Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Images of the Great War Exhibition Opening

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  To commemorate the four-year war, The President Woodrow Wilson House teamed up with the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library to present “Images of the Great War: The European Offensives—1914-1916”, an art exhibition featuring prints, drawings, and water-colors depicting scenes from the Great War.   The featured works include artists from France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Turkey, and Switzerland. 

Peter Harrington and Stephanie Daugherty visit with guests.
All of the pieces in the exhibition draw on emotions from the war and help convey what people affected by the war were feeling. 

 “Goodbye, Old Man” by F. Matania shows the sadness of a soldier saying goodbye to his wounded horse.  “British stretcher bearer” by Maurice Greiffenhagen shows the pain of a wounded soldier being given aid by another soldier.  These are just two examples of the many emotions of the pieces in the exhibition.    

The gallery opened on Thursday, April 3, 2014, drawing in nearly 85 guests to the exhibition and reception.  Curators Peter Harrington, from Brown University Library, and Stephanie Daugherty, of the Wilson House, were available to share their knowledge of the images while guests viewed the exhibition in the gallery.  The second floor of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson’s house was open for visitors to enjoy company and refreshments.  Visitors had a chance to speak to director Bob Enholm and view the rooms on the second floor.  A good time was had by all, and the evening was a success.
Director Bob Enholm with guests

Make sure to stop by the President Woodrow Wilson House to see the exhibition “Images of the Great War: The European Offensives —1914-1916”.  The artworks will be up in the gallery until August 10, 2014. You can visit the house from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesdays through Sundays, with the exception of Easter and other major holidays. 

-Bethany Hagen  

Monday, March 31, 2014

President Wilson's 1914 Mother's Day Proclamation


WHEREAS, By a Joint Resolution approved May 8, 1914, “designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, and for other purposes”, the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country;
AND WHEREAS, By the said Joint Resolution it is made the duty of the President to request the observance of the second Sunday in May as provided for in the said Joint Resolution;
Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.
In witness whereof I have set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States one hundred and thirty-eight.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Summary of "Fighting for Their Country, Fighting for Their Rights: Black Soldiers and World War I" by A'Lelia Bundles

On March 20, 2014, A’Lelia Bundles, author of the book On Her Own Ground, spoke at the President Woodrow Wilson House about the life of Madam CJ Walker and the role of African Americans during World War I from her research for an upcoming book on the topic.    

Bundles at the President Woodrow Wilson House
To put things into perspective, A’Lelia Bundles reminded the audience of a few important facts.  The 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation occurred during World War I; Harriet Tubman was alive when President Wilson was inaugurated; segregation and Jim Crow laws were prevalent during Wilson’s administration, 1913-1921.  However, Bundles said, hope was still alive in the African American community during this time with the growth of African American businesses.  These businesses were helped by the National Negro Business League, which was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900.

A’Lelia Bundles spoke about her great-great-grandmother, Madam CJ Walker, who developed hair care products and is listed in many record books as being the first self-made American woman millionaire.  While her hair care business was revolutionary, the fame, attention and money Madam CJ Walker got from the business and what she decided to do with her influence was also important.  Walker was as much a philanthropist as she was a businesswoman, and there were many causes that benefited from the support Walker gave them.  

After her factory was built in Indianapolis and her beauty school opened, Madam CJ Walker made a large donation to the new Senate Avenue YMCA, stating that by helping the black men, she would also be helping the black women in the area, her primary passion. Walker raised money and spoke up for the anti-lynching movement.  She and her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, were also very influential in raising money and support for African American troops during World War I.

Some of the audience members before the talk
A’Lelia Bundles spent time in the presentation talking about her new research on the role of African Americans during World War I.  About one million African American men were registered for the draft.  At the end of 1917, the United States sent the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, later known as the 369th Infantry Regiment, to France to fight as the 16th Division of the French Army, where they stayed for 191 days in the trenches. The Red Cross also began accepting black women as nurses in 1918. Madam CJ Walker lived through this period of transitional societal roles for African Americans, and financially supported the black soldiers in Europe once American entered the war. In 1919, the year the Great War came to an end, Madam CJ Walker passed away. 

