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The Chautauqua Movement: It’s Origins, Impact & Presence in Michigan with Jim Craft
February 15, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST
The Chautauqua Movement began at Lake Chautauqua in western New York in 1874. Initially, it was a two-week encampment for training Sunday school teachers. Within a few years, it had evolved into a summer long resort community providing the American Protestant Middle Class with a wholesome option for using the emerging phenomenon of summer vacation.
Emulating the “mother” Chautauqua in New York, similar communities spread across the United States. By the 1890s over 100 permanent Chautauquas had been established. While each Chautauqua was unique, they were all modeled after the New York Chautauqua and emphasized religion, education, recreation and the arts.
In addition to the permanent Chautauqua sites, a traveling version of Chautauqua began in 1904 and lasted until the Great Depression. While a pale imitation of the original concept, the “tent” Chautauquas visited thousands of American communities every year for over twenty-five years to bring culture to small communities all across the country.
Inevitably, the educational and religious themes of Chautauqua led them to play an important role as a forum for discussion of public issues. In particular, Chautauqua helped promote the political debates surrounding Progressive Era reforms ranging from women’s suffrage to trust busting to child labor.