(7) Nebraskans Who Made a Difference Subjects

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor

by Joe Starita

On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree―becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country. By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 850 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick―tuberculosis, small pox, measles, influenza―families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.

More Than Football: George Flippin's Stromsburg Years

by Kathy Nelson

George Flippin, the son of freed slaves, is famous for being the first African American to play football for the University of Nebraska in the 1890’s.  He went on to become a doctor in Stromsburg. He was an eloquent speaker on behalf of African American’s everywhere, a world class doctor who delivered babies, healed the sick, and cared for the dying regardless of a families ability to pay. Nelson tells his story, which includes the first civil rights case in Nebraska.

Getting to Know Weldon Kees Through His Songs and Lyrics

by Helen Waring Johnson

Beatrice Nebraska native Weldon Kees, known primarily for his dark poetry, was also one of the mid-century’s most versatile and artistic personalities–an abstract expressionist artist, photographer, accomplished pianist and  composer-lyricist of popular songs. Singer-Songwriter Waring Johnson discusses Kees and performs from this little known repertoire focusing on Kees’ witty, intelligent lyrics of songs written in collaboration with San Francisco clarinetist Bob Helm.

Mary Bewick Bridges White

by Laureen Riedesel

In period costume (late 1890s), Riedesel portrays Dr. Mary Bewick Bridges White, sister of Nebraska suffragist Clara Bewick Colby, with an emphasis on women’s rights and the split between practitioners of homeopathic medicine and the American Medical Association at the turn of the century.

Father Edward J. Flanagan of Boys Town

by Thomas J. Lynch

On December 12, 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan founded a revolutionary boy’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. All boys were welcome regardless of their race or religion. This presentation will explore Father Flanagan’s views on racial and religious equality, and how they differed from accepted social norms of early 20th century America.

Neihardt – Nebraska’s Poet Laureate and So Much More

by Nancy Gillis

This program gives an in depth look at Neihardt’s  biography, including the variations of his long writing career, family background, marriage, as well as a brief biography of his wife, the artist Mona Martinson.

From Society Page to Front Page: Unsung Women of the Nebraska Press

by Eileen Wirth

In the 1880’s Nebraska’s women journalists included  Willa Cather, a major suffragist publisher and a crusader for food safety. Since then, Nebraska has produced women White House correspondents, war correspondents, “Rosie the Reporters,” noted weekly editors, significant broadcasters and  baby boomers who broke the barriers to the front page. Ask for a program tailored for your group.

The Editor who Stopped the Floods: The Harry Strunk Story

by Gene O. Morris

When the Flood of 1935 roared through the Republican River Valley, Harry Strunk sprung into action. The lifetime newspaperman was able to get reservoirs built to hold back the floodwaters. One of the lakes was named after Strunk before he died. “Give ‘em Hell” Harry Strunk of McCook remains the only Nebraskan to be so honored. This presentation looks at the colorful life of the Editor Harry Strunk.

Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X)

by Sharif Z. Liwaru

What did Malcolm X stand for and what significance does he have to the radical politics and movements of his time? I share his life as he describes it, as a “chronology of changes”, presenting a view of Malcolm’s life and the changes he underwent, as well as the relevance of his social, political, and even spiritual thought. The challenge is to take Malcolm X, all of him, and present this information in an accessible manner.

Grace Abbott: Children’s Crusader

by Helen M. Lewis

Grace Abbott’s Grand Island upbringing influenced her advocacy for education and social justice as  director of Chicago’s Immigrant Protective League. Writing and speaking for social reform–from women’s suffrage to world peace–Abbott became a leader in the struggle for federal child labor legislation. As Chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, Abbott shaped public assistance programs, especially to protect children. The presentation, done in costume, conveys the continuing relevance of Abbott’s work by exploring her efforts for the exploited. Lewis will adapt the program to meet the interests of the sponsoring group.

Louise Pound: The Iconoclast

by Marie Krohn

A quest for individual excellence led Louise Pound to ignore Victorian Age gender restrictions and become a world-class athlete. She also developed an international reputation as a philologist, folklorist, and educator and advanced the use of American English over British English. She was a compassionate friend of her students and colleagues.

John A. Creighton: Blazing the First Internet

by Brian Kokensparger

Portraying John A. Creighton, Kokensparger helps the audience envision the building of the first “Internet”– the first transcontinental telegraph. Although his brother, Edward, was the chief superintendent of the project, John was in a unique position to observe the installation of the line and did his share to help the Creighton crew win the race to Salt Lake City. At the end of this Chautauqua-style program, Kokensparger comes out of character to make connections between today’s Internet and the telegraph network.

Aaron Douglas, UNL Class of ’22: Visual Artist of the Harlem Renaissance

by Peggy Jones

This visual presentation will introduce the artist Aaron Douglas, the “Father of Black Art.” Douglas was the first Black graduate of the UNL Department of Art. His work is a celebration of Afrocentric Modernism, with which he established one of the earliest affirmative depictions of Black identity, history, and experience.

Hartley Burr Alexander: A Living History

by Robert Haller

Those who quote “Not the victory but the action; not the goal, but the game; in the deed, the glory” or “The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness in the Citizen” may not know that the author of these inscriptions is Hartley Burr Alexander.  He was nationally prominent as a philosopher and educational theorist, but put much of his energy into Nebraska institutions—the Capitol Building for which he was thematic consultant, the Pageants of Lincoln, Ak-Sar-Ben, the culture of native peoples, and prairie populism. For this program I impersonate Alexander, presenting in his own words, reflections on his upbringing in Syracuse and his years as a philosophy professor, writer and producer of pageants, architectural consultant, poet, curriculum specialist, advocate for Native culture, and scholar in many fields.

