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Vol 56 No. 9 | August 2004
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Awards & Grants

NEH Grant Supports Early U.S. History Web Site

History professor Pat Cleary capped her interest in the 18th-century American entrepreneur Elizabeth Murray with the award of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of $114,091, which with cost sharing totals $178,221 to develop a Web site based on the businesswoman's life and the records she left behind.

"I was absolutely delighted to receive the grant," said Cleary, a member of the university since 1989. "I feel all the effort and years of working on the project on my own when I was doing research and writing my book Elizabeth Murray: A Woman's Pursuit of Independence in 18th Century America in 2000 as well as my collaboration with colleagues at CSULB and teachers in the Long Beach Unified School District was entirely validated."

Working with co-director/history lecturer Sean Smith, and teachers and scholars from LBUSD and around the country, Cleary will be developing "The Elizabeth Murray Project: An Educational Website for Early American History." The project will apply Internet technology to create a history resource Web site for teachers and students. Using biography as a springboard for addressing the evolution of the 18th-century Atlantic world, the site focuses on the changing roles of women and the shifting political, economic and cultural identities that preceded and informed the American Revolution. The site will feature an online archive of otherwise unavailable primary sources, templates of critical questions for document and Web site analysis and models of lesson plans for 5th, 8th and 11th graders, as well as university classrooms.

"The Elizabeth Murray Project thus combines serious scholarship and technology in a way that promotes historical literacy and critical-thinking skills," said Cleary. "Rotating examples of student work, online discussions of pedagogy and early American history, and the ongoing development of new curriculum materials will, we hope, make the site a valuable one. The lesson plans, any answer keys that are developed, and access to primary sources will be available to anyone with Internet access."

Cleary's work also is on display in a traveling museum exhibit titled "Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business," which features Murray in a show that is at the Los Angeles Public Library and runs through Sept. 19; the show spotlights 40 entrepreneurial women in American history, from Elizabeth Murray to Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie, as well as current moguls like Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

Murray's life was equally remarkable outside the realm of business, according to Cleary.

"She has an incredible life story with wild midnight rides. She housed the British soldiers who were involved in the Boston Massacre as well as saw her home turned into the first headquarters of the Continental Army," Cleary said. "She had both sides of the American Revolution under her roof at one point or another. She was geographically mobile, living in England, Scotland, North Carolina and Boston. She was economically mobile. She was a border crosser, both in the figurative and literal sense, both politically and economically."

She thinks one reason for her recognition is Murray's special appeal.

"I like to think of her as a kind of female Benjamin Franklin," she said. "She was a self-made entrepreneurial woman of the 18th century. She's not famous for being married to George Washington or John Adams. There is almost nothing out there on the women of pre-Revolutionary America who weren't president's wives. She works as an appealing, ordinary entrepreneurial American."

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