Reporting from MUHS 2017

Senior Seminar at Kooistra's House (Sp 2017)

This year the University of Northwestern St Paul hosted the fourth annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium.  In addition to closing remarks from our very own Dr. Gehrz, twelve Bethel University students also gave presentations.  Attendees had the opportunity to hear:

Ryan Auer, “People of Influence in the Life of Caesar Augustus”

Mitchell J. De Haan, “Hamilton and Popular Culture: An Analysis of History, Legend, and Music”

Lauren Gannon, “Stifling the Sideshow: The Resilient Nature of American Freak Shows, 1860-1940”

Lauren Kent, “Victorian Corsets and Tight-Lacing: A Look at the Promotion, Broader Implications, and Heath Consequences of Corsetry”

Connor Larson, “The Evolution of American Cooking and Technology, 1750-1850”

Eamonn Manion, “Engaging Roman Civic and Religious Knowledge within Iconography of the IMP(erator) CAESAR Numismatic Series”

Mikalah Pruss, “A Shift in American Birth Control, 1950-1969”

Grant Martinson, “Gold Medal Man”

Emily Ruud, “The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Religious Violence”

Angela Stephens, “What Were They Thinking? Contraception during the Middle Ages”

Grace Wiegand, “An Analysis of the Reign of Catherine the Great”

Emma Young, “Nursing during the Civil War”

These presentations represent progress these students have made already thus far this semester as part of the History 499: Senior Seminar course.  Students will present again at Bethel on May 15 and May 22 at 6pm in HC413.  Danny Jaderholm, who completed his Senior Seminar paper in Fall 2016 on “Chicago’s Front Lawn: A Balancing Act of the Natural and Built Environments surrounding Grant Park, 1890-1927” will join them in presenting his research.  If you love history, and you want to see some interesting and intelligent work from Bethel students, please join us for these final presentations.

Check out other reports of MUHS 2017 via Twitter. #mnuhs  Oh, and if you want to see other photos of Senior Seminar students eating together, I hear you can find them on this thing called Instagram?

 

Honoring God Through Athletics

On Saturday, November 12, 2016, friends and fellow travelers of The History Center gathered at the Underground for the program “Honoring God Through Sports and Athletics.”  Three coaches—Gene Glader, Tricia Brownlee, and Steve Johnson—presented the history of athletics at Bethel University.

In the 195os and 60s, Dr. Gene Glader was coach or assistant coach for four men’s athletic teams (football, basketball, track and cross country), intramural director, instructor in physical education, athletic director, and chair of the physical education department. Glader’s presentation highlighted the challenges of athletics at Bethel in the two decades before the campus moved from the Snelling Avenue location to Bethel’s current home in Arden Hills.  Only basketball had “home” turf with a campus gym; all other sports had to scrounge around the area for practice and game fields.  Glader described the men’s football team practicing on the quadrangle lawn of the Snelling Avenue campus.  This was also the era before Bethel had a conference affiliation, so coaches were on their own to organize a “season” of athletic competition for their teams.

Nine of Dr. Tricia Brownlee’s 33 years at Bethel were in the physical education department. Brownlee started the volleyball program in 1968 at the urging of female students, and the softball program in 1969.  The remainder of Brownlee’s years at Bethel were in the academic dean’s office, retiring in 2001 from her role as Dean of Academic Programs. In addition to narrating Bethel’s athletic history from the 1970s to the present, Brownlee’s presentation highlighted the impact Title IX (1972) had on women’s athletics at Bethel and the stunning successes of women’s teams beginning in the mid-1980s.

Steve Johnson, now in his 28th year as Bethel’s head football coach, shared through a prerecorded video interview.  For those familiar with Coach Johnson, he stayed true to form with an emotional testimony about the interaction of faith and sports in the lives of athletes and coaches.

The event also featured athletic artifacts from The History Center and a book sale of publications produced by the Friends of The History Center.

 

 

History Major Emma Beecken Wins 2016 Library Research Prize!

