One item in the collection at Lexington Historical Society of great interest is a sampler created by Eusebia Windship. It was finished sometime after 1780, and it depicts Eusebia’s siblings as branches of a tree, growing from her parents. The purpose of samplers was to show off the needlework skills of the creator. One look at the tight, little green stitches on every single leaf of the tree will leave no doubt as to the ability of Eusebeia to create beautiful, lady-like art. But this piece has more to tell us.
When I began giving tours at Munroe Tavern in 2012, this piece was a prime feature in the exhibit. It was placed in the “women’s bedroom," as we were interpreting it at the time, and we were using the opportunity to say something about the history of Lexington’s women. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to say. Women in the 18th century would have been literate, as this was a tenet of the then-current prevailing Puritanical values of understanding the Bible for oneself. However, since the written records – town meeting minutes, sermons, tax records, etc. – were the exclusive domain of men, most of women’s stories have not come down to us.
This sampler, as well as others, does give us a window into their world, though. This sampler was meant to be displayed for company, and it records that there were two Daniels in the family tree, as well as two Eusebias. This was because you did not have the luxury, in the eighteenth century, of expecting all of your babies to grow up. It was a hard fact of life. Also apparent is the fact that Eusebia saw no problem in recording that her parents were wed on May 3, 1760 and that her elder brother Levi was born just six months later on November 9.
-James Miele, Museum Store Manager
History has many methods to capture one's interest and encompasses everything we do. It's not only our past but also our future. This is one of the reasons I chose to study history.
A little bit more about me, my name is Lizzie, and I'm a rising senior at the University of New Hampshire. I'm majoring in History with a Minor in Italian Studies, and Classics. I was given the opportunity to intern with the Lexington Historical Society this past summer and couldn't pass up the chance to work in my future field. With the help of Dr. Kimberly Alexander, as well as Stacey Fraser, the Collections and Outreach Manager at Lexington Historical Society, I was able to peek behind the curtain of how a historical society is run and the amount of time and effort that are poured into it.
When we visit these historic houses, we don't always think about the amount of effort that was put into every room, the amount of research that was conducted to get all the right information to make a memorable experience for anyone who walks through the door. I was able to see that all of the staff, volunteers, and tour guides are very passionate about what they do and it's inspiring.
The Society receives historical materials pertaining to the American Revolution and other eras studied at the Society. These materials are catalogued and stored based on 2D versus 3D materials. Each type is stored based on their needs and is temperature controlled. The storage of these materials is crucial to their longevity and quality. Cataloguing these materials is a multiple step process that includes electronic entries, as well as the physical storing of these items. Stacey and Elizabeth Mubarek, the Archives Manager, manage these 3D and 2D materials respectively, and care very greatly for every item they receive.
I worked primarily with Stacey, the Collections and Outreach Manager at the Lexington Historical Society. She was incredibly helpful whenever I had questions and showed me the ropes on how to handle the marketing of a non-profit, something that is much harder and more intricate than one may think. With her, I was able to design social media posts, create a posting schedule, as well as other related tasks, and of course, write this blog post!
Working on the marketing aspect of history has been such a great learning experience, and my appreciation for history only grew throughout this experience. I’m grateful that I was able to get the chance to work in my future field and observe and participate in a museum studies setting. Interning at the Lexington Historical Society has been a pivotal stepping stone in figuring out my future, and for that I’m forever grateful. I'd like to thank Stacey and everyone at the Historical Society for their help and support this past summer and for granting me this great opportunity!
-Elizabeth Racioppi, 2021 Summer Intern
Lexington is known as the “Birthplace of American Liberty,” and you certainly can’t have a Founding Birth without a Founding Mother.
If you take a look around Lexington Green, you’ll notice an abundance of monuments and plaques: the iconic statue of Captain Parker, eternally waiting for the next coming of the redcoats from Boston, the obelisk dedicated to the fallen of the Battle of Lexington, where they are also buried, another monument to Parker’s speech before the battle, a monument to the entire company of Lexington militia, and plaques with trees in memory of Lexington’s World War I casualties. The men who fought for freedom across the ages in town were heroes, but there were others quietly – and at times not so quietly – fought in their own way and kept society running during both war and peace, who have not received such recognition.
Lexington Historical Society has been working with a local group called LexSeeHer, which is dedicated to researching Lexington’s historical women, bringing their stories to the public, and establishing a monument in the town center in their memory. In addition to this project, LexSeeHer has been offering virtual lectures, working with the local Girl Scouts, who designed beautiful banners honoring four centuries of Lexington women (that you can now see hanging from the lightposts downtown!), and planning for future living history events where visitors can interact with some of these historical women in person.
