Sampler Series begins: 7 p.m. March 9

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UNION – For historic dramatist Leslie Goddard, there was an immediate connection with the suffragette firebrand Alice Paul.

“My dissertation was on the women’s movement,” said Goddard, who earned a doctorate in history from Northwestern University. “And the reason I decided to do her was she was not really well known.”

Goddard, a theater and history major from Darien, presents “Alice Paul: Winning Votes for Women” at 7 p.m. Monday, March 9, at the McHenry County Historical Museum, 6422 Main St. in Union. It is the first of four programs, as part of the Society’s storied 34th Annual Sampler Lecture Series.

“It took 72 years from the time the first call was made. This commitment to get women the vote took a lot longer and was a lot harder fought than people realize,” Goddard said. “Getting there took a lot of persistence and it encouraged a lot of innovative types of persuasion. It was like the non-violent protest of (Mahatma) Gandhi or for civil rights. It was constantly showing up and being there.

“That endurance and not giving up; that is a great message for anyone interested in activism.”

Born Jan. 11, 1885, into a New Jersey Quaker family, Paul embraced the cause of women’s rights with unstoppable zeal. Highly educated, with degrees in sociology, economics and law, she commanded attention – be it leading demonstrations or even while cooling her heels in jail. In 1916 she founded the National Woman’s Party and 1923 she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment. It states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification, it has taken this long to secure the necessary thee-quarter approval. The last three states to ratify the ERA – Nevada (2017), Illinois (2018) and Virginia (2020) are suing to force its adoption as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution … at the very same time Nebraska, Tennessee Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota are attempting to rescind their ratification of the amendment.
“It’s funny to think what she would say about it,” Goddard said of Paul. “She often said that people make it so complicated. It doesn’t need to be.”

Upcoming programs in the series are:

• 4 p.m., Monday, March 23 – Picture Postcards: The Happy Invention. Presented by Katherine Hamilton-Smith. In America, the first picture postcards were printed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago – making Illinois the birthplace of the American picture postcard. Since then, billions of postcards have captured every aspect of life including our social history – from the whimsical to the dark. Hamilton-Smith, director of public affairs and development for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, has maintained career-long professional interest in archives and museum work – including creating and developing the Curt Teich Postcard Archives, now housed at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Made possible by a grant from Illinois Humanities.

• 4 p.m. Monday, April 6 – When Potato Fields were Prisons: Unfree Agriculture in McHenry County during World War II. Sam Klee, a doctorate candidate at Saint Louis University and a member of the adjunct history faculty at St. Louis Community College, shares his findings about a little known aspect of the second world war: the forced labor of interred Japanese and – later – German prisoners of war, to work the potato fields around Marengo and across the Midwest.

• 7 p.m. Monday, April 20 – The Eastland Disaster: An Unparalleled Tragedy. Join representatives from the Eastland Disaster Historical Society as they recount the tragic 1915 capsizing of the Eastland passenger liner – stuffed to the gills with Western Electric employees and their families headed to picnic. A total of 844 passengers and crew were killed in what was to become the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes. Using motion picture videos from 1915, photographs and a firsthand narrative delivered by descendants of a survivor, the program explains how and why it happened, the nation’s response and how it could have been avoided.

All programs are at the Society museum, 6422 Main St. in Union. Series tickets are $40, $35 for Society members. A $12 donation is requested for individual programs. For information or to buy tickets, call 815-923-2267 or visit www.gothistory.org.

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