Women’s Heritage

Lady Astor, Virginia-born Feminist

Posted on: April 14th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Written by Sonja Ingram

Langhorne House, Lady Astor’s birthplace in Danville, Virginia.

"I married beneath me. All women do."

"I’m a Virginian; we shoot to kill."

"I am a born feminist."

"The more I see of men, the more I think of women."

To Winston Churchill: "If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea." To which Churchill responded: "Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"

These spirited quotes are attributed to Nancy Langhorne Astor, the first woman to serve in the British Parliament. She was described in contradictory terms such as witty, saucy, outspoken, feminist, socialite, prudish, devout (she was a staunch Christian Scientist), and even cruel —although never boring.

Pat Maurakis, president of the Langhorne House, with the bust of Lady Astor.

Nancy was born in an unassuming but appealing house on Broad Street in Danville, Virginia in 1879. Now known as the Langhorne House, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently a public museum displaying Langhorne family belongings and furnishings, as well as a bust of Lady Astor.

The Langhorne House was in danger of demolition in the 1980s and was saved only when local preservationists and the former owner of the local newspaper, Elizabeth Stuart James Grant, stepped in to save it.

Nancy’s parents were Chiswell Dabney Langhorne and Nancy Witcher Keene. Nancy had seven surviving siblings, one of whom, Irene, became the model for the Gibson Girl after she married Charles Dana Gibson.

The Langhornes struggled when the end of the Civil War left many prominent Southern families in ruin. However, her father -- known among other things as inventor of the tobacco auctioneer’s chant -- was able to rebound financially when he amassed a fortune in contracts with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The family later moved to Mirador, the family home near Charlottesville.

Nancy was first married to Robert Gould Shaw II, cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, a colonel in command of the all-African American 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. Nancy and Robert were divorced five years later, in a time when divorce was rare.

Pat Maurakis inside the Langhorne House.

In 1906, Nancy married again to one of the wealthiest men of the time, Waldorf Astor. The Astors were a prominent German-American family.  They had made their fortune in fur trading, real estate, and later, publishing. One of the Astors, John Jacob Astor IV, died in the sinking of the Titanic. The branch Nancy married into had moved to England. Waldorf’s father gave him and Nancy the family estate at Cliveden, now owned by England’s National Trust, as a wedding gift.

In 1919, Lady Astor decided to run for her husband's vacated seat in the House of Commons. Now Lady because Waldorf Astor was a member of the House of Lords, she won the election and held the seat for twenty-six years. Throughout her time in Parliament, her wealth and persona helped aid the efforts of women serving or attempting to serve in government at a time when women were not seen as effective leaders.

Lady Astor’s time in parliament was not without controversy, but she was heavily involved in social reforms particularly those affecting women and children. She was also committed to the moral transformation she believed women could offer to government and advocated for temperance, suffrage, child labor laws, and the development of nursery schools for poor children.

Painting of Lady Astor entering the House of Commons (in Danville Municipal Building).

Ever the socialite, Lady Astor had many famous friends including Charlie Chaplin, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), George Bernard Shaw, and Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt.  She often went with T.E. Lawrence on motorcycle rides, but fortunately for Astor, she declined the day Lawrence suffered his fatal accident.

Drawing on the many friends of Lady Astor, Pat Maurakis, president of the Langhorne House, is currently holding an event entitled “A Few of Nancy’s Friends,” which features photographs, items, and information on T.E. Lawrence, Charlie Chaplin, Edward VIII and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

A colossal 16 by 8-foot painting depicting Lady Astor entering the House of Commons currently resides in Danville’s downtown municipal building. The painting, completed by artist Charles Sims in 1926, was purchased by Stuart Grant in the 1980s and moved to Danville from England.

It initially hung in the Stair Hall Lobby of the House of Commons and was later moved to several locations including Bedford College, the University of Virginia, and Jamestown before it finally settled in Lady Astor’s birthplace. The painting’s grandiosity, though it conveys Lady Astor in a simple black and white dress, is a fitting way to honor one of Danville’s most complex and legendary women.

