The Cost of Freedom

Signing

This Friday we celebrate Independence Day and the declaration that the Colonies would no longer be colonies and instead would be their own Independent States, free of the King’s Tyranny. Thomas Jefferson then set about to write up a list of grievances against the rule of the King among them taxation without the consent of the people and deprivation of trial by jury. The freedom won by the States is that of vigilance and the necessity of each citizen to be informed of the issues concerning the States and their governance. This vigilance is the cost of freedom. It carries on these eleven score and eighteen years.

1936 Faulkner Mural

“… Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government”

Declaration of Independence

 It is the duty of the citizenry to be vigilant of the Government, to insure that it is derived from the consent of the people. As we celebrate with fireworks, watermelon, and hot dogs let us remember our Duty to this country to speak up, speak out, and educate ourselves. The above link is to the transcript of the Declaration of Independence on the website of the National Archives. Check out what the Founding Fathers were doing, what the document says, and what it means 238 years later.

If you were to write a list of grievances to the “King” this week, what would they be?

Women’s History: A Legacy for the Future

March is a month beaming with historical pride and cultural celebrations .  Not only have we come to accept it as the gateway to a new season, but as the birthing of “new” day.  Born are not just the leaves and the flowers, but the American spirit that has been forged by the great works of those throughout history.  This includes the works of phenomenal women who have become pioneers and leaders in fields that were once dominated by men. Their works have become a launching pad for future generations to soar into new heights. During the month of March, we celebrate their remarkable accomplishments:

1849 Elizabeth Blackwell receives her M.D. degree from the Medical Institution of Geneva, N.Y., becoming the first woman in the U.S. with a medical degree.

1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony organize the National Woman Suffrage Association to fight for women’s rights, especially the right to vote. More than a century later, Anthony was honored when the U.S. Mint created a coin using her image.

1872 Victoria Claflin Woodhull becomes the first woman presidential candidate in the United States when she is nominated by the National Radical Reformers.

1885 Sarah E. Goode becomes the first African-American woman to receive a patent, for a bed that folded up into a cabinet. Goode, who owned a furniture store in Chicago, intended the bed to be used in apartments.

1916 Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, is the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1932 Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, traveling from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Ireland in approximately 15 hours.

1970 Diane Crump becomes the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

1981 Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.

1983 Dr. Sally K. Ride becomes the first American woman to be sent into space.

2005 Hillary Clinton becomes the first First Lady to be elected to public office. She joins Congress as a U.S. Senator from New York.

2009 Sonia Sotomayor is nominated as the 111th U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Sotomayor becomes the first Hispanic American and only the third woman to serve on the nation’s top court.

For more information on famous women in history, stop by PSC Library and check out some of the titles that we have on display:

Happy Holidays from the PSC Library!

December, in addition to being the end of the fall semester, is also the time for many winter holidays, and here at the PSC Library we have books to interest you whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just want a good winter read. You’ll find plenty of winter books for all ages on display, but this month we’re highlighting our children’s collection because there are few who get more excited about the holidays than children. From fun holiday stories to informative books about our holiday traditions, you can find winter reads for everyone at the PSC Library.

The Tree That Came To Stay by Anna Quindlen (Juv QUI)
nighttreebyevebunting

Halloween Display: Spotlight on Poe

Halloween approaches.  Time for pumpkin carving, costume making, scary movies, and more candy than you can ever eat in one night (though many try).  In the literary world, there are many dark, spooky stories that will help add to the spirit of the day.  In particular the works of Edgar Allan Poe, master of the macabre.

Edgar Poe was the 2nd son of two actors.  At two years old, after the departure of his father and death of his mother, Poe became the foster-child of John Allan.  Though Allan never adopted him, Poe chose to take Allan as his middle name.  After these early tragedies life continued to be turbulent for Poe.  He quarreled with his foster-father over money and his chosen vocation, and was eventually kicked out of the University of Virginia because of gambling debts.  Later, he was court martialed and kick out of West Point.  His love life was also difficult, his first love married another, and his second love and wife, Virginia Clem, died after a long illness.  Fear of poverty and the loss of his wife lead Poe to drink excessively, which some argue ultimately led to his death.

