Category Archives: Biography

Alumni Spotlight: Judith Marshall

By Violet Caswell

In the spring of her senior year at McGill University in Montreal, Judith Marshall opened her computer and searched that question that is nearly ubiquitous among history majors:

 

For students of history who do not want to teach or work in academia, this wearisome question is ever-present, made worse when relatives exclaim “History! What are you going to do with that?” at every holiday dinner. Yet, as she browsed the internet, Marshall found occasion for hope, not despair. History majors, she realized, could pursue careers in all kinds of organizations and institutions. As the possibilities stretched out in front of her, one path seemed particularly enticing: public history.

Judith with peer, Jacob Lusk, working with archival materials in a graduate history class.

After graduating from McGill, Marshall moved to the United States and enrolled in the public history program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Over the course of two years at UMass, she broadened her horizons and discovered that her interests were more diverse than she could ever have imagined.

“One of my responsibilities was to research the craftsmen and laborers . . . I didn’t think I would be interested in these men . . . but as I learned more about them and immersed myself in their lives, I became absolutely fascinated.”

“I had an internship with Historic New England,” she recalled, “and one of my responsibilities was to research the craftsmen and laborers who built a historic house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I didn’t think I would be interested in these men—and they were all men—but as I learned more about them and immersed myself in their lives, I became absolutely fascinated.” Marshall’s intensive research allowed her to understand the craftsmen as dynamic individuals with robust political and social lives. Her capstone project, a walking tour of Portsmouth, showcased those lives and brought them to life.

After graduating from UMB, Marshall returned to informally advise incoming students at the History Department’s Graduate Student Symposium in September 2017.

With plenty of skills and experience under her belt, Marshall graduated from UMass in 2105 and entered the job market. She soon learned that a position was opening up at the Lynn Museum and Historical Society in Lynn, Massachusetts. After shadowing the Museum’s outgoing education and research specialist, she took over the position. There was only one problem: “I didn’t know anything at all about Lynn. Here I was training docents and working with our visitors, and I was just learning all of the history myself.” Marshall wasn’t intimidated by her task. With little determination and a lot of research, she eventually became well versed in Lynn’s history.

1911 postcard of Market Street in Lynn, Massachusetts, with a car of the Bay State Street Railway. Wikimedia Commons.

“It’s a little like being a teacher,” she explains, “Where at first, when you’re doing lesson plans and you’re teaching yourself along the way. But then it gets easier and easier.”

Now, Marshall serves as an excellent resource to her institution’s patrons. She works with any researchers who come to the Museum to look at its remarkable photograph collection, which spans from the nineteenth century to the present day. Although the Museum has transferred its archival holdings to the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, she routinely directs research requests and assists the public in any way she can.

Judith Marshall (center), Education & Research Specialist at the Lynn Museum, leading a tour.

There is no such thing as an average day for Marshall, whose duties at the Lynn Museum are broad in a way that is common for professionals working at smaller institutions. On any given day, she might be training docents, developing new exhibits, leading fleets of elementary school groups through the Museum or even trying to figure out why that fountain in the courtyard keeps leaking. “Small institutions can be like that,” she laughs.

Marshall says that juggling so many responsibilities can be a challenge, and that time management skills are essential to her success. Flexibility, too, is crucial– as is the ability to remain calm under pressure. When busloads of students arrive early for a field trip, or when buses are late to pick them up, Marshall has to improvise and find ways to entertain them for longer than anticipated.

Despite the occasional hiccups that arise, Marshall finds planning field trip programming to be one of her most exciting responsibilities. While she works with students of all ages, her most extensive initiative is with third grade groups. Because of Marshall’s planning, these Lynn public school students have the opportunity to participate in a field trip that much more dynamic than your average, forgettable one-day field trip.

When she first started the program, Marshall says, “I didn’t have any idea how to communicate with third graders. I didn’t know what they looked like or what they could know.” After careful research, she developed an age-appropriate program to teach Lynn students about their city’s history. She and her colleagues go into the classroom twice—one before and once after students visit the Lynn Museum—to reinforce the lessons that students learn. She also invites the students and parents to the Museum’s end of the year Open House to reinforce the students’ knowledge of the institution and to create new bonds with parents.

Judith, relaxing outside of her work at the Lynn Museum.

