By Jane Lang
Executive Director, Neenah Historical Society
One of the greatest frustrations our local teachers have expressed to members of the Neenah Historical Society over the past few years is the lack of pertinent, grade-appropriate, local history to share with their students.
With the help of a $3,500 Bright Idea Fund grant from the Community Foundation covering most of the cost of printing, the Neenah Historical Society will be creating a series of three grade-appropriate booklets for elementary students. These booklets will focus on the people, places, and businesses of our past that students should know about.
Students will learn about people like Helen Kimberly Stuart, whom we have to thank for our ability to take a drive through Kimberly Point Park. Neenah’s first woman alderman and an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, Mrs. Stuart fought to keep Lakeshore Drive accessible to the public, realizing that future generations would greatly benefit from the presence of a public park on this site.
School children may know that Ellen Kort of Appleton was Wisconsin’s first poet laureate, but few know that Neenah’s Effie Waller Smith was the country’s first published African American woman poet. Neenah also lays claim to Arthur Shattuck, a world-famous classical pianist.
We are extremely happy to begin to share this local history with our elementary students. It will help them begin to build a sense of pride and attachment to their community, and that pride translates into strong and positive feelings of connection and dedication to our hometown.
Once completed in the 2018-2019 school year, these booklets will be distributed in each of the district’s elementary schools free of charge.
Through this project, we will reach thousands of our young students over many years with the pride-inspiring stories of the amazing people and places of our community. Our wonderful hometown is worth learning about!
Listen to an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio about this project.