Not Past It - 300 Years of the American Tween

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Hey, not past it listeners.

We’ve got a special episode for you.


We recorded our first live show at on are Fest in.

Brooklyn a history.

Domino special.

Well, hello on are Fest.

Welcome to not past it live.


So we’re going to play that for you today.

We hope you enjoy.

All right, first I am going to bring up our lovely guest.

You have heard her work in this American life and visit be Leah.


The cut.

Please join me in welcoming writer and producer, be a Parker.


Parker, how you doing this morning?

Good, how are you?


I’m doing fantastic.

Is your mic on?

I think so.

Yeah, there we go.

There we go.


All right.

Let’s get the show on the road.

Shall we?

From gimlet media.

This is not passed it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind.


I’m someone palana and Parker.


We’re actually doing one of my favorite types of episodes that we do on the podcast.

It is called the historical domino effect.

I’m going to tell you a little series of stories from history that are all connected and will start in one place and land and some other place that is seemingly not connected and Barry.


Surprise egg.

I’m trusting the process.



In particular.

We are going to explore how this country has been shaped by what I think, is one of the most powerful forces in the world tween girls.


Yes, tweens are cooler and more influential than you might think.


And we are going to look at over 300 years, worth of History to prove it love it.

But first, we’re going to take a quick break and we’re going to kick off our No Journey when we get back.

Hello again, former tweens and maybe current twins.


Thanks for sticking around.

Let’s head back to the live show.

Shall we?

Well to begin.

Our Domino Journey.

We are going to start at the very beginning.

With Domino number one.

We are traveling all the way to the year, 1692 to colonial America, and a little town called Salem, Massachusetts.


Maybe you know where we are headed.

Are you ready?

Are you prepared?

I yeah guys say back right?


Well over 300 years ago this week America’s most notorious Witch Trials began and to understand how that all went down.


We actually need to begin with two twin girls.

Like most things start.

Okay, like most things their names were Elizabeth and Abigail, they were nine and In years old, they were cousins.

And you know back in colonial times.


I think it’s safe to say that there was pretty limited stimulation for you know, young kids, you know, they basically had like their bible to read or you know, these different games and one in particular that they love to play was called the Venus glass sort of, like the mash of colonial America.


If you’re familiar with me.

Ash like Mansion apartment.

Yeah, I’ve got with the S was shaft now.

So that’s problematic, you know, like a predicting your future kind of game.

Okay, and the way you would play it, as you would take a glass of water, you would crack an egg into it and then you would try to read into the egg whites to predict your future.


Oh, Tom’s were hard.


This was, yeah, the, the height of entertainment, at the time.

So, you know, our girls, Elizabeth and Abigail, they decide to play the Venus glass game one day.

However, they look into the egg whites and see something rather concerning because what they read is the shape of a coffin.


Basically, they determined that this means that their future spouse is going to die.


So this is kind of some Darkness.

The weirder thing though, is that in the days and weeks following this, you know, spooky Venus glass Discovery, the girls start developing these weird symptoms.


They start like Screaming and convulsing uncontrollably.

They start acting like they can fly.

They try to run up the walls like bizarre behavior.

Even for the average tween, you know, I mean debatable but I am sure and soon enough other girls of a similar age, start developing similar symptoms.


They’re also like screaming uncontrollably acting weird.

So the parents and Salem are like, okay.

Whoa, what is going on?

They hire some doctors to see, you know, what’s up.

And the doctors basically determined that these young girls are quote under an evil hand.



They are Bewitched.



Now this was like a real concern back in colonial America, like witchcraft was considered to be a very real thing.

And so the town is like, you know, really disturbed by this thing.


They’re like, okay, we need to do something.

Start arresting people.

And on February 29th, 60 92 330 years ago.

This week, the first arrests were made and what would come to be known as the Salem, Witch Trials?


So three women are arrested on this week and they were charged with performing witchcraft on the tweens of Salem and over the coming weeks and months as symptoms are like starting to spread to other girls in the town, even more people are accused.


All in all 200 people in Salem were accused of Witchcraft, which is a lot considering.

This was only a population of, like, 2,000 people.

My math is bad.

Is that 10% Your mouth is perfect.


Yeah, and ultimately, you know, 19 or 20 of these people were hanged, the Salem Witch Trials, you know, we think of it as this like, you know, big thing, they We happened over the course of like about nine months.


Those first arrest happened in February of 1692.

The final hanging happened at September of that year Jesus.



