Women's History Classes at CCAE

July 13, 2022

CCAE Exercise 2 Old

Women's History at CCAE

Cambridge Center for Adult Education has long been an organization shaped by and for women, serving the greater Boston community since its founding in the 1970s. Additionally, the walls that house the Center were once witness to the revolutionary acts and everyday lives of women who inhabited these spaces. Both the Brattle House at 42 Brattle and Blacksmith House at 56 Brattle offered shelter to a rich legacy of women in pursuit of liberation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Margaret Fuller, an American journalist and women’s rights activist associated with the Transcendentalist movement, lived with her family at 42 Brattle Street until 1833. Fuller’s book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

In June of 1870, Mary Walker bought the Blacksmith House at 56 Brattle. Walker, born an enslaved woman in North Carolina, escaped in 1848 to Philadelphia. She then settled in Massachusetts in 1850 to avoid the Fugitive Slave Law passed later that year. Walker worked as a caretaker and seamstress, never ceasing her campaign to liberate her loved ones from enslavement. The property remained in her family for over forty years until 1912, and much of the original home still stands.

Even after Walker’s passing, 56 Brattle Street continued to be a refuge for those in need. Women who had fled Europe during WWII found community and self-sufficiency as they worked in a bakery located in the building, called The Window Shop, famous for its Viennese pastries. Our classroom on the second floor of 56 Brattle is named Brändström, dedicated to Elsa Brändström, Swedish nurse and philanthropist, who opened the Window Shop in 1939 as a safe haven for refugees in Cambridge.

Cambridge Center for Adult Education as an organization has also benefited from the contributions of female students and instructors, including Joyce Carol Chen, famed Chinese-American chef; Berta Golahny, artist; Ruth Whitman, poet; and Margret Rey, author of Curious George; in addition to the numerous female authors and poets featured by the Blacksmith House Poetry Series.

The enduring memories of those like Walker and Fuller permeate CCAE’s mission, especially now as the liberties of our community members come into question. Influenced by the women of Brattle Street’s past, we have curated a selection of courses to educate, inspire, and examine our current political and social climate.

Programs and Classes

Midterm Elections: What Are They? Why Do We Have Them? What’s At Stake? *Online* *NEW*
4 Thursdays | Begins Sep. 29 | 3 - 5 pm | $140 | Fall Registration opens Jul. 27

Halfway between Presidential elections, we have midterms, which invariably get a lower voter turnout. Is it because they’re boring? Or confusing? Or both? This course will use a historical perspective to examine how midterm elections work and what they do. We’ll start with the role of state constitutions (yes, they have constitutions!), talk about the role of state governments in relation to the Federal government, and go on to cover what sort of issues will be decided as a result of these elections. If taxes or government services are of interest to you, having an understanding of midterm elections is crucial to know what's at stake with these issues. Links to useful websites provided. Instructor: Brian Bixby

Retelling Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen’s Relevance Today *Online* *NEW*
6 Tuesdays | Begins Oct. 6 | 6 : 30 - 7 : 30 pm | $120 | Fall Registration opens Jul. 27

When Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice in 1813, she could not have imagined the hundreds of retellings that would emerge two centuries later. Students will spend three weeks examining the characters, settings, themes, and contemporary relevance of Pride and Prejudice; they then will spend an additional three weeks studying Austen spinoffs. This book group will explore why Austen’s popularity endures and whether the spinoffs shape or misshape our understanding of Austen’s original work. Instructor: Lori Ann Ayotte

The Legacy of The Handmaid’s Tale: A Book Club Discussion *Online* *NEW*
3 Thursdays | Begins Nov. 17 | 5 : 30 - 8 : 30 pm | $150 | Fall Registration opens Jul. 27

In 1985, Canadian author Margaret Atwood published a dystopian novel about a theocratic government called The Republic of Gilead, that emerged after the fall of the United States. Weeks before the official overturning of Roe vs. Wade in 2022, Atwood published an essay in The Atlantic: “I Invented Gilead. The Supreme Court Is Making It Real.” In this book club discussion, participants will discuss Atwood’s novel through a literary lens as well as examine how women’s lives in America have changed since the publication of Atwood’s dystopian classic. Instructor, Lori Ann Ayotte