Edgar Allan Poe leads off Naper Settlement's History Speaks Lecture Series
Edgar Allan Poe's writings might have reflected his own tortured soul, but the enemy who wrote his biography darkened his image.
Susan B. Anthony dedicated her life to winning women's right to vote and was arrested the only time she ever voted herself.
Those are two of the historical figures that Naper Settlement's popular History Speaks Lecture Series features during the 2010-11 season. All the programs are held at the settlement's Century Memorial Chapel, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. Advance tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for students, youth and Naperville Heritage Society sustaining members; tickets at the door are $1 more.
Performer and educator Brian "Fox Ellis starts off the series when he presents "The Ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. Ellis said the poet/author, who wrote "The Raven and "The Tell-Tale Heart, indeed had a difficult life, but an early biography unjustly contributed to his reputation as a depraved, drug-addled drunk.
"I think he's vastly misunderstood, Ellis said. "(His) biography was written by an enemy.
Poe's mother died when he was a young child after his alcoholic father abandoned the family. A foster family raised Poe but never adopted him, and his relationship with his foster father appeared to be tumultuous.
Poe married his cousin when she was only 13 and she died at a young age of consumption. After a career as a writer, poet, editor and literary critic, Poe himself died at age 40 of unknown causes.
"Like many artists, he lived a life of extremes, Ellis said. "Most of his friends knew him as happy-go-lucky.
Ellis, a new performer at Naper Settlement, said he first read Poe in high school and began performing him about two years ago.
"Poe was really the first to create several genres of fiction, he said. "He wrote the first science fiction, the first murder mystery.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of detective extraordinaire Sherlock Holmes, and science fiction writer Jules Verne, author of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, acknowledged their debt to Poe, Ellis said.
Still, modern readers may find it difficult to understand Poe, he said.
"His language is often antiquated for today, he said.
Susan B. Anthony
Women who vote in the Nov. 2 election may want to reflect that they are exercising a right that American women universally have held for only 90 years.
For that, much credit goes to Susan B. Anthony, even though she died 14 years before the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote passed in 1920.
Lynn Rymarz, who portrays Anthony in a History Speaks program at 4 p.m. Nov. 14, said the women's rights leader spoke of the decades-long struggle at her 86th birthday party in 1906.
"The fight should not cease, Anthony said. "See that it does not stop. Failure is impossible.
"She truly gave up her life. She sacrificed marriage, children to devote her life to the cause, Rymarz said.
Raised a Quaker, Anthony grew up with a sense of social justice but did not become a suffragist until meeting women rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rymarz said.
"Susan B. Anthony voted illegally in 1872 for Ulysses S. Grant, she said.
Anthony was arrested and fined but refused to pay. The petitions she gathered to present to Congress for a Constitutional amendment were laughed at.
But by 1906, the year of her death, Anthony knew the tide was changing, Rymarz said. A number of states already had granted women the right to vote.
"This was starting to happen. People were more in favor, Rymarz said.
Never married, Anthony devoted herself to her family and her cause, but she may have had a lighter side as well, Rymarz said. Anthony attended the International Council of Women at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and, a few years later, took in a football game in the Windy City. Anthony pronounced football not brutal, but rather silly, Rymarz said.
Rymarz, who began portraying Anthony three years ago, said since researching the women's rights leader she has joined the League of Women Voters. The league was formed in Chicago in 1920 shortly before women gained the vote to help women make educated choices.
"I feel I'm a more civic-minded person because of her, Rymarz said.
Actor Terry Lynch portrays 19th century English author Charles Dickens at 4 p.m. Dec. 12. With the bicentennial of his birth coming up in 2012, Dickens discusses some of his best-known works, including the holiday classic "A Christmas Carol.
Brian "Fox Ellis returns to present "Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle at 4 p.m. Jan. 23. The young Darwin tells friends stories about his adventures sailing around the world on the HMS Beagle.
Actress and historian Leslie Goddard tells how Chicago came to produce a third of the nation's candy in "Sweet Home Chicago: The History of the Candy Capital of America at 4 p.m. Feb. 13.
Art historian Jeff Mishur discusses the major works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in "Toulouse-Lautrec: Decadence & Spectacle in Fin-de-siècle Paris at 4 p.m. March 13. Mishur compares Toulouse-Lautrec's works with those of other artists working in Paris at the end of the 19th century.
Actress Paddy Lynn presents "Harriet Beecher Stowe: Insights to Uncle Tom's Cabin at 4 p.m. April 10. Stowe's best-selling book galvanized the abolitionist movement and contributed to the start of the Civil War.
Lynn Rymarz, a newcomer to Naper Settlement, returns to portray intrepid reporter Nellie Bly at 4 p.m. May 8. A reporter who dared to do anything to get a story, Bly got herself committed to an insane asylum, was arrested, danced as a chorus girl, rode an elephant and raced around the world.
If you goWhat: "The Ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24
Where: Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville
Cost: $6 adults, $5 students, youth and Naperville Heritage Society sustaining members in advance; $1 more at the door
Info: (630) 420-6010 or napersettlement.museum