As part of the long pre-planning for these events, as well as doing extensive research to create the most accurate images possible for the upcoming statue, the LexSeeHer research team has been meeting weekly to discuss the variety of female heroes in town throughout the centuries, new findings from historical documents, and the clothing that would have been worn by these women during the most formative parts of their stories. Recently the group was able to meet for the first time in person to look over some of the 18th century clothing its members have already crafted for themselves, and to plan the design and construction of historical clothing for Margaret Tulip, an enslaved woman who successfully sued for her freedom in 1768, and Julia Robbins, an active abolitionist in the 1850s.
LexSeeHer has many ideas for projects and events moving forward, and its next endeavor will be a recognition of Lexington’s revolutionary spinning protest of 1769. Forty-five women gathered with spinning wheels at the home of Anna Harrington on August 31, 1769, to spin cotton and flax into thread that could be made into homespun clothing. Operating in defiance of British import taxes, these women were able to make a strong political statement in the open, as well as offering a practical solution to the problem at hand. This year, on the 252nd anniversary of the event, LexSeeHer members will gather at the former site of the Harrington House on Harrington Road to demonstrate just how much of an impact a group of forty-five women would have made on our landscape.
Be sure to join us at 3 Harrington Road at 6:00 PM on August 31st to view LexSeeHer's tableau, learn more about our founding mothers, and view the proposed spot for the new women's history monument!
- Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
In August 2020, local group LexChat - Community Conversation offered Lexington Historical Society a Black Lives Matter flag to fly in front of the Lexington Depot, our headquarters for the last twenty years. We accepted, excited to show our support for our Black members, neighbors, and friends . . . and to prove that our then-recently-published racial equity statement was not just words.
On June 28 of this year, we will relocate the BLM flag temporarily to honor our annual tradition of hanging a large-scale American flag in front of the building around Independence Day. This year, the flag has particular poignance in the face of so many Americans lost to the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism.
On July 4, we will gather as a community on the lawn between Buckman Tavern and the Visitor’s Center, nearly on top of the spot where the American experiment began. We’ll hear the words that declare “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
On July 5, we will meet members of LexChat to raise a newly donated BLM flag and renew our commitment to the words in the Declaration and the words on the flag. Black Lives Matter. We would be untrue to generations of brave Americans if we believed otherwise.
Last May, I wrote a blog post discussing how Lexington Historical Society would very soon be launching What Life Was Like in Lexington: The COVID-19 History Project as its newest collecting initiative. The goal of this project was to document this period in Lexington’s history so that future generations would be better able to understand the year that was 2020. As best as possible, we wanted to do our part to ensure that history was collected as it was happening – a process called rapid response collecting. At that time, many of us did not foresee the pandemic’s effects lingering so prominently for quite so long . . .
Over a year later, though, COVID-19 continues to shape our daily life in many ways. The future is starting to look brighter, with many choosing to receive vaccinations, allowing us to re-enter society more safely. Many are back at school or work, which continues to look quite different than it did pre-COVID. Businesses are slowly reopening, albeit with social distancing measures still in place or modified hours. Some of us are even beginning to feel comfortable gathering again with small groups indoors or traveling to visit family that we have not been able to see or hug in months.
Many others, though, have chosen to not be vaccinated, or have had negative experiences when receiving the vaccine. Some of us have lost loved ones during the pandemic, and we continue to mourn the loss of jobs, opportunities, or life experiences that we have not been able to be a part of in this last year. And, of course, many are still experiencing anxiety and worry as we continue to hear more about a lack of “herd immunity,” as well as increased variants.
In many ways, COVID-19 continues to shape us as a community and as individuals, and the fact remains that future researchers will look to us to learn more about this time in history and how Lexington residents experienced and were impacted by it – even a year after the initial quarantine measures were imposed.
We still want to hear from you! You and your family can participate in this program in a variety of ways as you feel comfortable, and this project is open to Lexington residents of ALL ages. We are hoping to preserve a look at our overall experiences and how our lives have been altered:
Lexington Historical Society continues to ask you to document your experiences for posterity. Help us do our part in collecting and archiving this era for future benefit. Consider donating your photographs, correspondence, diaries, favorite take-out menus from the past year, and anything else that you feel really speaks to your experiences in Lexington during COVID-19. History is what is happening today – make sure you that YOU are a part of what is preserved!
On Memorial Day weekend, 1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, along with a 27-year old activist named John Kerry, sought a permit to camp on Lexington Common as part of their anti-war protest. The town was divided over the issue, and after several angry meetings, the Board of Selectmen denied the permit to camp on what many considered hallowed ground.
