love with. I loved just walking through the city, even when I didn’t really have a destination. I miss the crepes, the people, and having all of that huge city to explore. I hope one day to have the chance to go back.

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