Congratulations to Emma Beecken ’16, history, elementary education, and social studies education triple major, nationally recognized speaker, and, most recently, winner of the 2016 Bethel University Library Research Prize for her Senior Seminar paper, “Hannah More’s Moral Imagination: Fiction that Reformed a Nation.”

In addition to being the best-selling author of the Georgian era, Hannah More worked closely with William Wilberforce to evangelize Great Britain and was one of the most influential women of the British abolition movement. Emma has described her as both a “great lynch pin of history” and as a “brilliant woman of God who did amazing work for the Kingdom, serving as both a fascinating woman to research and a great role model.”

You can learn more about Emma’s research on Tuesday, April 26th at 10:20 AM in the Bethel Library, where she will discuss her project and the research prize trophy will return to the History Department for the fourth time since the competition began in 2010.

 

Sankofa: The Past is Alive Within Us

Amanda Soderlund ’17 is an international relations major. She recently accompanied a group of Bethel University students and faculty on the Sankofa trip, and has graciously agreed to write about her experiences.

Over spring break, a group of 29 Bethel students and faculty participated in an intensive learning experience about the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples. We visited sacred sites and engaged in a process of cultural learning, historical understanding, and racial reconciliation.

We encountered many narratives of historical injustice against the Dakota in Minnesota on our trip. Stories of genocide, being robbed of land, stripped of language and spirituality, dehumanized and forgotten. Some major events we studied included the US-Dakota War of 1862, the hanging of the 38 Dakota in Mankato, and the forced march of 1,700 Dakota people to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling, in which 600 people died.

We experienced history through the eyes of Native Americans. We abandoned our notion of seeing history as linear, which distances ourselves from the past. Instead, we adopted the Native practice of considering history as alive in space and time. With this viewpoint, the very ground is a witness to history, and the past exists in that space. Through this paradigm shift, I could no longer remove myself from the pain and injustice of the past because of a great chasm of time. “The Earth remembers,” as our leader Jim Bear would say.

It was painful and eye opening to hear their history and the immense tragedy that accompanies it. I felt betrayed by the American school system, and the ugly, hidden truth of our state’s history. The version of history I was taught in school emphasizes American patriotism while hiding its crimes. At best, we hear about certain events of injustice against Natives, but these events are either quickly mentioned, one-sided, or are told with a gross lack of moral sensitivity. Teaching about historical oppression with detached passivity is not conducive to healing the generational trauma that oppressed communities feel today.

Going forward after this trip, I am sure of a few things. The first is that we have a responsibility to teach what really happened to the Dakota people in Minnesota in 1862. This also means bringing to light the racist actions of celebrated figures like Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, or Andrew Jackson. Lincoln himself signed off on the execution of the Dakota 38 in Mankato, which still remains the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

I also ask that we strive to find ways to honor our neighbors and their sacred practices. The Ojibwe and Dakota have a very strong connection to the earth, and taking away their land is like taking away a part of who they are. The current struggles they face include developers destroying sacred lands and the constant violation of treaties. The government has already taken so much away from the Dakota and Ojibwe; it’s time to ask our government to protect and uphold treaties and sacred land.

I want to encourage Bethel students and faculty to go on Sankofa the next time it is offered. It was an immense privilege to learn about Native American culture and history outside of a classroom context.

-Amanda Soderlund

 

Along for the Ride . . .

The Ed Garvey Memorial Shelter is located on the Appalachian Trail at Weverton Cliffs in Maryland near Harpers Ferry, WV. See: https://hikeitforward.wordpress.com/tag/edward-b-garvey/
The Ed Garvey Memorial Shelter is located on the Appalachian Trail at Weverton Cliffs in Maryland near Harpers Ferry, WV.