Poe’s diverse body of work includes poetry, criticism, short stories, dark love stories, and the invention of the detective novel.  Many people are familiar with The Raven, which has made it’s way into popular culture through television shows like The Simpsons and Gilmore Girls, and The Tell-Tale Heart, the story of a man haunted by the beating heart of his murder victim.  Other important achievements include The Murders in the Rue Morgue (the first detective novel), the development of the short story genre, and considerable contribution to science fiction.

Come check out the Halloween Book Display in the library.  In addition to some great works by Poe, we have detective novels, thrillers, horror stories, vampire tales, and spooky short stories. Or if you would like to check out some more Halloween tales check out last year’s post The Origins of Halloween: Terror on Display at the Library.

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Reading In a Winter Wonderland: Winter Holidays on Display!

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
Andrew Wyeth

In addition to its yearly duty of being cold (thumbs down) … December is also a busy, busy month for all nations, races, and faiths across the world. During this time, Christians begin lighting Advent candles, trees are chopped down and decorated for Christmas, Hanukkah menorah’s are lit, and it’s candle lighting time for the Kwanzaa kinara.

So why does it all happen now? Some people point to the prevalence of the December holiday to the pagan tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice (December 21st). Which makes sense, as it marks the day when the amount of hours of sunlight starts to become longer and the clearing toward Spring can seem a bit closer. Another argument can be made, however, that the popularization of Christmas during the late-19th to the 20th century in the United States (Restad, 1995), has lead to the prevalence of competing holidays. Christmas, the one-time second fiddle to Easter and Good Friday, picked up steam (mainly through commercialization and secularization) to become the most popular of all the Holidays in the United States. The effect of that was an alienation of Americans who did not celebrate or agree with the holiday. To compensate, the Hebrew tradition of Hanukkah (a long-standing holy week, sure, but never anywhere close to the importance of the High Holy Days) gained more traction in the United States. Likewise, African-American communities, who felt that both Christianity and Christmas, where thrust upon, developed their own holiday, Kwanzaa, based on a Swahili harvest festival.

Regardless of how or why you celebrate any of the Winter Festivals, the important thing to remember is to have fun during them and to enjoy your break from school. In the meantime, you can stop by the Library and check out some of these great books we have on display celebrating the various reasons for a Winter Break.

Thanks for all the Divine Favors: The Origin of Thanksgiving Day

“The Farmer thought that it would be more becoming the gratitude they owed to the Divine Being, if, instead of a fast, the people should proclaim a Thanksgiving.”
Ben Franklin, Richardson American School Reader, 1810

What do you think about when you hear someone mention Thanksgiving (besides a three-day school holiday)? Does it bring you to a memory of a Turkey/Tryptophan induced nap on the family couch?  — as a side question can Tryptophan put you to sleep? — Maybe it reminds you of putting in the work Wednesday night so you can present your family with feast made for royalty; preparing turkey stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs, cranberries (relished or not), mash potatoes, and pumpkin pies*. Or, perhaps, it reminds you of sitting around a fire or TV with your family, enjoying a day free of work and class. What should remain consistent in your memory of Thanksgiving, however, is that it is day when families get together and sit down to enjoy each other around a Turkey-based feast. But, was it always this way? Was the purpose of Thanksgiving, to get together with you family or did it start as something different?

Continue reading to go back in time and learn the about origins of Thanksgiving.

*Looking for new ideas … check out these Thanksgiving recipes from magazines such as Good Housekeeping found by using the Library databases.