Well, maybe we are more familiar with the Salem Witch Trials.

These trials were happening, you know, around colonial America, more broadly and as they were winding down in Salem, they were actually picking up in nearby Virginia and that That takes us to Domino number two.


The year is 17060.

We jumped.


Jumped and the place is Pongo, Virginia.

Present-day, Virginia Beach.

Yeah, there’s no reason.

You should know that those fellows and they’re in Pongo lived a Woman by the name of Grace Sherwood and she was accused of Witchcraft by her neighbors.


Now, a little bit about Grace, she was a widow.

She had three sons and she was one of Virginia’s, only female landowners.

She must have been a lich.

Yeah, right, but all adds up now, actually this wasn’t the first time that Grace faced like witchy accusations, other neighbors of hers had accused her of this before they accused her of like causing their crops to fail.


Of causing women to miscarry and a dark, right?

And then somebody even like accused her of transforming into a cat and breaking and entering into their home.

Okay, so, you know, it might not be so surprising that Grace became a target of these kinds of accusations because according to local Legend.


She was quite a strong-willed woman.

She was also really into Herbal Healing.

She’s sort of like I didn’t lure as being really friendly with animals and she said to have been very beautiful.

She never remarried after her husband died.


So this this might have been sort of suspicious, or perhaps even threatening to the other people in her town.

But, you know, that was that was Grace is deal.

She certainly exuded A vibe.

It seemed so a pretty quiet girl who lived on a Farm by herself was considered a witch because she had opinions.


Yeah, okay.

I’ve been to me.

I’m like, I hear the description of Grace and I’m like, oh, that’s just like a Southern California divorcee who like got into the plant-based lifestyle.

You know what I mean?

I mean there would be no real housewives.


She could be real housewife of Pongo.


So anyways, the county finally responds to these accusations these charges of witchcraft.

And they order a trial by ducking trial by ducking.


Are you familiar with this term of ducking?

Wait, is that when they, like, put the head in water and then pull it out.

Very nose, very close.

So, the way that it would work.

It happened in a few different ways.

But generally, what would happen is, you would have your hands, tied to your feet and then you would be chucked into some body of water.


And the sort of logic behind this practice, was that water was a Pure Element and it would reject anything impure.

So, you know, if you somehow managed to survive being thrown into the water with your hands, tied people would be like, Oh, look The she’s impure the water rejected her.


She’s a witch.

But if you, you know, were not rejected, they would be like, oh look, she was pure enough for the water.

She must have been innocent.

You would also be dead and drowned at the bottom of a body of water.

I mean, this is a lose-lose situation.


I mean, in the truest, truest sense.

Yes, absolutely.

There is no winning.

So this is what Grace had to face.

So her Day of Reckoning, finally comes on 1 July Morning Grace and, you know, a group of onlookers process down a gravel path to the banks of Lynnhaven River.


For her day of ducking, they tie her up.

They throw her into the river.

Ever and miraculously Grace survives somehow she manages to untie herself.

She makes it back to the shore, great for Grace, because she gets to live but also bad news for Grace.


Because now everyone presumes that she is a witch wait because she figured out how to untie herself.


She shouldn’t have done that.


Aren’t you happy?

We don’t live in colonial America.

I mean, I like the outfit that’s true.


It’s sort of coming back.

That kind of like, you know, conservative Chic thing, all of those like Prairie dresses at Target.

Yeah, perhaps inspired by Grace herself.

Anyways the county then jails Grace after this decking so that she can have a retrial and we don’t really Know what happens after this point, because there’s no record of a trial, the court records.


It’s likely they burned in some fires along with other court records from that time.

I know fishy stuff, right?

However, we do know that at some point, Grace is released from jail and she lives out the rest of her days on her, gorgeous Farm.


I know happy and thankful Grace.

Great news for Grace.

That’s not how I thought that story.

What were you expecting murder?

Oh, yeah, I could see that.

However, even though there is no record of this trial, the story of Grace is still alive and well.


And in fact, the trial is performed twice a week at America’s largest living history museum like today like they do this now.

What’s that?

Well, that actually takes us to our next.


Domino number three, the performance of Graces trial takes place twice a week at the prime destination for historical reenactment.


Colonial Williamsburg.


Colonial Williamsburg is a portion of a real Town, Williamsburg, Virginia.

It’s been restored to its eighteenth-century Glory.

