Celebrate Women’s History with the Mother of Folk at the Highlands Museum

Celebrate Women’s History with the Mother of Folk at the Highlands Museum

Pamela Hall

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The Highlands Museum and Discovery Center has been presenting the 1st Annual Kentucky Chautauqua Series in conjunction with Kentucky Humanities each month since November. The series concludes this week on Thursday, March 16 at 6 p.m.  

Kentucky Chautauqua is an organization that provides speakers that portray various Kentuckians who have made an important impact or valuable contribution to the history and development of our state. The Kentuckian being portrayed may be someone that everyone is familiar with, such as Daniel Boone or Adolph Rupp, who was presented at Highlands Museum in November, or it might be someone who most people have never heard of, but who has done something unique that has contributed to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The performers travel to various schools and community organizations throughout the state giving historically accurate dramatic performances of the Kentuckians they represent.

Kentucky Chautauqua began in 1992. Since that time, they have “brought to life” more than 70 Kentuckians who have had a historical impact. The current catalog has 25 portrayals that include Pee Wee Reece, Dr. Ephraim McDowell, Grandpa Jones, Alice Lloyd, and Henry Clay, just to name a few.

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, Thursday night’s Chautauqua performer will portray Jean Ritchie (1922 – 2015). She will be portrayed by Rachel Lee Rogers in a presentation entitled “Damsel with a Dulcimer”.

 Jean Ritchie was born in Perry County, the youngest of 14 children. Music was a way of life for her family. They not only sang as they did chores or rocked babies to sleep, but would also gather each evening with neighbors, family, and friends on the front porch, or around the fireplace in colder weather, to sing folk and Appalachian songs. These folk songs originated in Britain and Ireland and were handed down orally through the generations. This way of life instilled in Jean Ritchie a love for folk music. She went on to study at the University of Kentucky, as well as in Britain and Ireland on a Fulbright Scholarship. She later gained notoriety on a national level, with the dulcimer as her trademark and became known as the “Mother of Folk.”

Rachel Lee Rogers, who portrays Ritchie, is an actress who trained at Northern Kentucky University, Rutgers, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. She lives in Versailles, where she is a local educator as well as the current arts facilitator at the School for the Creative Performing Arts at Bluegrass.

“Our Chautauqua series has turned out to be everything we hoped for,” said Kim Jenkins, Executive Director of the Highlands Museum. “The performances have all been tremendous. We will definitely be doing our second annual Kentucky Chautauqua at The Highlands series starting this November. We are grateful to Kentucky Humanities for providing such a wonderful view into the history of the Commonwealth.”  

“Every performance in this series so far has been phenomenal,” agreed Karen Pierzala, Education and Social Media Coordinator of the museum. “So far we’ve had Adolph Rupp, Mary Carson Breckinridge, Colonel Sanders, and William Wells Brown visit the museum. And this month, we get to meet Jean Ritchie. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they were all extraordinary Kentuckians who lived fascinating, meaningful lives.”

The series concludes Thursday night at 6:00 at the museum. Admission is $25 per person or $15 for members.

For more information about the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center go to their website, www.highlandsmuseum.com.

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