--------

Visit the Langhorne House:

117 Broad Street

Danville, VA 24543

Open by appointment

Phone: (434) 793-4696

www.visitdanville.com

Sonja Ingram is Field Representative for Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Award-Winning Preservation: "Diligence and Dedication" Help Establish Legal Precedent

Posted on: March 4th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the best of preservation by presenting National Preservation Awards to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation. This is the latest in a series of posts highlighting 2010′s winners.

Susan Brandt-Hawley, Glen Ellen, California
Award Type: John H. Chafee Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Policy

One of America’s most dynamic preservation advocates, California attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley has dedicated her career to saving places that matter in the Golden State.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Written by Joan Nestle

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - exterior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - exterior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

Founded in 1974, the Lesbian Herstory Archives serves as a library, museum, and community gathering and performance space for collective lesbian memory, where the word “lesbian” is used in its most inclusive meaning. Born out of a time of historical deprivation, LHA now houses the world’s largest print and non-print collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities—including books, unpublished papers, conference proceedings, newsletters, photographs, slides, periodicals, audio-tapes, CDs, DVDS, videos, films, subject and organizational files, reference tools, artwork, calendars, banners, manuscripts, music, clothing, and buttons.

For over thirty years, thousands of visitors have heard one of our volunteers say, “send us something in the language you make love in.” From its beginning, the Lesbian Herstory Archives has worked to collect the markings of everyday lesbians with the goal to be a social history of our complex communities. A grassroots project of emancipation, staffed by volunteer librarians and archivists, LHA is where activism and professional expertise join hands to preserve the lesbian past, to enrich the cultural life of the lesbian present and to provide clues to dreaming about lesbian futures. In doing all of this, LHA has become an important collection for all who are concerned with social change in any society.

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - interior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - interior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

For  our first fifteen years of existence, the archives resided in Joan Nestle’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In 1985, with books three-deep on the shelves and every spare inch of space taken up with lesbiana, we began a fundraising campaign to find a permanent home. In 1990, with money donated by lesbians worldwide, we purchased a four-story, turn-of –the-20th-century limestone townhouse in one of the historic areas of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We had our official opening in June 1993.

The house retains an amazing amount of its original detail, including beautiful mahogany wainscoting, oak floors, leaded glass doors on built-in cabinets, mahogany closets, and marble sinks. We added built-in bookshelves, a workstation, an outside wheelchair lift, and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the first floor. The first floor has a comfortable couch you can sink into to watch a video or read a book as well as worktables, a photocopier, and hookups for laptops. The second floor also has worktables and laptop hookups. The basement, first and second floors are used for processing and storing the collections, as well as for research. The top floor has a caretaker’s apartment. We are working to digitize the collection so that many more people will have access to the wonders of this collection. The building itself will always be worth a visit, a living monument to what lesbian activism can accomplish.


Joan Nestle is the co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Visit the archives online for a virtual tour.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Conference Scholarship Program Offers Informative, Motivating Experience

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Diana Molina

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Privileged to attend the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar this past autumn, my greatest challenge was finding a way to take it all in.

Amazingly, amidst a hotel lobby bustling with preservationists from every corner of the nation, I ran into a familiar face upon arrival. David Romo, an engaging historian, author, and borderland neighbor was the guest speaker for our orientation session. Romo’s explanation of the plight of the historic Segundo Barrio—my birthplace in El Paso—struck a chord as his imagery walked me through the streets of my childhood, reminding me of their imperiled existence. Public awareness of the Hispanic impact and cultural influence on U.S. history is an important step in saving our sites of significance. His call to action was inspiring.

