Lewis Hine's 145th Birthday Bash

by Sarah Blow

The 145th birthday celebration of Lewis Hine went off without a hitch last Thursday, Sept. 26th, at the Heritage Winooski Mill Museum. Guests from the Winooski community were invited to discuss the work of author and historian Joe Manning and learn more about Winooski’s history as a mill town. Attendees were amazed at the passion Manning exemplified for his work, asking lively, thoughtful questions about his identification process and his interest in the topic. 

The journey started with one little girl. In 2005, when asked if he would help track down former child mill worker Addie Card, Joe Manning a retired social worker of 30 years said he “would give it a try.” Since that first success, Manning has been hooked on identifying child mill workers featured in famous Lewis Hine photographs. “It’s been fascinating,” states his wife Carole Manning, who often accompanies him to various events and lectures regarding his work. Manning has always been interested in studying people, and sociology, so that initial search left him wanting more, wondering “what can I do next?” He feels somewhat of a responsibility to identify and bring life to the children behind the photographs. When he looked at that famous photo of Addie Card fourteen years ago, the very one that prompted his interest in the process, he recalls thinking of this young child asking “what are you going to do about me?” This call to action has allowed Manning to identify over 300 children featured in Hine’s work. Manning describes his work as “a rewarding emotional process” that has become somewhat of an addiction. Although this process has not come without its challenges. Carole Manning recalls the struggle Joe faced when having to switch from his trusty typewriter, to a modern computer in order to complete his research. “He had to take a leap,” she says. Despite his success in hundreds of cases, he still feels there is work to be done. He states he still has “about 4,000 pictures to go” resulting in a laugh from the group. 

Following the hour-long question and answer session, guests enjoyed refreshments, including a birthday cake for Lewis Hine himself! Although Hine was unable to blow out the candles, he was certainly celebrated. The legacy of Lewis Hine lives on in people like Joe Manning who are dedicated to keeping his photographs relevant and remembered in modern society. Hine’s photographs serve as a reminder of how far Winooski and society have come in such a short amount of time and give us hope for the future.

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Sarah is currently a sophomore at the University of Vermont, pursuing a degree in public communications. She has been working as a communications intern for the Heritage Winooski Mill Museum since September 2019.

Thoughts on School Tours

by Meganne Allison

This past spring, I had the opportunity to intern at the Mill Museum to learn more about museum education. My observations inspired my senior thesis on the importance of field trips to enhance student learning. I noticed time and time again that field trips have a direct impact on students and how they absorb material. Taking students out of textbooks and into the field gives them new and different experiences, shaping how they view the world.

During my time at the Mill Museum, I was able to experience the importance of field trips first hand. The museum had the pleasure of hosting four school groups from South Burlington Middle School. The classes that came were currently reading Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop. The visit helped students connect their reading to the history of the mill and local child labor issues. During the tour, students were able to hear what a mill would’ve sounded like with all the looms going at once. When the students were asked about the dangers of working in the mill, one student raised his hand and began summarizing the “part in the book where the boy lost his finger.”

The highlight of the tour was when students participated in a relay race where they were able to experience what it might have been like to work at a mill. The object of the game was for students to take turns quickly replacing a row of full bobbins with empty ones. Each student would take turns until everyone on their team had completed the task. To make things trickier, students had to use their non-dominant hand, mimicking the same handicap that the protagonist in Counting on Grace had to endure. The students LOVED this activity and the room was overflowing with laughter and smiles from students and adults alike.

It was apparent that these students truly learned a lot on their field trip and had fun doing so. Having the opportunity to observe how these students interacted with the space and the materials has proved to me that field trips are not just icing on the cake of school but much, much more.

 Summer is the perfect time to start planning school trips! Call to book your tour today! 
#802-355-9937 or email info@themillmuseum.org

2019-2020 School year rates:
$75 for a 45 minute tour (15 students)
*additional fees may apply for larger groups or workshops.

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In May, Meganne Allison graduated from Saint Michael’s college, where she majored in history and educational studies. She is now living in Florida and plans to start a job teaching Middle School in the fall.  

Updates From the Director

During the  Hidden Gems  art opening, Winooski High School student talks about his painting with Mayor Lott.

During the Hidden Gems art opening, Winooski High School student talks about his painting with Mayor Lott.

Exciting things have been happening at the Mill Museum! Recently, board members met to revise our mission to better reflect the interests of our diverse community and stress our focus on connecting the past with issues that matter to the community today. Our new vision is to be a social anchor in the community, foster community well-being, and be purposeful in our inclusion and collaboration with the diverse local population.

This past school year, we hosted two art shows with Winooski High School art students. The exhibit in December 2018 featured student photography showcasing a “Slice of Life” in Winooski today. In May 2019, students from a foundations art class painted landscapes of their favorite “Hidden Gems” in Winooski. The project was a response to a 1913 vintage postcard in which the message stated Winooski is “not a very pretty place.”  Both shows gave students the opportunity to connect and share their cultural perspectives with other community members.

During the spring semester, the museum collaborated with a group of students from the Emergent Media Center (EMC) at Champlain College to evaluate our gallery space and permanent exhibits. The EMC students made some proposals for new ways to incorporate interactive technology and make connections to current issues. After evaluating our Child Labor exhibit, one student created a mock-up of a searchable database where visitors would be able to check if their clothing was manufactured in a country where children are exploited and working in hazardous conditions. The database would be a powerful way for the museum to present more current and socially responsible content. We plan to continue evaluating our exhibits and look for meaningful ways to make connections to important current issues.

