July 13, 2020

C-SPAN Airs ‘Great Lives’ Lecture on Joanne Freeman’s ‘Field of Blood’

Missing UMW’s celebrated Great Lives lecture series? Coronavirus cut this season short, but you can catch pre-recorded episodes on C-SPAN. Acclaimed author Joanne Freeman kicks off the three-part series by discussing her book, Field of Blood, which recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

View the C-SPAN coverage of Freeman’s lecture, based on her acclaimed 2018 work, The Field of Blood. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities―the feel, sense, and sound of it―as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

C-Span’s American History TV to Air Great Lives Lecture

C-Span’s American History TV will air the Great Lives lecture from Tuesday, March 10, “Female Internet Inventors,” by Claire Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Titled “Women and Computers,” the program will air at the following times:

  • Saturday, March 28 at 10:30 p.m. EDT
  • Sunday, March 29 at 4:30 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, March 30 at 2:45 a.m. EDT

Description: The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers – but female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story. In Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House), Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the women who made the Internet what it is today.

Speaker: Claire L. Evans is a writer and musician. She is the singer and co-author of the conceptual pop group YACHT, a founding editor of Terraform, VICE’s science-fiction vertical, and the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House, 2018). She is the former Futures Editor of Motherboard, and a contributor to VICE, Rhizome, Quartz, The Guardian, WIRED, and Aeon. She is an advisor to graduate design students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and has taught and lectured about science fiction, art, and technology around the world, at places like Walker Art Center, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, CalArts, Arizona State University, UC Berkeley, General Assembly San Francisco, La Gaité Lyrique, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Riverside Museum of Art in Beijing, among many others. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs the beloved LA-centric culture app 5 Every Day.

Great Lives Continues with Female Internet Inventors, C.S. Lewis

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, March 10, with Female Internet Inventors, featuring Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Theresa Y Crawley, D.D.S. Lecture.

The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers – but female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story. In Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House), Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the women who made the Internet what it is today.

The Great Lives series continues on Thursday, March 12, with C.S. Lewis, featuring Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. The Coldwell Banker Elite Lecture.

Although Clive Staples Lewis died over a half-century ago, his works live on in the hearts and minds of countless readers, young and old, all over the world. From the Lewis Memorial recently installed in Poets’ Corner to the new Narnia films scheduled for release by Netflix over the next decade, the life and legacy of an Oxford don born near the end of the 19th Century continue to impact the current one. In this talk, which features rare archival photographs, you will visit the places that Lewis knew and loved.

The Great Lives series will continue on Thursday, March 19 with America’s Notorious Pirates, featuring author Eric Jay Dolin. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.

Great Lives Continues with Frederick Douglass on Feb. 27

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feb. 27, with abolitionist, orator and author Frederick Douglass, with David W. Blight, author of The New York Times bestseller Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Synergy Periodontics and Implants Lecture.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was taught to read by his slave-owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence, he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican Party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this “cinematic and deeply engaging” (The New York Times Book Review) biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’ newspapers. “Absorbing and even moving…a brilliant book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’” (The Wall Street Journal), Blight’s biography tells the fascinating story of Douglass’ two marriages and his complex extended family. “David Blight has written the definitive biography of Frederick Douglass…a powerful portrait of one of the most important American voices of the nineteenth century” (The Boston Globe).

The Great Lives series will continue on Tuesday, March 10 with Female Internet Inventors, featuring Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.

Great Lives Continues with American Duelists, John Adams & John Quincy Adams

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feb. 20, with American Duelists, presented by author Joanne Freeman. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Hirschler Lecture.

Professor Freeman’s lecture is based on her acclaimed 2018 work, The Field of Blood, which recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities―the feel, sense, and sound of it―as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

The Great Lives series continues on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with John Adams and John Quincy Adams, presented by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein, authors of the book, The Problem with Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of PersonalityThe Parrish Snead Franklin Simpson, PLC Lecture.

