22 September 2022
21 September 2022
12 May 2022
Focus talk: Paula Chandoha. Click here to listen. (28 minutes)
Main lecture: Janet Cooper Nelson. Click here to listen. (1 hour 28 minutes)
Janet Cooper Nelson’s Bio
The Reverend Janet M. Cooper Nelson is Chaplain of the University, Director of the Office of Chaplains and Religious Life and faculty member at Brown University, appointed in 1990 after appointments at Vassar College, Mount Holyoke College, and The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College. As Brown’s Chaplain she leads a multi-faith team of Associate chaplains and oversees the University’s broad circle of Religious Life affiliates who advise student religious organizations. Together they endeavor to ensure that a diversity of belief has voice and vitality throughout the University community and that Brown’s largest educational program is infused with opportunity to enrich religious literacy and experience with the practice of religion.
She earned degrees at Wellesley College, Tufts University, and Harvard Divinity School as well as serving on the Divinity School’s Visiting Committee and Leadership Council.
Ordained in 1980 by the United Church of Christ her work is anchored in academic settings and examines interfaith collaboration, advocacy, religious identity and literacy, education, ethics and grief. Her recent publications include: Dearly Beloved in the My Neighbor's Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation (2012) edited by Jennifer Howe Peace, Or Rose and Greg Mobley; and the foreword for College and University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: A Multifaith Look at the Practice of Ministry on Campuses across America (2013) edited by Lucy A. Forster-Smith.
Her professional associations have included: Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island: The Association of College and University Religious Affairs; AIDS Project Rhode Island; The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; The Spurwink Institute; Reach Out and Read Rhode Island; Brown/RISD Hillel Foundation; the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ; Education as Transformation; and Women and Infants Hospital Institutional Research Board.
06 May 2022
Focus talk: Susan Nulsen. Click here to listen.
Susan Nulsen’s Bio
Both of Susan Nulsen's parents were born in the Depression and had been brought up in country Western Australia. Her mother's parents were farmers. Her father's father had drowned when her father was a baby and her father's mother had become a hairdresser in a country town (where she had little competition) to support them both. Neither of Susan's parents families had been particularly well-off. Although the Depression hadn't hit the farmers too badly, subsequent droughts had had more of an effect . Her mother's family had been forced to move to the city where her grandfather had worked as a dustman for some time.
Susan's parents were both twenty-two when she was born. Her father had a low paid job as a car mechanic and her mother was a stay at home housewife, so money was tight. Susan is the eldest of four girls. Her next sister was less than two years younger than her but Susan was nearly seven when her second sister was born and closer to ten than nine at the birth of her youngest sister.
Struggling to Remain a Minimalist.
Hello. I hope that you won't be disappointed that I cannot tell you how to become a minimalist. I am still trying to work it out myself. In fact I will call my talk Struggling to Remain a Minimalist. I try to minimize clutter for my serenity. I try to minimize my environmental impact for the good of humanity and the planet.
You can deduce from that brief bio that I started out as minimalist by necessity rather than by any conscious choice. Fortunately my mother made how hard up we were invisible to us. She kept chickens, (or “chooks” as they were known) which consumed all our kitchen scraps. The chickens were mainly for the eggs but from time to time my father would, very reluctantly, kill one. He really disliked that job. Plucking and cleaning the bird involved heating a copper full of boiling water in the laundry which sat away from the house in the back yard. That was my mother's job and it took quite some time. You can imagine that chicken was only eaten on very special occasions. My mother also grew vegetables which she fertilized with horse manure. In the late 50's we still had hot bread delivered daily by horse and wagon. The horse knew the route and would stop or move slowly while the driver ran in and out of the houses. When the opportunity arose my mother would rush outside with a spade to collect the manure from the road. My mother was also an excellent dressmaker and I think that we were the best dressed children in the neighborhood. She cut down other people's cast-offs or she bought pieces from the remnant bin at the fabric shop. Being dressed in the height of fashion wasn't always a positive thing though. I will never forget the acute embarrassment I felt at the age of seven or eight when I came out of the changing shed at the swimming baths in my extremely modest two-piece swimsuit, which I had been very fond of up until then, only to be greeted by whistling and hooting from every boy in the school! I still feel like sinking through the floor.
