Author Archives: WIH Reporter

The Big Lie: Extravagent Exaggeration and Outright Prevarication in Ancient Times

April 17, 2017

Rabbi Rossel is back for a two-session class on Friday, May 5 (10:00-12:00) and Sunday, May 7 (4:00-5:30) with a class about how both archaeology and critical study show how priests and rulers in ancient times massaged the truth, exaggerated here and there and at times relied on what has recently been dubbed “alternative facts.”  The class will go back in time to explore the age-old tendency of those in power to stretch the truth for their own purposes. We checked in with Rabbi Rossel to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is essential to know about your upcoming class?

Rossel: We have seen how handy the use of extravagant exaggeration and outright prevarication can be in modern politics. Those of us who specialize in ancient politics, watching developments in the study of ancient nations, are aware of many instances of how “The Big Lie” was used to shape beliefs.

We might say, “History is shaped by myth.” Or, we might say, “History can be shaped by mythmakers.” Marie Antoinette probably never said, “Let them eat cake,” but the characterization and the quotation echo from generation to generation. On the other hand, almost everyone quotes Lincoln as saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” There is no evidence that he ever spoke these words. In fact, the quote was popularized in the early twentieth century by leaders of the Prohibition movement and the speakers who used it attributed the words to Lincoln to add weight to their message.

Of course, that just demonstrates that you can fool nearly all of the people nearly all of the time. “Alternative facts” and the beliefs they represent are as much a part of our modern vocabulary as “Let them eat cake.” And so they were in ancient times.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Rossel: The source of news then and now was the official spokesperson. It might immediately be surprising to know, for example, that “Pharaoh” was not a title. The king of Egypt was the “King;” his residence was “the Pharaoh.” Saying “the Pharaoh announced…” in ancient Egypt was the equivalent to saying “the White House announced…” today. It would probably be equally surprising to learn that Moses was far from being the first baby floated downriver in a basket in anticipation of a royal future.

In fact, I think most of the “alternative facts” expounded in ancient kingdoms by rulers and priests will be surprising to the class. I plan to show how these “innovative” facts were presented and engineered to influence and control ancient opinion (and how many continue to influence and control opinion even now).

WIH Reporter:  What mistaken impressions might folks have about the  subject of your class?

Rossel: Folks who study with me often remark that ancient history is remarkably “relevant” to what is happening daily. The only possible mistaken impression people could have is that looking back does not help us in going forward. At the very least, it provides us with perspective, keeping us from treating today’s news as unique or overwhelming. Every “Big Lie” has a purpose. But not every purpose is either corrosive or nefarious.

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class?

Rossel: I will be showing artifacts (whenever available) through PowerPoint presentations and providing notes and access to these PowerPoints online through Dropbox. Of course, no computer skills are necessary. In class, we will discuss one example after another and, importantly, each of the two sessions stands on its own.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Rossel: I am slowly making my way through The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I love reading American history. It’s a relief from the stresses of ancient times.

WIH Reporter: Anything else we should know?

Rossel: I am living in Dallas now, but I am eagerly looking forward to this extraordinary opportunity for us to visit at WIH again. I hope to see many familiar faces and I would be pleased to see many new faces, too. May the Force (or Source) be with us!

Rabbi Rossel’s class, “The Big Lie: Extravagant Exaggeration And Outright Prevarication In Ancient Times“, begins on Friday, May 5 (10:00-12:00) and continuing on Sunday, May 7 (4:00-5:30). For more information, or to register, click here.


The Writing Life: Overcoming Creative Blocks 

April 17, 2017

The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak, wikipedia

The writing life can be stunningly solitary, and characterized by frequent creative blocks, but it doesn’t have to be that way. According to Carol Munn, WIH’s award-winning, full-time creative writing professor, there are many ways to get around the “wall” that obstructs the flow. To this end, Munn has innovative plans for her upcoming class, “Breakthrough to Creativity“, (starting on June 7th at 10 a.m), and we spoke with her to to get all the details!

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about your upcoming creative writing class?

Munn: Everyone who wants to write can write because everyone has an importantly unique story to tell. This course works well for those anywhere on the spectrum from novice to experienced writers. Writing is akin to yoga in that the goal is never competition but to improve the act.

WIH Reporter: People have all kinds of issues around writing. What would surprise us to know about the art of writing?

Munn: The complete accessibility of the writing activities may surprise those who are uncomfortable with the idea of writing. Another surprise might be that no one must follow the directions on the activities and prompts. They serve only as an impetus to write, and the goal of this course is to gain improvement in one’s writing. A final surprise may be the sense of community that the course inspires in the participants.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do people have about writing classes in general?

Munn:  Some may feel they need more experience before taking a creative writing course. Often, that feeling stems from their undervaluing their own creative potential. Others may assume that they must have a great deal of time to devote to their writing outside of class. While writing is the essence of this course, participants will develop and learn just from attending the sessions.

WIH Reporter: What format are you using in your class?

MunnThe format will focus on universal experiences combined with necessary elements of writing. I will create a packet of materials for each session which will provide opportunities for rich discussion, writing activities, writing prompts, and selected published writing from a variety of genres. We will write, have time to share our writing, read, and discuss new topics related to writing. 

WIH Reporter: What books would we find on your night table?

Munn: I keep a stack on the antique school desk that serves as my night table. Right now the books include: When I Was A Child I Read by Marilynne Robinson; Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver; Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner; and a scientific book explaining cloud formations. 

