2021 Fall Session

Please note that some programs will only be offered via Zoom. You will see these highlighted in red and marked as “Zoom only” in the schedule below. The remaining programs will be offered in a hybrid format with the ability to attend in person or via Zoom. Please stay tuned to LIRA communications as class formats may change as conditions warrant.

Please note that UMass Lowell now requires students, faculty, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings indoors while on campus regardless of vaccination status. UML currently requires students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated and encourages all visitors to be vaccinated.


Women in History: 1600 to the present

Presenter: Professor Michael Pierson
Four Mondays, 10 a.m. – Noon: Sept. 13, 20, 27, Oct. 4

This course surveys the history of women in the British North American colonies and United States from 1600 to the present. It examines women as a distinct group and the things that have brought them together, as well as the divisions among women that have limited their abilities to unite. The history of American women includes many topics from social practice and gender ideologies to economics and law. We will be particularly interested in the emergence and growth of women's public presence in all aspects of American life, on their political activism before and after the vote, and on the strategies employed by women who worked for a more just and equal society. Along the way, we will enjoy lively discussions and be able to share our ideas and experiences.

  1. Day 1: Women in the Colonial and Revolutionary eras.
  2. Day 2: Women and the emergence of "Civil Society" (1790-1865).
  3. Day 3: Progressive Era women and the campaign for the vote (1865-1920).
  4. Day 4: Emancipation is more than Equality, and we don't even have that (1920-2020).

Coordinator: Bob Hanlon*
This course will be on Zoom only.

LIRA New Member Class

Presenter & coordinator: Peter Sebelius*
One Monday: Sept. 13: 1-3 p.m.

New to LIRA? Now what do you do? Come to the LIRA New Member class to learn all about LIRA. This class will cover everything you need to know to get the most out of your LIRA membership and to inform you about the good things your LIRA membership does for the local community and for UML. You will meet several members of the Executive Council who will explain the breakdown of your membership dues, how to make best use of the LIRA Website, how classes are organized and conducted, how field trips are organized, how to get involved in book and video discussions and, most important, what you can do to help us reach our organizational goals.

Legacies of 1620 and the Mayflower: Native Americans in New England

Presenter: Professor Christoph Strobel
One Monday: Sept. 20: 1-3 p.m.

The story of the Mayflower and the creation of Plymouth Colony in 1620 maintains a strong hold on the American imagination and popular culture. America's founding myth depicts the establishment of the Puritan settlement, celebrated at Thanksgiving, as the point of origin of the country. The history of the indigenous peoples on whose lands the English moved are too often a marginal or a neglected part of the founding myth of New England and America. Our workshop will not attempt to provide a comprehensive history. Rather, by focusing on a few select case studies, historic sketches, and biographies from throughout New England, we will explore the complex story of Native Americans in the region. We will pay close attention to how the experience of indigenous peoples is representative of other regions in the United States, but also how New England had divergent developments. While this workshop will not turn a blind eye to the impact that colonization, disease, dispossession, and racism had on the lives of indigenous peoples in New England, it will also emphasize Native American resistance, adaptation, and survival under often harsh and unfavorable circumstances.

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

Abolitionist Movement in Lowell Mass.

Presenter: Professor Robert Forrant
One Monday: Sept. 27: 1-3 p.m.

Watch and discuss The Contradiction, with UMass Lowell Professor Robert Forrant. It is a just-released 40-minute documentary focused on the extraordinary anti-slavery and underground railroad efforts in Lowell before the Civil War. Forrant and local historian and community educator Maritza Grooms visited several sites in downtown Lowell where abolitionist activity occurred and where freedom seekers operated businesses. While Lowell’s mills were heavily dependent on Southern cotton produced by enslaved people, many workers, religious leaders, small business owners, and even some mill overseers opposed the institution of slavery and actively supported freedom seekers. The film was produced by former Lowell Telecommunications Executive Director Wendy Blom and edited by former LTC News Director Caroline Gallagher.