No, and yeah, it’s truly a trap can go There and, you know, watch blacksmith give a demonstration, make cider.


You can get Cider.


You can gaze upon the hordes of eighth graders and matching School t-shirts, you know, not paying attention to the US History around them.

It’s a fun time.


What brought you to Colonial Williamsburg?


It was a field trip because I’m from Baltimore.

So it wasn’t like that far, but I’m also country enough that like when I moved to New York in my 20s.

I went to a party and I met a guy outside where you living it.

I was like, I live in Williamsburg and I said, wow, that seems like a really long commute and he was like, no.


It’s in Brooklyn.

I thought he met Virginia and he walked away.

Damn, well too bad for him.

So Colonial Williamsburg, you know as it turns out the grace Sherwood trial this like, you know, re-enacted which trial that they do as one of the most popular attractions.


And I think probably in part because as an audience member you get to act as the jury and actually, you know, give a verdict on whether you think Grace is guilty of being a witch or not and we heard that crowds tend to lean very heavily to one verdict.


Do you have any guesses as to how people tend to feel about Grace that she’s a witch?

Yeah, like people are like, yep.

She’s guilty.

Except for one time of year around Halloween people are actually may be more reluctant to accuse someone of being a witch.


But otherwise, they’re like, yeah, lock her up.

We as a society need to think about some stuff.

I know it’s a bit revealing.

They’re like, oh this it’s for fun.

Let’s kill this woman.





So it’s interesting, Colonial Williamsburg.

Like it does all this historical reenactment.

There’s all of these like, you know, interesting considerations that go into, like, how do you perform history for people?

I truly feel like we could spend a whole episode on this place.


But we do have one final Domino to get to okay.

After the break, we’ll meet a woman whose visit to Colonial.

Williamsburg changed her life.

There’s a solid chance it changed yours, too.

Welcome back whether you’re in Williamsburg, Virginia or Williamsburg Brooklyn or Another Place entirely before the break.


We knocked down our first three dominoes and landed in Colonial Williamsburg.

So let’s get back to the Domino’s Domino.

Number four.

Now, there is one woman who visited, Colonial Williamsburg in 1984, and she was very inspired by her.



Her name is Pleasant Roland.

That is her real actual government name.

That’s a wonderful name, quite pleasant, but it’s Pleasant.

And she went to visit Colonial Williamsburg with her husband, and she was like totally smitten with the place and she’s like really into the costumes and the buildings and all these like artifacts of daily life kind of on display in this, you know, living history museum.


IAM, but there’s one thing that she’s kind of hung up on.

So, pleasant her background.

She comes from educational publishing for kids, you know, writing textbooks for kids, that kind of thing.

So, she’s thinking to herself.

Like, I wonder how this place could better.


Serve, its young visitors and that gives her an idea for a business.

She’s like, okay.

I’m starting to get this fish in, it’s a business that’s like part publishing.

So You know, the books side of it, but it’s also going to be a direct-to-consumer catalog business with maybe some retail stores in the mix.


And you have any idea as to what Pleasant might have launched after her trip.

My brain went Build-A-Bear.

I know that’s wrong is like, is like an American Girl.


American girl.


Yes, Pleasant Rowland is the woman behind American Girl at first.

It was actually not super popular idea among parents, but she went ahead and launched it.

Anyway just in time for Christmas of 1986.

Just two years after her little trip to Williamsburg.


That was fast.

I know she was really on it.

We love a hustle.

Do you, do you have a connection to American Girl?

It sounds like yo, do so.

My god sister had the a DDOS.

Mhm, and I would always go to her house and play with it because my mom said it was too expensive which it was and so my mom tried to split the difference and she stood by me the ADI books, which I mean I read, they were cute but like I wanted the doll, but but like it’s because it’s all historical.


So Addie was like a freed slave who knew how to read which all right.

I mean, yeah best off a little blackout have but I would really have He told me to let go of my God, sister’s a deed.

All when I would leave the house that in the host of Fina doll.


But Daddy was cute.

Yeah, I feel like we had very similar parents.

I too was like, can I have this doll?

And they were like, here’s a book instead, because Pleasant was trying to make that money.


I mean, yeah, these were like a supposed all’s.


I remember going.

Okay, this girl, okay, this girl in my class, Olivia.

She invited me to a bowling party and we went to her house afterwards and she had like four American Girl dolls a flag.


Yeah, and I was like, okay.

I know what class Consciousness is now, you know what I mean, as a lot but I was so into it.

