Cyndy Bittinger


Cyndy Bittinger is a writer and historian, who teaches at the Community College of Vermont. Her latest book is, "Vermont Women, Native Americans and African Americans: Out of the Shadows of History."

Fleming Museum of Art / University of Vermont

Making useful items from fiber is an ancient skill employed by both men and women throughout history.

In early America, hand-weaving was a male occupation but women took it up in the eighteenth century, and continued until the 1820s, when consumer preference turned to machine-woven products.

I wrapped up the fall semester at the Community College of Vermont by asking my students to react to “Imagining Vermont,” a report from the Vermont Council on Rural Development. It was a Vermont History Course and since it was online, it drew students from across the state, who concluded their study with thoughts about both their own future and that of the state.

I’m a volunteer for Everybody Wins, a reading program for elementary school children. And recently, I was reading with a nine year old third grader in the library of the school near where I live when an announcement came over the loud speakers that we were in a lock down and to find a secure space.

Norwich Vt. is known for its architecture, especially Federal and Greek Revival - but Mid-Century Modern, not so much.

In the 60s and 70s, many young women came to Vermont in search of an alternative way of life. They came here partly as a way to rebel against the Vietnam War, nuclear armament and a materialistic, consumer-driven society. They joined communes and formed what became known as the counterculture.

By now the “I voted” stickers have fallen off the grave of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. Yes, on election day, November 8th, many voted for a woman candidate for president and then lined up to place their stickers on or near Anthony’s grave. Of course the famous suffragist never lived long enough to vote herself.

Thomas J. O'Halloran / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

In 1972, as President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was preparing to run for his second term, the Democrats were in disarray.

Mathew Brady-Levin Corbin Handy collection / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in the introduction to a recent book that she admires a female presidential candidate from the 1880s for her persistence and determination. And no wonder.

Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Historical Photographs and Special Visual Collections Department, Fine Arts Library / This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

The first women who sought the American presidency in the 19th century did so in order to turn a spotlight on the fact that women had neither the right to vote nor full rights as citizens.

Hiram Powers (American, Vermont, 1805-1873), Caroline Marsh, 1862-1865, Marble. Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Gift of Mrs. Edward Hungerford 1904.1

She valued his work when others did not. He wrote to please her, and he called her his equal in every way. He was the first American environmentalist, George Perkins Marsh, born in Woodstock in 1801 and she was his wife, Caroline Crane Marsh, born in Berkley, Massachusetts in 1816.

Cyndy Bittinger

I was visiting my brother in Charlotte one hot summer day in the '80s, when he suggested heading over to Lake Champlain for a swim. But my brother had MS and navigated his life in a wheelchair, so I don’t know what he was thinking since this part of the lake was inaccessible to someone without the use of his legs.

Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site

Calvin and Grace Coolidge both grew up in Vermont. And most of us know that Calvin worked his way up the political ladder to be Vice President - then suddenly became the 30th U.S. President when Warren Harding died. The Bible and lamp from his early morning swearing-in ceremony are still on view at Plymouth Notch.

Jennie Shurtleff / Woodstock History Center

Weddings bring friends and families together, and a new wedding gown exhibit in Woodstock has also brought townspeople together as they’ve gone through dresser drawers and attic trunks for heirloom wedding gowns and accessories for the exhibit “Love in Woodstock” from 1780 to 2015. They’ve also looked through family albums for pictures featuring these gowns, now on display at the Dana House, circa 1807, located on Elm Street in downtown Woodstock.

Looking back at history taught before the 1970s, the stories of men who ruled the world were what mattered. Unless you were a queen and ruled an empire, you didn’t fit into the military, economic, social and political history being taught in schools across the globe. The stories of less prominent women were simply thought to be worth less.

Center for Biology and Society, Arizona State University

Ernest Everett Just rose through the academic ranks like a meteor, a path of brilliance in his wake, but his roots were grounded in the vestiges of the Jim Crow South and his opportunities, even in the North, were limited. But he reached for an education and found it in the Upper Valley.

Notman Studio, Boston, Library of Congress, ID cph.3g10777

Calvin Coolidge’s boyhood village is preserved at Plymouth, Vermont and Daniel Webster’s college boarding house is run by the Hanover New Hampshire Historical Society near the town green. I’ve worked in each, and they are worth a visit.

According to the numbers, women today nationally surpass men in educational achievement. To quote the Department of Labor, “Among the employed ages 25 and over, 37.1 percent of women have at least a bachelor's degree compared to 34.9 percent of men. Women with a bachelor's degree outnumber men by 1.6 million in the population as a whole.”

When I had my first child thirty seven years ago, I went looking for a day care provider. Eventually I found clean, safe, pleasant toddler care, but first I encountered a great deal that was troubling and makeshift. One house was so dirty I could hardly wait to drive away. In another, an enterprising care giver had rigged a carriage with a bottle suspended from a wire to feed infants in her care. It was a clever arrangement, but scary. And almost four decades later, good child care is still hard to find.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Purchase through gift of The Dorothea Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc.

When Clara Sipprell tucked her knee length hair into her safari hat and jumped into her convertible automobile to drive through New York City in the 1920s, she considered herself quite a bohemian. She had won prizes at male dominated camera club exhibitions in Buffalo and New York City, the hub of photographic artists of this era. She had broken those glass ceilings with gusto - swinging her cape, and decked out in oversize jewelry and long scarves as she made her mark.

Jon Gilbert Fox

William John Anderson, Jr. of Shoreham was born in 1876. He and his sister, Nettie, two years older, were children of a freed slave from Virginia who traveled to Shoreham with a Union soldier. Their mother was of French Canadian and Native American descent. The children learned French from her and both were given the opportunity to attend Northfield and Mt. Herman Preparatory schools in Massachusetts. Nettie went on to great success at Middlebury College. She became the first woman of color to attend there in 1895 and she graduated first in her class.