“When Odysseus sailed to sea/ He left behind Penelope/ She waited years, patiently/ For him to come back from his Odyssey/ But I would rather have you sittin’ here next to me/ Lookin’ at the map and tellin’ us where we oughta’ be”

From the song, “Along for the Ride,” by the Okee Dokee Brothers

Of the hiking-related books I’ve read since my saga with breast cancer began in March 2015, the oddest has to be Edward B. Garvey’s Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime (Appalachian Books, 1971). When Garvey did his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1970, he was fifty-eight years old and had abruptly finished a long-term career at the National Science Foundation. Garvey, a former Boy Scout and member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, took his early retirement as an opportunity to hike the entire AT.

Garvey’s book is written primarily to aid other AT hikers. It therefore offers the typical sections on appropriate equipment (chapters include “Food,” “The Pack,” “Shoes and Clothing,” “Not Necessary But Nice”) as well as Garvey’s observations on shelters, water sources, trail markers, etc. It is clear, however, from the outset of the book that Garvey is a chipper, friendly sort of narrator. This is no “Lone Expedition.”* Instead, Garvey sets out on the AT with a travel buddy, and his daily diary-like descriptions of hiking the AT include numerous references to taking time off the trail in order to meet up with friends for coffee, a meal, sometimes even a sleep-over. In short, this has to be one of the most social accounts of hiking the AT I’ve ever read.

Even now, when I think of Garvey’s experience on the AT, I shake my head in wonder and amusement. His experience seems vastly different from what I consider a proper approach to long-distance hiking. Where, for example, is the solitude and stoic endurance of inevitable discomfort coupled with deep reflection on the grandeur of nature and the human condition?

But here’s the thing: at a certain point this summer (specifically during week one of what I call the “bad chemo”), I realized I could not continue to function without help. I had to become a little more like Garvey if I was going to continue to move even inch by inch. And so, despite my hardy dislike for feeling dependent on anyone, I asked for help. The help poured in, but it felt odd letting so many more people into what was such a deeply personal pilgrimage. Of course, from the start, I could never characterize myself as the “lone” anything. My “community” (which includes many of you, your professors, your co-workers, your friends) was there from almost the beginning. And I can’t begin to find adequate ways to express how thankful I’ve been for the palpable and myriad forms of support I’ve had.

Plus, I’d also like to point out that, like Garvey, I also set out with my own trail buddy. The epic journey stories, such as the Odyssey or the Aeneid, featuring the solo heroic man have never felt quite right to me. I would rather have someone sitting next to me helping navigate the difficult course ahead. When I consider the person who’s been in that position for the past thirteen (or twenty-three) years (depending on how we’re counting), that’s always a time I am sharply reminded of God’s amazing grace despite the present trial.

While I have been fortunate to have so many people willing to help out, I also still prefer to be more independent than less. Four weeks after surgery, and heading into six-ish weeks of radiation, I’m now in much more of a position to function fairly normally—if such a thing really exists in the post-cancer-diagnosis life. It has been a gift, however, to see how my weakness has been met by the variety of strengths in the community surrounding me.

*This was the trail moniker Earl Shaffer adopted when he completed the first thru-hike of the AT in 1948.

What Are the Best Cold War Movies?

Having already done similar posts on the two world wars, Vietnam, and the Civil War, Prof. Gehrz wondered this morning which Cold War movie stands above the rest…

The Pietist Schoolman

The recent release of Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as the Eisenhower era lawyer tasked with defending a Soviet spy (played by the awesome Mark Rylance), got me wondering:

What are the best Cold War movies?

I actually dedicated a three-post series to the question of the best war movies back in 2013, so I thought I’d start by reviving that methodology…

  1. I made a list of all films with the key word “Cold War” in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and recorded the ratings for any that had been reviewed by at least 5,000 users.
  2. Then I added the critics’ ratings from the Rotten Tomatoes (RT) aggregator and discarded any film from the IMDB list that hadn’t received enough critical reviews in RT.
  3. I combined the two ratings, giving a higher weight to IMDB because the RT sample varies so significantly. (More recent films might have…

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Meet Our Majors: Emma Beecken ’16

Throughout the semester, I will be interviewing a variety of history students, alumni, and professors, with the goal of answering the question: what can be done with a history major? To begin, we will be looking into some insights provided by Emma Beecken ’16, who has majors in both the History and Education departments. This post will mostly benefit current History/Education double majors, but is definitely worth a read for anyone in the department considering a future in education.