The two presidents Adams have never been examined together, either as mutually supportive father-and-son historical actors, or as experienced men of the world with interconnected philosophies. History conveniently paints them as out-of-touch, each turned out of office by popularly cast southerners, Jefferson and Jackson; their rejection at the polls is explained in terms of their supposed resistance to a rising democratic spirit. The Problem of Democracy, Isenberg and Burstein’s first major collaboration since Madison and Jefferson (2010), elaborates on the Adamses’ constitutional thought in favor of strong institutional checks in government (as a counter to the myth of an all-knowing popular will); their critique of democracy’s tendency to “dress up” select political men as popular celebrities: in their time, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Their concern about a moneyed oligarchy and their unwillingness to surrender personal political independence to the conforming character of the two-party system make them unique in the nation’s political life. The themes they embraced have clear implications for our times.

The Great Lives series will continue on Thursday, Feb. 27 with Frederick Douglass, featuring author David W. Blight. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.

Great Lives Continues with Stephen Hawking, American Duelists

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, Feb. 18, with a look at the brilliant and enigmatic scientist and disability icon Stephen Hawking, with biographer Kitty Ferguson. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Dovetail Cultural Resources Group Lecture.

“It’s been a remarkable journey.” With those words Kitty Ferguson describes her thirty years knowing and writing about Stephen Hawking. When she first met him in 1989, he had recently published his A Brief History of Time. He was also already trapped silent in a wheelchair, able to shift just one or two fingers to operate his communications system, tediously, word by word. The inexorable progress of Motor Neuron Disease had begun more than twenty-five years earlier when he was a first-year graduate student in the University of Cambridge.

Hawking’s legacy consists of more than stunning ideas, scientific advances and theories. His adventurous spirit ensnared a generation of younger scientists. He gave a priceless gift of inspiration to disabled people and others of us who have had to adjust our attitudes about disability.

Who was this man? This scientist who so often changed his mind and undermined his own previous discoveries . . . who bequeathed to his field questions others will spend decades answering . . . who took readers and lecture audiences laughing into black holes and to the origin of the universe . . . who toughed it out against odds that would have destroyed almost anyone else?

Stephen Hawking relished his work and life in a manner totally his own, an enigma even to those who knew him best. In spite of the difficulties, his was a life well lived.

The Great Lives series will continue on Thursday, Feb. 20, with American Duelists, presented by author Joanne Freeman. The Hirschler Lecture.

Professor Freeman’s lecture is based on her acclaimed 2018 work, The Field of Blood, which recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities―the feel, sense, and sound of it―as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

The Great Lives series continues on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with John Adams and John Quincy Adams, presented by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein.

Great Lives Continues with The Beach Boys, Dr. Seuss

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues this evening, Feb. 6, with a look at the quintessential American band, The Beach Boys, as well as the artistic genius and downward spiral of its leader, Brian Wilson. Biographer Peter Ames Carlin will talk about his book, Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Davenport & Company Lecture.

This is the story of The Beach Boys in the context of American history and the two sets of ideals, faith and money, that have defined our society since the Pilgrims sailed the ocean blue. In both music and the five Beach Boys, brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their first cousin Mike Love and neighbor Al Jardine, presented a dreamy vision of California as Eden: a place filled with, sun, surf and beautiful girls. The group turned towards art music in the mid-sixties, but Brian Wilson, the group’s resident genius, was as troubled as he was brilliant, and as his visions became more avant-garde the group turned away, choosing to become a perpetual motion nostalgia machine that continues to fill casino showrooms and state fair venues across the country. And so here we are again: Art vs. commerce, faith vs. finance. The fact that the legendarily lost (for nearly 40 years) Smile album, a psychedelic masterpiece Brian recorded in 1966 only to lose his way and vanish for the better part of the next thirty years, was about Manifest Destiny’s impact on the nation, tells us something. In both their beauty and their ugliness the Beach Boys are truly the most truly American band that has ever existed.

The Great Lives series will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 11, with Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, by Brian Jay Jones, The New York Times bestselling author of Jim Henson: The Biography. The JON Properties/Van Zandt Restorations Lecture.

With more than 600 million copies of his books sold worldwide, few names are as recognizable and beloved as “Dr. Seuss.” And yet, the man behind the pseudonym, Theodor Seuss Geisel, was more nuanced than his outsized legacy – and his journey to American icon was never preordained. In his early days as a magazine cartoonist in Prohibition-era New York and a successful career in advertising, and his later work as a progressive editorial cartoonist and dreams of a career as a Hollywood screenwriter, Geisel produced children’s books only sporadically, and not always successfully. Jones explores the artistic and intellectual trajectory that convinced Geisel that children’s books were “a good profession,” and that children deserved to be taken seriously as readers – a long and creative journey that transformed Theodor Geisel into Dr. Seuss.

