By By Bob Reinert/USAG-Natick Public AffairsMarch 17, 2011
She might have seemed to be an unlikely speaker for a Women's History Month observance.
"I would start by saying I'm not a historian," Jeanne Munn Bracken told the audience March 16 at U.S. Army Garrison-Natick's Hunter Auditorium. "I didn't like history. I took as few classes as possible in order to graduate, because I thought memorizing dates and battles was boring."
Then Bracken went to work at Acton (Mass.) Memorial Library, and all that changed. Patrons kept coming in and asking the librarian about Isaac Davis, the Acton resident who was the first colonist killed at Concord as the American Revolutionary War got under way.
"It was Acton men who marched first and the Acton men who were killed at the bridge in Concord," Bracken said. "I started researching, and I realized history (is) people. People are interesting."
Bracken, who also went on to become an author and speaker, found that much information was available about what Davis and other American men did on April 19, 1775, the day the war began at Lexington and Concord, but women were shortchanged.
"The women got no press at all, but they were there," Bracken said. "I was researching Isaac Davis, and I kept stumbling into these women."
That began Bracken's decades-long quest to uncover whatever she could about those she refers to as the "April Women" who were just as much a part of that historic day as the more well-known men. Bracken offered historical "snippets" about the likes of Hannah Davis, Rebekah Barrett, Martha Moulton, Mary Flint Hartwell, Dolly Quincy, and Hannah Adams. In their encounters with British, the women displayed everything from courage to a sense of humor.
"I'm a researcher," Bracken said. "I dig for facts and dates. I'll dig until almost everyone else would have given up, but ultimately I'm a storyteller, and these are the stories that I tell.
"These were ordinary women in extraordinary times."
After her presentation, Command Sgt. Maj. Earl B. Allen, garrison command sergeant major, thanked Bracken and all the other women in attendance.
"Women have done a lot throughout history," Allen said. "You are all the strength of our nation."