Mrs. Perfetti’s Pizza Dough

I was married twenty-four years ago.  My friends came from far and wide and near.  Because everyone was so spread out – especially just a year after graduating from college – it was the first time I really ever had my high school and college friends together.  What was so wonderful was to see how well they got along with one another – they acted as if they’d known each other for years and it was really heart-warming.

I was given a green-themed wedding shower – my favorite color.  I was unaware that paper wedding bells and other wedding items came in green – but they were found!  A really fun thing was that they all brought recipes to write for me – family ones, ones they loved – and put them all in a recipe box.

There are a few that I have never tried for some reason or another.  In part, as newlyweds, funds were tight.  My husband was a US Coast Guard lieutenant at the time and we were stationed in New Orleans – which while less expensive then New England still made shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and Winn-Dixie difficult so some recipes were not indulged upon.  Weirdly, I never made the recipe for pizza margherita that one of my best high school friends included – her mother’s recipe.  I was pretty afraid of yeast – I still am which makes no sense as I make my Mother’s “Holey Bread”  ̶  a story for another day.  But faced with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic, I’m finding ways to use up what’s in the pantry and finding ways to stretch things.  So, Mrs. Perfetti’s recipe came out – and boy!  What was I waiting for?  It was delicious (if I do say so myself).  I have, embarrassingly, never made pizza dough from scratch – some (50%) Italian I am!

It’s times like these – even with cooking – that I think of what Maria Mitchell and all women went through when faced with shortages on food – and cooking from the very basics with no processed food to rely on as a back-up.  In particular, when the harbor would freeze over for days and weeks on end so that ships and steamers could not bring in supplies from the mainland.  I know you do not think of Maria as a cook but she did and she had to – especially when her mother was ill and she became her main caretaker.


Celestial Masks


If only this was for a costume!

One of my wonderful former interns – a young woman who actually came back this past fall to help me out on some projects at the Mitchell House – emailed to ask if my family needed any masks.  Her mother, with this young woman’s assistance, has been making masks for people at her place of work.  I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” and asked if one  of them could be made a bit smaller for my son.

Sure enough – they arrived and there was one just right for a six-year-old!  And, leave it to the very creative woman who made them – she made them all in celestial motifs!  My son’s has planets on one side and stars on the other.  Mine has different star patterns on each side, and my husband’s has stars on one and plaid on the other!  Amazing!

Now, how do you properly thank someone for providing such a thing?  Many thanks – to the moon and back!  Be safe and be well.


Where Was The Maria Mitchell Association In 1918?

As a historian and curator, I am often thinking about the past and how it affects the present day, how it affects different situations, and the similarities.  I also like to look at how people react to the same or similar situations in different eras.  The Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic situation is no different for me.

I peruse our old MMA annual reports quite often for various bits of information whether it be from a standpoint of something that happened at the MMA, perhaps work that was done on the buildings or information about staff members of many years ago.  While I have been around for quite a bit of time (thirty years plus), I was not obviously around in the 1920s or 1940s (even though I may seem of a different era to some) and thus need to take a look back.  The annual reports are always a good place to start before I head into the Archives.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at our annual reports of the early 1900s and through the 1930s because of the more recent work we have done on our Science Library – now our Research Center re-opened in 2018 – and the conservation and restoration work that we are hoping to complete to the Maria Mitchell Vestal Street Observatory with several grants.  So, I took a walk back to 1918 because I do not remember reading much about the “Spanish Flu Pandemic” of 1918-1919.  On Nantucket, the 1918 Pandemic was prevalent – most notably during the “second wave” in the Fall of 1918.  I only found one mention of the 1918 Pandemic in the annual reports and that was in our first astronomer’s, Margaret Harwood, report on the Observatory.  In it, she mentions having to cancel the open nights in November 1918 due to the flu on Nantucket.  That’s it.  No other mention.  The Boston-area was hard hit during this “second wave” – with a belief that Fort Devens was one of the major places to see the resurgence in the Fall of 1918 as soldiers came from across the country on their way to and from Europe.