Breakthrough to Creativity” starts on June 7th at 10 a.m. For more information , or to register, click here.

Introducing Our New Music Professor – Dominique Royem

April 17, 2017

Music is a powerful force illuminating the inner struggles of characters on stage and allowing the audience to engage with the story on a deeper level. As  the Music Director of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, Royem is an active guest conductor and has worked with ensembles around the world. In her upcoming class, How Music Makes the Musical: Broadway’s Top Tunes Examined,” she will explore some of the top musicals in the last 100 years and let us know why and how music makes the audience care.  We visited with her to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?

Royem: Musical Theatre is a visual art as much as a dramatic or musical art so I use a lot of video clips in my lectures. Also, effective Musical Theatre depends on the audience’s reaction to create emotion and drama. However, each person can react to the same music in different ways. We will be investigating this phenomenon through sharing experiences to music in class.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Royem: The world of Musical Theatre and the world of Opera are not that far apart! Famous Musical Theatre composers stole a lot of their techniques from the opera stage.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do folks have about Musical Theatre?

Royem: That Musical Theatre is not serious enough to be called “art” or “art music!” I am a firm believer that Beethoven and Brahms did not take musical genius to the grave with them and that musical masterpieces can be found in every musical genre!

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan on using in the class?

Royem: The best way to learn about Musical Theatre is to experience it so we will be watching and listening to a lot of excerpts from the shows that are the topic of discussion. After experiencing the works we will examine the intersection between music and drama through discussion.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?
Books on my night table include: Fear and the Muse Kept Watch by Andy McSmith, A Look into Music and Art in Russia under StalinThe Artist’s Guide by Jackie Battenfield, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Lives of Artists by Kay Larson, Ticker by Lisa Mantchev.
Royem’s class beings on May 4th at 10:00 am. For more information, or to register, click here.

How Much   Do You Know About…  The Civil War?

April 17, 2017

civilwarimageBoth Whitman and Dickinson, subjects of Scott Pett’s upcoming class “Whitman and Dickinson”, were profoundly affected by the Civil War, so we put together a quiz on that time period!

1. One-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army were:

A. African Americans.
B. Immigrants.
C. From the South.

2. In the 1860′s, the custom was that a woman should spend a minimum of how much time in mourning?

A. 2 Years.
B. 3 Months.
C. 5 Years.

3. During the same time period, the custom was that a man should spend a minimum of how much time in mourning?

A. 2 Years.
B. 1 Year.
C. 3 Months.

4. Surgeons never washed their hands after operating. Why?

A. They believed all blood was the same.
B. They were worried about water cleanliness.
C. Blood was considered an antiseptic.

5. Most of the battles and wars of the Civil War were fought in what state?

A. Virginia.
B. Tennessee.
C. Missouri.

6. More men died in the Civil War from:

A. Disease.
B. Battlefield Fighting.
C. Friendly Fire.

7. Who was fifty percent more likely to die on  Civil War battlefields?

A. African American soldiers.
B. Privates.
C. Generals.

8. What was used routinely during the Civil War to fight illnesses and disorders?

A. Maggots.
B. Leeches.
C. Glasses with colored lenses.


1. B.  The Union Army was a multicultural force—even a multinational one. We often hear about Irish soldiers (7.5 percent of the army), but the Union’s ranks included even more Germans (10 percent), who marched off in regiments such as the Steuben Volunteers. Other immigrant soldiers were French, Italian, Polish, English and Scottish. In fact, one in four regiments contained a majority of foreigners.

2. A. When a woman mourned for her husband in the 1860’s, she spent a minimum of two-and-a-half years in mourning.  That meant few social activities: no parties, no outings, no visitors, and having to wear only black clothes.

3. C. The husband, when mourning for his wife, however, spent three months in a black suit.

4. A. Surgeons never washed their hands after an operation, because all of the blood was assumed to be the same.

5. C.  Of all the battles and skirmishes fought during the American Civil War, 11% were fought in the state of Missouri. During 1861, there were more battles and skirmishes in Missouri than in any other state, and throughout the entire war only Virginia and Tennessee saw more action than the state of Missouri.

6. A. More men died in the Civil War than any other American conflict, and two-thirds of the dead perished from disease. Approximately 625,000 men died in the Civil War, more Americans than in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. If the names of the Civil War dead were arranged like the names on the Vietnam Memorial, it would stretch over 10 times the wall’s length. Two percent of the population died, the equivalent of 6 million men today. Rifles were by far the war’s deadliest weapons, but deadlier still was disease. In 1861, as armies massed, men once protected from contagion by isolation marched shoulder to shoulder and slept side by side in unventilated tents. Camps became breeding grounds for childhood diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and measles. One million Union soldiers contracted malaria, and epidemics were common.

7. C. Robert E. Lee’s impulse to personally lead a counterattack during the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864 (his troops held him back) would not have surprised his men if he were a bit lower in rank. That’s because many top officers, including generals, literally led their troops into battle, a rare occurrence in modern wars. For this reason, generals were 50 percent more likely to die in combat than privates. At the Battle of Antietam alone, three generals were killed and six wounded—on each side.

8. C. During the Civil War, glasses with colored lenses were used to treat disorders and illnesses. Glasses with yellow lenses were used to treat syphilis, blue lenses were used to treat insanity, and pink lenses were used to treat depression. This is where the expression “see the world through rose-colored glasses” comes from.




