Westborough Local History Pastimes – For the Week of March 30, 2020

pas·time – /ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  • an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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Historically, when human beings have time on their hands, they tell stories. (See my last blog post where I discuss Boccaccio’s The Decameron.) The first local history pastime on my list below asks us to tell the story of how two big events, the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, shaped daily life in the 1950’s. 

Time will tell how our experience with the coronavirus will shape our future, but I hope that any of you who lived during the 1950’s–or have an interest in this topic or time period–will take the time to share your memories or share your research on this topic and help us tell our story about what it was like to live in the 1950’s.

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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Westborough Korean War Monument
  • Westborough in the 1950’s Project. The Westborough History Working Group at the Westborough Public Library is teaming up with Westborough TV to create programming and an eventual film on Westborough in the 1950’s, and we need your help. Over the next few months, we will be gathering from the Westborough community photographs, memories, images of ephemera, and other information about what it was like to live in Westborough during this formative decade.

This week we are asking the question: How did the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War affect life in the 1950’s, either in Westborough or American society in general? 

Whether you lived in Westborough during this time or not, submit your reflections by clicking here. If you were not alive during the 1950’s or were too young to remember, then perhaps you can use this question to interview someone who did or do some research to try to answer the question a different way.

In the coming weeks, I will be asking more questions about daily life in the 1950’s and pose other ways for you to contribute content to our 1950’s project.

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  • Research your ancestors (or other historical person). Until April 30, you can use Ancestry.com from home (normally, you have to be in the Westborough Library to use this database). Every time I search this database, I discover something new about my ancestors, so if you have never used it or haven’t searched the database in awhile, you will be amazed by the resources that it offers.

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List of Males over 16 Years Old, 1777
  • Early Census Record. I recently received my U.S. Census form in the mail and filled it out online this weekend. Once you have submitted your form, take a look at an early Westborough census record: List of Males Over 16 Years Old, 1777. This census was used to determine and identify the number of soldiers that Westborough was required to send to fight for the American cause during the American Revolution.

By the way, your participation in the U.S. Census is important not only for its use in developing public policy and for allocating resources to our state and town, but also because it will provide key information for your descendants, who at a future date may be using Ancestry.com or some other resource to discover information about you.

Westborough Local History Pastimes

Pass Time with Our Passed Time During the Week of March 23, 2020

pas·time/ˈpasˌtīm/ – noun

  1. an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby. “his favorite pastimes were shooting and golf [and local history!]” (Source: Lexico – https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/pastime)

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With so much time on our hands due to the quarantine, why not pass it with some Westborough local history?

With the closure of the Westborough Public Library due to the spread of the corona-virus, I will be sending out weekly suggestions for how you might want to engage your mind with local history activities. Here are a few resources to explore. Have fun!

–Anthony Vaver, Local History Librarian

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Westborough Chronotype, August 27, 1915

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Copy of the Declaration of Independence, Westborough Town Records, 1776

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And if you really have a lot of time on your hands . . . how about something completely different?

  • The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio – I know, it’s not local history, but it’s timely (and historical). The frame narrative around Boccaccio’s 14th-century collection of stories involves a group of ten, young nobles retreating to the country for ten days to avoid the Black Death. To pass the time, each member of the party is required to tell a story every day for a total of 100 stories.

As I read Boccaccio’s work, I can’t help but think about how it can be updated to the present. The cloistering of the youths brings to mind reality television shows such as Big Brother, and I wonder if my college daughters’ daily TikTok creations (click on the link if you have no idea what I am talking about) can be gathered together for similar effect once we come out the other end of our quarantine. So far, I am only one story into the narrative collection, but the satire is devastating and can perhaps be applied to some of our leaders in the midst of this crisis. Even though the introductory frame paints a grim picture of the plague’s effects, I find that it puts our situation today in comforting perspective while at the same time creating an eerie backdrop that forces us to face questions about our human condition as we read about the protagonists’ lighthearted approach toward escaping their horrific circumstance.

The version linked above is from the Internet Archive (which itself provides a platform for hours of fun exploration) and can be read directly online or downloaded in a variety of formats so that you can read it offline on a tablet or other reading device. (Scroll down and look to the right of the catalog information to see a list of available formats.) Other versions and translations of The Decameron are also available through the Internet Archive, but so far I have found this one to use language most similar to ours today.

Maybe after reading Boccaccio you will be inspired to take up the challenge yourself and write a story a day during this stretch of time. If so, send them my way (avaver@cwmars.org) and maybe I will publish them in future editions of Westborough Local History Pastimes.

The Fight for Women’s Suffrage in Westborough: An Online Exhibit

Women won the right to vote in elections across the United States in 1920, but the fight for women’s suffrage was drawn out over many years before then.

