All posts by Cathy

March is National Women’s History Month

“Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment”

This year The National Women’s History Project (NWHP) celebrates those women who have “inspired innovation through imagination”.   They recognize in particular eighteen women with major achievements in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and provide a timeline of women who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in the Sciences.

In January, young girls and women in our area could find inspiration in the pages of a local You can do itnewspaper that recognized the achievements of two young women [see JMU’s website] who—along with 10 recipients statewide—were honored with the 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.  It is not only their gender but also their fields of study that are particularly inspiring to women:  Olga Pierrakos is an associate professor of engineering and Laura Taalman is a professor of mathematics and statistics.  Both their careers and their achievements are perfect examples of those women featured this year by the National Women’s History Project.

The Library of Congress has also established a webpage to celebrate Women’s History Month.  Their focus is on “education as the empowering force behind the advancement of sufferage 3women”.  The editors of the site and NWHP note that women now outnumber men in American colleges nationwide and that this reversal of gender gap is a very recent phenomenon.  In fact, it is important for all of us to remind ourselves, our daughters, and our granddaughters, that the right for women to vote in a Federal election was granted by the 19th Amendment  in 1920, when many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would finally have been eligible to register and to proudly hang this paper banner [shown at right] in the front window of their home.

We encourage you to visit the library and check out our many resources on notable women.  There are role models from literature to real life…Anne of Green Gables to Hermione Granger…Rosa Parks to Hilary Clinton.  And then, to test your knowledge of the achievements of the many American women who have made significant contributions to our nation and to all mankind, we challenge you to take this quiz provided by The National Women’s History Project.  YOU CAN DO IT!

Celebrating Lincoln

As the 2012 commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War draws to a close, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the life of Abraham Lincoln, the most notable figure from that time. Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln, released nationwide on Nov. 9, took its inspiration from the final weeks of the war in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  The book itself focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the Civil War. One of the most poignant photographs of Lincoln was taken by Alexander Gardner during the time period portrayed in the film.  Gardner had been a member of a team of photographers hired to make a visual record of the war.  A poster-size rendering of this photograph, which was taken a mere two months before Lincoln’s assassination, hangs in the entrance to our library director’s office.  [The poster was provided as part of the Picturing America series of artwork awarded to classrooms and libraries across the United States by the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association, many others of which also grace the walls of the library.]  It reveals a haggard 55-year-old president, weary and worried from his struggle to preserve the Union.  The online library catalog lists more than 270 titles written about this great man.  A few of the more recent ones are fictionalized such as “The Lincoln Conspiracy” by Timothy L. O’Brien, “The Lincoln Letter” by William Martin, and even an alternate history by Stephen Carter “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln”.

On an ancillary note, you might also consider checking out local author Mary Trindal’s book Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy about the boarding house owner who was convicted of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln and became the first women executed by the United States Government.  The library also has a copy for checkout of Robert Redford’s film The Conspirator on the same topic.

But by all means, if you haven’t already read it, put Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin on your “must read” list.  Though Goodwin can’t help but cover some familiar territory from many biographers before her, her perspective offers fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation, something necessary for any great leader.

Americans celebrate the origin of two United States documents of democracy and freedom in September

In the month of September, we recognize milestones of both the U.S. Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation.  On September 17, 1787—225 years ago—the Constitutional Convention delegates met in Philadelphia, PA, to adopt the final version of the United States Constitution.

The National Archives, where the document is on permanent display, has created a special home page in honor of Constitution Day.  You may also want to watch an “Inside the Vaults” YouTube video with Trevor Plante, Chief of Reference at the National Archives, to get a glimpse of the final printed copy of the Constitution and also of  a few of his favorite related, but rarely-displayed, documents such as:

• The original text of the “Virginia Plan,” Edmund Randolph’s proposal for a national government that included three co-equal branches: “supreme legislative, judiciary and executive”;
• A printed copy of the Constitution with George Washington’s handwritten annotations;
• The state of Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the Constitution — unlike the four-page version of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the entire text is on one enormous sheet of parchment so it could be more easily transported.