Hundreds of townspeople joined in the protest on the common. Around 3 AM, state and local police ordered everyone to leave and arrested those who remained. 50 years later, it is still the largest mass arrest in Massachusetts history, 458 people.
Many Lexington women played a role. Here are testimonies from a few (click to enlarge), collected by the Lexington Oral History Project in the early 1990s. A small exhibit featuring more women's accounts will be installed in the windows of Lexington's CVS Pharmacy this week. And join us on Thursday May 27 for an expert panel on the protest!
When we take a history class or visit a museum, we expect and hope that the people teaching us will be confident that what they’re saying is fact. After all, history has already happened, right? Everything we need to tell the story is out there, and there’s only so much of it; it’s the historian’s job to just make sure that information is true and pass it along.
But you may have noticed that since you were in school, the story might have changed somewhat. Maybe a legend like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree gets silently removed from your first grade curriculum. Perhaps a cast of once-background characters you didn’t know about before is elevated to be an integral part of the story. Sometimes, even, an educator might admit that we just don’t have a full sense of what happened. This happens to us every day, when we talk about the Battle of Lexington. Despite dozens of eyewitness accounts, we still don’t know who fired that first shot on the Green. Other stories get passed around for decades before a new piece of information comes along that completely contradicts it.
The one thing that I am confident about is that our understanding of history is always evolving. Those who teach history are often called interpreters, and this, I think, is an important term to use. Each person who presents historical information to the public is doing so having picked through countless amounts of information to tell a particular story with a purpose. Each successive generation and individual historian rediscovers the histories written before, and the primary source material, in a new way, based on their own experiences and needs. With this in mind, historians and museums now more than ever are going back through the information they have to uncover the stories of many people who have been left voiceless for so long: women, children, the poor, the enslaved, racial and ethnic minorities, who have been hiding in plain sight in the historical record for centuries.
Right now, we are in the process of compiling all the information we can about slavery in 18th century Lexington as part of an ongoing project to reinterpret the Hancock-Clarke House. It’s a topic that has long been overlooked, partly because of the sense that information about it just doesn’t exist. This couldn’t be further from the truth, however! Our historian, Robert Bellinger of Suffolk University, is carefully poring over records that have never before been looked at with this particular project in mind. Just because the information has been there all along doesn’t mean it’s been properly recognized for its’ importance. Letters, diaries, church records, tax records, account books, probate inventories, receipts, newspapers, and more can blossom with new information if you know where and how to look.
Those of us who work in history are always fans of life-long learning, not only because we enjoy it, but because there is always something new to discover. If you haven’t been to your favorite museum (or one of ours!) in a while, you might want to consider a repeat visit. You never know what new things you might discover!
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Dear Lexington Historical Society Members and Friends:
I write to you on this beautiful Patriots’ Day morning to say “thank you.” This is my last week as Executive Director of Lexington Historical Society, as I have accepted the position of Grants Manager at Homes For Our Troops based in Taunton, MA. Over the last four years, I have learned a tremendous amount about the Battle of Lexington, Lexington’s role in the Revolution, and the integral role that Lexington played in a variety of historic events and movements over the centuries. Above all, though, I learned about Lexington’s people. I learned that Lexington’s people are proud of their history, excited about their future, and passionate about rolling up their sleeves and doing the right thing.
Because of Lexington’s people, Lexington Historical Society has seen tremendous success during my tenure. In the last four years, Lexington Historical Society has accomplished the completion of its archives center, forged new partnerships with Association of Black Citizens of Lexington and LexPride, brought in over $160,000 in grant funding, completed a major exhibit, and launched a new interpretation project to discuss the history of slavery at its historic sites. On top of all this we were faced with an unprecedented moment in history with the outbreak of COVID-19. Not only did LHS survive, we thrived. We moved all our programming online, created virtual tours, and reached more audiences than we ever have before.
As I leave Lexington, I am confident that Lexington Historical Society will continue to grow by expanding its programs, diversifying its people and collections, and reaching new audiences. Our passionate volunteers and expert staff will ensure that the organization moves forward especially after this pandemic period is over. Already we have opened our museums and planned some outdoor, in-person programming. While my time in Lexington is coming to a close, that does not mean that the work is over. There is so much more to do, and I know that there are so many people waiting to roll up their sleeves. The future is bright, and it is just getting started.
April 19 has been an incredibly significant date ever since that cold spring morning in 1775, when the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired on Lexington Common, thereby solidifying Lexington’s place in history.
