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Irish American Women on the Folklife Today Podcast

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Six people stand around a room. Betsy Peterson is handing an envelope to Mary Gay Scanlon while Alice McDermott looks on.
Betsy Peterson, AFC’s director, gives a copy of the audio recording and notes to Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon on February 6, 2020. Alice McDermott looks on.  Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! To round out both Women’s History Month and Irish American Heritage Month, we’re presenting A Tribute to Irish American Women. Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.

As usual, I’ll present links to relevant blog posts, videos, and audio selections in this post.  But first:

Get your podcast here!

To explain the context, on February 6, 2020, the Library of Congress held the live event “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women.” The event featured a conversation among award-winning novelist Alice McDermott, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, and CBS anchor Margaret Brennan. As part of the event, an audio recording selected by the American Folklife Center and presented by our director, Betsy Peterson, served as a prompt for conversation.

As extended programming surrounding this event, staff from four Library divisionsAFCManuscript DivisionPrints & Photographs Division, and Hispanic Division were asked to develop a display of items related to the event that would facilitate connections and engage the public with diverse collections. The Center’s contributions took two forms: a display of collection items for the public and a curated mix of field recordings. (Read more about our participation in this blog post.)

The mix of field recordings we created for the event served as the basis for this podcast episode. To talk about them, John Fenn and I were joined by AFC’s director Betsy Peterson, since she was central to the event. Betsy took the opportunity to tell our followers her news: she’s retiring! We will have more to say about that here on the blog, but until then we wish Betsy the best. We will all miss her. Her long list of accomplishments at AFC includes updating our publications and media engagement through greenlighting both the Folklife Today blog and the podcast. We’ll strive to continue adding to her legacy for a long time to come!

A man and a woman stand behind a table with books, record albums, flyers, photos, and other items on display.
Melanie Zeck and I staffed the table for the display of items in the Library’s Whittall Pavilion on February 6, 2020. Melanie curated the tabletop display seen by our special guests, and I curated the audio selection given to them to take home. Photo by John Fenn.

The episode also included guests Jennifer Cutting and Melanie Zeck. All three guests helped John and me talk about the recordings, so many thanks to all of them!

Following the live event back in 2020, I wrote two extensive blog posts on the audio recordings. Since the items we used on the podcast were a subset of those, you can get all the complete audio, bibliographic information, and background in these two blog posts:

Songs and Tunes from “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women”

More Songs and Tunes from “Fearless: A Tribute to Irish American Women”

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening!

In case you need that podcast link again…here it is!

Comments (2)

  1. This is about the podcast — the way-expanded version of this blog: what a pleasure to hear the selections and commentary. Old favorite performers like Maggie Hammons Parker and Mae Mulcahy and an array of others. (And thanks again to Steve Winick for sorting out a bit more detail on Mulcahy’s bio to improve the Montana Folklife Survey online “about” information.) I also enjoyed the helpful intro explanations from Jennifer Cutting and Melanie Zeck regarding the Anglo-German concertina and the early-period and “evolved” Irish harps. I’ll now change my name to O’Fleischhauer, at least for the month of March.

    • Thanks, Carl. There’s even more commentary on those songs in the two blog posts linked at the bottom of this one And of course, your own amazing notes about Maggie Hammons Parker are the source of most of our information on her!

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