On September 22, 1862—150 years ago—Abraham Lincoln wrote his Proclamation of Emancipation which he said was to be enacted the first day of January 1863.  The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “shall be then, thence forward, and forever free.”

The Archives notes that although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.  By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

In his September 7 article about the Proclamation Washington Post, reporter Philip Kennicott  noted: “today it seems strange that we celebrate the proclamation at all, except as a precursor to the far more sweeping and triumphant accomplishment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which two years later banned slavery everywhere in the country, without qualifications or geographical exceptions. And yet this document of war remains a sacred document of democracy, testament to the messiness rather than the ideals of governing. “

Route 11 Yard Crawl Nets Record Sum for Library!

For the third year in a row there has been a huge outpouring of support from the Route 11 Yard Crawl buyers at the library’s booth in downtown Edinburg.  Donna Smith, our volunteer extraordinaire who spearheads this event for the library, spent many hours throughout the year collecting goods for the “crawl” that happens the second weekend of August in Shenandoah County.  In 2010 the sale earned $1033.  Last year it more than doubled that amount to $2130. And this year proceeds from the three days of selling were an astounding $2,938!  Nearly all was sold, INCLUDING the kitchen sink!  Donna had the help of her regular volunteers—Marlene Spindler, Sue Horne, Mo Eisen, Bobbie Sainz, Kaitlin Mantz , teens, and library staff—as well as son Andrew and husband Bill.  In fact, Bill joked that for those four days of moving, unpacking, and repacking he would be known as “Mr. Donna Smith”.  Bill and Andrew set up tables and canopies, ferried boxes from library to gazebo to yard, covered everything with plastic during the rains, uncovered and boxed the leftovers, and counted the proceeds.  After the final tally was done, Donna arrived at the library to hand over the hard-earned money to Cathy Stuter.

A decision was made last year to earmark the proceeds to fund programs for TAG, the Teen Advisory Group founded by Adult Services Librarian, David Robinson.  It was natural, then, that Robinson was able—with the promise of pizza—to entice some of the members to help move items from the Stone House basement to the lawn of Library Trustee member, Bobbie Sainz.  Pictured at left below is Donna getting assistance carrying items up from the basement and at right are Ben, David, and Tim Edelman, Damion Gilmore, and Hunter Bowers loading the truck.  Hooray for Donna, volunteers, and teens for a job well done!  Please clear your calendars for next August and watch for Donna’s pleas for help.  It’s a big fundraiser that could use many more hands to make light work.

Find daily stories, songs and fun at!

Since January, The Library of Virginia has offered the Virginia Family Literacy Calendar at where State Librarian Sandra Treadway explains that “you and your child can embark on an adventure together through books and reading and the many fun-filled activities that spring from them.”  The project is supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and, according to Treadway, is designed to “help you identify events and activities that support early learning and ensure that your child is ready for school and ready to read independently.  The goal is to help provide parents with the tools that make spending time with their children easy and fun, while also helping young ones learn new things about our state and our world.”

The calendar allows you to navigate backward and forward through the 365 days of the year.  There are links to “Arts & Crafts“, “Be Healthy“, “Places in VA“, and “Read With Me“.  The “Read With Me” site provides an additional link, beyond Shenandoah County Library System’s Online Resources page, to the wonderful collection of TumbleBooksTM, a library of electronic talking picture books with music, sound, and narration suited for elementary school children.

Treadway explains that DayByDayVA is where “you find ideas for stimulating your child’s mind and imagination using materials found in your home, as well as lists of books, music, and other educational resources that you can obtain through your local public library.  The Library of Virginia works closely with Virginia’s public libraries and other state and federal partners to assist and support you as your family navigates through the early learning years.  The hope is that the calendar will serve as a springboard to provide you and the youngest members of your family with a love of learning that will last throughout their lives.”

Try it out!  It’s a lot of interactive family fun!

Summer fun in the Valley!