Of course my mother also knitted and crocheted and cooked and much more. She made icecream from condensed milk and it took me a long time when I was older to get used to the taste of commercial icecream. Our diet was completely nutrionally balanced as I discovered at school when I was 13 and we all had to record what we ate and compare it with an ideal diet. I will just take a moment to show you some of my mother's products. Firstly here is my teddy bear who now shows signs of being well-loved. He was made of scraps from my grandmother's overcoat with brown buttons for eyes. When my husband saw him this morning, he asked whether I was intending to illustrate how I hoard things forever! Secondly here is a handerchief with a crocheted border. My mother would give us these as presents from time to time. Finally the pièce-de-résistance is the cardigan that I am wearing now. My mother knitted it from a natural-colored (undyed) mixture of mohair and merino wool that she spun herself. Although you might describe my mother as a minimalist we did not experience a very austere life-style. And her use of time was far from minimal. I think that only a stay-at-home mother could possibly have done all she did. I should say that she wasn't a perfect housekeeper. Her method of tidying up after us messy kids was to bundle everything up off the floor and shove it into a cupboard or onto a shelf.
My father had very few household chores. I can only think of mowing the lawn, which he did as infrequently as possible –he worked on the principle that if you didn't water the lawn it wouldn't grow– and chopping the wood for the fire which was the only heating we had in the house. The wood, by the way, was never bought but came from a fence that someone pulled down, or roots that had been cleared out of a paddock at someone's farm or ... However he contributed in his own way. While working full time he enrolled full time at the Perth Technical College to become an engineer. My earliest memories of him are as he was studying at our dining table. He told me stories about the genie that lived in the exotic bottle of India ink that he used for his technical drawings. One outstanding thing that he did was to build us a solar hot water system many years before they were commercially available. The backup heating was a little chip heater that needed to be lit most winter days. From when I was 14, I became the principal wood chopper.
My father was the best bargainer that I have ever known. He liked good things but could never afford to go out and buy them new. If he couldn't find a good second hand item he would manage to get the display item in a shop, or a returned item, at some huge discount. Two of my most valued possessions as I was growing up were the result of his bargaining. I had a watch with a beautiful mother-of-pearl face. Once I unwittingly said to a friend that I could look at it “for hours”. That evoked a big groan. The second item was a compact 35 mm Zeiss Ikon camera with a fold-out lens. However I was never able to take as many photos as I would have liked because film and processing were expensive. Unfortunately none of my father's daughters inherited his bargaining ability. I think we all lack his effrontery as well as his charm.
My parents' initial reasons for being minimalist were simply financial. At first they had no money but even when they could have afforded more, my father did not believe in wasting it. My sister and I used to call him “Scrooge”. Later, of course, he too realized the importance of reducing your environmental footprint.
There are many more good reasons, very good reasons, other than financial ones for becoming a minimalist, although I don't think I will ever be as good at it as my mother was. So, why do I continue to strive for minimalism?
The first time I thought about minimalism was when I learnt at school of the Christian monks' vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. I envisaged a life of contemplation in a cell with no possessions but with access to a library and everything provided for me. It seemed idyllic. I did not consider what obedience and chastity would entail or the amount of work and goods that were required to maintain that lifestyle. I found the simplicity very appealing. Thinking about it now I realize that I was, in fact, already living a lifestyle very much like that.
My horizons were broadened when I went to university in the early 70s. I became aware of how the earth's resources were strictly limited and the environment was under increasing threat as the global population grew exponentially. There was even discussion about how the climate would be affected. As physics students we thought about various means of generating renewable power. That was fifty years ago! The climate crisis is now upon us and the world population continues to grow. I cannot understand why the warnings that were given then, and have continued to be repeated, have remained unheeded for so long. I guess it is so that a few wealthy people or corporations could maintain and increase their wealth and power even at the expense of the lives of their children and grandchildren and everyone else. I feel that this is a failure of democracy.