Great Lives continues on Tuesday, Feb. 18 with Stephen Hawking, by Kitty Ferguson.

Great Lives Continues with JFK and James Bond, Francis Gary Powers

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues this evening, Jan. 30, with a look at the handsome, young president who was the epitome of masculinity in the early 1960s and the debonair spy who captivated fiction readers and filmgoers, including JFK himself. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The John and Linda Coker Lecture.

Steven Watts’ JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier argues that John F. Kennedy may best be understood as a cultural rather than a political figure. A widespread crisis of manhood in the 1950s pictured American males as falling victim to the drudgery of bureaucracy and the softness of consumerism. The fighting man of World War II had given way to the timid, domesticated suburban father and husband in the Age of Eisenhower. Then the youthful, vigorous JFK burst on the public scene as the picture of male physical fitness and glamour. His ethic of “tough-mindedness,” energy, and “cool” promised to regenerate American public life as he swept into the presidency.

JFK’s masculine mystique was heightened by his association with virile icons such as Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Norman Mailer, Hugh Hefner, General Maxwell Taylor, the Green Berets, and the Mercury 7 astronauts. But the New Frontier’s vigorous masculinity was nowhere better reflected than in a British writer, Ian Fleming, who became friends with the young president, and his creation, James Bond, a fictional secret agent who starred in some of Kennedy’s favorite books.

The Great Lives series will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 4, with Spy Pilot, about the life of American pilot and Cold War captive, Francis Gary Powers. The lecture will be given by his son and biographer, Francis Gary Powers Jr. The Community Bank of the Chesapeake Lecture.

One of the most widely discussed and controversial events of the Cold War was the downing of the American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The event was recently depicted in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. Powers was captured by the KGB, subjected to a televised show trial, and imprisoned, all of which created an international incident. Soviet authorities eventually released him in exchange for captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. On his return to the United States, Powers was exonerated of any wrongdoing while imprisoned in Russia, yet a cloud of controversy lingered until his untimely death in 1977.

His son, Francis Gary Powers Jr., has written a new account of his father’s life based on personal files that have never been previously available. Delving into old audio tapes, the transcript of his father’s debriefing by the CIA, other recently declassified documents about the U-2 program, and interviews with his contemporaries, Powers sets the record straight. The result is a fascinating piece of Cold War history which will be the focus of this lecture — one proving that Francis Gary Powers acted honorably through a trying ordeal in service to his country.

Great Lives continues on Thursday, Feb. 6 with The Beach Boys, with author Peter Ames Carlin.

UMW’s Great Lives Lecture Series Announces 17th Season

Professor Emeritus William Crawley, founder and director of Great Lives, announces the 17th season of the biographical lecture series to a packed reception at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Professor Emeritus William Crawley, founder and director of Great Lives, announces the 17th season of the biographical lecture series to a packed reception at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Hollywood actress-turned-inventor Hedy Lamarr and children’s author Theodor Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – are among the prominent individuals to be featured in this year’s William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series.

Now in its 17th year, the stellar season was revealed to a packed reception Wednesday evening at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Lectures will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Jan. 21 to April 14, at the University of Mary Washington’s Dodd Auditorium on the Fredericksburg campus. They are free and open to the public without admission tickets.

Bestselling biographers – many of whom are distinguished historians and award-winning journalists – have spent countless hours chronicling the fascinating lives of their iconic subjects. At UMW, they’ll showcase these celebrated historical figures – notorious, in some cases – and provide illuminating insight into their lives and loves, successes and failures, strengths and struggles.

“I always say this, but this season is probably the most impressive lineup ever,” said Professor Emeritus William Crawley, Great Lives founder and director, who added he is confident that audiences will find multiple topics of interest. Read more. 

Crawley Appears on WFVA Radio

William B. Crawley, professor of history emeritus and director of the William B. Crawley Great Lives lecture series appeared recently on WFVA’s Town Talk to talk about the 2019 season that began earlier this week. Listen to his interview at https://www.newstalk1230.net/episode/town-talk-jan-14-2/.