The issue of women’s suffrage first appeared in a Westborough newspaper on November 16, 1867, and arguments both for and against women’s suffrage were published off and on in the Westborough Chronotype up until women finally won the right to vote.

The first mention of women’s suffrage in a Westborough newspaper: Saturday Evening Chronotype and Weekly Review, November 16, 1867.

When it came to women’s suffrage, Massachusetts and other Eastern states lagged far behind Western states, where women earned full voting rights in local and state elections years before those in the East did. When women in Massachusetts finally earned the right to vote in 1892, they could do so only for candidates running for school committee.

Three women became the first to vote in a Westborough election after winning that right in 1892:

  • Abbie M. Fay of Ruggles St.
  • A. B. Harvey of South St.
  • Esther M. Howell of Cross St. (Source: a handwritten “true copy” note by E. E. Dunlap, Clerk Assessors added to the library’s copy of the 1892 Westborough Assessors report, p. 40).

Given the limited voting power that they received, few women exercised their right to vote in Massachusetts during this interim period, so the fight for women’s suffrage continued.

Debates in the Westborough Chronicle

Proposed Meeting Warrant

Beginning in 1880, the women’s movement in Massachusetts lobbied for the right to vote in municipal elections by seeking to include petitions in town meetings that encouraged the Massachusetts Legislature to grant women the right to hold town offices and vote in town affairs. Most of these petitions were rejected by voters.

One such attempt seems to have occurred in Westborough.

Westborough Chronotype, March 17, 1883

Note: No article regarding Women’s Suffrage appears in the Westborough Town Records for the March town meeting in 1883.

Woman Suffrage Convention in Westborough

The Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association was founded in 1870 by suffrage activists Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, and Henry Browne Blackwell, among others, and was active up until 1919. In 1884, Westborough held a convention as part of a series of programs across the state that were sponsored by the association.

Phoebe Couzins, the featured speaker, was one of the first female lawyers in the United States, and at the time she was engaged in traveling across the country lecturing on women’s suffrage. Later that same year, she testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the legal status of women.

Phoebe Counzins (Published in History of Women’s Suffrage by Susan B. Anthony, et. al, Rochester, NY – https://archive.org/details/historyofwomansu03stanuoft; Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19172989.)
Westborough Chronotype, January 12, 1884
Advertisement for the National Woman Suffrage Convention in Westborough, 1884 (Kristina Allen Papers, LH.032).

The Chronotype covered the activities of the convention in detail.

Description of the convention and Phoebe Couzins’s lecture. Westborough Chronotype, January 19, 1884

One Westborough suffragist objected to the coverage of the convention in the Chronotype.

Letter to the Editor, Westborough Chronotype, January 26, 1884

Anti-Suffrage Speaker

On November 2, 1915, men living in Massachusetts voted by referendum whether to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to give women the right to vote. Debate across the state was intense, but the amendment was soundly defeated. Tewksbury was the only town in the state that voted to pass the referendum (with a vote of 149 for and 148 against), and only 35.5% voted in favor. Three other states voted on similar referendums at the time—New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York—and all three joined Massachusetts in defeating the measure.

Charles L. Underhill (Who’s Who in State Politics (1918) page 313; Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47515213)

Leading up to voting on the referendum, Charles L. Underhill spoke against women’s suffrage in Westborough. Hill served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later went on to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Westborough Chronotype, June 18, 1915

One writer took issue with at least one of Underhill’s points about Kansas and prohibition.

Westborough Chronotype, July 2, 1915

Pro-Suffrage Speaker

Frances Kellogg Curtis was the Chief Marshall of the first Massachusetts Suffrage Parade and was on the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Equal Suffrage Association. She lectured on women’s suffrage–at times on a soap box set up on the street–and as a member of the Americanization Committee of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, she taught English to Italian immigrant women in Boston’s North End.

Westborough Chronotype, August 27, 1915

A follow-up report appeared in the Chronotype a week after Curtis’s talk.

Westborough Chronotype, September 17, 1915

Debates in and around Westborough

At Town Hall

Westborough Chronotype, February 18, 1882
Westborough Chronotype, May 21, 1915

In People’s Homes

Westborough Chronotype, March 24, 1888

The Chronotype regularly reported meetings of the Westborough chapter of the Women’s Suffrage League, which took place in various people’s homes, between 1866 and 1888.

In Churches

Westborough Chronotype, March 6, 1914

House-to-House (and at Fenway Park)

Westborough Chronotype, August 6, 1915
Westborough Chronotype, October 29, 1915

At the Library

Westborough Chronotype, November 13, 1914
Westborough Chronotype, March 5, 1915
Westborough Chronotype, February 16, 1917

Success

Massachusetts finally became the eighth state to ratify the 19th Amendment on June 25, 1919, and women across the United States officially gained full suffrage after Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920.