When my husband went to study in England it was very much a culture shock for us. I didn't realize that the UK was still suffering from the aftermath of the war thirty years after it had ended. The buildings and the streets were all black and grimy and in a state of disrepair. Our friends were students and no-one had any money. People patched their trousers where they wore out on bicycle seats (that didn't look very elegant!) and sewed elbow patches on their sleeves. I never saw my friend Shauna Shaw except with a sock that she was darning. We fitted right in. I was working but all my income went to save up for a trip back to Australia. It was over a year before we had enough. I was amazed when some of our new American friends flew back home for Christmas only a few months after they had arrived. Nowadays the average person in the UK appears to be much better off. The buildings and streets have all been cleaned and repaired. The country is a completely different place.
When we returned to Australia with our new baby and had a second child I discovered that children are the exact opposites of minimalists. They are huge generators of disorder and they are the recipients of much unnecessary stuff. Even the necessary stuff is very temporary since babies quickly grow out of both clothing and equipment as their needs change.
Coming to America was the opposite of going to the UK. I was shocked by how profligate many Americans appeared to be. The thing that exemplifies that to me is the way someone will grab a whole handful of paper napkins when all they need is one, or perhaps two when they are very flimsy. The positive side of this is that the second hand shops are really wonderful.
My guiding principle to being a minimalist is to follow the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle. So why, you might ask, is my house so cluttered? Well, we will see.
The first of the Rs is
1) Reduce: I find that I do do a reasonable job of not acquiring or using more than I need, with a few weaknesses such as books and equipment for the arts and crafts that I do. Even when I paint I usually try to identify who I will give the painting to before I start. Recently I took a painting course which produced a number of paintings that don't have anyone's name on them. At least they are only on art paper so they don't take up a lot of space. With clothing I have taken to not bringing something into the house without sending something out. That was a necessity because of limited cupboard space. We no longer get any magazines and only subscribe to the New York Times online. The biggest input and source of clutter is paper that contains information that I do not want to lose. We have decided that we should donate all the novels that we have both read and are very unlikely to read again to one of the Little Libraries that we encounter on our daily walks, no more than one book a day. This is working quite well (and they do disappear from the Libraries) but it is a slow process. Reference books are still a stumbling block.
We drive our one car as little as possible but I think our flights to Australia undo all those efforts. Of course, long haul flights are more efficient, I hope you appreciate!
Another thing we have done to minimize our carbon footprint is to sign up for 100% sustainable electric power. This is more expensive but it is an expense that we can and ought to bear. Because we are lucky enough to be able to afford what others may not be able to, it is only more imperative that we make the change.
2) Reuse: This R is a trap! There is a tension between minimizing your environmental impact and minimizing the clutter you are surrounded by. This explains why, for example, our house is cluttered with boxes and other packaging waiting to be reused. The incoming rate is definetly exceeding the outgoing rate. Reusing a box has much less impact on the environment than recycling that box and buying another one when you need it. I never know what sized box I will want next, but I am going to have to make some arbitrary decisions to cull our supply soon. The same applies to old clothes and linen that we keep for rags.
3) Repair: This R is another trap! This is applied to any clothes which are damaged or slightly worn, with the result that I have a huge pile of mending waiting for me. I have a wardrobe half full of clothes that are nearly worn out, okay for wearing around the house but not good enough for when in company. I would happily donate these to anyone who would be willing to wear them, but if I recycled them I know they would only qualify as rags. We also try to mend other goods that break down. Well over a year ago our printer stopped working. I was able to work out what was wrong but it took me a couple of months to pull the printer apart and fix. Putting it back together was another story – a few unidentified pieces appeared. It took about a year to get it back into one piece. Now it is refusing to print until it is reset with the Canon software which I can only find for PC's, not Macs. I've given my husband that job since he tells me it should be straightforward. Over the last year or so we managed to repair both our fridge and our stove. The internet is invaluable because we are able to both find out what needs to be done and order the parts that we need. The stove was rather awkward but the repair went well. We gave up in despair on the refrigerator because it still just wasn't cooling. I was already looking up replacement refrigerators when the repairman we had called out came. He pointed out to us that we might get better results if we switched the fridge on! Didn't we feel stupid.
4) Recycle: We do a lot of this on a weekly basis, and really should do more to reduce our clutter. We are lucky because the City of Cambridge has a very good waste management program. Each week we generally only have about one supemarket vegetable bag of trash. It is mostly packaging and little bits of plastic that we can't recycle.