Whitman & Dickinson: Lives, Times, & Poetry

April 16, 2017

whitmanpostageThe two most famous American poets, who changed the landscape of American poetry, are featured in new Professor Scott Pett’s upcoming class “Whitman and Dickinson.” According to Pett, both poets have been mistyped and misunderstood over the ages. We checked with Pett to find out more. 

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your upcoming class?

Pett: In this class, students will become more familiar with the poems and lives of (in my opinion) America’s two greatest writers, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Admittedly, this is a bit ambitious for a four-week class! We’re going to cover what we can. But I think the true goal of the class is for students to learn to read and hear all poems in a more conscious way. Ultimately, this class will familiarize students with America’s most masterful poets and help elevate their love of poetry in general.

After all, poetry is one of the few ways we can give our souls a bath. As William Carlos Williams says, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about your class?

Pett: The Whitman and Dickinson we were taught in high school and college surveys reside on opposite ends of the eccentricity spectrum. On one side is Whitman, the show-off; on the other is Dickinson, the recluse. There is truth to these portrayals, of course; but they are also misleading and superficial. Whitman celebrates himself as “the poetic voice” of the United States, sounding his “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world;” but he also quietly wonders “in perfect silence at the stars” and ponders a “noiseless, patient spider.”

Dickinson is perhaps even more mistyped as a kind of white-dress wearing New England nun.

WIH Reporter: Can you elaborate more about Dickinson?

Pett:  Though certainly a private person, her home life was complex, even at times explosive. Many poems and letters are marked for their linguistic and emotional “white heat”: social defiance, religious skepticism, sexual euphoria, psychological distress, and natural adulation. The volcano, for instance – simultaneously “reticent” and “torrid” – was one of her favorite images.

WIH Reporter:  What other mistaken impressions might folks have about poetry in general?

Pett: Poetry intimidates some people! Compared to prose writing, which provides a familiar structure that helps the reader feel situated and comfortable, poetry can seem baffling. Its possibilities seem endless; its “meanings” elusive. But in fact, poems share a lot in common with prose. Most poems have sentences, as well as plot. Many have characters and dialogue. Contrary to popular belief, poems cannot mean whatever one wants them to mean. There are concrete strategies for unpacking them. That isn’t to say there is one “correct” reading of any poem; only thoughtful readings that require attentiveness to detail.

Lastly, we tend to focus on poems as textual objects for hushed, self-possessed study. But poems are as much about sound as they are language. That means we need to read them aloud; in doing so, poetry becomes not only an intellectual art, but also a bodily one. Poetry is physical, which means it is intimate, personal, and vulnerable. And poetry is one of the few ways we can give our souls a bath. As William Carlos Williams says, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class?

Pett: A large portion of the class will be lecture with PowerPoint, but we will have class discussions as well. In my experience, poems are more likely to come alive in a group setting than an individual one. If we can have lively, productive conversations, the poems themselves will to some extent be the teacher of this course!

WIH Reporter:  What books are on your night table right now?

Pett: My night table is always covered with books that help me relax after the craziness of the day. Right now, I’m reading the poet Joy Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave (2012), Ada Limón’s latest collection of poems Bright Dead Things (2015), Justin Cronin’s epic dystopian thriller The Passage (2012), Naomi Shihab Nye’s collection of very short stories There Is No Long Distance Now (2011), and Barbara Neely’s detective novel Blanche on the Lam (1992). And before putting my kids to bed, I always read them a poem or two by Robert Frost or Maya Angelou.

WIH Reporter: Anything else we should know?

Pett: This is my first class at the Women’s Institute, and I am very excited. I expect to learn as much from the students as I hope they will learn from me.

Professor Pett’s class begins on Tuesday, May 9th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


WIH Goes To Hollywood

April 16, 2017

Moonlight: Best Film Oscar Winner, via Wikipedia

In Hannah Bigg’s upcoming class, And The Oscar Goes To…” students will have the opportunity to screen this year’s Academy-Award-nominated films as though they were actual members of the American Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences. Starting on Monday, May 1st, this class will apply the stringent parameters while screening Moonlight, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and more. Hannah had some very interesting things to say in describing her unique class.

WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about your upcoming class?

Biggs: We will not be able to cover every nominated picture during this 6-week course. Nine films were nominated for best picture at the 2017 Oscars, so we will have in-depth conversations on five to six of them. Don’t you fret though; we will touch on the themes and topics of the remaining three films throughout the term. Many of these nominated films deal with sensitive conversations and topics, so be ready for some heart-wrenching, difficult, but wonderfully enlightening conversations on many of these R-rated films.
I also love to bake, and I’m sure to surprise my students with ‘Oscar statue-shortbread men’ during one class session!

WIH Reporter: Are there any surprises coming in your class that you can tell us about?

Biggs: Not only will we screen the films in class and discuss the films in detail, but we will also study the history of the Academy Awards, including its scandals, triumphs, and multitude of hosting personalities.

WIH Reporter: Can you tell us more about the screening process you plan to implement in your class?

Biggs: Although all of these films are Oscar-nominated, this class would not do the films justice if we just sang the movies’ praises! We will critique the movies as if we too were judges for The Academy. Pros and cons. Praises and faults. Why were some films snubbed and others awarded? And finally, one of the most pressing questions facing The Academy today: are the judges out of touch with what consumers today look for in a movie?

