Campus: CSU Long Beach -- May 24, 2004

Cal State Long Beach History Professor Receives NEH Grant to Develop Web Site on 18th Century Female Entrepreneur

Pat Cleary, a history professor at California State University, Long Beach, has been awarded a 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant worth $178,221 to develop a Web site based on the life of 18th-century American entrepreneur Elizabeth Murray and the records she left behind.

Working with co-director Sean Smith, also a CSULB history professor, and teachers and scholars from the LBUSD and around the country, Cleary will develop “The Elizabeth Murray Project: An Educational Web Site for Early American History.” The project will apply Internet technology to create a history resource Web site for teachers and students.

“I was absolutely delighted to receive the grant,” Cleary said. “I feel all the effort and years of working on the project on my own when I was doing research and writing my book, Elizabeth Murray: A Woman’s Pursuit of Independence in 18th Century America, in 2000 as well as my collaboration with colleagues at CSULB and teachers in the Long Beach Unified School District was entirely validated.”

Using biography as a springboard for addressing the evolution of the 18th-century Atlantic world, the site focuses on the changing roles of women and the shifting political, economic and cultural identities that preceded and informed the American Revolution. The site will feature an online archive of otherwise unavailable primary sources, templates of critical questions for document and Web site analysis and models of lesson plans for fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders as well as university classrooms.

“The Elizabeth Murray Project thus combines serious scholarship and technology in a way that promotes historical literacy and critical-thinking skills,” said Cleary. “Rotating examples of student work, online discussions of pedagogy and early American history, and the ongoing development of new curriculum materials will, we hope, make the site a valuable one. The lesson plans, any answer keys that are developed, and access to primary sources will be available to anyone with Internet access.”

Cleary’s work also is on display in a traveling museum exhibit titled “Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business,” which features Murray in a show that is currently visiting the Los Angeles Public Library through Sept. 19. The show spotlights 40 entrepreneurial women in American history, from Elizabeth Murray to Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie; as well as current moguls like Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

Murray’s life was equally remarkable outside the realm of business. “She has an incredible life story with wild midnight rides. She housed the British soldiers who were involved in the Boston Massacre as well as saw her home turned into the first headquarters of the Continental Army,” Cleary said. “She had both sides of the American Revolution under her roof at one point or another. She was geographically mobile, living in England, Scotland, North Carolina and Boston. She was economically mobile. She was a border crosser both in the figurative and literal sense, both politically and economically.”

Cleary believes one reason for her recognition is Murray’s special appeal. “I like to think of her as a kind of female Benjamin Franklin,” she said. “She was a self-made entrepreneurial woman of the 18th century. She’s not famous for being married to George Washington or John Adams. There is almost nothing out there on the women of pre-Revolutionary America who weren’t president’s wives. Elizabeth Murray works as an appealing, ordinary entrepreneurial American.”

Cleary received a B.A. from Rice University in 1984 and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1989. She was a Berkshire Fellow at the Bunting Institute in 1995 and is a former Mellon Fellow.

Contacts: Rick Gloady, 562/985-5454,
Shayne Schroeder, 562/985-1727,

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