The four Rs I considered are given in order of minimizing environmental impact. This order is not totally rigid. Sometimes, for example, donating some good clothing can become another way of reusing, but the handling and transport have additional environmental impact over continuing to use, adjusting the size, or handing on to someone you would normally be in contact with, such as giving your children's outgrown clothes to their cousins.
An alternative approach to minimalism is to adhere to motto “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”, which I believe is a variation of a phrase uttered by Calvin Coolidge in World War I. (He said “Eat it up,” etc).
One point, which I will not go into here, is the significant amount of time I spend trying to reduce my environmental impact. It may be made up to some extent, but definitely not completely, by time saved in having to take care of less stuff. Lack of time is the reason why I have so many bits of paper waiting to be dealt with. I have plenty of other things I would rather be doing!
To end I have two short video clips of Juliet Schor. She agrees with Lizabeth Cohen that it is essential that governments take action. The first clip is a very recent one and explains where we are in reducing our carbon emissions globally.
[The audio recording ends here.]
Scope of the Climate Crisis 2min 3sec to 5min 35sec: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlFKMIfqaPE If you can spare the time it is worth listening to the whole 31 minutes.
The other video clip is a personal one with Juliet Schor describing how she and her family live.
Why Ethical Consumption? 2min 4sec to 5min 7sec: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VutnFgED10U
As I said at the beginning, “I try to minimize clutter for my serenity. I try to minimize my environmental impact for the good of humanity and of the planet”. I know what I do is only a drop in the bucket, but that is a good analogy because all the water in that bucket is nothing more than many drops. If we all did what we could it would make a big contribution to reducing our environmental impact. Remember that 70% of the US GDP is based on consumption.
I am looking forward to hearing what you all have to say. Thank you.
For people who listened and didn't read, the following points were missed from the original talk in the recording (but are included in the text above):
Looking back at what I said, the URGENCY I feel about the importance of limiting climate change and other environmental destruction does not come through nearly enough. Reducing clutter in my life would free up my time and give me more opportunity to enjoy the company of friends and the good things in life. It would enable me to feel more serene. BUT how can I feel serene when faced by the threats of climate change and the danger to everyone on the earth! I try to reduce clutter for my serenity. I try to minimize my environmental impact for the good of humanity and of the planet.
There is a tension between these two ends. This explains why, for example, I am surrounded by packaging waiting to be reused. Reusing a box has much less impact on the environment than recycling that box and buying another one when you need it.
The four Rs I considered are given in order of minimizing environmental impact. This order is not totally rigid. Sometimes, for example, donating some good clothing can become another way of reusing, but the handling and transport are additional environmental impact over continuing to use, adjusting the size or handing on to someone you would normally be in contact with, such as giving your children's outgrown clothes to their cousins.
An alternative approach to minimalism is to adhere to motto “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”, which I believe is a variation of a phrase uttered by Calvin Coolidge in World War I. (He said “Eat it up,” etc).
One point, which I will not go into here, is the significant amount of time I spend trying to reduce my environmental impact. It may be made up to some extent, but definitely not completely, by time saved in having to take care of less stuff. Lack of time is the reason why I have so many bits of paper waiting to be dealt with.
29 April 2022
Barbara Villandry’s Bio
Barbara began her professional life in Boston working at the Shawmut Bank in lockbox operations, processing New England Telephone payments. She worked her way up through the ranks to Assistant Manager. Shawmut awarded Barbara a scholarship to Simmons College to attend a specially designed undergraduate management program designed by the National Association of Banking Women. She continued at Simmons, earning her Master’s degree in Communication Management. She ended her Shawmut career working in Human Resources, where she was responsible for employee communications and activities, including creating the corporation’s first service award program.
Barbara’s career path moved into academia when she became Assistant Director of her graduate program at Simmons College. From there, she became the Chair of the Communication Programs at Hesser College in Manchester, NH, where she developed and managed a program in radio and television broadcasting, and a program in public relations. Barbara was active in the New England Pub Club, where she was V.P. of the Bell Ringers Awards. She is enjoying retirement’s freedom to follow her interests, including gardening.