Program Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

The Universe: From Then to Now

Presenter: Professor Robert Gamache
Four Mondays: 10 a.m. – noon: Oct. 18, 25, Nov. 1, 8

This course will include topics such as the Big Bang, the creation of elementary particles leading to atoms and molecules, the surprising formation of life on Earth, and where we are in 2021. Prof. Bob Gamache will lead us through the earliest moments of the formation of the universe, to a greater understanding of how something came from nothing to evolution, and humankind's role as stewards of our planet.

  1. Week 1: From nothing to something - creation of space-time and stuff.
  2. Week 2: What is the universe filled with, and what keeps it all together and apart?
  3. Week 3: The wonder of self-replication from bacteria to current life forms.
  4. Week 4: Where are we in this adventure?

Coordinator: Suzanne Gamache*
This course will be Zoom only.

Experiencing Hubble: Exploring the Milky Way

Facilitator: Chris Geggis*
Four Mondays: 1-3 p.m.: Oct. 18, 25, Nov. 1, 8

One of the wonders of our night sky is the band of stars stretching from horizon to horizon: the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Among the telescopes studying the Milky Way, none has provided a sharper optical view of its stars, star clusters, and nebulae than the Hubble Space Telescope. This course focuses on exploring and understanding our Milky Way Galaxy through the most remarkable Hubble images of its stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galactic environment. Each of the lectures is centered on a specific image from Hubble’s third decade whose individual scientific story ties into a better understanding of the galaxy as a whole.

Coordinator: Peter Sebelius*


The Scandalous History of the Masquerade Ball

Presenter: Susan de Guardiola
One Tuesday, 10 a.m. – noon: Sept. 14

Renowned in its early days as an opportunity for licentious behavior, the masquerade or fancy-dress ball was also an opportunity for comedy, cross-dressing, and conspicuous consumption long predating today’s wilder Halloween celebrations. Social dance historian Susan de Guardiola will trace the history of the masquerade from its bawdy 18th century heyday to the ballrooms of Jane Austen’s era and across the Atlantic to New York in the Gilded Age, accompanied by a lively parade of images and stories of actual masquerades of bygone days.

Coordinator: Lisa Hertel*

This program will be on Zoom only.

Stained Glass Windows - Making Them, Commissioning Them, and Enjoying Them

Presenter: Professor Virginia Raquin
One Tuesday, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 14

Stained glass has been an important part of buildings since the eleventh century. We will begin with an explanation of how they are made, a process that has changed little over the centuries. We will then view well-known examples, including the cathedrals of Canterbury, England, and Chartres, France and important people who sponsored the windows. The modern world, especially in the Boston area, allows us to see American glass of the opalescent era, such as that of John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany. The session will be structured with plenty of time for feedback. Raquin is a former professor who has written a number of books on historic stained glass.

Coordinator: Lisa Hertel* This program will be on Zoom only

A Brief History of Freemasonry

Presenter: Walter Hunt
One Tuesday, 10 a.m. – noon: Sept. 21

Freemasonry is the oldest and most distinguished fraternity in the world, with a documented history of over three hundred years, and - according to some accounts - origins that date back considerably farther. It is not a secret society by any reasonable definition, as its emblems are well known and are displayed in and on public buildings; but it has often been held to be a part, or even the mastermind, of one or another global conspiracy. The truth is far more prosaic, and this talk will provide some background for what the Fraternity is and does, and why it is still relevant and useful today.

