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History Programs

We all enjoy learning something new and interesting, which is why history related programs are always among our most popular events. This page features a wide range of webinars, offered both by our library and other libraries. All programs listed are FREE, virtual, and open to the public!


September Events

Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The WPA: Finding Jobs and Hope in the Great Depression

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

To register for this program, go to


The WPA –the Works Progress Administration (1935-1943)--was the most ambitious jobs program in our country’s history. The WPA hired people of all ages and both genders, with an emphasis on providing jobs for heads of families. The majority of its spending went for construction, but it also created work opportunities for seamstresses and teachers, factory workers and housewives, painters and musicians, librarians and archeologists, actors and writers. Overall during its eight-year history, the WPA created jobs for more than 8 million people.  But the WPA did not have a placid life. Follow the program through the eight years of its existence, and you will see practically every contentious issue of the day bubble to the surface—race, class, and gender; the role of the market versus the public sector; issues of art and censorship; accusations of political influence; and disputes over the proper balance of responsibility between Washington and local government. With this background as context, this lecture will explore what the WPA achieved, the challenges it faced, what it meant to the people involved, and what we can learn from it today.


Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She recently published When Women Won the Vote, about the woman suffrage movement. She has also written books about the flu epidemic of 1918, the WPA of the 1930s, and Bellevue Hospital, as well as a biography of Jane Addams, an historical atlas of American women’s history, and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie.

Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Pioneer of her own Fortune”: Nineteenth-Century Businesswomen in Albany and Across the United States (and the World)

Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm

To register for this program, go to


When Dr. Susan Ingalls Lewis started research on Albany’s mid-nineteenth-century milliners thirty years ago, she expected to identify a few exceptional women willing to brave the male marketplace in search of commercial success.  What she discovered instead were thousands of small businesswomen engaged in a wide range of fields – not just milliners and dressmakers, but grocers, shop owners, boardinghouse keepers, laundresses, saloonkeepers, and small manufacturers.  Even more surprising than the number of female proprietors and the variety of their trades was the fact the vast majority of these women were well known and even notable members of their own communities.  Where previous historians of working women had insisted that respectable women could not or would not engage in business activities, Dr. Lewis found an almost overwhelming mass of evidence using such obvious sources as city directories, the census, and credit records.  Eventually, she was able to name more businesswomen in Albany’s credit reports than were recorded for the entire state of North Carolina in the same period (1840-1885).   This talk will summarize Dr. Lewis’s research on Albany, then expand the discussion to other mid-nineteenth-century U.S. cities, and finally place this material in a global context, based on the first international study of businesswomen in the “long” nineteenth century (published in 2020). 


Susan Ingalls Lewis is Professor Emerita in History at the State University of New York College at New Paltz where she continues to teach courses in women’s history and New York State history. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Her monograph, Unexceptional Women: Female Proprietors in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Albany, New York, 1830-1885 (Ohio State University Press, 2009) was awarded the Hagley Prize for the best book in business history. Dr. Lewis’s essay “More Than Just Penny Capitalists: The Range of Female Entrepreneurship in Mid-Nineteenth-Century US Cities,” recently appeared in Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century: toward a Global Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).  She is also the co-author of Girls to the Rescue: the Impact of World War I on Girls’ Series Fiction (McFarland & Company, 2020), as well as co-editor and contributor to Suffrage and its Limits: The New York Story (SUNY Press, 2020).   

October Events

Date: Friday, October 1, 2021

In Search of White Crows (FILM PREMIERE)

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

To register for this program, go to


Historian Michael Keene premieres a new documentary about the strange and tragic lives of New York’s own Fox Sisters who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism. This event features a Q&A with the creator. The event is FREE but requires registration. Unlimited viewing after the premiere.

The videos provided on the above link are recordings of some past programs that were sponsored by the Friends of the New York State Library.

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