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Congratulations to Bill Cossen!

Congratulations to William Cossen who defended his dissertation, “The Protestant Image in the Catholic Mind: Interreligious Encounters in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era” on October 3!

Guide aims to help people better explore Antietam battlefield

Penn State News by Matt Swayne, September 15, 2016

Antietam Guide - Carol ReardonUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- While a recent wave of new scholarship about the battle of Antietam is helping experts more clearly understand the conflict, two historians are hoping their guidebook will also give visitors a better appreciation of the pivotal Civil War engagement, as well as the people who lived, fought and died in what became the bloodiest day in American military history.

The battle of Antietam, which occurred near the farming community of Sharpsburg, Maryland on Sept. 17, 1862, is a deceptively complex contest, according to Carol Reardon, George Winfree Professor of American History, Penn State, who wrote "A Field Guide to Antietam" (The University of North Carolina Press, August 2016) with retired U.S. Army Col. Tom Vossler.

"We broke the battle down into 21 stops in the guide," said Reardon. "When we wrote the guide on the battle of Gettysburg, we did it in 35 stops -- that's a 3-day battle -- and we're doing the 12-hour battle of Antietam in 21, so that tells you how much we had to break it down."

The guide covers the most famous parts of the battle -- such as the Bloody Cornfield, the Sunken Lane and Burnside's Bridge -- but also reveals less explored points of the battle. Writing the guide helped Reardon, who has spent decades studying the Civil War and Antietam, draw out some of these lesser known, but important stops, from historical obscurity.

"As Civil War historians, we get obsessed about places like Burnside's Bridge, but I'll be honest, I became far more fascinated about what happened before the bridge fight and especially after the bridge fight," Reardon said. "A whole Union division under the command of General Orlando Willcox, for example, not only attacked the Confederate line, but broke through and nearly reached the outskirts of Sharpsburg, itself -- and it's not on the standard tour of Antietam."

Spending time on the battlefield and writing the guide has also given Reardon new insights on the battle.

"I learned bucketloads," Reardon said. "Did I have the big picture down? Sure, but the devil is in the details, and every little element of the battle, when you're trying to write about it, and make it clear to someone who is visiting for the first time, that's when you start to realize where the fuzzy spots are."

Reardon said that ongoing restoration efforts are offering visitors and historians an increasingly better understanding of the ebb and flow of complex tactical movements. Several groups dedicated to restoring the battlefield have recently bought and demolished modern buildings that were not present during the battle.

"For interpretation purposes, if it was a field during the battle, it's nice if it's a field now," said Reardon. "You can better follow the movements. We are really benefitting from about 30 or 40 years of outstanding preservation efforts by the Civil War Trust and Save Historic Antietam Foundation."

She added that the restoration effort at Antietam is continuing so fast that she and Vossler had to revise the book several times because crews were demolishing buildings that were referenced in the text.

The guide is arranged to help readers answer six questions: What happened here? Who fought here? Who commanded here? Who fell here? Who lived here? How did participants remember the events? The historians kept this format -- the same format they used in their book on Gettysburg -- because of the positive feedback they received.

"We think you'll certainly walk away with a better idea of who the players were," said Reardon. "You'll have a much better idea of what they could see and what they could not see from each of their various angles of approach," said Reardon.

The researchers used trips to the battlefield itself, along with official reports and personal correspondence written in the postwar years by participants, to write the book. Databases that have recently gone online -- for instance, the Pennsylvania digitized Civil War newspapers -- were particularly helpful, Reardon said.

Penn State News

Congratulations to Emily Seitz!

Emily Seitz - July 2016Emily presented her paper, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Susan Jones and the Training of the First Women Physicians in the United States,” at the July 2016 meeting of the Society for the Social History of Medicine in Canterbury, England. Emily’s attendance was funded by grants from the Society, the Richards Center, and the History Department.

Congratulations to Bill Cossen!

Bill CossenBill’s article "Catholic Gatekeepers: The Church and Immigration Reform in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era" has appeared in the journal U.S. Catholic Historian 34, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 1-24.

In addition Bill’s review of William B. Kurtz's Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America appeared in The Civil War Monitor on July 20, 2016 and can be viewed here:

Congratulations to Lori Ginzberg!

Library Company Of Philadelphia And Prof. Lori Ginzberg Receive NEH Grant

Press release by Haywood Brewster, Thu, Aug 18, 2016

Lori GinzbergThe Library Company of Philadelphia and Professor Lori Ginzberg of Penn State University have been awarded an NEH grant of $81,907 to implement a three-week Summer Seminar for K-12 school teachers in July 2017. Based in historic Center City Philadelphia, this seminar will bring together sixteen educators for a close study of primary documents, scholarly readings, and historic sites to address the question "What Did Independence Mean for Women, 1776 - 1876?" Drawing from the intersections of women's social and intellectual histories, the seminar will focus particular attention on black and white women's contrasting experiences based on their racial, legal, and class identities and statuses. Through readings, discussion, field trips, and lectures, participants will address women's experiences, think critically about the concept of independence, and consider sources that would be appropriate to their own classroom discussions of United States history.

According to Director Emeritus John Van Horne, the collaboration between Professor Ginzberg and the Library Company is both exciting and timely. "Several years ago,"' he notes, "the Library Company established a Program in Women's History to foster scholarship, enhance public understanding, and augment our holdings in the field. We are delighted to host a summer seminar that will welcome more than a dozen K-12 teachers from across the country to this vibrant institutional, scholarly, and educational community."