 WIH Reporter:  What format do you plan to use in the class?

Biggs: My classes usually begin with an introductory lecture and announcements. We then screen selections of the film in class and pause at critical moments and intervals in the course of the movie to discuss certain aspects, historical references and facts, and pivotal junctures in the film.

WIH Reporter: What books are on your night table right now?

Biggs: I’m very lucky that my second-hand store find of a night stand has a whole bookshelf under its tabletop! It was a $15 steal! Of the ten or so books stacked haphazardly on it, the two I’m working through right now are Dan Barber’s The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books by John Carey.

 WIH Reporter: Is there anything else we should know about your Oscar’s class?

 Biggs:  I hope to offer this course every summer term with each new summer session discussing the new year’s Best Picture nominees! That’s a lot of OscarMen, shortbread cookies!

Hannah Biggs’ class begins on May 1st at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

Breaking News:  The Rabbi is Back!

March 24, 2017

lieRabbi Rossel is back for a two- session class on Friday, May 5 (10:00-12:00) and Sunday, May 7 (4:00-5:30) on The BIG LIE.  Archaeology and critical study demonstrate how priests and rulers in ancient times massaged the truth, exaggerated here and there and at times relied on what has recently been dubbed “alternative facts”.


Come back in time to explore the age-old tendency of those in power to stretch the truth for their own purposes.

For more information, or to register, click here.

Your Remodeling Journey

March 1, 2017

modelSusan Fruit’s upcoming class, “The Remodeling Revolution” goes a long way towards helping us to make sense of taking on a remodeling of project in the fast paced world of interior design and renovation. So, how does one choose from all the products? Susan Fruit will be discussing everything you need to know in her six-week course on home renovation. The class will feature PowerPoint presentations plus field trips to showrooms and client homes/works in progress.

Get started by taking Susan’s remodeling quiz to see how much you know about this topic!

1. What should be the main focal point in a kitchen?

2. What is the “hottest” product trend in kitchen countertop material?

3. How many inches should there be between a wall mounted cooktop hood and a wall cabinet?

4. What is the most important thing to do when converting a tile shower to a steam shower?

5. What is the “hottest” design trend in master baths?


  1. The cooktop hood

  2. Quartz

  3. 4” – 6”

  4. Slope the ceiling

  5. A large picture window with a motorized window shade

Susan’s class begins on March 7th at 10 am. For more information or to register for this information-packed class, click here.

From Stress to Serenity

March 1, 2017



In eastern philosophy, the lotus flower symbolizes rising from darkness to rebirth because the lotus flower blooms out of muddy water to produce beautiful untainted blossoms.

Do stress-causing situations, political news, and difficult people drain your energy and diminish your well-being? If so, it may be a good time to attend Liz Weiman’s upcoming class “From Stress to Serenity” starting on March 21st at 10:00 a.m..

We spoke with Liz Weiman to find out if it was really possible to overcome stress on an ongoing basis.




WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the stresses in our lives?

Weiman: It is surprising to realize how much of the stress we experience is not caused by the upsetting event or the difficult person, but by our own thoughts about these apparent stressors. Once we carefully examine and begin to question the stressful stories we tell ourselves about the person or situation, we empower ourselves with a new freedom to effect real change, both in ourselves and in the world.

WIH Reporter: If stressful thoughts are the problem, how can we stop them?

Weiman: The first thing is to simply notice how often our thoughts involve stressful stories about the past or the future. By nature, thoughts about the past or the future are based in memory or projection, both of which can be permeated with fear, regret, and other negative emotions. Once we see how often our thoughts revert to past or future, and how they cause stress, we can begin to ground ourselves in various ways using the reality of this present moment.

WIH Reporter: What about the difficult people in our lives? They can be family or workplace associates that cause trouble for us. How can changing thoughts change them?

Weiman: We can’t control the behavior of other people, but we can open our mindsets to other perspectives regarding them. Einstein said that you cannot solve the problem at the level of the problem. By reacting in kind to the chaos and disorder caused by difficult people, we are engaging at the level of the problem, and often end up prolonging the situation. Instead, we can turn the focus back to ourselves, and begin to expand the lens through which we are currently viewing this person.

WIH Reporter: But in today’s world of overwhelming change and upheaval, is it really possible to move from stress to serenity?

Weiman: Rather than describe it as movement from one state to another,  I would portray it more as  connecting with the well-being and serenity that always resides within us. Just as we know that the sun is always shining, even when heavy clouds temporarily prevent us from actually seeing it, so we can access the unnoticed (but never absent) inner well-being that is always available. This shift in focus can be life-changing, allowing us to approach stressful situations from a more centered, serene, and compassionate place.

WIH Reporter: What is the format of your class?

Weiman: We use class discussion, video presentations, and handouts featuring the multi-faceted perspectives of behavioral science, psychology, eastern philosophy, and more. We learn specific ways to help overcome all the negative obstacles to peace-of-mind. Since this is a limited-enrollment class, the smaller group is able to share their struggles and their insights plus practice the techniques in a supportive and energy-enhancing environment.

Liz Weiman’s class begins on March 21st at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.


How Much Do You Know About…the Victorian Era?

