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Chautauqua & Chat with historical figures Kasturba Gandhi, Frances Perkins, and Michael Mooney

In this webinar series you will learn about three historical figures: Gandhi's wife, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet, and the leader of a massive 1880's miners strike

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Time & Location







Each Chautauqua & Chat webinar is FREE and features a 60-minute performance by a scholar who impersonates a significant historical figure. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions of both the historical character and the scholar. 

February 5th, 4pm CST impersonation of Kasturba Gandhi

February 6th, 7pm CST impersonation of Frances Perkins

February 7th, 7pm CST impersonation of Michael Mooney


Roopa Mohan will be taking you on a storytelling journey to help you appreciate the remarkable life and achievements of Kasturba, the wife of Mahatma Gandhi, father of modern India. Gandhi is globally recognised and revered but how much do we know about his wife of over 6 decades, Kasturba? Who was she as a person? Was she merely Gandhi’s shadow during his historic non-violent struggle against colonial rule in South Africa and India? What did she contribute to these efforts? What were the personal sacrifices she had to make along the way? Roopa will portray Kasturba, as she travels from India, to South Africa, and finally back to India. You will witness Kasturba’s transition from a child bride at the age of 14 to a busy mother and social activist, adopting a spartan life to serve the poor and downtrodden. You will follow her as she emerges as a quiet leader, running settlements and going to prison for peacefully protesting against racial discrimination. You will see her inspire thousands of Indian women to join the Satyagraha (truth force) movement …..promoting social equality, nonviolence and self-sufficiency.

Roopa Mohan is a professional storyteller from Walnut Creek, CA.  She got started as a volunteer at the Asian Art Museum, SF telling folktales and myths to school groups and leading docent tours around the artifacts. She has since expanded her repertoire to personal narratives from her childhood in South India and her early immigrant experiences here. Roopa enjoys trying new story genres, with audiences ranging from preschoolers to adults. She is currently working on portrayals of female freedom fighters and trailblazers from her culture, who have been long forgotten or ignored. Her stories are usually embellished with expressions and gestures from South Indian dance.

Roopa serves on the Board of the Storytelling Association of CA and currently leads a project to bring stories  to underserved schools. She is an active member of Asian American Storytellers in Unity, contributing to their Storytopia series on YouTube. Roopa has participated in many programs organised by The National Storytelling Network, Eth-Noh-Tec, Stagebridge, Marsh, Better Said Than Done and Six Feet Apart Productions. She performs at schools and libraries, both virtually and in person. Roopa worked for many years as a domestic violence advocate and is passionate about women’s rights and empowerment.


Frances Perkins, (1880-1965) the first woman Secretary of Labor, tirelessly advocated for the democratic ideals of the New Deal legislation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   Though best known for her crafting of the Social Security Act, 40-hour work week, child labor laws, the success of lifting the country out of the Depression and advocating for immigrants, labor unions, and women throughout WWII, Perkins demonstrated a unique form of political savvy and progressive politics as a social reformer and humanitarian. This presentation focuses on her awakening as an activist when she attended Mount Holyoke College led her to become a social worker. When she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911, she committed herself to improve the working lives of all Americans by finding solutions to the social problems of the day.  Many of the problems she encountered bear an uncanny resemblance to contemporary social conditions in the United States. Miss Perkins’ personal sacrifices and deep spirituality demonstrate how every individual has a role to play in making democracy work, and how her belief that “a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life” unites us with a common purpose.

Jarice Hanson is a Professor Emerita of Communication at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.   She is also a member of Actors’ Equity (AEA) and the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG-AFTRA).  In addition to her scholarly research, she has written documentaries and hosted/produced public television programs at WGBY (Springfield, MA) and WHYY (Philadelphia).  She delights in bringing strong women leaders to the stage to remind audiences about the lessons women have taught us over the years. “Frances Perkins:  A Woman’s Work” tells the story of the first woman to hold a Cabinet position—Secretary of Labor Perkins, whose sacrifices and leadership ushered in a range of progressive social reforms in the first half of the 20th Century and who overcame the burden of being “the first” woman in the U.S. government from the Depression, the “New Deal” era, through WWII.    Miss Perkins’ story shows her philosophy, faith, and resilience to “be not afraid” to challenge dominant structures to create lasting, meaningful, social change.


Michael Mooney immigrated to the U.S. from Dublin, Ireland as a teenager, eventually making his way to the silver mines of Leadville, Colorado during one of the largest silver booms in North American history.  In May of 1880, 5,000 miners walked out of the Leadville mines after they were ordered not to talk on the job, launching one of the largest strikes in Colorado history.  Mooney was chosen by the miners as their leader.  Largely uneducated, but a gifted orator, he was known for his ability to keep the men disciplined and nonviolent.  When Martial Law was declared and the National Guard crushed the strike by arresting striking miners, Mooney was black listed from mining work and eventually exiled from Leadville.  He drifted across the American West, continuing to speak out on behalf of industrial workers.  Once proclaiming "I may not have the whole American flag, but I think I have earned a corner of it,"  Mooney symbolized the struggles that Irish immigrants faced in late 19th century America, relegated in places such as Leadville to industrial labor.  It also demonstrates that Irish immigrants brought with them traditions of resistance to occupation and labor exploitation, which were practiced throughout North America. Finally, this monologue is a tribute to the early years of the American labor movement, which is undergoing a renewed surge in the U.S.  This presentation recreates the speech that Mooney gave during the strike at a Denver union hall.  Following the speech, he was arrested on his way out of the hall.

James Walsh, PhD, is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Political Science Dept. at the University of Colorado Denver, where he has taught for the past 25 years, specializing in American Labor, Immigration, and Irish Diasporic History and Politics.  Walsh is co-author of Irish Denver and author of A Pauper Cemetery at 10,200 Feet and the Story of the Leadville Irish.  He founded the Romero Theater Troupe eighteen years ago, a social justice oriented all-volunteer community, organic theater that uses the stage to preserve and tell unknown stories of working class activism and resistance.


Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Humanities North Dakota.

However, in an increasingly polarized world, we at Humanities North Dakota believe that being open-minded is necessary to thinking critically and rationally.

Therefore, our programs and classes reflect our own open-mindedness in the inquiry, seeking, and acquiring of scholars to speak at our events and teach classes for our Public University.

To that end, we encourage our participants to join us in stepping outside our comfort zones and considering other perspectives and ideas by being open-minded while attending HND events featuring scholars who hold a variety of opinions, some being opposite of our own held beliefs.

Humanities North Dakota classes and events are funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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