The New America: Discovering and Documenting
the Immigrant Experience
Monday, May 18
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the nation was impacted by an influx of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and a multitude of other countries. These new residents played an important role in shaping the towns we know today. Litchfield, Connecticut is just one example of the many communities influenced by these new cultures and ethnicities. Join the Litchfield Historical Society in learning more about the immigrant experience and the ways in which museums are researching and presenting their stories.
9:00 am: Registration and light breakfast
9:15 am: Introductions
A Detective in Town
On May 3, 1884 a mysterious fire broke out at the country estate of well-known New York manufacturer J. Warren Goddard in Litchfield, Connecticut. Amidst rumors of foul play, a secret operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency arrived in town a month later to investigate the incident. In his reports back to headquarters the agent’s accounts of his activities and interviews revealed the rising tensions between two major immigrant populations in the community. In this talk Ms. Jenkins will discuss the puzzling case and explore the roles that Irish and Italian immigrants played in the occurrence.
The Irish Bridget
Irish immigration to the U.S. was unusual in that so many Irish women came here. Many of these Irish women worked as cooks, nannies, and maids, that is, as domestic servants, when they came to the U.S. Margaret Lynch-Brennan, Ph.D., will tell their story in a presentation based on her book, The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840–1930. Her talk will provide a fresh glimpse into the working and social worlds that Irish domestic servants constructed and inhabited in the United States.
Hereditary and Patriotic Societies
Lynne T. Brickley
In the last quarter of the 19th century, following the celebration of the United States’ Bicentennial, more than 20 national patriotic societies were founded. Threatened by the overwhelming changes facing the nation, the established elite used these groups to protect traditional social and cultural values. Litchfield’s rich heritage of historic preservation was due to active members in many of these societies, who saw themselves as the guardians of America’s past and future. Lynne Brickley will present on some of these hereditary societies and discuss their interactions with immigrants coming into Litchfield.
Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants
Known for their superior agricultural skills, 1.3 million Swedes immigrated to America during the 19th and 20th centuries, escaping conscription, famine, and poverty. Washington, Connecticut became one of their new homes and they made up 22% of the town’s population by 1910, and many of their descendants still reside in town today. Stephen Bartkus will discuss research from the Gunn Memorial Museum’s recent exhibit, Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants and share stories and experiences from this little-known population’s immigration to rural Connecticut.
Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum
Grace Brady is the first executive director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac Univeristy, which opened to the public in October 2012. The museum houses the largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed materials relating to the Irish Famine (1845-52), the worst demographic catastrophe of 19th-century Europe. She will speak about the founding of the institution; the museum’s collection; and the difficulties and successes in approaching, documenting, and interpreting the collection.
Stephen Bartkus is the curator of the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum in Washington, Connecticut. He is a professional archaeologist also employed with Archaeological Consulting Services in Guilford and has participated in numerous excavations throughout the Northeast. He is the former curator of the Watertown Historical Society and currently serves on their board of directors. He is also on the board of the Connecticut League of History Organizations.
Grace Brady is the first executive director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University. Most recently, Brady co-edited “Famine Folios” with Niamh O’Sullivan, curator of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum (IGHM). Before joining Quinnipiac University, Brady was assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees and general manager at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Brady received her M.A. in visual arts administration from New York University and holds a B.A in speech communications/theatre arts from the University of Richmond.
Jessica Jenkins is the curator of collections at the Litchfield Historical Society. She holds a B.A. in history and a M.A. in public history. Outside of her role at LHS Ms. Jenkins is also involved with the greater heritage community in Connecticut and serves on the board of the Connecticut League of History Organizations. Jenkins has a special interest in late 19th–and early 20th–century American history. Her article “Marching Shoulder to Shoulder: New Life in the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Movement” was published in the Fall 2011 issue of the journal Connecticut History.
Margaret Lynch-Brennan is an independent scholar and author. She began her career as a classroom teacher and as an administrator with the New York State Education Department working on issues related to civil rights, school improvement, and professional development for teachers. She earned a Ph.D. in american history from the University at Albany, State University of New York. She published essays in three books and has presented at conferences in the United States, Germany, Australia and Ireland. Her book, The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930, was published by Syracuse University Press in 2009 and was reprinted in 2014.
Lynne Brickley received her Ed.D. in history of education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1985. She has served as a historical consultant for various exhibits and publications for the Litchfield Historical Society, the New Haven Colony Historical Society, the Connecticut Junior Republic, the Montgomery County Historical Society, and others. Lynne Brickely also served as an editor for publications in the Harvard Educational Review and has given numerous presentations on historical topics for the Litchfield Garden Club, Antiquarian and Landmarks Society, the Litchfield Women’s Forum, and the Litchfield Historical Society, among others.
Please register for this program by May 11. If notice of cancellation is given prior to May 11, the participant(s) will receive a full refund. No refunds will be given after May 11. Please call the Historical Society at (860) 567-4501 with any questions!
To register, please print out the registration form and mail it with a check addressed to the Litchfield Historical Society, P.O. Box 385, Litchfield, CT 06759. If you prefer to pay by credit card, you may register online, print and mail the form, fax it to 860-567-4501, or e-mail it to Megan Olver.