Harrison Bennett’s Talks on Women’s Issues and Women in History

History Smiths

My business talks tend to be about 20 minutes to accommodate business meetings, and my historical talks are usually 45 minutes plus Q&A. But we can certainly discuss what works for you! Please contact me. -Bonnie

Contemporary Women’s Issues

A Powerful Alliance:
Women in Business and Women’s History

How can your business or women’s organization benefit from supporting women’s history? And how will girls and women benefit when you do? Harrison Bennett explores the impact of this powerful alliance on individuals, communities, and businesses citing numerous examples from her work. You will walk away with ideas you can use right away!

“We Believe in You!” 12 Inspiring Stories from Massachusetts Women’s History

In an unusual presentation of women’s history, author and motivational speaker Harrison Bennett examines the motives, methods, and support systems used by twelve successful women from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in ways you can apply to your personal and professional lives today. From poet Anne Bradstreet and essayist Judith Sargent Murray to abolitionist Maria Stewart and suffragist Lucy Stone, their stories are filled with timeless life lessons. (This talk supports Bonnie’s new book of the same name, coming Fall 2011.)

Historically Inspired Talks

“Make the World Better!”*
Ten inspiring stories from Massachusetts
women’s history
Long before women could vote, speak in public, or pursue a meaningful career, some women overcame considerable obstacles to achieve success as educators, abolitionists, suffragists, and authors. As Margaret Fuller famously wrote in 1850, she, and others, wanted the “promise of America” to apply to everyone (including themselves) and they were willing to work hard to change the “reality of America.” Join author Harrison Bennett to hear the stories of ten remarkable women from Massachusetts who took on the tough issues of their day and found ways to do what they were born to do. Along with Margaret Fuller, Smith will discuss the lives and achievements of Phillis Wheatley, Judith Sargent Murray, Elizabeth Peabody, Lucy Stone, Sarah Parker Remond, Maria Baldwin, Lydia Maria Child, Louisa May Alcott, and Pauline Agassiz Shaw.

*Lucy Stone’s charge to her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, as Stone lay dying.

(Note: This talk can be modified to include women from your community.)

Recovering a Voice for Equality:

The Life & Letters of Judith Sargent Murray

Few women had a public voice in the days of the early republic, or left behind personal records of their experiences. But one woman, Judith Sargent Murray did both. Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1751 and a resident of Boston for almost twenty-five years, this well-known author and champion of female equality, education, economic independence, and political involvement kept letter books throughout her remarkable life. Blank volumes in which Murray made copies of the letters she wrote to family, friends, and political figures, her letter books offer a new eyewitness account of American history left behind by an observant, thoughtful woman who was also a professional writer. In 2003, Harrison Bennett initiated a multi-year project to transcribe, index, and publish all twenty of Murray’s letter books. In her illustrated talk, Bonnie discusses the fascinating content of Murray’s letter books, pairing excerpts from the letters with dozens of images that illustrate her life in Gloucester and Boston, her travels in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, and her observations of political figures, events, and ideas.

Judith Sargent and John Murray:

An Eighteenth-century Love Story

Judith Sargent Stevens was twenty-three years old, lovely, and intellectually curious. John Murray was a robust thirty-three-year-old man whose charismatic presence and outgoing personality dominated the room. But Judith was married. Any thought of a romance with John was out of the question. Instead, Judith hoped they could “surely, and with the strictest propriety, mingle souls upon paper” by writing to each other. Using Judith Sargent Murray’s letters to tell the timeless love story of these two prominent eighteenth century figures, Harrison Bennett skillfully brings to life the story of their fourteen-year friendship, their twenty-seven-year marriage, and the many years they supported each others’ work with mutual respect and affection. This talk complements Bonnie’s book “Mingling Souls Upon Paper”: An Eighteenth-century Love Story which can be made available for sale as part of her talk.

Forming a New Era in Female History:
The Life & Legacy of Judith Sargent Murray

In 1790, Judith Sargent Murray’s essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” appeared in the prestigious Massachusetts Magazine. It was the first of many essays she would write on female equality and abilities, calling for improved education for women, and economic and political rights. Her essay is considered the first public claim for female equality in America. Murray also used the power of her public literary voice—writing under a male pen name during the optimistic days of the New Republic—to encourage philanthropy, a virtuous citizenship, and a responsible republic; to decry violence and war, promote respect for Nature, and marriage equality. As we would say today, Judith Sargent Murray figured out her life purpose and did it. Using excerpts from Murray’s essays and personal letters, Harrison Bennett presents an engaging biographical sketch of a leading figure in the story of progress for women in America whose voice and impact are finally being recognized.