I like subscribe to the magazines.

Like I was fully into American girl, but never got the dolls either which is why Parker I am so excited to tell you that you are not our only guests here today.


Today don’t let me have some other lovely ladies joining us on stage.

Could we please bring them out?


Oh my God, you don’t understand like nine-year-old Park is about to grab her and run out the door.


I actually haven’t gotten to see the Dolls yet.

So, I’ve also seen for the first time.

I’m like so precious.

Oh my God.

They actually launched with three dolls in the very beginning.

Molly, Kirsten Samantha.


The ogs.

They were all nine year old girls from different time periods.

So Molly McIntire she lives in the fictional town of Jefferson, Illinois and the 1940s and her life is very shaped by World War 2.


Then there is Kirsten Larson.

She is a sweet.

Has immigrant living with her family on the Minnesota Frontier, her story takes place in the mid-1800s and it’s very much about America’s Pioneer era.

And then there was Samantha, Parkington who was an orphan being raised by her wealthy grandmother in Mount Bedford, New York, which is supposed to be, like a fictionalized Westchester pie place.


I never white dolls are having a fun time.

Oh, the white dolls have Well, there’s another what she has to live in Westchester with their wealthy grandmother’s.

Samantha story takes place at the turn of the 20th century.


And the Industrial Revolution is what looms large and her story.

Now, you mentioned adding.

Josefina’s, would you say those were your two favorite characters?

Well, they were the brown ones.

So yeah.

Tends to work that way, doesn’t it?

But tends to work out that way.


That’s how representation.

Yeah, I was also I had like all the at ebooks.

I was I was really stuck on Addie.

I think she was my favorite for sure.

Well soon as the most relatable I guess in historical context.



Well for those of you who are not familiar, Addie was the first black doll.

She was introduced in 1993 and I actually got to talk to the author behind the ad.

Stories, her name is Connie Porter.

She’s a writer and a teacher.


She wrote all six of the ADI books and we have a little clip of commie to tell us a little bit more about Addy.

Oh, Connie, here’s Connie kind.

He’s black and he’s a nine-year-old.

Girl, when we meet her and she’s living on a small Plantation in North Carolina, and she really is someone who’s a very bright child of very inquisitive child, and I think Brave, Would be a way of describer.


And most of all, I think hopeful a.d.

As a Civil War era.


Like Connie said, her Story begins on a small Plantation in North Carolina, where a d and her family are enslaved though.

Pretty early on in her story.


She and her mother escaped to Freedom under the cover of night and they make their way up to Philadelphia.

And that is a destory.

I know not quite the rich orphan from Westchester.


We can’t have it all.


Yeah, you know, even though I really loved a.d.

As a kid.

I also remember feeling very conflicted, right.

Because I was like, okay, why is the One Singular black doll and your collection?





Well, that’s the only history that we’ve been a allow us to have some.

I, I really did struggle with this.

And, you know, I talked To Connie about like why is this the story?

I don’t know of all the stories of black history.


Like why is this the one that you are starting with?

And they actually, as they were developing these stories, they had considered other time periods.

Like, for example, they were looking at the Harlem Renaissance, right?

That’s hot.

I know, right?


They still don’t have a Harlem Renaissance time.

Like, you guys should get on how.

So, but anyways, the thing that they would run into is they were like, okay.

How do you explain the Harlem Renaissance?

Okay, you have to explain the Great Migration.

How do you explain the Great Migration without explaining slavery?


And basically, all of the other time periods that they landed on, they sort of all came back to the massive significant way.

That slavery, has shaped American history, and black American history.

And so they figured okay.


We need to begin with that history.

We just had a whole these, there’s a whole immigration story right there with the little blond, girl.

And nothing about, you know.


Well, I mean, feel free to take this up with Connie if you want.


All right.

I’m just so happy that she was a black lady.

I thought I was like, Ezra Jack Keats situation where it was just like an old white person writing historical fiction.

I know, at least, you know, in the 90s, they had the wherewithal to hire a black woman to write a little black girl story, We Appreciate progress now.


You remember in the books even though, you know, it is sort of written for kids.

There are like depictions of like some pretty cruel and violent things, and there’s one scene in particular that I’m thinking of that.

I have not been able to get out of my head to this day.


Now, just first quickly for some context.

This is from early in the series when Addie is working on the plantation and part of her job is to pluck.

The worms off of tobacco plants in this.

Seen a d has mistakenly missed a few of those worms.


