Biographies & Memoirs

Great Lives Lecture Series: A Civil War Soldier

The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series concludes on Thursday, April 26, with a lecture on lives of Civil War soldiers by James Robertson, author of The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War.

Professor Robertson spoke previously as part of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series on Stonewall Jackson. He returns to UMW to discuss the daily lives of the Civil War soldiers.  That topic is treated in the latest of his numerous books, The Untold Civil War, which is a visually striking collection of the 132 episodes of his popular public radio “Civil War Series” stories, illustrated with 475 rare images of battle scenes, artifacts, and people. Having retired recently from the history faculty at Virginia Tech, he achieved iconic stature as a Civil War scholar, going back to his appointment as executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission, working with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in marking the war’s 100th anniversary. The recipient of every major award given in the Civil War field— and a mesmerizing lecturer of national acclaim — Bud Robertson is probably more in demand as a speaker before Civil War groups than anyone else in the field.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of a Civil War soldier check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: P.T. Barnum

Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, April 24, with a lecture on P.T. Barnum by Neil Harris, author of Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum.

Contrary to legend, he never said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Phineas Taylor Barnum was a businessman, hoaxer, and impresario who provided entertainment to a nation hungry for it. “I am a showman by profession . . . and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me,” Barnum wrote defiantly in his autobiography. In an authoritative biography of Barnum, author Neil Harris, professor of history at the University of Chicago, describes the culture and climate of America in the nineteenth century that produced such an outsized, and sometimes outrageous, figure.  Harris has written widely on various aspects of the evolution of American cultural life and on the social history of art and design.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of P.T. Barnum check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

The Seventeenth Child, by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne, sets down the memories of a childhood lived in the countryside of 1930s Virginia by a black woman who grew up before the Civil Rights Movement made so many gains.  These remembrances are plain, soft-spoken and ring true to an age that was certainly different from the one we know.  In some ways, it was a harder time as in her earliest years even basic food was very hard to come by and the sharecropping system made it difficult for all farmers, black and white, to get ahead or even stay afloat during the bad harvest years.

But it was the warmth of family, faith, shared hardship and simple joys that made those days good as well as difficult. The children worked, not only because their help was needed but because it was understood that working was a good thing in and of itself. They helped pull and tend tobacco, can vegetables, sew quilts, raise chickens, and shell corn.  Lucille Payne tells of how hard it was to earn money. How sometimes her mother might not be paid much more than fifty cents for a hard day’s washing of filthy clothes in a dark and cold shed. Well, fifty cents and a hambone that might not be fit to eat without it being scrubbed, too, and sometimes not even then. But her mother said, “Well, you accept what they give you; next time it might be better.”

It wasn’t all about acceptance. Sometimes Lucille would see her mother spit in the water while she washed and she would ask her why she did that. “That helps to get them clean.”  But I know she was just so angry because she had to survive.  When you have so many children you have to survive the best way you can.  Likewise, when white children rode the bus to their segregated school, leaving the black children to walk and even calling them names, the black children got a bit of revenge…and a chance to be better than their so-called betters with an act of charity.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Anne Frank

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 19, with a lecture on Anne Frank by Sid Jacobson, co-author of Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography.

Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and the authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón created the first authorized and exhaustive graphic biography of Anne Frank.

More than simply poignant, this biography elucidates the complex emotional aspects of living a sequestered adolescence as a brilliant, budding writer. Naturally, this book has significant appeal for teens as well as adults.” - Booklist. 

Sid Jacobson was formerly the managing editor and editor in chief for Harvey Comics, and an executive editor at Marvel Comics; artist Ernie Colón has worked at Harvey, Marvel, and DC Comics.

Visit the Macmillan web site to watch interviews with authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, and Hans Westra, director of the Anne Frank House.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Anne Frank check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, April 17, with a lecture on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk by Nabil Al-Tikriti.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the George Washington of today’s Republic of Turkey. After he gained his military reputation by repelling the 1915 Allied invasion of the Dardanelles, he first directed Turkey’s 1920-22 “War of Salvation” and then became Turkey’s first president. He immediately embarked on a fifteen-year campaign to modernize Turkey, which included the empowering of women, abolition of key Islamic institutions, and introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar, and alphabet. His adopted surname means “Father of the Turks.” Nabil Al-Tikriti, Associate Professor of History at the University of Mary Washington, earned a PhD. in Ottoman History from the University of Chicago. In addition, having served in various field capacities with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) since 1993, he has just been elected to a three-year term as a member of MSF-USA’s Board of Directors.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: The Wright Brothers

To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 12, with a lecture on the Wright Brothers by James Tobin, author of To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight.

Wind, sand, and a dream of flight brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where, after four years of experimentation, they achieved the first successful tests of a heavier than air, engine-powered machine in 1903. The Wright brothers, high school dropouts who were self-taught mechanical and aeronautic engineers, typified the legendary ethic of American know-how. Author James Tobin is a specialist in literary journalism and narrative history at Miami University of Ohio. His first book, Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award in biography.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the lives of the Wright Brothers check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Madam C.J. Walker

On Her Own Ground:  The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, April 10, with a lecture on  Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground:  The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.

Born into a former-slave family in 1867, Sarah Breedlove transformed herself into Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur who built her empire developing hair products for black women. After the bloody East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917, Madam Walker devoted herself to having lynching made a federal crime; she later donated part of her financial legacy to support black schools, organizations, individuals, orphanages, retirement homes, and the YMCA and YWCA. Author A’Lelia Bundles is the great-great-granddaughter of Madam Walker.  Bundles enjoyed a 30-year career as an executive and producer in network television news, including as a producer for ABC’s “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” On Her Own Ground:  The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker was named a 2001 New York Times Notable Book.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Madam C.J. Walker check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Marie and Pierre Curie

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 5, with a lecture on Marie and Pierre Curie by Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout.

Lauren Redniss is a graphic biographer whose writing and drawing have appeared in the New York Times, which nominated her for the Pulitzer Prize. Her idea for a life of the Curies occurred to her because, she told the online magazine, Intelligent Life, “I had been thinking about love stories….What struck me as an interesting challenge was that the two main themes were love and radioactivity. And both of those things, of course, are invisible. I loved the idea that I could try to make a visual book out of invisible things.” Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Redniss teaches at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: J.E.B. Stuart

Bold Dragoon: The Life of J.E.B. Stuart

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, April 3, with a lecture on J.E.B. Stuart by Emory Thomas, author of Bold Dragoon: The Life of J.E.B. Stuart.

James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was the most famous Confederate cavalryman of the Civil War — and one of its most dashing figures.  Born in Virginia and educated at West Point, he was a trusted associate of Robert E. Lee, leading the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry in important battles including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness –  as well as Gettysburg, where his actions proved controversial.  His death in Richmond in spring 1864 marked the decline of the superiority of the Confederate horse during the war. Emory M. Thomas is Regents Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Georgia, a long-time member of the history department faculty, and the author of eight books, including authoritative biographies of Lee and Stuart.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of J.E.B. Stuart check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.”  It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”