“What Were We Born to Do, and How Shall We do It?”*

Celebrating the Life of Margaret Fuller

Born 200 years ago in 1810, Margaret Fuller continues to be the subject of academic and popular inquiry. A groundbreaking pioneer for women’s  rights, a towering intellectual who held her own with Ralph Waldo  Emerson and his Transcendentalist circle, a teacher, author, and editor who became the first woman to head the literary department of a major newspaper (New-York Tribune) and the first woman foreign correspondent  (also for the Tribune), Margaret Fuller’s life was extraordinarily accomplished and tragically short-lived. Before she died in a shipwreck at the age of 40, Margaret Fuller had secured her place in history and in the hearts of thousands. Join author and women’s history scholar Harrison Bennett for a spirited,  illustrated talk on the life of Margaret Fuller and discover why her story continues to fascinate.
*These are the questions Margaret Fuller posed to the women who participated in her “Conversations” from 1839 to 1844.

Boston Women & The Law:
A Virtual Tour through Four Centuries
of Boston Women’s Legal History

For four centuries, after colonists arranged with “Squaw Sachem” to occupy some of her land, women in Boston have worked for equal participation in the law as citizens and practitioners. Early religious dissenters, abolitionists, suffragists, advocates for female equality, women attorneys, judges, and elected officials—dozens of their stories have been captured in Boston Women & The Law, a new walking trail of historic sites in downtown Boston created by Harrison Bennett for New England Law | Boston during the law school’s Centennial year in 2008. Join Bonnie for a virtual tour of some of the city’s best-known historical sites—now, with the added “twist” of women’s legal history.

Reformers, Educators, Writers, and Artists:
Highlights of the Salem Women’s Heritage Trail

Since English colonists founded Salem in 1629 at the Native American village called Naumkeag, women have played an integral role in shaping its development from a small fishing village, to a leading maritime trading port, to a center of industry, to what it is today—a thriving city that celebrates its past while it builds its future. While the world may know Salem for the witchcraft trials of 1692, there are dozens more women’s stories to tell. Patriots, educators, writers, artists, philanthropists, preservationists, social reformers, abolitionists, suffragists, business owners, entrepreneurs—Salem women have been there, ready to do what needed to be done. Harrison Bennett, who created the trail in 2000, presents a wide-ranging woman-focused journey through Salem history that is sure to entertain and inspire.

Reformers, Educators, Writers, and Artists:
Highlights of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail

Women’s lives and achievements have enriched the history of Boston for almost four centuries, long after colonists arranged with “Squaw Sachem” to occupy some of her land. Yet the significance of women’s stories is often overlooked. Patriots, reformers, abolitionists, suffragists, artists, and writers—Boston women have always played an integral role in shaping history. Harrison Bennett, who is the former executive director of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, presents an engaging mix of women from different centuries, cultural backgrounds, and neighborhoods, who were engaged in important work in Boston.

“I Must Be Myself and Act”*
Stories from North Shore Women’s History

Hear inspiring stories about women from Beverly, Salem, Peabody, Gloucester, Ipswich, Newburyport, and North Andover, Massachusetts who overcame obstacles to achieve success and improve their communities. While some names will be familiar (Elizabeth Peabody, Anne Bradstreet), others will be a surprise. If your community is not listed here but you would like to offer my talk, please contact me

. I can easily work in your own local history. *quoted from Elizabeth Peabody

Abolitionists, Sanitary Commissioners, and Writers: North Shore Women During the Civil War

As part of the national commemoration of the American Civil War, women’s history scholar Harrison Bennett tells the stories of women from the North Shore who served as nurses, worked on sanitary commissions, raised funds, and nursed their wounded men. From Sarah Parker Remond and Harriet Beecher Stowe to Kate Tannatt Woods and Hannah Rantoul, North Shore women did their part and left behind a legacy of honor and service to our nation

Note: I have also done versions of the Civil War talk for Boston and Framingham using local women, and I can do the same for you!