nhhs masthead

The independent nonprofit that saves, preserves, and shares New Hampshire history.




CONTACT: Donna-Belle Garvin at 603-856-0642 or Brenda French at 603-856-0607
Women and Men, Famous and Little Known

CONCORD, NH--TWO of the three articles included in the just-released Summer 2015 issue of the statewide history magazine Historical New Hampshire feature stories of New Hampshire women. Both will be of interest, however, to all those who care about our state's history, no matter their gender. Hannah Duston is certainly a name well-known to all. Yet as one local historian wrote in the mid-1900s, "Fact and folklore have become so confused in retelling the narrative [of her escape from captivity] that the average adult today wonders if it really happened." In a ground-breaking study entitled "Following in Hannah Duston's Footsteps: Reexamining the Evidence," Denise Ortakales of Laconia takes a new look at previously unquestioned dates and presumed "facts." Using published and manuscript accounts written by New Englanders taken by their native captors to Canada, the author fleshes out the story, making it more credible, while at the same time showing that much of what is taken for granted is undocumented. This article, and a related book which the author is working on, are likely to become the definitive works on this subject and remain so for some time to come.  

Unlike the lead article, which questions long-standing beliefs about a well-known New Hampshire figure, the second article introduces a group of all-but-forgotten women from New Hampshire and Boston. In "Sarah Low and 'The Bostonians': Social Networks of Civil War Nurses in Wartime Washington, D.C.," Katelynn Vance re-creates the day-to-day world of a group of New England women who served as nurses in the nation's capital during the Civil War. She does so by studying their letters, with emphasis on those of Sarah Low of Dover in the New Hampshire Historical Society's collections. The author's focus is on the importance of the women's social networks, both at home and in Washington, in all aspects of their wartime lives, influencing how they obtained their hospital positions, how they procured supplies, ranging from bandages to reading material for the recuperating soldiers, and how they found respite from their work in the wards.

The third and final article, like the Sarah Low article, is about an ordinary person who would not be remembered at all today if not for Sean Furniss's article, "The Experiences of an Impressed New Hampshire Seaman." The author, who has spent more than 30 years researching his family history, was inspired to delve into the story of John Furniss, a collateral relative from Portsmouth who was, like many other Americans, forced to serve on a British ship during the Napoleonic wars. He ended up losing his life while fighting with the British against the French. The author's interest in his own family heritage has enabled him to provide readers a glimpse beyond the statistics into the impact of impressment on an individual sailor and his New Hampshire community.

The New Hampshire Historical Society has published Historical New Hampshire since 1944. Each issue contains a variety of articles about a past that enriches and informs our lives today, as well as reviews of recent books of state and local interest. Each issue is richly illustrated; this one contains 60 illustrations in color and black-and-white. Historical New Hampshire is a benefit of membership in the New Hampshire Historical Society. To purchase a copy, call 603-228-6688 or visit the Society's online store at nhhistory.org.

Illustration caption:
Cover of the New Hampshire Historical Society's journal, Historical New Hampshire, featuring the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C., where Sarah Low of Dover, NH, and other women from New England volunteered as nurses during the Civil War.

Founded in 1823, the New Hampshire Historical Society is the independent nonprofit that saves, preserves, and shares New Hampshire history. The Society serves thousands of children and adults each year through its museum, library, education programs, publications, and outreach programs. To learn more about the Society's programs and services, visit  nhhistory.org or call 603-228-6688.