Making History

Library, botanical, and art collections aren't the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

Library, botanical, and art collections aren’t the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

One of the great things about working at The Huntington is that we’re surrounded by all this cool stuff: on any one day, we can walk outside and see roses, orchids, cycads, bonsai, penjing and puyas. Walk back inside and it’s Houdon’s Diana, Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed, or Gutenberg’s Bible. But there’s more. Aside from the great collections, there are some remarkable people doing some pretty remarkable work. Catherine Allgor, head of our Education team, is one of these.

Not yet two years into the job, she has proven to be quite a force here at The Huntington. She’s led her talented team in some exciting new directions—from launching the college-level seminar series Huntington U to embarking on a new teacher training program to help local Pasadena Unified School District educators learn inquiry-based teaching techniques. All the while, she’s so approachable and hilariously funny that it’s sometimes hard to remember that she also happens to be one of the world’s experts on a very interesting slice of history: first ladies of the United States.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Google her and you’ll see—she’s all over the place, a frequent commentator on television and other media. Before coming to The Huntington, Allgor was a history professor at the University of California, Riverside, teaching classes running the gamut from women’s history to race and slavery. She also taught at Claremont McKenna College, Harvard University, and Simmons College. And her 2006 book, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, is right where PBS turned when making “Dolley Madison,” part of its American Experience series.

Pretty impressive all this. So it came as no surprise when the National Women’s History Museum recently elected Catherine to their board of trustees. Never been to that museum, you say? In fact, it’s really amazingly easy to get there:  the museum is located online at nwhm.org. Its mission: to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. But its online address is only a first stop on its way to a much more ambitious goal: to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall.

You can visit the National Women's History Museum at nwhm.org.

You can visit the National Women’s History Museum at nwhm.org.

“It is a chance to bring women’s history into the public conversation,” says Allgor.  “I’m an educator. I want students of all stripes to be able to see quite readily that women have made history, too. They comprise one half of the great American narrative.” So Allgor, and a bunch of very smart and very dedicated cohorts, go forward with their work cut out for them: find a proper site, make a convincing case, and raise the money to create a space that honors women in U.S. history.

We couldn’t be happier about Allgor’s most recent honor and are thrilled to have such a dynamo leading the educational charge here at The Huntington. Kudos, Catherine!

Susan Turner-Lowe is vice president for communications at The Huntington.

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