Louise Pound, Nebraska Athlete and Scholar: Biography or Living History

by Evelyn Haller Harris

Louise Pound was the first woman elected to the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame. The confidence she gained from her notable athletic achievements, including a man’s letter in tennis at the University of Nebraska and many long-distance bicycling awards, contributed to her setting high academic goals for herself and persevering to their attainment. At a time when women rarely went on to higher education, she excelled, achieving a doctorate in German language (philology) in record time. On her return to the University of Nebraska, Pound coached women’s basketball and disagreed with the policies of Mabel Lee who was among the first women trained in physical education. Academically, Pound gained national recognition for her pioneering contributions to the study of American language and folklore.

Bright Leaves Flying: An Introduction to U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser

by Mary K. Stillwell

Nebraska resident Ted Kooser made headlines when he was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2004. He served from 2004-2006.  Stillwell places Kooser within the rich tradition of Nebraska poetry and provides an introduction to the poet and his work.  Kooser, born in Ames, Iowa, moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to study with Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska in 1963, and has made his home in the state ever since.  Stillwell will talk about his life and how it influenced his work.  The talk can be tailored to the specific wishes of the audience.

I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice

by Joe Starita

Joe Starita discusses the legal, social and political importance of the landmark 1879 decision in which a judge declared that Ponca Chief Standing Bear was “a person” within the meaning of the law and entitled to the same Constitutional protections as white citizens.

Introduction to Nebraska Authors

by Laureen Riedesel

This program consists of readings from six Nebraska authors, with a short biography of each author and an introduction to each piece. Readings and authors include Mari Sandoz’s “Winter Thunder,” Willa Cather’s “My Antonia,” Wright Morris’ “Will’s Boy,” John G. Neihardt’s “All Is But a Beginning,” Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “A White Bird Flying” and Loren Eiseley’s “All the Strange Hours.”

Nebraska Frontier Physician: Robert Ramsay Livingston, M.D

by John Schleicher

Schleicher shares the story of Dr. Robert Ramsay Livingston of Plattsmouth, one of the outstanding pioneer figures in Nebraska medicine.  Livingston began practicing medicine in Plattsmouth in 1859, captained the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, helped organize the Nebraska State Medical Society and was one of the first delegates from Nebraska to the American Medical Association.  Among varied accomplishments, he served as Chief Surgeon of the Burlington Railroad in Nebraska, Mayor of Plattsmouth, and President of the Faculty of the Omaha Medical College. Schleicher can present the program as living history by portraying Dr. Livingston in period attire or as a lecture presentation.

Clues to Clara: The Rediscovery of Local Women’s History

by Laureen Riedesel

While researching the origins of the Beatrice Public Library, Riedesel and Diana Church came across a footnote naming Clara Colby as the founder, uncovering a chapter in Nebraska history that was nearly lost. Clara Bewick Colby was one of the most active and versatile participants in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. This presentation introduces us to a remarkable woman. Riedesel also shows how state, regional and national resources can be used to rediscover local history.

General George Crook: His Life and Times

by Greg Nestroyl

Dressed in period costume, Nestroyl introduces General George Crook with a program of entertaining history from an American Indian War veteran and humanitarian. Nestroyl presents reflections and experiences from on and off of the field of battle through the eyes of the man who was called the “Greatest Indian fighter in the U.S. Army.”

J. Sterling Morton: Author of Arbor Day

by Darrel W. Draper

This history program introduces the audience to the life of J. Sterling Morton, from his birth in upstate New York to his rise to power and fame in Nebraska. Within five years after his arrival at Bellevue, Morton was twice elected to the Territorial Legislature, appointed Clerk of Supreme Court, became Territorial Secretary and was made acting Governor at the age of 26. The founder of Arbor Day would later become secretary of agriculture. The presenter, in costume and in character, uses humor and pathos to give us new insight into Morton’s failures and successes, educating and entertaining audiences of all ages.

The Burckhardts: An African-American Epic

by Dawn R. Connelly

The extraordinary lives of Rev. Oliver and Ann Burckhardt come to life in a colorful slide presentation depicting the significant contributions this African-American couple made to the Lincoln, Omaha and Brownlee communities during 1890-1949. Rev. Burckhardt was one of the founding fathers of Lincoln’s NAACP and the Lincoln Urban League, and he organized the Saint James Church in Brownlee in 1910 for African-American settlers. Anna taught art in her studio in Lincoln for 40 years and was nationally known for her portrait oil paintings and china painting.

A Visit With Lady Vestey

by Beverly Beavers

Beverly Beavers comes in costume and character to tell the fascinating story of Lady Vestey.  Lady Vestey became the highest paid woman executive in the world in the early 1900’s. As an employee of the Vestey Cold Storage Company she traveled extensively and learned many languages. She was instrumental in providing food for the Allied troops during World War I and lived in London during the bombing of Britain during World War II.  She joined the English nobility when she married her boss, William. They bought their own cruise ship named the Arandora Star and lived in a huge house in London named Kingswood. Lady Vestey traveled far, but she never found a place that she liked better than Nebraska. This program provides stories and information that appeals to all ages.

Sharpie: Nebraska’s Queen of the Air

by Diane R. Bartels

This Power Point presentation is based on Bartels’ extensive research and book about Evelyn Sharp, a pioneering, teenage
aviatrix who became a war hero. Sharp taught men to fly and was one of the first women to ferry U.S. Army Air Force fighters during World War II, freeing men for combat.  The program is appropriate for students as well as adults.