Coordinator: Lisa Hertel* This program will be on Zoom only

The Dark Side of Mill Girl life

Presenter: Associate Professor Bridget Marshall
One Tuesday, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 21

In 1848 in Manchester, New Hampshire, twenty-two-year-old Sarah Furber, a mill worker at the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, died during a botched abortion after becoming pregnant by a married man twice her age; Dr. John McNab, who performed the abortion, then packed Furber’s body in box, took it to Boston, and attempted to sell it as a dissection specimen to Oliver Wendell Holmes for ten dollars. This is just one of many horrifying stories of the darker side of industrialization. The exploitation of workers (especially female workers) was a reality across New England (and elsewhere) as communities were transformed by industrialization. This session will discuss several stories of the terrible toll on workers’ bodies, looking at the cases of Sarah Furber, Sarah Maria Cornell (a Fall River factory girl murdered by a minister), Berengera Caswell (a former Lowell factory girl whose body was found in a river in Saco, Maine), as well as cases of industrial accidents that maimed and killed workers. We’ll look at how the stories of these workers were represented in poetry, fiction, journalistic accounts, and illustrations to consider.

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

The Stamp Act and the British Colonies

Presenter: Associate Professor Abby Chandler
One Tuesday, 10 a.m. – noon: Sept. 28

The passing of the “Stamp Act” by the British Parliament in 1765 led to multiple responses from British colonists. Some wrote pamphlets, in support or opposition to the Stamp Act, while others penned editorials for their local newspapers. Riots and demonstrations exploded in communities along the eastern seaboard. Governors alternately derided, cajoled, or, in two cases, supported colonial antipathy towards the Stamp Act. By taking a colony-by-colony approach to the Stamp Act crisis, this talk examines the political beliefs which both fused and divided British North America on the eve of the American Revolution

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*
This program will be on Zoom only

Pirates of the Mediterranean

Presenter: Assistant Professor Jane Sancinito
One Tuesday, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 28

The Ancient Greeks invented the word for “robbers at sea”: pirates. They lived on the edges of a massive sea and knew the dangers of the deep very well. From the time of Ancient Egypt through to the coming of the Vikings, new kinds of pirates continually preyed upon the weak and the powerful alike, stealing and raiding and disrupting ancient trade and travel. In this presentation, we will look at the ancient world from their perspective and ask why people turned to piracy, what they did to make a living, how they survived attempts at suppression, and why they captured the ancient imagination in the same way they do today.

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

Understanding the U.S. Government

Facilitators: Gail Kerr* and Peter Sebelius*
Four Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – noon: October 12, 19,26, November 2

In prior years we studied the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. These provided insight to what the writers of the Constitution had intended for the role of the U.S. Government. We also explored how most changes since then, through amendments, executive orders and states’ powers were a result of changing societal norms and economic power. Now let us take a dive into how the U.S. Government and its three branches are organized, how they are supposed to function and how they actually function. What was the planned role of political parties and is that reality in 2021? We will also look at the fourth estate (the media) and its influence on the politics of the day vs. other significant influences that impact citizens and legislators. Finally, we will glimpse research on political parties, polarization, partisanship and their causes, and the current state of polarization of the country

Coordinator: Peter Sebelius*

Discovering New England Stone Walls

Presenter: Kevin Gardner
One Tuesday, 1-3 p.m.: Oct. 19

Kevin Gardner explains how and why New England came to acquire its thousands of miles of stone walls, the ways in which they and other dry-stone structures were built, how their styles emerged and changed over time, and their significance to the famous New England landscape. Kevin’s informal talk covers a few of the main topics of his book about New England stone walls, The Granite Kiss. During his presentation, Kevin occupies himself building a miniature wall or walls on a tabletop, using tiny stones from a five-gallon bucket. Copies of the Granite Kiss will be available for sale as well as copies of his most recent book, Stone Building – How to Make New England Style Walls and Other Structure the Old Way. There will be an opportunity to ask questions about your own projects!

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

The Sad, Curious Death of Mary Ann Birmingham

Presenter: Joe Orfant
One Tuesday, 1-3 p.m., Oct. 26

This is the true story of the death by poisoning of young Mary Ann Birmingham in 1861. It's a sad and complicated tale of betrayal, deceit and scandals revealed, and it's scope encompasses fugitive slaves, the Underground Railroad and fringe medical practices. The Birmingham family was living on Tanner Street in Lowell at the time of her death but the range of the story reaches from Philadelphia to Canada. Her presumed husband was the prime suspect in her death, and another major character is her father, multi-racial Samuel Till Birmingham an "Indian Physician" of astonishing accomplishment and his own set of mysteries.

