BYFIELD  – The Museum of Old Newbury is partnering with The Governor's Academy for the seventh installment of the Student Symposium on Thursday.

Two local histories will be presented by Governor's seniors Melina Robertson and Annabelle Svahn. The program in the school's Frost Building will begin at 7 p.m. with a reception preceding at 6:30. The program is free and open to the public, however, reservations are requested by contacting the museum at 978-462-2681 or to reserve a seat.

Robertson, a member of the Class of 2020, will present “The Franco-American Orphanage in Lowell, Massachusetts."

Though Robertson’s grandmother was not orphaned, she spent a year of her childhood in an orphanage. Robertson explored the question of why Theresa Maurais’ parents sent her in 1943 to an orphanage in an imposing brick mansion (the Ayer estate) that Lowell’s Franco-American community and the parish of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church had founded about the turn of the 20th century.

In Robertson’s quest for an answer, she learned about highs and lows in the immigrant experience of her maternal grandmother’s French Canadian family and community in Lowell. And she discovered that the Franco-American orphanage was itself a grail. 

Robertson is a student of history, literature and science. In her free time, she enjoys participating in the school's theater and softball programs.

Svahn, also a member of the Class of 2020, will present “Lady Liberty: The ‘New Colossus’? Or the ‘White Goddess’ to Jewish Immigrants in early 20th-century Portsmouth, NH.” 

At the turn of the 20th century, five brothers fled pogroms in the Ukraine and landed in the United States, all of them settling in Portsmouth’s run-down dockyard neighborhood of Puddle Dock.

Ironically, Abraham Millhandler — the youngest brother who would pursue the American Dream as Abraham Shapiro — settled across the street from the former home of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, whose 1892 poem “Unguarded Gates” defied the welcoming promise of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty.

In that portside district of working-class immigrants, the Shapiro brothers, their wives and children navigated local and national cross currents of anti-Semitic bigotry, xenophobic white nationalist nativism, and acceptance born of demand for cheap labor in some cases and, in other cases, of America’s professed creed and aspiration.

In the Shapiro brothers’ story, Svahn revives a moral for our own time of conflict over immigration.

Svahn is a lover of history and creative writing. Her paper is being published in the winter issue of The Concord Review, the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic research papers of secondary school students.

In her free time, Svahn enjoys competing on Evenstride's equestrian team and is a historic role-player at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth. 


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