March 1, 2017


The Victorian era (1837 – 1901) is based on the years during Queen Victoria’s reign. This time period is considered a time of prosperity, peace, and power for England. Professor Anne Saiken’s upcoming class covers all the Victorian mores and starts on March 20th, so we put together a quiz on the Victorian Era!


1. Victorians are known for wearing black clothing above all else. What is the main reason for this?

A. They attended lots of funerals.
B. Coal pollution stained their clothes.
C. Their prudery extended to colorful clothing.

2. In Victorian times how did most people avoid body odor?

A. Tub baths.
B. Sponge baths.
C. Perfume.

3. What country above all others were Victorians obsessed by?

A. Palestine.
B. Egypt.
C. India.

4. Which style of food was most appreciated in this era?

A. Plain.
B. Indian.
C. French continental.

5. Which dining places became popular for social gatherings and chatter?

A. Fish and chips restaurants.
B. Tea rooms.
C. Chop houses.

6.  By the 1860s, meals were placed on the sideboard and served one after the other. This was called:

A. A la Russe.
B. A la Francaise.
C. American style.

7. What were the most popular foods for Victorians?

A. Vegetables.
B. Sweets.
C. Meats.

8. What kitchen gadget would you most likely find in a Victorian kitchen in this era?

A. Electric mixer.
B. Apple peeler.
C. Wire whisk.

9. What food rose into prominence during this era?

A. Curry.
B. Fish.
C. Treacle.


1. B. Although Victorians did go to a lot of funerals, the main reason they wore black clothes was coal pollution. The burning of coal caused a black cloud to hover over most industrialized cities of the time. Anyone who wore light colors would find their clothes stained with coal dust. As an interesting sideline, the walls and ceilings of houses (after using coal for heat in winter) would be covered in soot, and this is the reason for the phrase “spring cleaning”.

2. B and C. Tub water turned cold very quickly, and in those days people still believed that exposure to cold would caused illness and death. So cleaning was accomplished by using sponge baths plus perfumes.

3. B. Victorians were obsessed with Egypt above all other countries. During this time, many archaeological projects took place with amazing discoveries, which only fueled the intense interest.

4. A and B. While curry was a national sensation, the Victorian era tended towards plain and simple food which was more to Queen Victoria’s tastes. The wonderful flavors inherent in French cooking were thought to overwhelm main ingredients.

5. B. Tea rooms became the important places for social gatherings and gossip.

6. A. The answer is a la Russe. which involves courses being brought to the table in sequential order as opposed to the French style in which all the food is brought out at once. 

7. B. and C. Victorians did not eat in very healthy ways. Both meat and sweet foods were popular for those who could afford them. People were not interested in vegetables.

8. B and C. You would definitely find an apple peeler, but the wire whisk, invented by Victorians and available, might not be as much in evidence. The wire whisk; however, became popularized by Julia Child in 1963. The electric mixer was invented a few years after the Victorian era ended.

9. A and B. Curry became very popular, but fish saw a big upswing due to the fact that there was ice to keep it fresh, and it could be transported long distances via railways.

The Centenniel of The Great Migration: How Six Million African Americans Transformed the United States

February 20, 2017

mlkThe Great Migration (1917-1970) of  more than six  million African Americans out of the South to other regions of the United States is one of the most important, courageous, underreported yet consequential movements in our nation’s history.  In search of true freedom, equality, education, and opportunity, those brave migrants—fleeing systemic racism, abuse, oppression, enforced poverty, and violence—transformed American culture, society, demographics, and politics in a multitude of ways, both tangible and intangible, short-term and long-term.  Although many Americans do not learn about the Great Migration in their history classes, its centennial reminds us of just how far-reaching and long lasting the Migration’s legacy truly. To find our more and to register, click here.

A Connoisseur’s Guide to Victorian Manners, Mores, Food, and Drink

February 20, 2017
By joyosity (Tea at the Rittenhouse Hotel)  Wikimedia Commons

By joyosity (Tea at the Rittenhouse Hotel) Wikimedia Commons

If you wax nostalgic for a time when there was social civility, proper etiquette, and afternoon teas with scones and clotted cream, your longing will be requited on March 20th, when Professor Anna Saikin begins her 10:00 a.m. class “Victorian Foodies.”

Get ready for a literary feast as Saikin takes us on a tour of lavishly arrayed meals using a selection of Victorian books, meal plans, recipes, table settings, and etiquette guides for authentic Victorian dining experience. We visited with her to find out more about this sumptuous subject.



WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Saikin: Victorians liked to eat! Each class will feature a different cuisine, dish, or drink based on novels, poems, and cookbooks from the nineteenth century, and whenever possible, I will bring samples for the class to taste as we nibble our way through the juiciest bits of Victorian literature.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Saikin: When we think about Victorian food, the first thing that often comes to mind are elaborate, multi-course tea times, completed with Earl Grey, scones, lemon curd, and clotted cream. While we will discuss and sample these dishes (frequently and with gusto!), we will also discuss how British palates were expanded during the century as nabobs brought back popular Indian curries and it became possible for ordinary subjects to enjoy extraordinary food.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions might we have about Victorian manners and mores?

Saikin: Queen Victoria set a dignified and resplendent model for her subjects to emulate, but not all British citizens were fortunate to have enough to eat. Part of our class will dive into the historical reasons why Oliver Twist’s plea, “May I have some more, please?” was so revolutionary for its time. We will examine Dickensian feasts of decadence as well as destitution and consider the ways in which different classes interpreted notions of propriety.