Continue reading “Thanks for all the Divine Favors: The Origin of Thanksgiving Day”

How did that Start? Halloween Traditions

Happy Halloween! Tonight is the night that costumed people go out trick-or-treating while avoiding black cats. Next to the pumpkin pies, Halloween parties, have a bucket which party-goers can dunk their face in for a chance of snagging an apple.  Meanwhile, porches all around America are proudly displaying finely carved pumpkins, illuminated by candle light and children stand convinced that monsters and ghosts may, actually, be around every corner. People do all of these things on Halloween because it is tradition (well and because it can also be a lot of fun). We go bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating because our parents went bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating. We dress up in costumes because our grandparents dressed up in  costumes. But when did this all start? Was America the first nation to start carving up Jack 0’Lanterns? Continue reading to check out the origin story of five different Halloween traditions.

Continue reading “How did that Start? Halloween Traditions”

The Origins of Halloween: Terror on Display at the Library

October is upon us and that means it’s that time when the leaves start turning red and gold, days get shorter, and nights get colder. It’s a time where brisk winds bring upon noises you’re not sure you’re really hearing, and where shadows dance around with your fears. With October comes one of the very best holidays, in my opinion, Halloween. Halloween is the one day of the year where everybody confronts their fears and fantasies by dressing up in costumes, sneaking off into the night, and performing mischief. It is also a time where mother nature sets the perfect mood for you to sit down with a scary book or horror film. Likewise, kids get to experience the ultimate of sugar rushes as they go door-to-door collecting gumballs, candies, and gelled popcorn creations. Like most holidays, Halloween did not just spring to life in America; it came to us through thousands of years of growth and change, passing from culture to culture, from the Ancient Irish to the Roman Empire and several others all putting their stamp on it.

For the most part, Halloween was believed to start as part of the Celtic religion’s New Year celebration, Samhain, which occurred on November 1st. It was on the day before Samhain, that the Celtic people believed the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became paper thin and blurred. During this time the ghosts of the dead could return and once again walk the face of the earth. To ward off the spirits, Druids would build huge sacred bonfires and offer sacrifices of corn and animals to the deities. Citizens, likewise, would dress in costumes of animal heads and skins to hide themselves from the spirits. People would also burn effigies depicting their fears, and since the reality boundary was so thin, they felt that it was a prime time for fortune-telling.

In 43 AD, the Roman Empire finished conquering the lands of the Celtic people. Always good for taking someone else’s traditions and combining them with their own, Rome, decided to merge Samhain with two of their own festivals. The first was called Feralia, which usually occurred mid-October. Romans usually took this day to formally commemorate the passing of the dead. The other festival they merged Samhain with was Pomona, a day dedicated to the honor of the goddess of fruits and trees (it is widely believed that the tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween came from Roman tradition).

When the Roman Empire fell, the holiday that would eventually come to be known as Halloween, once again evolved, this time thanks to the Roman Catholic Church. Early on in the Church’s history they started a day in mid-October to celebrate the saints and martyr’s. Eventually that celebration would move to November 1st and become known as All Saints’ Day; a day to honor the dead. The day before (October 31st) would come to be known as All Hallows’ Eve, and similar to Samhain, people would celebrate with bonfires and costumes. In fact, in France during the 14th and 15th centuries, the tradition of dressing up, evolved into a reenactment of a custom called the Danse Macabre (The Dance of Death) which started during the plague known as Black Death, wherein party-goers would dress up so that demons could not tell who they were.

In the mid-19th century, Halloween, came to America with British and Irish immigrants. One tradition had the adults of families go door to door asking for food or money and people gave gifts because it was thought to be good luck and kept spirits from performing mischief. Later in the early to middle part of the 20th century, Halloween became the secular community-based holiday that we know today, where kids go door-to-door asking for treats and threatening tricks, families display Jack ‘O Lanterns, and both grownups and children dress up in costume and attend parties and dances.

In celebration of the spirit of Halloween, you can find frightful, horrifying, and haunting tales both true and fictitious on the Monthly Book Display.

Continue reading “The Origins of Halloween: Terror on Display at the Library”