By Linda Lamberty, Historian
Ridge Historical Society
Into the beginning of March, the Ridge Historical Society (RHS) was steaming forward, scheduling our popular annual Spring Bonnet Tea, five monthly crafting events geared toward children and centered around our new exhibit of American Girl dolls, and more.
“Real American Girls of the Ridge” is a display of the first five American Girl dolls (Felicity – 1774, Kirsten – 1854, Addy – 1864, Samantha – 1904 and Molly – 1944) and their fabulous costumes and other accessories, a gift from local resident and RHS friend, Joan O’Connor. As a complement to this collection, and turning it into a tool to teach local history, the stories of five real girls/women who lived in our community over the last 176 years, whose lives and times parallel in varying degrees the fictional stories of the dolls, are told in words and images. An added bonus is the story of American Girl creator, Pleasant Thiele Rowland, with roots of her own here in Beverly/Morgan Park.
All efforts to bring people in to RHS to see this exhibit screeched to a halt as we closed our doors on COVID-19. The tea is postponed until future notice and our doors will stay shut at least through April.
With parents at home in search of educational and entertaining material for their housebound kids, the RHS decided to make the exhibit, craft events and more available online, free to all. Shifting gears like this will take some time and mental gymnastics, but look to RHS to be offering e-learning opportunities beginning within the month.
Beyond the stories of five real local personalities, subjects from the exhibit to be covered online include descriptions of the wild Ridge as it appeared in 1844, local Underground Railroad and related activities here before the end of the Civil War, the heartfelt story of Fridhem – the Swedish Baptist Old Peoples’ Home established in Morgan Park in 1905, stories of the first Girl Scout troops started in Morgan Park in 1922, and the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company’s role, along with other local Homefront activities, during WWII.
In the meantime, the entertaining and informative RHS Facebook posts by Carol Flynn bring clarity to the present by showing how closely today can be tied to the past. Flynn is currently revamping our web site and will be adding educational material as fast as we can develop it. A series of recent Facebook posts show how history repeats itself as she describes Chicago’s efforts in the Spanish Flu pandemic just over a century ago.
If they knew then what we know now, they’d have been ahead of the game. If we knew now what those 100 years from now will know, we would be far better served. Please try to be enlightened, think ahead and stay well!