This was the first of many motivating and informative speakers and panelists staunchly advocating for the protection of structures, natural resources, culture and land. My session preferences leaned toward topics that included the changing U.S. demographics, the integration of sustainable design, the legacy of music and dance, and culinary agri-tourism’s role in historic preservation and its subsequent potential for jobs. I envision applying many of the lessons to our own community pursuit in Southern New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley to develop a sustainable cultural heritage corridor along Hwy. 28.

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

Culminating with a dynamic and unifying message by the charismatic Juan Hernandez at the majestic Paramount Theatre, the conference provided a plateful of new connections and information to digest. Above all, the attention placed on ecological concerns and the discussion of topics and places linked to the diversity of our cultural heritage, left me with a sense of hope for greater inclusive representation in the preservation movement and the betterment our nation’s future.

To that end, in our region’s steps for a Green Cultural Corridor, we welcome ardent supporters, needed resources, expertise and guidance to help pave the way and extend an invitation to visit the scenic Hwy. 28—its wineries, pecan groves, chile fields and centuries of history and cultural legacy in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment.

Diana Molina works a freelance photographer and is spearheading the development of the State Highway 28 “destination corridor” to preserve the Mesilla Valley landscape in rural Southern New Mexico. She attended the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar in October 2010.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference as a member of the 2011 Diversity Scholarship Program? We are now accepting applications for this year's conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply online is June 1, 2011.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Written by Jeanne Cyriaque

As I walked across the stage to receive an Honor Award for the Initiative to Save Rosenwald Schools, I reflected on what an incredible journey it has been to save these endangered African American community landmarks.

My interest in preserving Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools started in 2001, when I began to meet advocates, alumni, and preservationists across the South who shared a common bond in preserving these historic schools. My interest increased when I attended a conference in Alabama and saw an excellent exhibit on their schools. Wanting to find out what happened to Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools, I journeyed to Fisk University to search their database, photos and files, and when I located the Georgia list, I knew that finding the surviving schools in Georgia would be no small undertaking. I began to focus my field research on locating living persons in communities who could help me to find the buildings and associated stories.

A major break occurred when the National Trust listed Rosenwald Schools on its annual listing of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Shortly after this list came out, I became a founding member of the Rosenwald Initiative. The Southern Office of the Trust had a knack for finding people like me in every state who wanted to preserve these schools, and gradually we collectively formed a movement that resulted in numerous rehabilitation initiatives.

With help from the National Trust, the Rosenwald Initiative formed partnerships at many levels, culminating in a initiative with Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, who funded bricks and mortar projects. Dr. Mary Hoffschwelle and Peter Ascoli, members of the initiative, wrote new books about Rosenwald Schools and the philanthropist, while grassroots advocates returned the buildings to new uses in their communities. We held a Rosenwald School conference at Fisk University and obtained funding from Cracker Barrel to support the digitization of the photo images that are now linked to our website, www.rosenwaldschools.com. Alice Rosenwald established a grant program with the National Trust to aid planning related projects.  We established a contact person in each state to field inquiries about the schools.

Several states, including Georgia, prepared historic contexts and submitted multiple property nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. I continue to search for Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools, and have located 50 surviving buildings. My work with Georgia’s surviving Rosenwald Schools was featured in People 2 People, an Atlanta ABC affiliate. The video features the Noble Hill School in Cassville that is always my inspiration for both its story and achievement as an adaptively used Rosenwald School. The Noble Hill School was featured in a National Trust publication, Preserving Rosenwald Schools. The Griffin Vocational School/Fairmont High School is the newest surviving building that is featured in the video.

Initiative to Save Rosenwald Schools, Southern United States
Award Type: Honor Award

Jeanne Cyriaque coordinates African American programs in the Historic Preservation Division (Georgia State Historic Preservation Office) at the Dept. of Natural Resources. She represents Georgia on the Board of Advisors for the National Trust.

Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the best of preservation by presenting National Preservation Awards to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation. This is the latest in a series of posts highlighting 2010′s winners. Do you know of a deserving individual, organization, agency, or project? We are now accepting nominations for the 2011 National Preservation Awards. Learn more »

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.