To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question
I’m here to tell you that just like children can inherit their mother’s DNA, they can also inherit their buying habits. My maternal grandparents owned a jewelry store on Main Street. This was before the advent of malls when the town all shopped on one downtown thoroughfare. My mom and Aunt Eleanor both worked in their father’s jewelry store. On their lunch break, they walked up the street to see what other stores were featuring in their windows and showrooms. They were excellent consumers, and knew everyone who worked in these shops.
“The Store” as it was referred to, was the focus of much of our family’s life. I was allowed in the front of the store only if I was properly dressed. When I came from the skating rink dressed in tights and a skating skirt, I had to stay in the back of the store where customers couldn’t see me. When the store kicked off the Christmas season with an evening “Open House,” I was there dressed to the nines, and on my best behavior.
As a little girl, I always loved to spend time in my mom’s closet admiring her fancy dresses and jewelry. I never dared to dress up in any of her clothes, but I did try on her jewelry many times. When I was at my grandparent’s house, I looked through fashion magazines and all kinds of catalogs. My grandmother’s mobility was limited, so she did some of her shopping via catalogs. I loved cutting out the jewelry I liked from the old catalogs. I loved playing with paper dolls that had different outfits I could alternate placing on the dolls. All of this was grooming me to care about style, and eventually to develop overpacked closets just like those of every other woman in my family. I thought that was what all young women did.
When I was eleven, my dad died just before Christmas. My Jewish family celebrated Christmas, instead of Hanukah, and that Christmas was one of total excess. I don’t come from a family where we talked about feelings. My mom and aunt saw their mother go through two nervous breakdowns. The result of that was my mother never wanted to deal with anything that was emotional. My grandmother was a big gift giver, and my mom developed this into a fine art. It was the only way she could show love.
When I was 19, I was hired for my first job which was working for AT&T as a toll operater placing calls on one of those huge boards you’ve seen in old movies. I bought five identical wool knit sheaths with matching cardigans in different colors and of course, matching jewelry. I knew they were a solid beginning of a professional wardrobe. When I packed to go to school in Boston to train as a court reporter, those outfits came with me. The school didn’t have dorms, but they recommended that I live at the Franklin Square House in Roxbury. When I arrived, they put me in this long, tiny room which just about had room for a bed and the clothes I had shipped from Montana. Did I mention that they also had a 9:30 curfew? Within three days, I moved to the newly built YMCA on Berkeley Street that was walking distance to the school, and did I mention, they didn’t have a curfew?
Within a few months of arriving in Boston, I went to work for Shawmut Bank and started shopping at Filene’s. I bought a couple of suits that I love to this day even though they have long ago exited my closet. I can remember how I felt when I first saw them on the rack. It was love at first site. Every week, I checked out both Filene’s and Macy’s just like my mom and aunt had checked the merchandise in the stores on our Main Street back home. And just like I had seen my family do, when someone had a birthday or for Christmas, I did some serious shopping for what I hoped would be the perfect gifts, and then mailed them back to Montana.
A few months after arriving in Boston, mom came out to visit. She took a quick look at Boston, and very quickly put us on a train headed to her favorite place, Manhattan. We stayed a couple of blocks up from Broadway near The Stage Deli. In eight days, we saw eleven plays, visited all the major department stores, back when there were a lot of them, and occasionally found time to eat. Mom bought me a gorgeous Gucci print turban hat at Saks,’ which I never had the occasion to wear, and stayed in my closet way too long. Having said that, I never forgot the experience we had together. It was my first trip to Sak’s Fifth Avenue which was an experience in itself. I remember how happy mom was shopping in that store on Fifth Avenue. Everything about being there at that moment was special.
This trip marked the beginning of my connection with my mother that was based on our shopping together. Prior to this, we hadn’t had much of what you would call a relationship. Over the years, there were more trips to Manhattan where we saw lots of plays and shopped. When I would come home to Montana, I would go home with lots more clothes than I came with because we covered every foot of every store in town. We were developing our own ritual. My husband who is good at electronics and building would always end our visits by telling mom to develop a list of what she wanted him to do the next time we came. Often that included major purchases like a tv or washing machine. He developed his own ritual with mom surrounding buying things. She was happy, he was happy, we were happy!