Underscoring the Library Company of Philadelphia's and the NEH's commitments to making scholarship in the humanities available to the broader public, the seminar schedule will include two public lectures by prominent scholars: Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the Blue and Gold Professor of Black Studies and History at University of Delaware and Director of the Library Company's Program in African American History, will speak about her new book, Never Caught: Ona Judge Staines, The President's Runaway Slave Woman. Judith Giesberg, Professor of History at Villanova University and the project director and lead editor of Emilie Davis's Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865, will offer an address on black women's activism on the homefront during the Civil War.

Philadelphia itself will be an important resource for seminar participants, who will visit some of the historical sites associated with the early Republic, including Independence National Historic Park, the President's House Exhibit, and Mother Bethel Church. The seminar will also include a private walking tour of "women's industrial Philadelphia," designed for us by Dr. Barbara Klaczynska, who specializes in the history of women and work in Philadelphia and is an expert in public history. Participants will consider what those sites-and the interpretations of them-demonstrate about American women's history as well as how a focus on women might shift the sites' role in shaping historical memory.

About the Seminar Director

Professor Lori Ginzberg has been a scholar and teacher of U.S. women's intellectual and social history for three decades; she has taught in the Departments of History and Women's Studies at Penn State University since 1987. Prof. Ginzberg is the author of several books, most recently Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life. She is the recipient of a number of prestigious fellowships, including an NEH individual fellowship (2006-2007) and a Guggenheim fellowship (2012-2013). Sheis an enthusiastic and energetic teacher in a wide range of courses, including U.S. women's history, American social reform, feminist perspectives on research and teaching, and lesbian and gay history.

About The Library Company of Philadelphia

Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library and educational institution specializing in American and global history from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. Claiming one of the world's largest holdings of early American imprints, the Library Company also has internationally-renowned collections in early African American history, economic history, women's history, the history of medicine, and visual culture. Through years of collaborations with local institutions and scholars, the Library Company has a successful track record for running seminars for K-12 educators. The institution's extensive collections provide a wealth of women's and African American historical resource material for researchers, making it, and the city of Philadelphia itself, ideal for this seminar. The Library Company promotes access to these collections through fellowships, exhibitions, programs, and online resources. To find out more, please visit
About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

Head Start helped turn farm workers and domestics into teachers, administrators

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A federal preschool program gave a head start to more than just African American children in segregationist-dominated Mississippi, it also offered their parents and other adults a head start into higher paying occupations and new leadership opportunities, according to a Penn State historian. 

"The idea behind the Head Start program was that we need to prepare kids from working-class backgrounds who perhaps did not have adequate stimulation at home to be prepared for the first grade, but the idea was also that you can't expect a child from a disadvantaged background to do well if there aren't opportunities for their parents," said Crystal Sanders, an assistant professor of history and African American studies. "You have to improve the community in which the child lives."

The Head Start preschool program grew out of a key provision of the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 that required programs to operate with the maximum feasible participation of the poor.

"What this meant in regards to Head Start was that local people had the opportunity to become Head Start teachers, center directors, teachers aides and social workers," said Sanders, who wrote about the program's influence on the Civil Rights movement in her book, "A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle" (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

She added that the new jobs politically empowered blacks in Mississippi by giving them a chance to sidestep several methods that whites used to reinforce black disenfranchisement in Mississippi.

"Head Start created employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of working-class Americans across the country, but these jobs were particularly important in Mississippi because working-class African Americans typically worked in two fields: they were agricultural workers or domestic servants," said Sanders. "So, Head Start provided employment opportunities for them, which is significant because it allowed them to earn higher wages than they ever made before and freed them from the control of white employers, who often controlled their political activities through their jobs."

Managing the program funds also gave African Americans more respect and economic clout as they worked with food and drink vendors and local contractors.

Sanders interviewed several of the 2,000 working-class black women who worked for Head Start during that era for her book. She said that the women spoke of how their Head Start jobs changed their lives.

"One of my favorite women mentioned in the book was Hattie Saffold, who had an eighth-grade education before her Head Start employment not only allowed her to go back and get her GED, but also, a bachelors degree," said Sanders. "There are countless stories of women securing Head Start jobs that allowed them to ensure that poor black children in Mississippi had quality educational opportunities, but also helped the women improve their own lives."

At the time, public education for black students stopped at the eighth grade in several parts of Mississippi, she added.   

In addition to the occupational opportunities that Head Start gave adults, Sanders said that the program gave black students new educational opportunities. They were able to learn about African and African American history, often for the first time.

"In Mississippi, the white ruling class controlled, limited and filtered what black students learned in black schools, so even during the age of segregation, black students did not learn black history in black schools," said Sanders. "Through Head Start, local people had the opportunity to create the curriculum they wanted and they created a curriculum that prioritized black history and West African heritage and culture. And that was a way to foster self-esteem among young people who were too often told that they didn't have a history."

Students also received regular health, vision, and hearing screenings, as well as daily nutritious meals.

"This is huge because many of these students have never been seen by a doctor before and many were children of sharecroppers, which meant that they often received diets that were heavy in starches and not balanced meals," said Sanders.  "The idea is that these students can only achieve academically if they are well."

Head Start was one of several federal anti-poverty programs started under President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and authorized by Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Title II, a provision in the act, created the Community Action Program that required programs, like Head Start, be operated with "maximum feasible participation" of the poor. 

Penn State News, by Matt Swayne, July 7, 2016