Miss Harwood did focus on the war in her reports of the time – she had taken quite a bit of time off to assist the Red Cross and other entities in the efforts to support the troops.  Of note, in articles that I have read about this period, the war did continue to –  obviously – take center-stage keeping the flu pandemic relegated to interior pages of the newspapers.  Most of the people who survived the flu pandemic – my great grandfather, a pharmacist, caught it and survived – are gone and if they are still with us today they were infants or young toddlers.  One woman who recently passed away at 102 years old, survived the Pandemic of 1918 only to lose her life to the current Pandemic.  What was curious – I’m not even sure what word to use – is that she lost her infant twin in the 1918 Pandemic.  Both lost to a flu pandemic – but 102 years apart.

I guess my point here is that we as an island, a country, a world, have been through quite a bit to put it mildly – both then and now.  The MMA survived through the pandemic of 1918-1919, the Great War, the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, and World War II among many other catastrophic and world-altering events.  The MMA moved and renovated William Mitchell’s former schoolhouse into the MMA Science Library in 1918 and 1919 and added a Wing to the Science Library in the midst of the Great Depression.  My friend and mentor and the MMA’s former Ornithologist, Edith Folger Andrews, stepped in as the biology teacher for Nantucket high school students when their science teacher was drafted in World War II.  The MMA made it through other uncertain times and stock market recessions and lows, including the Great Recession of 2008.  After this, no one will be untouched, our world will be different, but we will all still be here – including here at the MMA where we will continue to be to help you learn more about the world around you – from land to sea to sky.

Wash your hands.  Cover your mouth and nose.  Be well.  Stay safe.  Stay at home unless you are an essential worker.



What Does the MMA Have To Offer YOU During This Difficult Time?

While you may not think of the Maria Mitchell Association as a virtual place given the nature of what we do, we actually do have some things online to offer you.

The first ongoing activity is the Science Festival. An annual event that attracts over 400 children and families each year and co-sponsored with the Nantucket Community School, the Science Festival still ran with at-home activities. And while the prize period of it may be over, there are still a huge list if activities created by the MMA, NCS, and all of our island partners who work with us on the Science Festival so take a look! We will also be showcasing some “Pop-Up Science” demonstrations on Instagram as well.

Links to various astronomy-related livestreams, videos, and other interesting information can be found on our Facebook page. The MMA astronomer, Regina Jorgenson, is regularly interviewed by WCAI for its “Looking Skyward” piece and that can also be found as a link on the MMA’s Facebook page and on WCAI’s website.

A fan of birding and the natural sciences? Take a look at the listing of our extensive 100+ year old natural science collections, read up on some interesting information about our harbors and on information concerning Nantucket’s geologic development, mammals, trees and shrubs and more. Some of these publications are rare, out-of-print, and quite old- but they are still incredibly relevant and frankly, just plain interesting. Don’t know much about our island? This is the time to learn! And then, reinforce it by getting outside – while maintaining social distance – which is easy to do with our hundreds upon hundreds of acres of beaches and conservation land.

And of course, even the Mitchell House has a little something. We have a great “For Students” section of our website where you can find a Maria Mitchell timeline – that anyone can take a look at, not just students – a bibliography for further reading (and you can get many online), and several lesson plans with everything right online. The lesson plans are for various ages and can be used to help you and your child wrap up Women’s History Month or begin your celebration of women’s right to vote – the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment is this year!

I keep mentioning Facebook. Even if you are not a Facebook user/member, you can still open these links on the MMA’s Facebook page.

And while our doors may be physically closed, they are not virtually closed. Staff continues to work remotely. Astronomical research is still being completed, plans for our still hoped-for Maria Mitchell Women of Science Symposium in October still go forward, animals in the Hinchman House Natural Science Museum still await their meals every day and their water changes of their tanks, Clementine the Lobster still awaits some fish or mussels for her dinner, planning for summer events and classes still go on with the hope that maybe we will be back to normal sooner rather than later. And, we offer you a myriad of information and activities on our website and social media platforms.

And one further note, please remember that non-profits are also going to suffer in this. Consider what they provide to you and your family and remember that museums and other non-profits need your continued support – they are here for you now and will be once this is over. After all, Clementine and her friends still need to eat – crisis or not – telescope time for research still needs to be paid for, buildings still need a small level of heat to keep things from freezing and staff needs to be able to meet virtually. All of this still costs non-profits, including the MMA. Thank you.