The few times we were home for Christmas, mom and I always went to the after Christmas sale of a florist that had a large and wonderful gift shop. Did I mention that this was a really good after Christmas sale? By the time we were done, the trunk was filled and maybe some of the back seat. I bought gorgeous Christmas gifts for friends to be given the following Christmas. Mom bought more decorations for her home. I came to understand just how many of these decorations she had after she died. What she had hidden away in every nook and cranny was amazing.
Did I understand the excess of our purchasing? Not at the time, but once we arrived home for the holidays after coming from California and Mexico. Larry had a work conference in Anaheim. The following week we visited relatives in California and wended our way to Tijuana. We parked on the American side and walked over the border. On the return, we were so burdened by our purchases, we could barely make it across the border and back to the car. Hubby really enjoyed the whole bartering thing. After another ten days of vacation in Montana that included all of those after Christmas sales, I was standing in the Delta line with eleven pieces of luggage and boxes to be flown to Logan including a very large, boxed mirror which mom insisted that I needed and would ship. The Delta representative looked at me in disbelief. He told me he would ship it this time, but I should never do anything like this again! When we arrived at Logan, hubby pulled up in our rental car. I was pretty sure that the luggage and boxes were going to make it home without me because there wasn’t room. Hubby was determined that he was not leaving me in Boston. He rearranged things and somehow fit me into a corner of the car. We never did do anything like that again!
In 1995 with the help of our gas company, our house exploded, and everything was declared a loss even though the fire didn’t last long. It was a very hot fire, and the fire marshal said that even though a piece of clothing looked wearable, we could be wearing it and it could shred. Our insurance agent told us to make a list of everything in the house and list what we paid for it. I spent days in a smoke infested house making that list at which point we were told we needed to use replacement costs, not the original purchase prices. We had to redo the list revisiting again every item we could identify or remember that had been in our home.
That was an awakening. Our insurance claim representative brought in his superiors to see how full our closets were. That was my first realization that these closets weren’t what they were used to seeing. With the help of a friend, I made a video of each piece of clothing that were in our closets. That was a start to my mourning process. I was looking at an excess of gorgeous outfits, each with a history of its purchase. Taping that video was painful, watching that video is still painful. And even more painful were my trips to Bed Bath and Beyond after we moved into the new home, and I had to replace everything that had been in my kitchen along with all my sheets, towels, comforters, and pillows. Now, I wasn’t having much fun shopping even though our insurance had provided the funds for all of these replacements. This shopping was a chore and shopping was no longer a pleasurable outlet.
Having said that, we moved into a larger house where twenty-six years later I have managed to overpack lots more closets than I had in our house that burned, so somewhere along the line, my love or need to shop must have returned. These closets are a burden and a problem in search of a solution. During the pandemic, we’ve stayed very close to home. I haven’t had the occasion to dress up. For the better part of two years, I have been living in work clothes when I’m in the garden and a few pair of jeans, sweatshirts and t-shirts and sweaters when I’m in the house. I’ve been seriously impressed with just how simple my needs are, both in terms of clothes and the amount of space I need. The idea of downsizing seemed to big of an issue to deal with, but the idea is getting easier to deal with as I realize our needs aren’t what we thought they were.
As I’ve come to understand the world’s larger survival issues including sourcing raw materials and the pollution that comes from manufacturing and our excess consumerism, I have come to believe that our economic paradigm is wrong. The corporate definition of success seems to be increasing profits year after year, most often achieved by selling more products. I don’t believe that is a sustainable model for the future. As much as I’ve enjoyed my career as a shopper, I’m not interested in sustaining that kind of consumerism. But shopping allowed me to develop a relationship with my mom that I don’t think would have existed without it, strange though that might sound.
Main lecture: Lizabeth Cohen. Click here to listen.
Lizabeth Cohen is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies and a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of History at Harvard. From 2011-18 she was the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In addition to Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age, which won the 2020 Bancroft Prize in American History, previous books include Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, also winner of the Bancroft Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer, and A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. She is also co-author with David Kennedy and Margaret O’Mara of a widely used college and advanced placement United States history textbook, The American Pageant. Her writings have appeared as well in many edited volumes, academic journals, and popular venues, including The Atlantic, New York Times, the Washington Post, and the American Prospect.
