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Past Tense Seminar with Ann M. Little

Associate Professor of History Ann M. Little presents “Writing a Biography of an Almost Undocumented Person: Ester Wheelwright (1696-1800).” She specializes in the history of women, gender and sexuality at Colorado State University.

The Past Tense Seminar Series is co-sponsored by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, the Huntington-USC Institute for California and the West, and the Huntington Library.

Ann M. Little is the author of Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), which was recognized with an Honourable Mention for the Albert B. Corey Prize/Prix Corey awarded jointly by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association in 2008.  She has held fellowships at the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  Professor Little has also written for Common-place, and chapters from Abraham in Arms were excerpted in Women’s America:  Refocusing the Past, edited by Linda K. Kerber, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Jane Sherron DeHart (7th ed., Oxford University Press, 2010), and in Major Problems in American Women’s History (5th edition, Cengage Learning, edited by Sharon Block, Ruth M. Alexander, and Mary Beth Norton, 2013). 

In academic year 2014-15, she will be at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California as the Dana and David Dornsife Fellow to complete her book on the life and times of Esther Wheelwright (1696-1800).  She was an English girl taken captive by the Wabanaki in 1703 who became an Ursuline choir nun in Québec and the order’s only foreign-born Mother Superior.  Her life offers an opportunity to explore many different early American women’s experiences:  she crossed between three cultures in childhood and adolescence, exchanging the Protestantism of her childhood for Catholicism among Wabanaki Indians, and ultimately assumed in old age the powerful position of Mother Superior of the Ursuline convent in Québec.  Wheelwright chose her own captivity, and through her life we may explore the possibilities and limitations of gender in three North American cultures.  Questions about the nature of captivity and liberty, constraint and movement, and security and danger pulse throughout the chapters.