Emma Beecken is currently a senior here at Bethel, with majors in History, K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and a minor in Communication Arts and Literature 5-8. She spends her very limited free time nannying, preparing copious amounts of baked goods, and participating on Bethel University’s forensics team, where she has experienced success at both the state and national level. She is a great lover of Disney films and The Chronicles of Narnia, and will eagerly explain that she resonates strongly with Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Below is a photograph of Emma, followed by her fascinating responses to my interview questions.

An image of Disney's Belle next to her biggest fan, Emma Beecken
From left to right: Disney’s Belle and Bethel University’s own Emma Beecken. The similarities are stunning, aren’t they?

You have a triple major in K-6 Elementary Education, Social Studies Education 5-12, and History, with a minor in Communication Arts and Literature Education for grades 5-8. That is quite a few things. How did you decide on this combination of majors and minor? 

When I was little, it was a constant trade-off between playing school, pioneers, and pioneer school, so I guess this combination didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve always been passionate about children and education, and I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. Throughout high school, opportunities to plan and teach lessons with students of a variety of ages reaffirmed my passion for teaching younger kids. At the same time, I couldn’t help loving history. I figured I could get my history fix by adding a Social Studies Ed major, which would also increase my marketability as an educator. That turned into adding a History major when I realized that the only other classes I would need in order complete the major were courses I would be disappointed not to take. That seemed like a sign I was heading the right direction, so I went for it, summer classes notwithstanding. It was definitely the right decision.

How do you feel the Education and History majors complement each other?

Personally, I couldn’t be happier with this combination. They are very different, and yet they complement each other beautifully.  The study of history teaches you to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate a body of information, and then make and communicate informed decisions. That is exactly what a good teacher needs to be doing. A truly loving teacher is analyzing a student, using all of the quantitative and qualitative data that’s available, and then acting on that information to do everything possible to help that child. It’s critical thinking, problem solving, the study of people, cultures, and different perspectives—basically, it’s being part of a giant history case study all the time. And yet it’s so much more, because it is helping a child who was created in the image of God, using every tool I can and every strategy I’ve learned to love that child as tangibly and as fiercely as possible. History has refined those tools, making me that much better of an educator.

There’s also an inherent benefit in teachers who love to learn about one subject in particular. I love teaching Social Studies because I love Social Studies. That in itself is going to make a world of difference to the students. This summer, for example, I was nannying, and we spent part of our days studying history. Because that’s what I love, I planned the most for it, had better ideas, and got the most excited about it, compared to other subjects. Grown-ups’ attitudes are contagious, so the kids got excited too. By the end of the summer, they were begging for more history. That provided a perfect and totally natural platform for teaching reading, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving— all of those skills critical for success, but which are much less engaging when taught in isolation. The same would be true for any other interest. If someone truly loved science or physical education, their excitement and eagerness to create the best lesson possible would result in kids who picked up those passions and all the skills snuck in with them. Adding a history major enhanced my understanding of and love for history, which will only serve to benefit my kids. At the end of the day, majoring in history was an amazing decision for more than just my desire for a “history fix,” but also for the success of my future students.

Conversely, what is the most difficult about your combination of majors and minor?

The most difficult thing about being an Elementary Education/History major is, perhaps, also one of the most beneficial: they are very different majors. Consequently, they draw very different types of people. By the time I got to upper level courses that were filled primarily with students in the major, it was almost like culture shock going from a history course to an Elementary Education class. Speaking in generals, there’s a big difference in the way the people in these majors think, organize themselves, engage in group projects, as well as a difference in personalities. This goes for professors too—even the syllabi feel a little different between the two departments. I have to recalibrate when I switch from course to course, while still trying to find my niche in both. While this can be a tad sticky, it’s also pretty wonderful. I get to see an amazing spectrum of people from all walks of life, hearing a range of ideas and perspectives, and then have to opportunity to bring all of those ideas together.  