Among many awards and honors, Cohen has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was the Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford during 2007-8 and she is a former president of the Urban History Association. Before joining the Harvard faculty, Cohen served in the history departments at Carnegie Mellon University and New York University. Cohen received her Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley and her A.B. from Princeton University. She lives in the Boston area and in Truro, Massachusetts with her husband, historian Herrick Chapman, with whom she has two grown daughters. Her community activities include serving on the boards of the American Repertory Theater (Advisory Board), the Payomet Center for the Performing Arts (Board of Trustees, Truro), and WBUR (Community Advisory Board).
15 April 2022
Marcia Boehlke — Focus Talk
Mary Rose Muti — Main Lecture
Click on the links to play Youtube videos of TED talks:
Noel Bairey Merz — The single biggest health threat women face
Paula Johnson — His and hers ... healthcare
A note on cinnamon:
Cinnamon comes in different varieties depending on the species of the tree from which the bark is harvested. (E.g. see here.) The different varieties contain the cinnamon essential oil, cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamon has been shown to mildly reduce blood sugar levels and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The most widely-available is cassia cinnamon which is harvested from the mature trees of one of three different species. As well as cinnamaldehyde, cassia cinnamon is a rich source of coumarin which may cause liver damage or cancer. The tolerable daily intake for coumarin is 0.05 mg per pound (0.1 mg per kg) of body weight. This is how much coumarin you can eat in a day without the risk of side effects. It equates to 8 mg of coumarin per day for an adult weighing 178 pounds (81 kilograms). For reference, the amount of coumarin in 1 teaspoon (2.5 grams) of ground Cassia cinnamon ranges from 7 to 18 mg.
Indonesian cinnamon, Cinnamomum burmannii, one variety of cassia cinnamon, seems to be the most commonly available cinnamon in the US. See the abstract below.
Saigon cinnamon is another variety of cassia cinnamon, Cinnamomum loureiroi. It has a higher content of cinnamaldehyde, giving it a stronger flavor and aroma.
Ceylon cinnamon, grown in Sri Lanka, is harvested from coppiced saplings of the Cinnamomum verum (or "true cinnamon") tree. It has a milder flavor and contains a negigible quantity of coumarin. Unfortunately it is harder to find and relatively expensive.
... [A] 2013 study [see below] showed different varieties of cinnamon containing different levels of coumarin:
Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum): 0.005 to 0.090 mg/g
Chinese cinnamon or Chinese cassia (C. cassia): 0.085 to 0.310 mg/g
Indonesian cinnamon or Padang cassia (C. burmannii): 2.14 to 9.30 mg/g
Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cassia (C. loureiroi): 1.06 to 6.97 mg/g
Cassia Cinnamon as a Source of Coumarin in Cinnamon-Flavored Food and Food Supplements in the United States, Yan-Hong Wang et al, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013, 61, 18, 4470–4476. https://www.cinnamonzone.hk/DOWNLOADS/Cinnamon_and_coumarin.pdf or https://web.archive.org/web/20150505233039/http://www.cinnamonvogue.com/DOWNLOADS/Cinnamon_and_coumarin.pdf
ABSTRACT: Coumarin as an additive or as a constituent of tonka beans or tonka extracts is banned from food in the United States due to its potentially adverse side effects. However, coumarin in food from other natural ingredients is not regulated. “True Cinnamon” refers to the dried inner bark of Cinnamomum verum. Other cinnamon species, C. cassia, C. loureiroi, and C. burmannii, commonly known as cassia, are also sold in the U.S. as cinnamon. In the present study, coumarin and other marker compounds were analyzed in authenticated cinnamon bark samples as well as locally bought cinnamon samples, cinnamon-flavored foods, and cinnamon-based food supplements using a validated UPLC-UV/MS method. The experimental results indicated that C. verum bark contained only traces of coumarin, whereas barks from all three cassia species, especially C. loureiroi and C. burmannii, contained substantial amounts of coumarin. These species could be potential sources of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food in the U.S. Coumarin was detected in all locally bought cinnamon, cinnamon-flavored foods, and cinnamon food supplements. Their chemical profiles indicated that the cinnamon samples and the cinnamon in food supplements and flavored foods were probably Indonesian cassia, C. burmannii.
KEYWORDS: cinnamon, coumarin, Cinnamomum verum, C. cassia, C. loureiroi, C. burmannii, cassia, cinnamaldehyde,