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class.?

Saikin: We will begin with a selection of delicacies related to our weekly topic. As we munch, we will read and discuss selections from Victorian literature, and, whenever possible, watch movie clips that illustrate the diversity of Victorian cuisine. We will analyze seating arrangements and recipes from the nineteenth century cookbook, Mrs. Barton’s Book of Household Management, and marvel at the number of silverware required for each meal. Participants should bring with them a curious mind and a hungry belly!

WIH Reporter: Are you planning to have a class in which food is featured such as authentic scones and tea?

Saikin: Absolutely! In fact, class participation during tea time is required!

Professor Saikin’s class begins March 20th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.

The Remodeling Revolution

February 20, 2017

remodelHome is where the heart is, but when you own a home there are so many choices and design decisions than ever before. For homeowners who are not familiar with the remodeling process or knowledgeable about the latest products on the market, Susan Fruit is teaching “The Remodeling Revolution”, a class which explores everything from essential finishes and paint colors to plumbing and light fixtures to appliances, cabinetry, hardware, and much, much more. According to Fruit, if it has been more than two decades since faucets were last changed and countertops and light fixtures last updated, then chances are your home isn’t keeping pace with the times, which seriously impacts its market value. Starting March 7th at 10:00 a.m., you can learn how to begin your own remodeling project and how to achieve a tasteful, timeless look for the home that will be loved and enjoyed for years to come. For more information or to register, click here.

Attachment and Relational Mores – The Balance Between Self-Actualization And Self-Sacrifice

February 20, 2017
By John William Waterhouse - Art Renewal Center – description, Public Domain,

By John William Waterhouse – Art Renewal Center – Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons

Valentine’s Day just passed, and what better time is there to find out more about love, attachments, and relationships? Dr. Rebecca Cubberly’s upcoming class, “Attachment and Relational Mores“, (starting on March 22nd at 1 p.m), covers everything you ever wanted to know about relationships. Topics include conflicts in the realm of intimacy because of fears of exploitation or abandonment, patterns formed in childhood that interfere with intimacy, and the importance of self-love in the face of others’ imperfect or improper behavior. In addition, Dr Cubberly will explore such challenges as holding onto oneself while attempting to maintain a healthy marriage, rear a family, and pursue a career. She will also examine the need in relationships to work through betrayals of all kinds. Finally, she will bring understanding to what it means to be a good wife, a good mother, a good business partner and pursue a career. For more information, or to register, click here.

How Much Do You Know About…The Roaring Twenties?

January 10, 2017

By Russell Patterson [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Since Professor Richardson’s class, “The Roaring Twenties – Part One” is coming up soon, and we thought a quiz on this time period pertinent!

1. Popular dances at the time included the Charleston and the:

A. Mint Julep.
B. Lindy Hop.
C. Earhart.



2. During Prohibition, if you saw a business with this color door, it would mean alcohol was served there.

A. Red.
B. Blue.
C. Green.

3. The term “bathtub gin” came from…?

A. Booze brewed in a tub.
B. The large size of the bottles the brew was made in.
C. The fact that the bathtub faucet was used to water down the hootch.

4. Which new food(s) were introduced in the 20s?

A. Wonder Bread.
B. Wheaties.
C. Kool-Aid.
D. Milk Duds.

5. Charles Lindbergh flew a monoplane between New York and Paris. How long was the flight?

A. 33.5 hours.
B. 21 hours.
C. 62 hours.

6. What kind of coats were the rage?

A. Fox Tail.
B. Raccoon.
C. Mink.

7. What popular toys were introduced in the 1920s?

A. Lincoln Logs.
B. Raggedy Ann.
C. Yo-yos.

8. Who was the highest-paid African-American performer in the 1920s?

A. Bessie Smith.
B. Billie Holiday.
C. Josephine Baker.

9. What year during the twenties did women get the vote?

A. 1929.
B. 1924.
C. 1920.


 1. B. The invention of the radio helped spread jazz music throughout the country. Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Cole Porter become household names. As jazz music gained popularity, the Charleston and Lindy Hop became popular dances. The Lindy Hop is said to have been named after Charles Lindbergh, while the Charleston was named for Charleston, South Carolina.

2. C. During prohibition, if there was a green door on a business, there was often a speakeasy behind it. Some popular speakeasies, like Chicago’s Green Door Tavern are still in operation.

3. B & C. It’s a common misconception that the term “bathtub gin” comes from batches being brewed inside an actual tub. However, the term actually comes from the large bottles the elixir was made in. Combining grain alcohol, juniper berries and other flavorings with water, a standard faucet was not tall enough to fit the bottle, so bootleggers would use the bathtub spigot to water down their hooch.

4  A, B, C, & D. All of these were introduced in the 1920s.

5. A. His flight took 33.5 hours.

6. B. Raccoon coats were the rage.

7. A & C. Raggedy Anns and Andys were introduced in the late teens.

8. A. Bessie Smith was the highest-paid African American performer in the 20s. By the end of the 1920s, Smith was the highest-paid black performer of her day, and had earned herself the title “Empress of the Blues.”