Tell me about your student teaching experience. What is the most exciting or enjoyable about it? What has been challenging for you?

Right now, I’m spending half days in a third grade classroom, which will become a full-time student teaching placement in a few weeks. My classroom is 100% English Learners and very high poverty, so it’s been a very different experience than my many practicums in suburbia. To be honest, this isn’t easy. Every single one of my twenty seven, eight, and nine-year-olds is testing low, and, as a whole, they are really struggling. And yet, every time I think about them, it’s like Mama Duck instincts kick in. I love these kids so much. I would give my right arm if that would help them. And then, at the end of the day, you leave after teaching your lesson and realize that, for a few of those kids, it wasn’t enough. They are going to need not just your right arm, but your left arm and maybe even more because they are so far behind. That can be discouraging. Yet, at the same time, it’s also extremely exciting. By God’s grace, I can do something! Seeing them understand and improve is my constant aim. The kids are amazing. I love them to pieces. Challenging or not, they are still the most enjoyable and most exciting part of each day.

You recently completed your Senior Seminar for the History Department over the summer as an independent stuy. As the only current Bethel History student who is done with Senior Seminar, what would you like to share about your senior research? 

A portrait of Hannah More, the subject of Emma Beecken's senior research project
A portrait of the great Hannah More, described by Miss Beecken as a great “lynch pin of history.”
Brownies from the aforementioned Hannah More-themed party, each accompanied by the title of one of Hannah More's books
Brownies from the first-ever Hannah More party. You may notice that each brownie comes with a Hannah More book recommendation.

My senior research project was one of the highlights of my time so far at Bethel. I studied Hannah More, the late eighteenth century best-selling British author, who worked closely with William Wilberforce to evangelize Great Britain. Being able to immerse myself in her life through an extended period of time and extensive research was not only a great opportunity to refine my skills as a historian, but also to dive into something I adored. In this case, it was a brilliant woman of God who did amazing work for the Kingdom, serving as both a fascinating woman to research and a great role model. Dr. Gehrz expertly guided me through the process of making sense of history and faith, and I have come out of that project a stronger historian and a stronger Christian. Plus, Hannah More was just kind of awesome. My friends may have thrown me a Hannah More-themed party when I finished, but that’s another story.

Tell me about your educational and/or vocational plans post-Bethel. Has your student teaching experience influenced these plans?

My goal is to go wherever God can best use the passions He gave me to bring Himself the most glory. So, with that in mind, I’m pretty open at this point. International missions work is not out of the question, and I won’t be surprised if I end up pursuing a master’s degree in either Gifted and Talented Education, Special Education, or maybe something else completely- who knows? I’d also be extremely happy to adopt a bajillion-and-twelve children and be a homeschooling mom though, so I’m flexible. In the short term? I’d be pretty pleased to be teaching in an upper elementary classroom next year.

What advice would you have for other students who are considering pursuing degrees in both History and Education?

Go for it. Seriously. You won’t regret it, and neither will your future students. More practically, be sure to get involved. I made the mistake of feeling like I wasn’t a “real” History major because I was also an Education major, yet at the same time feeling like I wasn’t a “real” Education major. That was kind of silly. I wish I had more fully embraced the department events, people, and connections that were available for both majors, rather than discounting myself from either. In other words, double-dip on Christmas parties, because really, it’s all for the love of the students anyway.

Lighten Your Load . . .

“Isn’t it funny, what we think we need,
to live a life, and succeed?
. . . You gotta lighten your load, kid, when you hit the road.
I woulda thunk you’d know, kid, you gotta lighten your load.”