Through her work with the Lynn Museum, Judith Marshall has put her background in public history to good use, developed new skills, and brought history to life in Lynn, Massachusetts. Yet, her career trajectory was one that she never could have predicted, even as she graduated from UMass Boston.

Her advice to current students?

“Apply for jobs- lots of jobs. You never know what you’ll end up being interested in.”

 

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Beloved UMass Boston Professor and Scholar Passes Away

We mourn the loss of Professor Emeritus James R. Green, who passed away in Boston on June 23 after nearly two years struggling with complications of leukemia.

James Green, Professor Emeritus of History, College of Liberal Arts
Jim Green, Professor Emeritus of History, College of Liberal Arts, UMB.

Jim Green was a prolific scholar and beloved teacher. One student commented:

“Jim Green was my favorite teacher. He inspired us to read, understand and learn from workers’ history. Most of all he showed us he cared about us as students. He was a gift to working people!”

 

Cover of The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015).
Cover of The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015).

His two most recent books received wide acclaim: Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (2006) and The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom (2015). The latter was the basis for an “American Experience” PBS program, The Mine Wars, broadcast on January 26, 2016; four million viewers tuned in.

A prominent member of a wave of historians who transformed labor history in the 1970s and 1980s, Jim Green deeply influenced the broader field of social history. In 2010, Jim was named Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Indeed, he was the recipient of many awards, including in April of this year the Labor and Working Class History Association’s Award for Distinguished Service. The text of the award reads in part: “In seven books, many articles, films, exhibits, local tour guides, and other cutting-edge labor education and public history projects, Professor Green has opened new avenues of scholarly inquiry and pioneered new ways to communicate historical narratives to broad audiences.”

Jim received his doctorate in history from Yale University, where he studied with C. Vann Woodward, who proved a model for writing history with a purpose. Jim came to UMB’s College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) in 1977. At CPCS he developed the Labor Studies Program, served as Acting Dean for a year, and held several other positions of academic leadership. In 2006, he joined the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts, where he founded and directed the Public History Graduate Track, from 2009 until his retirement in 2014.

Not only were Jim’s publications distinguished by their scholarly rigor and depth of analysis, but, as one colleague put it: “Reading his books was like reading novels. He was a marvelous story teller.” Jim worked hard to be that story teller, but he was fundamentally committed to helping people tell their own histories. Jim worked to bring historical scholarship to audiences outside the academy, and democratize the writing and telling of history in both academic scholarship and public venues.  His work across multiple contexts—as university teacher, historian of the labor movement, participant in neighborhood history projects, editor and contributor for the journal Radical Ame51Q8TRWJRJL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_rica, co-founder of Massachusetts History Workshops, President of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA), and partner and collaborator on documentary films–Jim’s personal and professional commitments serve as models for public historians and indeed, all publicly engaged scholarship. Jim tells his own story eloquently in his 2000 publication, Taking History to Heart: The Power of the Past in Building Social Movements.

Jim’s work as a scholar was matched by his devotion to his teaching. Students over the years viewed his courses as life-changing. One former student commented: “Jim Green was my favorite teacher. He inspired us to read, understand and learn from workers’ history. Most of all he showed us he cared about us as students. He was a gift to working people!”

In 2014, Jim Green was interviewed at the UMass Boston Mass. Memories Road Show about his work at UMass Boston and as part of union activities on campus.

In 2011, he donated his papers to University Archives & Special Collections. This collection details his career and activist history from 1964 to 2010. View the finding aid for the James Green papers here.

Jim Green is survived by his wife, Janet Grogan; their son, Nicholas Green of Somerville; his daughter by an earlier marriage, Amanda Green of Cambridge; his former wife, Carol McLaughlin; his mother, Mary Kaye Green; and three siblings and several nieces and nephews.

The family asks that people wishing to honor Jim’s memory to make a contribution either to nurses at the bone marrow transplant ward on Feldberg 7 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—send to BI Deaconess Medical Center, Office of Development, 330 Brookline Avenue-OV, Boston, MA 02215, with “James Green/Nursing General Fund” on the memo; or to the “James Green Scholarship in Labor Studies,” and send to University Advancement, UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.

An open house will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 30, in Dr. Green’s Somerville home (72 Mt. Vernon St.). A larger, public memorial gathering will be announced for later in the year.

A great deal more information about Jim can be found at http://jamesgreenworks.com/ obituaries appear in the Boston Globe and New York Times.

 

 

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