Coordinator: Susan Lemire*

Pushing the Envelope – A History of The United States Post Office Through Stamps

Presenter: Henry Lucas, Education Director at the Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History, Regis College, Weston, Mass.
One Tuesday: 1-3 p.m., Nov. 2

By viewing images of vintage US postage stamps, learn about the history of the US Post Office from the first letters carried on the Boston Post Road to the current postal controversies.
Hear about the expansion of the Post Office after the Revolution, controversies over the post and slavery, the introduction of home delivery, mail orders, the short-lived Pony Express, the carrying of mail by railroads, buses and trollies, the start of Parcel Post, the dead letter office, airmail week, V-mail during World War II, the start of zip codes, postal strikes, the introduction of Forever and personalized stamps and the impact of email on the PO’s financial situation. See images of the many creative ways mail has been carried including rockets, dog sleds, camels and mules in the Grand Canyon. Also see worldwide stamps about Covid.

Coordinator: Peter Sebelius*


Great Decisions

Eight Thursdays, 10 a.m. – noon: Sept. 23,30, Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28, Nov 4, 11

Great Decisions is America's largest discussion program on world affairs. The program involves reading the Great Decisions Briefing Book, watching the DVD and meeting in a discussion group to discuss the most critical global issues facing America today. Two weekly two-hour sessions explore each topic in depth. Great Decisions topics for the fall are: the Korean peninsula, struggles over the melting Arctic, Persian Gulf security issues, and the role of the WHO in a pandemic. If you do not have a copy of the Great Decisions 2021 Briefing Book you can order one by sending a $25 check payable to “LIRA Inc” to Steve Buccieri, 63 Abbot Street, Andover, MA 01810. He will mail you a copy of the book.

Coordinator: Richard Grove*

This Course is on Zoom only.

German Elections 2021

Two Thursdays, 1-3 p.m.: Sept. 23, Oct 7
Presenter: Jim Pope

The German national elections are scheduled for 26 September 2021. This will be the first time in almost 20 years when Angela Merkel will not be contending for Chancellor (no term limits in Germany).
The course will be in two sessions (four hours). One session will be before and one session after the elections.

The first session on Sept. 23 will cover:

  • The German government
  • German political parties
  • How Germans vote
  • The parties and candidates in this election
  • The issues in this election

The second session on Oct. 7 will cover:

  • The results of the elections
  • Winner and losers
  • How the results are decided
  • How coalitions are formed
  • Who is likely to be Chancellor

Coordinator: Sally Coulter*
This program will be on Zoom only

The Irish Identity: Independence, History and Literature

Facilitators: Kimball and Beverly Rudeen*
Four Thursdays: 1-3 p.m.: Sept 30, Oct. 14,21, Nov. 4

This video course from The Great Courses is presented by Marc C. Conner. LIRA students enjoyed Professor Conner’s classes on Shakespeare last year. We are bringing back his wealth of knowledge of Irish history and literature. The course explores the Irish identity from the Celts to the twentieth century struggle for political independence. Professor Connor weaves his love of Irish literature throughout this course to tell his story of Ireland, it’s history and literature. This will be a four-week class.

Enid Rocha Interview

Facilitator: Dorothy Brown*
One Thursday, 1-3 p.m.: Oct. 28

Enid Rocha is a 91-year-old black woman who has lived an extraordinary life. She has been recognized by the NAACP for her accomplishments and service. Enid has met both Martin Luther King and Malcom X. She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority that includes Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Robin Roberts. Learn what it was like to teach school in the south in the 50’s and 60’s and still be mowing your lawn at age 91.

Coordinator: Bob Hanlon*
This will be a Zoom only program.

* Indicates a LIRA member.