From the song, “Lighten Your Load,” by the Okee Dokee Brothers

As I mentioned in a post to this blog a couple weeks ago, I’ve been reading a lot of books about long-distance hiking since beginning my saga with breast cancer in March 2015. For backpackers, decisions about equipment and pack weight are crucial to the success of the journey, and the holy grail in how-to guides in that regard is Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking (AdventureLore Press, 2000). First published in 1992, it is a book that Wild author Cheryl Strayed learns of through more savvy hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.  One of them helps her divest “Monster” (the name she gives to her unwieldy backpack) of items that have added unnecessary weight, and therefore unnecessary pain, to her hike. Strayed, of course, realizes her inexperience has led her to pack ridiculously useless stuff. So the scene in which she describes the process of lightening her load is meant to be funny, but—particularly in light of Jardine’s advice about lightweight backpacking—it got me thinking.

For example, I love my tent. I purchased it back in the late 1990s, and at the time it was the cheapest and lightest tent REI offered. I’ve gone backpacking with it in the Sierras, the Rockies, and taken it to numerous parks in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I’ve never considered it unnecessary weight. Jardine, however, is not a fan of the tent. In the chapter “Tarp and Tent,” Jardine convincingly ticks off the disadvantages of the tent, including the accumulation of condensation. As Jardine notes, “the hiker’s body gives off several pounds of moisture” during the night. That means much of the morning is spent trying to dry out the tent’s interior, wasting precious hours idling by camp when one could be on the trail. In contrast, the tarp allows for proper ventilation and offers a dryer and therefore more pleasant sleeping experience while still providing shelter from the elements. And, really what could be more proof of the superfluity of the tent than the experience of Earl Shaffer? In Walking with Spring, his memoir about successfully completing the first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, Shaffer notes that the first thing he chucked from his pack was his army tent, preferring instead to sleep in shelters, under the stars, or—when raining—under his poncho.

Still, the embrace of the tarp over the tent seems an incredible act of faith. I tend to take the duck-and-cover approach to a crisis. In the outdoors, then, the tent has always served as a kind of psychological protection from the potential threats of wilderness nights. As Jardine points out, however, the tent offers only a false sense of security. Jardine claims that the greatest advantage of the tarp is that it allows us “to become more connected to the wilderness around us. The night is as full of wonders as the day, so why barricade ourselves off from them and spend the quiet, starry hours in oblivion?”

So often, the Biblical metaphors we embrace tend to be those that speak of light. Even one of Bethel’s “core values” claims we are salt and light. In these last several months, however, I’ve been drawn to the Biblical passages that speak about the God of deep places, of the shadows, of the darkness. In Psalm 139, in asking where he can go to escape God, the author observes that even if he makes his bed in the depths, God is there (v. 8). Psalm 91 claims that “[w]hoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (v. 1). I can’t say it’s exactly comfortable to take refuge in these darker places, and in many ways I imagine it’s similar to how I would feel (at least initially) camping under a tarp instead of a tent. It feels right, however, to relinquish false security in favor of God’s deep, mysterious presence even in the darker parts of the journey.

Inch by inch . . .

“Inch by inch by/Foot by foot by/Step by step by the mile/We’re takin’ it inch by inch by/Foot by foot/Till we find ourselves/In the wild.”                                      From the song “Walking with Spring” by the Okee Dokee Brothers

Fall classes have begun at Bethel University, and many of you are fully present in the hubbub of academic, social, and spiritual activities that constitute a new academic year. If you’ve passed by my office at AC209, however, you may have seen a note announcing that I am on medical leave this semester. In March 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy followed and has just concluded, but surgery and radiation await. It is quite the journey.

Not coincidentally, during the process of diagnosis I began reading a series of memoirs and books related to long distance hiking. The first of these books was Earl V. Shaffer’s Walking With Spring: The First Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail. Shaffer completed his hike in 1948, and his book is more of a mini-documentary of the AT in its early years rather than an emotional rumination on the personal issues that motivated him to attempt the trek. And yet, even Shaffer reports, rather matter-of-factly, that the loss of a buddy at Iwo Jima and the desire to “walk the army out of my system, both mentally and physically” encouraged him to tackle the trail. In marked contrast, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is much more an emotional journey occasioned by her mother’s death as it is a reminiscence about hiking large portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. Despite their differences, however, both books speak to the potentially healing power of nature and, more importantly, to the necessity of living in the moment, quite a discipline when facing hundreds of miles on foot.

