The Roaring 20s: Evolution of Morals and Manners
MSUB Library Lecture Series, Fall 2023
All lectures are Tuesdays evenings at 6:30pm in Library 148. Free and open to the public.
Library 148 is accessed from the lower level of the hallway that runs between the Library and the Liberal Arts Building.
Free event parking is at the MSUB Parking Garage.
With Wit and Style. Ethel Hays: “Cleverest Girl Artist in America.”
October 10, 6:30pm, Library 148
Ethel Hays became one of the most popular newspaper cartoonists in the 1920s and 1930s. Her illustrations helped to normalize flapper culture and paved the way for major cultural changes for women throughout the century. Learn more about this groundbreaking Billings native in this presentation.
Lauren E. Hunley has spent nearly 20 years in the museum field. Earning her Master of Arts in Learning & Visitor Services in Museums and Galleries through Leicester University in England, she’s worked for both small museums and national museum service organizations. She is the author of 101 Museum Programs on a Shoestring Budget and has presented at numerous museum conferences. She is currently the Community Historian at the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Mountain-Plains Museums Association and the Montana Association of Museums. Her recent projects include Conquering Diseases of the Past, Saints & Sinners: Women Breaking Tradition, and Baá Hawassiio & Ènomóhtåhéseh: Healthcare on the Crow & Northern Cheyenne Reservations. Her work was instrumental in the Western Heritage Center receiving the 2021 Mountain Plains Museums Association’s Leadership & Innovation Award and the Mountain Plains Museums Association Education Committee’s 2021 Award for Excellence in Programming for the joint Moss Mansion/Western Heritage Center Youth Volunteer Program. Baá Hawassiio & Ènomóhtåhéseh: Healthcare on the Crow & Northern Cheyenne Reservation further won the Museums Association of Montana’s 2022 award for professional accomplishment for a new exhibition.
Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music
October 17, 6:30pm, Library 148
Jimmie Rodgers (1897–1933) was known in his time as The Singing Brakeman and The Blue Yodeler, and later he became known as The Father of Country Music. He influenced countless musicians in many genres, and his music remains as powerful and affecting as it was when it was new. Ed and John Kemmick will talk about the life of Jimmie Rodgers and his impact on popular culture, interspersing their words with some of Jimmie's music. (Warning: There will be some yodeling).
Brothers Ed and John Kemmick were born in Minnesota, the wrong end of the Mississippi River, given their love of Southern music, and both ended up in Montana, and eventually Billings, decades ago. Ed worked as a reporter and editor for almost 40 years, 24 of them for the Billings Gazette. John has been a carpenter for nearly 50 years, passing along his knowledge of the trade to countless young people over the years. Ed, who plays the guitar, harmonica and ukulele, and John, who plays the Dobro and lap-steel guitar, have always been fans of Jimmie Rodgers, and of old-time American music in general.
Flappers, Bachelor Girls, and Neue Frauen: Rebel Women of the 1920s
October 24, 6:30pm, Library 148
She cut her hair and wore short dresses. She enjoyed cocktails, smoked cigarettes, and danced the Charleston. The image of the emancipated, single woman of the 1920s, who rejected tradition and challenged social norms continues to capture the popular imagination. The Bachelor Girl, the Neue Frau, la Chica Moderna, and Moga point to the global scale of the “modern woman” of the 1920s and visibility of women in the public and political sphere. Beyond the modern woman as an active consumer and white-collar worker, images of other rebel women also challenged the gender order in more fundamental ways. Women who were deemed too emancipated, too “masculine,” or rejected the current political and economic order, provoked a visible backlash which had severe consequences for women’s autonomy and independence.
Dr. Jen Lynn is a Professor in the Department of History, Co-Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center at Montana State University Billings, and Chair of the Academic Senate. She is originally from Wibaux, Montana and completed her B.A. in History at MSUB and received her PhD from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in Modern German History and Women’s and Gender History. She has been at MSUB since 2011. Her interest in photography and media closely inform her research and teaching related to modern Germany, women’s and gender history, and visual history. She is also actively engaged in issues directly related to women’s empowerment, equity, safety, and access to healthcare. As Co-Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center she works closely with campus and community partners to raise awareness about issues related to gender equality and to promote diversity and inclusion. Her book, Contested Femininities: Representations of Modern Women in the German Illustrated Press, 1920 – 1960 is forthcoming from Berghahn Books in March 2024.
The Invisible Empire Re-Emerges: The Ku Klux Klan and the 1920s
November 7, 6:30pm, Library 148
Despite—and in large measure because of—the sweeping and seismic cultural shifts that mark the 1920s, the era had a decidedly dark side. The Ku Klux Klan, moribund since the 1870s, gained new life and momentum in the 1920s, appealing to vast swaths of Americans and claiming over 3 million members by the middle of the decade, with chapters in many northern areas, including Montana. This presentation focuses on the 1920s rise—and fall—of the Klan and why “the invisible empire” as it fashioned itself, became a potent symbol of backlash against the forces of change that marked the decade.
Keith Edgerton is professor emeritus at Montana State University Billings, teaching in the Montana university system for 34 years, the final 29 of those at MSU Billings. He retired in the summer of 2023. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Washington State University. He has published and has spoken on a variety of Montana history topics including his true passion, the journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He has published two books, one on the history of the Montana Highway Patrol and one based on his doctoral research entitled Montana Justice: Power, Punishment, and the Penitentiary published by the University of Washington Press in 2005.
Currently he is at work on a biography of William A. Clark (not to be confused with the William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame). This particular William A. Clark was one of Montana’s late 19th century copper barons and became a U.S. Senator in 1901 in an election tainted by, to put it mildly, scandal and corruption. When he died in New York in 1925 he was one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.
Keith splits his time between Billings and Missoula with his “amore” and wife, Lenette Kosovich. They love to cook, travel, make home brew, and in the summer canoe through the scenic White Cliffs region of the upper Missouri. Between them they have five boys in various states of adulthood.
A Boozy Nation: Temperance, Prohibition, and America's Struggle Over Alcohol
November 14, 6:30pm, Library 148
In 2022, Americans consumed 6.4 billion gallons of beer, 931 million gallons of wine, and 635 million gallons of distilled spirits. There are now over 9,000 breweries in the United States, more than any previous point. Many states, like Montana, take pride in their local craft brewing, distilling, and winemaking cultures. The idea that the Constitution once outlawed the production and consumption of alcohol in the United States seems absurd, given those impressive figures and today’s culture around alcohol. Concerns over alcohol and its impact on society, however, stretch back to the earliest days of the nation. In this lecture, historian Cody Patton will present a long history of Prohibition and show that to nineteenth-century reformers, anxieties about alcohol touched nearly every aspect of society, ranging from concerns over home life and inebriated voters' impact on the republic, to fears of the liquor monopoly and an intoxicated industrial labor force. Rather than seeing Prohibition as an aberration, Dr. Patton’s talk reframes the efforts to outlaw alcohol as a serious—but over burdensome and ultimately failed—attempt to fix many of the most pressing social and economic problems of the late nineteenth century.
Dr. Cody Patton grew up along the Wasatch Front in northern Utah. During his undergraduate studies at Utah State University, he became fascinated by the history of brewing in Utah. He carried this interest into his graduate studies at Ohio State University, where he wrote a dissertation on the environmental history of the American brewing industry.