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Odd Wisconsin Archive

"The men all so good for nothing..."


"Yes, I am fond of history," comments the hero's sister in Jane Austen's 1803 novel, Northanger Abbey. "I wish I were too," replies heroine Catherine Morland. "I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome."

Young women like Catherine surely have had good reason to think history was irrelevant to their lives and interests, at least until recent times. But we've tried to give Wisconsin girls and women an easy way to reclaim their past with Women's Wisconsin from the Society press. For a quick overview of women's history, linked to online primary sources and background materials, also check out our women's history page

Of course, you don't have to be female to find history tiresome. Roger Daltrey, of The Who, recalled that "at school it was the most boring thing I've ever sat through in my life. It was about as exciting as a clam race. All they wanted to talk about was numbers and dates. It ceased to be about people."

We're trying to put the people back in through a series of books for young readers called Badger Biographies. The latest title, Richard Bong, World War II Flying Ace is the true story of a northern Wisconsin boy who went from hunting deer to hunting enemy planes and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It's real people's actual lives that lift history out of the mire of meaningless names and dates. For dozens of true stories told by people from Wisconsin's past, visit Turning Points in Wisconsin History and type "Diary" or "Memoir" in its search box. In seconds you'll get a Ho-Chunk warrior telling his life story, the recollections of 19th-century boyhoods and girlhoods, the journals of famous explorers and teenage immigrants -- and much much more -- delivered to your desktop.

Finally, to encounter some not-so-famous but rather peculiar people, browse the complete archives of our blog Odd Wisconsin (or visit the exhibit or read the book linked down below).

So put the people back into your past and forever lay to rest the "tiresome" approach to history. Wisconsin's past is stranger than you think.
:: Posted in Curiosities on August 12, 2009

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