Earl Shaffer at Mt. Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail

For Shaffer, the goal of completing the AT itself was daunting, but the hiking itself seemed less of a trial than it was for Strayed. Unlike Strayed, Shaffer had spent considerable time not only hiking but also researching the trail prior to embarking on his historical journey. Strayed admits freely that she had little experience, knowledge, or general know-how about backpacking before setting out on the PCT. For Strayed, then, hiking the PCT sounds like more of a journey through purgatory: “Every time I moved, it hurt. I counted my steps to take my mind off the pain, silently ticking the numbers off in my head to one hundred before starting over again. The blocks of numbers made the walk slightly more bearable, as if I only had to go to the end of each one.”

At the beginning of the tests that would lead to my diagnosis, one radiologist commented that I was likely facing a bad year. It was therefore easy to imagine myself with Earl Shaffer at Oglethorpe, Georgia, the AT’s original southern terminus, facing a 2,100-mile pilgrimage through the wild. The experts claim, however, that women excel at endurance sports. This fact seems born out by the data that indicates that soon after Shaffer completed the first thru-hike of the AT, three women (one of whom was in her 60s) did so as well; and, until just this past summer, Jennifer Phar Davis held the record for the fastest thru-hike of the AT.

Still, nothing about this expedition has been easy. While being vaguely aware of the goal, for example, there is little chance of seeing the end until one is almost on top of it. There is also a great deal of uncertainty at every new length of the path. Much like both Shaffer and Strayed, therefore, I have had to surrender to the discipline of being present in each step, counting each one as a valuable moment in itself (even if painful) as well as an important movement towards the ultimate objective. Any serious student of literature (and history, I should think) will tell you, however, that the best journey stories are also tales of redemption, or perhaps, sanctification. In Psalm 90:12, after all, we read: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Which Moments Changed America?

Yesterday Time published a list of moments in the 20th century that “changed America,” as nominated by a group of twenty-five historians: “Many of those moments are easy to name: the assassinations, the invasions, the elections. Many are more subtle, their impact visible only in hindsight.”

Click here to the read the full list, but here’s a sampling of four moments:

Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy
Victims of the 1911 tragedy – Library of Congress

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Catches Fire (March 25, 1911)

“The tragedy was exasperated by the failure of the U.S. government to protect its citizens who were working in deplorable conditions, but it was difficult for anyone who saw the corpses lined up on sidewalks waiting for identification to deny the need for labor reform and improved fire safety equipment. The deaths unified female labor reformers of the Progressive era.” (Michele Anderson, 2014 Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year)

Thomas Dorsey Invents the Gospel Blues (1932)

“[The success of ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand’] stimulated an entirely new music industry—the gospel blues…. That tiny, inauspicious moment in 1932 created a subtle yet profound change in American life, ultimately producing musical anthems of powerful personal, moral, and political transformation.” (Jon Butler, Yale professor and president of the Organization of American Historians)

The birth control pill is approved (May 9, 1960)

“Americans began to think differently about sex, contraception and about women’s capacity to control their own bodies and participate as truly equal members of society. Sex uncoupled from procreation, the freedom to choose when and if to become a mother, the ability for a woman to plan her life without fear of an unwanted pregnancy getting in the way—these opened the door for the liberation of women.” (Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard professor and author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family)

The Immigration and Nationality Act Is Signed (October 3, 1965)

“The 1965 act was meant to promote family unification, level the field for lawful entry and ease the way for foreign-born professionals. Fifty years later, its impact can be seen at all levels of society. Today over 40 million foreign-born individuals live in the United States, about three-quarters of whom have legal status. They and their American-born children comprise nearly 25% of the U.S. population.” (Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California-Irvine professor and president of the American Historical Association)

What do you think: What surprised, impressed, or discouraged you about this list? Which moment would you add?