**CANCELED/POSTPONED Series. We will alert you of a possible make up date for these events. Please check the Calendar of Events for updates to programming.**



Portsmouth Athenaeum Program Series 2020

Elections with a New Hampshire Twist


This is a year of Primaries, Caucuses and a Presidential election. While the excitement of the New Hampshire primary (still first in the nation!) has passed, there is a lot to know about elections and New Hampshire. In addition, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which, of course, gave white women the right to vote. This year’s Athenaeum speakers program will honor this 100th anniversary and many facets of elections with a nod to New Hampshire’s role in them. Outstanding Proprietors and other experts will present five programs on our state’s roles in the politics of New Hampshire and the Nation.

Each program begins at 5:30 p.m. in the third-floor Research Library.

Attendance is free for Athenaeum Proprietors, Subscribers and Friends. Guests and members of the public are welcome to attend the entire series by becoming a Friend of the Athenaeum (see link below) for as little as $25 per year, payable at the door. Admission to an individual program is $10.

Space is limited and reservations are required. Please call (603) 431-2538 to reserve your spot(s) today. If unable to keep a reservation, please call again to release the seat for someone else. Reserved seats are honored until five minutes before a program begins.


2020 Speakers


On April 15, Neil Levesque, Executive Director of the nationally known NH Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College will speak on “The History of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary.” Neil has long held leadership roles in politics, finance, governance and higher education. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards. Currently, he is the chairman of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary Centennial Anniversary Commission, on the Board of Trustees and vice-chair at Catholic Medical Center, and on the Board of Directors at Pease Development Authority.




The following month, on May 20, Gary Sparks and Paula Fortner will present a joint lecture, “The Presidential Election Of 1852: New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce and ‘Old Fuss And Feathers’.” Pierce’s political and military experience, his moral compass, his oratorical skills, his party allegiance, his adherence to the Constitution and his commitment to preserve the Union at all costs were just what the Democrats needed to defeat General Winfield Scott. Pierce’s meteoric rise to the presidency will be discussed within the framework of antebellum politics.

Gary and Paula are the Franklin Pierce Society’s president and vice-president, respectively. The Society manages the Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough, Pierce’s home for the first 30 years of his life. Since 2004, when she began giving tours at the Pierce Homestead, Paula has been researching and analyzing how Pierce’s words and actions relate to his times. Currently, she serves as vice president of the Hillsborough Historical Society; works at the N.H. Historical Society; conducts tours at the N.H. State House; and is a board member and tour guide at the Pierce Manse in Concord. Gary Sparks has conducted tours at the Pierce Homestead and the Pierce Manse over the past 20+ years. He is currently an active member of the Pierce Brigade in Concord and is president pro-tem of the Hillsborough Historical Society.




UPDATE: This program will now be an online Zoom presentation and co-sponsored by the Portsmouth Public Library. The event has also been rescheduled for SEPTEMBER 22 at 7 p.m. To register online, click here.

After a break for the summer, the program series resumes on September 16 bringing John P. (Jack) McGee, Jr. who will speak about Justice Levi Woodbury. Levi Woodbury was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, the 9th Governor of New Hampshire, and cabinet member in three administrations. Born in Francestown, New Hampshire, he established a legal practice there in 1812. He was the first Supreme Court justice to have attended law school. Jack, a name partner in Flynn and McGee, P.A. here in Portsmouth, has served as a member of the Order of the Barristers, Chairman of the New Hampshire Labor Board of Appeals, Vice President and President of the Portsmouth Athenaeum.




We continue on October 21, when Liz Tentarelli will speak on “The Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote.” Her talk will cover the long campaign from the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York to ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. Who were the key players in New Hampshire and the nation? What issues and obstacles did they face? How did suffragists benefit from World War I in the final push for passage of the women’s suffrage amendment? Who was left out when women got the right to vote? Using historic photos and documents, Liz will guide us on the journey.

Liz Tentarelli is President of the NH League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization that is the direct descendant of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Liz was appointed in 2015 by Governor Maggie Hassan to serve on the Citizens Advisory Board to the NH Correctional Facility for Women.



Finally – and fascinatingly – on November 18, Ann Beattie will present General Benjamin Butler. General Benjamin Butler was born and bred in New Hampshire. He was a colorful, dynamic and audacious politician. He served as a Union Army general during the Civil War, earning the nicknames “Beast” and “Spoons.” A successful lawyer, Butler was elected the Governor of Massachusetts and made an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency. Rumored to be a rather shady businessman, Butler was ahead of his time in championing the rights of women and African Americans. Delve into the complex character of this intriguing and controversial bureaucrat from our home state.

A Proprietor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, Ann Beattie is an independent scholar who researches the fascinating history of the Isles of Shoals. She is a former president of the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association, currently serves as the Island Historian on Star Island and speaks about the Shoals and related matters both on the Isles and around the region.

Written by Irene Bush.

The 2020 Lecture Series is sponsored by UBS Financial Services, Inc.