Currently, we are working on a new exhibit set to open in April, 2020. The show, titled Capacity of Cloth, takes a look at innovative textiles happening today by six artists working in the Textiles and Materiality Research Cluster at Concordia University in Montreal. The artwork to be displayed was developed alongside scientists and other technical practitioners to explore new ways of combining textiles and technology. The stimulating exhibit, juxtaposed with historic mill artifacts, will give viewers an understanding of how far innovative textiles have come and spark wonderment of what the future holds.

Your support matters!

We have started a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs of this exciting textiles and technology exhibit. We can only make this amazing opportunity happen with your support! Please help us reach our goal so that we can focus our attention on making Capacity of Cloth and associated outreach programs top-notch.

Contributions can be made at:

www.crowdrise.com/capacity-of-cloth

Museum Hosts Union Train Concert and Community Dinner

by Barbara Banchik

The Heritage Winooski Mill Museum, along with special guest Rik Palieri, presented Union Train: a Celebration of American Labor History on the evening of September 7th. The event combined storytelling, history, live music, and sing-alongs to engage and educate the audience.

The Museum collaborated with students and teachers throughout Winooski to organize the program in support of a Vermont Humanities Council (VHC) grant for a community-wide reading of Katherine Paterson’s historical fiction novel, Bread and Roses, Too. The novel tells the story of the 1912 “Bread and Roses” strike in textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Earlier in the week, Palieri visited St. Francis Xavier School to discuss the novel with students and to teach them labor songs.

Students, teachers, community organizers, and volunteers welcomed over sixty people to the O’Brien Community Center for the event. Guests of all ages and backgrounds gathered together for a convivial and delicious community dinner of baked ziti, salad, and apple cider donuts. After proceeding into the multipurpose room, guests had the chance to look at several objects and artifacts Palieri had put on display: banjos, guitars, CDs, records, an IWW flag, anthologies, and various historical pamphlets.

As soon as Palieri, wearing his signature cowboy hat, began strumming his banjo, everyone in the room couldn’t help but start tapping their toes, bobbing their head, or clapping along to the lively rhythm. To the delight of both performer and audience members alike, the music inspired a group of children to dance in the lobby and the aisle between the seats.

Palieri treated the audience as old friends and spoke passionately about the history behind each song he performed, most of which he learned first-hand from Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Sis Cunningham, and Bill Kern. Before singing “Peg and Awl” he discussed the disappearance of hand-production and the cottage industry as a result of the Industrial Revolution. He alerted the audience to the militant sound of “Hold the Fort”, emphasized how hard our ancestors fought so we could have our rights in “Eight-Hour Day”, and connected the event to the novel by singing “Bread and Roses”. The room went quiet during his moving rendition of “Babies in the Mill”.

The highlight of the night was when Palieri invited students from St. Francis Xavier to the stage to perform “We Shall Not Be Moved” with him. He joined them in a newly-written verse protesting homework.

At the end of the program, members of the audience competed in a game of trivia with questions derived from Palieri’s performance. If they answered a question correctly they received a free copy of Bread and Roses, Too. Keeping true to the mission of both the Mill Museum and the VHC, Union Train brought members of the community together for a night of fun and educational exposure to Vermont, and the nation’s cultural history.

Barbara Banchik is a sophomore at the University of Vermont, majoring in art history and minoring in anthropology. Barbara is interning at HWMM this fall semester as part of the Backstory internship program.

Barbara Banchik is a sophomore at the University of Vermont, majoring in art history and minoring in anthropology. Barbara is interning at HWMM this fall semester as part of the Backstory internship program.

Please contact Rik Palieri directly at rikpalieri.com if you are interested in bringing the Union Train program to your school or organization.

The Heritage Winooski Mill Museum would like to thank the following organizations for their collaboration in making Union Train possible: The Winooski Memorial Library, The Winooski Middle School, St. Francis Xavier School, The Winooski Peace Initiative, and volunteers from PCC. Special thanks to Heritage Automotive for underwriting the community dinner.

Interview with Lada Maple, Former Mill Worker

Ian Bennett, a Saint Michael’s College student, interviewed Lada Maple, a former Mill Worker on April 8, 2016. Below Ian recounts meeting Lada and a bit of what she told him.

Left: Lada Maple, Mill Worker, c. 1934, age 18          
Right: Lada Maple, 2016, age 95.

The first thing I noticed about Lada, when we went to visit, is that for a ninety-five-year-old woman, she is extremely mobile. She welcomed us into her apartment, and immediately began talking. She regaled us with tales about her time working in the mill, and her life during and after her employment.

Lada spoke of how her husband was also her boss. He had started working in the Mill at the age of twelve for no pay. This was to gain experience for when he finally was hired by the Mill. There were also a variety of entertaining stories that she told about the dynamics of their relationship. He once fired her when he was fed up with her misbehaving while on the job. It was quite satisfying for her, Lada said, when they told him that she had to be hired back. 

Another thing that Lada mentioned were the extreme conditions. Cockroaches and rats scurried about on everything. The only safe place for people’s lunches would be on the back of the machines where the vibrations kept the pests away. The air was also hot and full of lint from the textiles. By the end of the day, enough of the lint had accumulated on the skin of the workers that they could peel it off in sheets.

Lada’s time at the mill wasn’t all difficult though. One story she told was about how the women would all smoke in the restroom. The Management were not fans of this practice and as a result they had the bottom few inches of the door sawed off so they could see the girls’ feet. Not ones to be outsmarted, the women would climb up onto the toilet seats so they couldn’t be seen.

 Her time spent working in the mill is not a time Lada looks back on with much fondness, but her experience is not one that she hated. The time she was working was an interesting and unique, if not a comfortable, part of the Winooski area’s history.

Do you have a mill story to tell?  We’d love to hear from you!
Call #802-355-9937 or email: info@themillmuseum.org