The history of Madam CJ Walker, and her connection to WWI and President Wilson, is extremely fascinating, and you can find out more on A’Lelia Bundles’ website: http://www.aleliabundles.com/

Also check out this video of A'Lelia Bundles discussing Madam CJ Walker's philanthropy.

- Bethany Hagen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Celebrating Presidents' Day

The President Woodrow Wilson House celebrated Presidents’ Day by opening the house museum on Monday for guided tours where visitors had the chance to visit with President Wilson himself.  Well, you may ask, what or who is Presidents’ Day meant to honor?  The day was originally celebrated as George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd, and moved to the third Monday of every February in 1971. 

President Wilson on Presidents' Day 2014
Some places still celebrate President’s Day in honoring only George Washington.  Some places also honor Abraham Lincoln in Presidents’ Day (his birthday is on February 12).  (Note the various changes in punctuation of President’s/ Presidents/ Presidents’ Day.)  But even though this day was technically not created in celebration of all of the Presidents, many Americans take this opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the great Presidents that have influenced our country. 

On the tour at the President Woodrow Wilson House, Wilson spoke to visitors on the President’s role in America.  He quoted from his book The President of the United States, which he wrote in 1916, “greatly as the practice and influence of Presidents has varied, there can be no mistaking the fact that we have grown more and more inclined from generation to generation to look to the President as the unifying force in our complex system, the leader both of his party and of the union”. 

Many great Presidents have come after Washington and Lincoln that we look to as the “unifying force” of their time, and their successes are worth noting.  The President Woodrow Wilson House showcases the life of Mr. Wilson and all of the things he did as President for the United States of America. 

The video below, from YouTube user TheUsPresidents, highlights Woodrow Wilson’s life and the accomplishments of his career.  There really is a lot to celebrate about our 28th President!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Would Wilson Condone Speakeasies?

The Speakeasy Bash, a fun event inviting the public of the year 2014 to take a step back into history and learn about the Prohibition era, is taking place at The President Woodrow Wilson House Thursday, February 13, 2014.  Our 28th President Woodrow Wilson opposed the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, which created Prohibition and went into effect in 1920. Specifically, the amendment prohibited the manufacturing, transportation and sale of alcohol in the United States of America.  Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act claiming that the act was unenforceable, but the veto was overridden by Congress in the next day.

Wilson left office after two terms as President in 1921 and moved to his home on 2340 S St NW in Washington, DC. He received special permission from Congress to transport his wine along with the rest of his belongings from the White House to his new private residence.  Wilson’s presidential successor was Warren Harding, who transported alcohol into the White House without permission.  This shows that Wilson could have gotten away with transporting alcohol, but that upholding the integrity of the government and following the rules was important to him even though he did not necessarily agree with them.

Dancing in a jazz club, Credit: Wikipedia
Where was the integrity of the country during this time?  Long gone.  People found many ways to ignore the new laws and go about their drinking.  The upper classes were less affected by prohibition that the lower classes, as the wealthy often had their own wine cellars in place before the beginning of prohibition and had more money to pay off people who could get them illegal alcohol.  There was more opportunity for them to drink under the radar.

Still, the excitement of opposing prohibition was enjoyed by most across the nation, no matter the social class.  The lower-class establishments were commonly called ‘blind tigers’ or ‘blind pigs’, while the high-class establishments that we romanticize today became known as…you guessed it…’speakeasies’. These establishments provided a place for people to drink, dance, and escape the hard times of their lives, as well as allowing them a place to flirt with danger.  The defiance of society at the time became the part of the culture we today call iconic.

Costumed guests at the Speakeasy Bash!
What would Woodrow Wilson say about having a speakeasy at his house?  We know he was against prohibition, but we also know he followed the government’s rules.   Let us know what you think Wilson would have said in the comments below, and make sure to pick up your tickets for the Speakeasy Bash here!

-Bethany Hagen