It did not take long at all for the importance of the date of April 19 to be acknowledged, as demonstrated by the fact that exactly one year later on the anniversary of the battle, Lexington’s Reverend Jonas Clarke gave a sermon “to commemorate the murder, blood-shed and Commencement of Hostilities, between Great-Britain and America” begun at the Battle of Lexington. This historic date was thus memorialized, and it has been acknowledged and celebrated ever since.
It was not until March 16, 1894, however, that April 19 became known as the state-recognized holiday of Patriots’ Day when Massachusetts Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge signed a proclamation making the date a legal holiday. Just three years later, it become an even more prominent date when the Boston Marathon began and hosted its first race on Patriots’ Day, which it has done ever since.
For many years, Patriots’ Day was celebrated on the actual date of April 19, but since 1969, it has been observed on the third Monday of April. It has become such an important day of celebration in Massachusetts that it might surprise some to learn that only a handful of other states have adopted Patriots’ Day over the years: Maine, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and North Dakota. Much of the nation is actually much more familiar with the existence of “Marathon Monday.”
The April 19 celebrations in Lexington may have begun as smaller and more humble acknowledgements of the Battle on the Green, but over time, the festivities evolved into what we know today. In 1875, before it was even known in an official capacity as Patriots’ Day, President Ulysses S. Grant visited town on the 100th anniversary of the Battle to participate in what was then “Lexington Day.”
In 1900, for the 125th anniversary, Henry Hudson Kitson’s bronze Minuteman statue (which was originally purposed as a drinking fountain) was unveiled on the corner of the Battle Green, where it remains standing today. In 1915, a large pageant was planned and enacted.
For the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, the 1925 celebration drew particular national participation. Not only was there another pageant, but the federal government helped to create commemorative stamps and coins, and Lexington committees worked to schedule parades, religious services, and ceremonies. Even Vice-President Charles G. Dawes, who was serving under President Calvin Coolidge, attended Lexington’s events that year. Similar events took place in 1975 for the Bicentennial celebrations, and President Gerald Ford was in attendance.
In recent years, especially since Patriots’ Day often falls during various school vacation weeks, thousands of tourists have flocked to Lexington and surrounding towns to view and participate in dozens of reenactments, parades, and other programs commemorating the historic happenings of the day, as well as the events leading up to and following the Battle. For history lovers, myself included, it has become one of the most anticipated days of the year.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 had a major impact on Patriots’ Day festivities in 2020, forcing all events to be either cancelled or held virtually at the last minute. Similarly, there will be very few in-person events in 2021 either, but with more time to plan for virtual events this year, we at Lexington Historical Society are very pleased with our offerings! The Town of Lexington also has their own full calendar, with a variety of events scheduled, including a program on the history of Lexington’s Patriots’ Day celebrations and parades.
This year is not a big anniversary year (though we are already gearing up for the 250th anniversary in 2025!), but the uniqueness of these last two years’ celebrations will certainly make them memorable and historic in their own right as we look back on years of note. With any luck, next year Lexington will once again be able to welcome thousands of visitors to acknowledge such a momentous day for our nation and to engage with us in person!
– Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
We've come a long way. As a woman growing up in Lexington, I learned a lot about Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and the militia men on the Battle Green at dawn on April 19th. I did not learn a single thing about Ruth Buckman or Mary Munroe Sanderson or Dinah, an enslaved girl at the Hancock-Clarke House.
The stories we tell about our local history are important - they help citizens relate to their town and understand their world. In many towns, especially a town like Lexington with a strong Revolutionary War heritage, male soldiers, politicians, and historians provided a strongly male narrative slant to the town's history.
But Lexington women have been here all along and their lives are as vital to understanding Lexington history as the lives of the Minute Men. Early female members of the Historical Society began the process by looking at their own ancestors, such as this charming article, "A Few Words for Our Grandmothers of 1775. Read by Miss Elizabeth W. Harrington, Dec. 14, 1887."
A decade or more ago, history teacher and longtime LHS member Mary Keenan delved into the archives seeking women's stories and was not disappointed (you can find a copy of Mary's monograph on Julia Robbins Barrett in our online shop).
In 2021, we recognize how incomplete Lexington history is without a full picture of the diverse citizens who have called it home. The Historical Society has recently reopened its exhibit Something Must Be Done: Bold Women of Lexington. Our current CVS pharmacy exhibit, on view from November 2020-May 2021, looks at the women of suffrage. And we're working hand in hand with LexSeeHer (and other history initiatives, such as this one by State Representative Michelle Ciccolo) to make women more visible in Lexington.
We've come a long way. And we are looking forward to the journey ahead!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.