9. C. Women got the vote in 1920. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right,

Experience the Roaring Twenties: Art, Literature, Music & History

January 10, 2017

dancing2-copyJazz. Flappers. Speakeasies. Art Deco. The Harlem Renaissance. These all bring to mind the decade known as “the Roaring Twenties”, a time associated with possibility, newness, change, energy, and widespread economic prosperity until the crash of the stock market in 1929. In the course, “The Roaring Twenties – Part One”, Professor Laura Richardson presents this time period’s novels, poetry, art, and history, questioning the relationships between the decade’s jubilance, celebration, tumult, pessimism, and crash. We visited with Richardson to find out more.

WIH Reporter: To begin, how did you come to teach at WIH?

Richardson: Dr. Terry Doody, a long-time WIH instructor, has been my mentor ever since I was his teaching assistant at Rice in 2010. Working with and learning from Terry has been a great pleasure, and I look forward to meeting some of his current and former students in class.

WIH Reporter: What can you tell us about your upcoming class “The Roaring Twenties – Part One”?

Richardson: The most important thing is how interdisciplinary each six weeks will be. Over the entire twelve week period, we will discuss novels, poetry, history (including politics and civil rights movements), music, visual art, dance, and film. Twenties aesthetics infiltrated every medium, with each contributing to the period’s formation as a decade of merriment and strife, intricately woven into the fabric of expression.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions of the Twenties do we have?

Richardson: Most people assume, based on the elaborate party scenes from Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, that the Roaring Twenties was all about glitz and frivolity. While the 1920s certainly put on a good show, as most of the art from the period reveals, people all over American and Europe were still recovering from the widespread trauma of World War I. A deep-rooted bipolarism is rather a better characterization of the decade’s fascinating timbre and is the main lens through which we will examine the period.

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class?

Richardson: The Roaring Twenties will be a lecture-style course, although I will present 1-2 questions for students at the beginning of every class and ask for volunteers to share their answers at the end of every session.

The Roaring Twenties – Part One” starts on February 2nd at 10:00 a.m. For more information or to register, click here.

November 7, 2016

Registration for Spring classes is HERE! Congratulations to those who have already successfully registered. We have received positive feedback on the ease of our new system. Hold on to those usernames and passwords for next time! Many of our classes have availability. Just click “Registration/Log-in” at the top of this page!

Alida Webb To Retire After 35 Years: Jana Whitby is Appointed as New Executive Director

October 14, 2016

janaalidaWe welcome Jana Whitby to the Women’s Institute as the fourth director in our sixty-five year history.  She brings technological savvy, great people skills, and love for the  Women’s Institute to her job.  She has been a board member for the last six years, chairman of Lecture Luncheon for three years, and an enthusiastic student since 2007.  As pleased as we are to welcome Jana, we are saddened to say good bye to Alida Webb.  Alida’s contributions to our continuing education program have been immeasurable.  Her farewell letter to us is as follows:

“For 35 years it has been my privilege and  honor to serve as the director of the Women’s Institute.  It has been a fulfilling and successful career for me.  I have been fortunate to have been a part of many wonderful things that have taken place over the span of these years:  to see the WI grow from a small house on Westgate to the planning and building of a larger facility on Avalon that has given us the ability to serve many more of our community; to have received my “second education” at the feet of many exemplary professors and instructors; to have met and come to know many, many wonderful students who have come through our doorways; and to have served with many fine boards of directors.

I am not saying a permanent “good bye” as I will now see you in class and in a seat at a table at Lecture Luncheon.  I thank all of you and the board for this continued opportunity to satisfy my curiosity in all things intellectual and cultural.”

How Much Do You Know About…Paint?

October 14, 2016

With Professor Brauer’s upcoming Sunday lectures about Degas, plus the MFA’s Degas exhibition we thought a quiz on was pertinent!

1. The color purple became associated with royalty because the pigment was:

A. From a far-away location.
B. Restricted to royalty.
C. Expensive.

2. What substance produced purple pigment during Roman times?

A. Verbena.
B. Mollusks.
C. Stones.

3. Who is credited with the discovery that you can mix two different paint colors to produce a third?

A. Plato.
B. Lao-Tzu.
C. Hammurabi.

4. In the Middle Ages, manuscripts were decorated with paint made from egg yolks and:

A. Feathers.
B. Stones.
C. Snails.

5. Among the Aztecs, what pigment color was regarded as more valuable than gold?

A. Yellow.
B. Blue.
C. Red.

6. How many years did it take Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel?

A. 4.
B. 15.
C. 8.

7. Who developed the color wheel?

A. Thomas Edison.
B. Sir Isaac Newton.
C. George Eastman.

8. What kind of paint does not dry?

A. Acrylic.
B. Encaustic.
C. Oil.

9. What color paint is the most calming?

A. Pink.
B. Blue.
C. White.


1. B. The color purple became associated with royalty because at one time only aristocrats could afford the expensive pigment

2. B. During Roman times, it took 4 million crushed mollusk shells to create one pound of purple pigment.

3. A. The Greek philosopher Plato is credited with the discovery that you can mix two different paint colors together to produce a third color.

4. B. In the Middle Ages, manuscripts were “illuminated” with paint made from ground semi-precious stones and egg yolks.

5. C. Among the Aztecs, red pigmented paint was regarded as more valuable than gold.

6. A. It took Michelangelo only four years to paint the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the 1500s, but it took 20 years to restore it in the late 1900s.

7. B. The “color wheel” is older than the United States. It was developed by Sir Issac Newton in 1706.

8. C. Oil paints don’t dry. Instead they harden due to oxidation, usually in about two weeks, and are ready to be varnished in roughly six months. However, sometimes it takes years for an oil painting to fully harden!