Schools are out for the summer, vacationers are visiting our beautiful valley, and county residents are on the lookout for activities to enjoy during their free time.  There is a wealth of information on the internet, but the first place to search is our own county tourism site at  To extend your search to include Shenandoah Valley, check out  or,  a site that is currently featuring 13 scenic tours of the valley included in local author Andrea Sutcliffe’s  “Touring the Shenandoah Valley Backroads”,  a book available for checkout at any of our county library locations.  Better yet, purchase a copy to keep in your car for those serendipitous daily jaunts or a longer overnight tour!

With the Civil War Sesquicentennial upon us, visit  and also the New Market Battlefield site, now a state-designated Shenandoah Valley Tourist Information Center.

For outdoor enthusiasts, a recommended recreation site within the county that has hiking, fishing, picnicking, bicycling, and camping can be found at the Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area at the northern end of Fort Valley just 11 miles outside of the town of Strasburg (  Here you can hike the Pig Iron and Charcoal trail and learn how pig iron was made from 1836-1888 using iron ore mined nearby and Passage Creek as water power.

Finally, for all things Virginia, the go-to tourism site is  Happy traveling!

Library Director named President-Elect of Virginia Public Library Directors

Shenandoah County Library Director Sandy Whitesides was selected Vice-President /President-Elect of the Virginia Public Library Directors at their annual spring meeting at Graves Mountain in Syria, Virginia.  Scott Firestine, director of Appomattox Regional Library System, will succeed Carol Vincent, director of Eastern Shore Public Library, as President for 2012-13.  The association is comprised of 91 directors of county, city, town, and regional public libraries in the state of Virginia who gather twice a year to share ideas, and work with Library of Virginia staff on statewide issues. The group also supports the efforts of the Virginia Library Association and its various committees. Whitesides characterized the directors as “a great group of people to work with” and looks forward to planning the association’s 2014 annual spring meeting.

Zoe Dellinger is Clara Stanley Scholarship Recipient

The County Library’s Circulation Supervisor extraordinaire, Zoe Dellinger, has been awarded the 2012 Clara Stanley Scholarship in the amount of $2,500 by the Virginia Library Association. VLA stipulates that the award money is to be used toward studies in pursuing a Masters of Library Science degree and indicates that Dellinger was chosen from among many applicants statewide.  She is currently enrolled in the University of North Texas MLIS program, a distance learning program that has partnered in Virginia with James Madison University, and is scheduled to complete her online studies the end of this summer.  The official presentation of the award will take place at the Virginia Library Association’s Paraprofessional Conference in Richmond in late May.  Dellinger is pictured here beside her “Language of Flowers” display that has been a spring feature in the library.  Congratulations, Zoe!

Nancy Branner Stewart Reception

On April 10th Nancy Stewart, author of eleven notebooks on the genealogy of African Americans in Shenandoah County, was honored with a reception at the Library.  She was introduced by Mary Guinta, noted historian and member of the strategic planning committee for the Shenandoah Room and Truban Archives.  During her remarks, Stewart encouraged a roomful of nearly 40 history buffs and local authors to commit themselves to passing along their own historical research so as not to lose little known facts and to correct misconceptions for future generations.  She revealed that her notebook research was spurred by her brief work on the Morrison photographs for the Historical Society.  The many images of African Americans made her realize their omnipresence in the county and yet not much about them was part of the written record.  Stewart began her quest to document what information could be found.  She discovered that African Americans were present when Shenandoah County was established, with 29 slaves recorded in the 1775 census of Dunmore County.  The 1783 tax list of Alexander Hite showed 362 slaves held by 110 heads of household.  The 1820 U.S. Federal Census reveals the astonishing fact that Shenandoah County had a total population of 18,926 and 12% of those were African American, or 1 in 8 people!  Stewart closed by acknowledging those who had provided guidance during her many hours of research spent in the Shenandoah Room and Truban Archives.

At the conclusion of the reception, Library Director Sandy Whitesides presented Ms. Stewart with a plaque recognizing her contributions to the historical record of Shenandoah County and also noted that the Library is looking forward to hosting many future events celebrating local history and showcasing the wealth of information available inside the doors of our local history room.