THE FOREST GREEN: Going Into the Past: Smithsonian part 4    
 Going Into the Past: Smithsonian part 42 comments
Saturday, August 14th 2004, by Marissa A Spencer

Going Into the Past

by Marissa A Spencer

I could have stayed in the Natural History Museum for a whole day, but there was still so much to see. In between the buildings there are outdoor exhibits. I was fortunate to go when the weather was perfect. With a smile on my face I continued to the next major building. The Museum of American History was no disappointment. I already mentioned my Grandfather’s shop. The Industrial Revolution had its good and bad side. Marvelous marvels of the modern era were all well represented.

We Americans, the melting pot or Mulligan stew that we are, have been blessed with many great inventors. The good side of all this creativity has been a blessing to the world. The Industrial Revolution really had its roots in the late 1700’s and many resisted changes. The loss of a certain amount of individualism and the tendency to eliminate smaller enterprises disempowered many who depended on their land for their livelihood. The Irish Potato Famine, factories, steam power, electricity, all took their part in making people leave the rural life and head for the cities.

The Museum was a microcosm of all these influences; politics, industry, immigration, social problems, and education. I admit, that I didn’t get to really understand a lot of it in school. It seemed to me to be a really sad part of our history. To be honest, I didn’t remember much of it.

I wandered into a section of the museum dedicated to The Reformers. It was a dark and little visited part of the museum. I walked into the area. The glass displays were softly lit and it had a very solemn air. I walked slowly, all alone and came to a section with a display at the far end of a dimly lit aisle. I felt my body fill with electricity. The tingling and feeling were so intense that I stopped in my tracks. I gazed fifteen feet before me at a lit display case. I knew the energy was from there.

I was all alone, and almost afraid to step forward to look. Slowly proceeding I approached the display. I saw figures sitting at a table. Dressed in early 1900 dresses, four women were busy discussing or planning something. I had absolutely no idea who these women were. I stood transfixed, tingling, the energy almost unbearable. Even now, on remembrance it all comes back to me. I read the names listed. “My God”, I thought, “Who do these women mean to me?”

They were the founders of Hull House in Chicago. Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr.


The other two women I do not recall. What these women accomplished in social reform is phenomenal. We can thank Jane Addams for the public parks in Chicago. She was a tireless voice for the rights of children and women and immigrants. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.


She was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace in her efforts to bring peace to the conflicts of her day. I didn’t know any of this as I gazed at her wax figure. I wasn’t even sure which one was supposed to be her. I felt at a great loss that I was so ignorant of such great accomplishments. The contributions of women were not well represented in my past education.

So I stood there, feeling like I was on an electrified grid, hair on end, eyes staring. I looked at their clothes, their hair, and I recalled my preference for that style of dress. I have several patterns for Victorian clothing and I have worn my hair up like that for years. I learned more about Jane Addams later; things that would surprise me, but not as much as how I was led to find them.

That night in the hotel room I pondered the odd experiences of the day. Who were these women that seemed to touch my soul? I felt a little ashamed that I was so clueless. I wondered why I was so driven to get to Washington, D.C. and go to the Smithsonian. I had come to be at the poetry convention. I felt that whole thing was a contrived, artificial attempt to make you think you can actually write good poetry…for a price that is. Yet, I knew it was my chance to get to this city. It was like a magnet to my heart, I knew it would be an adventure.

The rest of the trip was not especially memorable. I did forget my hat in my hotel room when I went home. They say that it is a sign that you will return someday if you do that.
I was busy with family and all that entails and forgot my resolve to find out more about those remarkable women.

As with all lessons we are being taught, sometimes the teacher does rap us on the head and remind us to stand up and report. I had almost gone several times to the bookstore or library intent on getting information. I do not claim to be that much of a procrastinator. Life had thrown me some challenges and the experience was stored for later viewing. Little did I realize that I would not be forgotten by the powers that be. There were things for me to know, and that was that. Sometimes you have to pay attention.

© August 14, 2004

"I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance." Jane Addams

"We have learned to say that the good must be extended to all of society before it can be held secure by any one person or class; but we have not yet learned to add to that statement, that unless all [people] and all classes contribute to a good, we cannot even be sure that it is worth having." Jane Addams





22 Jun 2005 @ 11:38 by rayon : Unexpected
There must be some reason to such profound experiences, sometimes it is revealed through the course of general life. A recognition can be just that, of a time and place past, and somehow it relates to the present or near future. And most surely it is a sign of individuality, in something, and that is very important, for many people have to try v hard for a long time to achieve that.  

22 Jun 2005 @ 17:25 by skookum : We all
need those who have a vision and purpose to help us along the way. I see her as a role model of courage and conviction. Thank you for your comments!  

Your Name:
Your URL: (or email)
For verification, please type the word you see on the left:

Other entries in
Friday, October 19th 2007: Mother's Last Gift
Saturday, March 3rd 2007: Parable of the Rock
Saturday, March 5th 2005: My California Childhood
Monday, August 23rd 2004: The Parable of the Mimosa and Crabapple
Sunday, August 15th 2004: Mary and Jane, are you my friends? Smithsonian part 5
Friday, August 13th 2004: More pictures
Friday, August 13th 2004: Natural History Museum:Smithsonian part 3
Tuesday, August 10th 2004: Mary Cassatt, do I know you?:Smithsonian part 2
Wednesday, July 21st 2004: FORD THEATER AND ME: Smithsonian Part 1
Friday, May 7th 2004: Cloudy’s Contribution

[< Back] [THE FOREST GREEN] [PermaLink]?