9. A. Pink is the palliative color. Apparently, it suppresses anger and anxiety due to its calming effect. That is why prisons and mental health care institutions paint their walls pink to control the behavior of those out-of-control prisoners and patients.

David E. Brauer Deconstructs Degas in Upcoming Sunday Lectures

October 14, 2016

This month, the spotlight shines on artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917), as our very own Professor Brauer is devoting two upcoming Sunday Lectures to this Impressionist artist on October 23rd and October 30th. At the same time, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is kicking off its exclusive exhibition, “Degas: A New Vision”. We visited with Brauer to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What can you tell us about your upcoming lectures and the MFA exhibition?

Brauer: The confluence of events is a wonderful coincidence.The Museum of Fine Arts is the only museum in the U.S. that is exhibiting Degas’ work representing the beginning to the end of his career. Not since the 1988 retrospective Degas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has the artist’s career been so fully presented.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about Degas?

Brauer: When people think of Degas, they associate him with racehorses and ballet dancers. This exhibition shows a more complex multi-dimensional side of Degas through painting,drawings, sculpture, and photos. He was a very private man, and kept a lot of his paintings to himself. He was he first great artist to question why he should have any exhibitions, since, in his view, the public didn’t understand his art anyway. His success meant that he didn’t have to please anyone,and he could created art for his own edification.

WIH Reporter: What will you be concentrating on your lectures?

Brauer: Right now, I am teaching my 12-week class,”The Legacy of French Art 1850 to 1940″, and we are covering quite a bit about Degas. In the two Sunday lectures, I will be focusing on Degas even more, discussing the relationship between his paintings and photography, and the concentration on women in his work after 1870.

WIH Reporter: What was the relationship towards women in his art?

Brauer: He was the only one of the Impressionists to come to America. He visited New Orleans where he had family. When he came back to France, he began to focus on certain types of women: shop girls, laundresses, ballet dancers – all considered nearly prostitutes as reflected in popular novels at the time.

WIH Reporter: Is there a sympathy in his art for these women?

Brauer Actually, he looked upon them with an objective, analytical eye.

WIH Reporter: What was significant about the Impressionists in general, and Degas specifically, that set them apart from the art that had gone before?

Brauer:  The Impressionists, starting in 1860, represented the first secular art in Western tradition. This art, unlike religious art, does not have a back story. It represented a new kind of freedom, as artists were liberated from the earlier, religious subjects, and could create their own narrative. In the upcoming lectures, I will be discussing what we see in the creations of Degas.

WIH Reporter: Your next class, “The Legacy of Spanish Painting, 1600-1827“, will be starting on October 18th. does this class have any relation to the classes and lectures on French artists?

Brauer: Absolutely. It was one of the reasons I decided to teach six weeks of Spanish art, because Velazquez and Goya were huge influences on the Impressionists – Manet most of all – as he lived for a while in Spain. Degas also came under this influence. WIH Reporter: What will you be teaching in the Spring? Brauer: I am really looking forward to teaching “The Legacy of Russian Art” in the Spring.

To enroll in David Brauer’s Sunday lectures, click here. To enroll in his upcoming classes, click here.

3 More iPhone Camera Tips & Tricks

August 21, 2016

homescreeenThe iPhone Camera Tricks & Apps article was so popular in our last email newsletter, that we asked Liz Weiman, our computer/digital technical guru, to tell us 3 more things we can do right now to get better pictures on our iPhone!


1. The best way to avoid blurry pictures resulting from “camera shake” when taking a photo is to use the 2-second timer (see below). When the timer is activated, you simply snap your photo and then hold the camera very still. It gives you 2 additional seconds to brace the camera, and results in great pictures.

To access the timer, tap the Camera app, tap the timer icon at the top right, and tap 2s. Then snap your photo and it will take 2 seconds before it snaps. You have plenty of time to keep your phone still!

2. You don’t have to be a fashion photographer to make use of Burst mode, which creates multiple rapidly-taken pictures of continually-moving subjects. To create the perfect picture of a child or a pet, for instance, use Burst mode.  To do so, tap the Camera app, focus your camera on a moving subject, and then hold down on the white circle for a few seconds. You will see a counter that shows how many photos are being taken. You can then find your photos in the Photo app, in All Photos or Camera Roll. There should also be a separate folder called Bursts. To choose the pictures you want, and delete the rest,in the Photos app, tap your photo, tap Select at the bottom of your iPhone, tap the clear circle at the bottom of the photos you want to keep, and then tap Done. Tap Keep Only “X” Favorites (in which X stands for whatever number appears). The unwanted photos will be deleted and you will have those perfect photos you were looking for!

3. Did you know that using a grid can help you create the best photos? Photographers have known about the value of using the “rule of thirds” in composing a photo since the beginning of photography. This rule says that the human eye gravitates to intersection areas that appear when an image is split into thirds. To activate the grid on your iPhone, tap Settings on the Home Screen, scroll down and then tap Photos & Camera, and turn on Grid. When taking a photo using the grid, make sure the subject you want to emphasize appears along one of the intersecting lines before you snap the shot.See how nicely you can compose your photos this way!

Liz Weiman is teaching a Fall 4-week class: “iWorkshop: Tips and Tricks for iPhones, iPads, and Apps“, starting September 12th at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.