She’s distracted because her father, and brother have just been sold off the overseer notices that she’s missed the worms.

And I’m actually going to have Connie read that for us.

How about to be traumatized?

Maybe a little.


That’s all right.

He grabbed at his wrist in one of his large hands and opened his other hand.

Eddie saw what he held.

Live worms worms.

That Eddie had missed the overseer.


Forced open her mouth and stuff, the still twisting and Wiggly worms inside a d began choking, eat them, the oversee, your grout, chew them up every last one of them.


If you don’t I’ll get some more.

And he gagged.

As the worms juicy bodies burst in her mouth.

That’ll teach you to mind your work, the oversee, your snapped.

He shoved her away, Eddie crumpled to the ground as he turned to leave.


Yeah, I mean it’s heavy stuff for a nine-year-old to read.

Definitely, they definitely don’t shy away from showcasing, you know, the cruelty of slavery of segregation, but they have to play this delicate balancing act, right?


They have to somehow figure out how to portray this history, but do it in a way that still appropriate for, you know, their child.

Pence and so I talked to Connie a little bit about the choices that they made.

So, you know, they chose to Showcase this but there are other things that they don’t include.


Like they don’t include the N word.

For example, they don’t include depictions of sexual assault but they have the overseer, you know, call her girl in an extremely like patronizing and violent way, but I think after all that I’m still thinking like, okay, but why is this little black girl the one who’s like shouldering all of this trauma in this life?


Like fun.

Toy company is Molly getting worms.

I believe, Molly is great challenge.

Was she needed to figure out what Halloween costume?

She was going to wear that year.

Oh, the choices.

Yeah, sorry.

So I asked Connie about this, you know, like why is the black character shouldering this difficult history?


I look at today’s environment and people not necessarily wanting history.

To be told it’s it is because it can hurt somebody’s feelings or you don’t want anybody to feel bad.

I’m like, feel bad.

There are people who live, this.

My mother’s grandmother was a slave.


Born in Alabama.

Just kind of been really refreshing to find their children are and were far more willing to take on the subject matter than parents.


It’s interesting to me that Connie is bringing up this idea of like, hey, like this is the history that people dealt with, this is like real shit, and we should be talking to our kids about it because it feels like this is a debate that we’re continuing to have right now.

I don’t know if it’s one that you’ve been following, but I mean the over simplification of the idea of critical race Theory to the point where you don’t want to teach any kind of history.


That was so white people as problematic.

Sure, so, So you are so you are familiar.

I’m aware.

Yeah, it’s it is so confounding to me this impulse to Shield children from these harsher truths like completely.


I think you know, it’s one thing to be like lets, you know, engage kids in history in a way that’s age appropriate.

It’s another to just completely erase that from their awareness.

Oh, for sure.

Sure, like to deny any kind of history is disingenuous, but also say that because I grew up in Baltimore which was, you know, a slave town and full of historical artifacts.


I did a story about like a traumatizing Museum in Baltimore called the Great blacks in wax museum, which has like a slave ship, you can go into and watch women be assaulted but you know, it’s, you know for eight-year-olds and stuff.

And like there’s a lynching exhibit in the basement for teenagers to see like there’s like they encourage you to learn the history no matter how unsavory it might be.


Yeah, what was that like for you as a kid?

Oh it definitely message up a little bit.

But you learn to appreciate it.

Like I mean, I spend my Summers on a farm with my grandparents 10 miles away from the plantation that my family was from and it’s like a historical landmark.


So like the like the history of slavery was always there, which is why I would totally love to see a little black girl hanging out with Langston Hughes and countee Cullen.

Then, you know, have to read about her eating worms.

Yeah, you know, it also makes me think a little bit about like which kids have the privilege and the luxury to like choose what history they want to engage with.


You know, that for sure.

Oh, yeah, like I still It like DMS from certain like, white listeners, who have, who have never experienced certain things.

And when they listen to stories that I tell about and black and experiences from the past, like I didn’t know.


Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, it seems like, yeah, there was a lot of sort of discomfort and to exactly how to engage with these darker parts of history.

I mean, you just do.


Like you can’t like Evade it and to try to hide from it.


Does you a disservice?

Because you’re gonna be stuck repeating the same lines of bigotry and ignorance that came before.


Yeah, absolutely.

You know, it’s interesting that we have ended in this moment of like twins, engaging with history, because we began, you know, over 300 years ago with twins making history.


That’s, that’s, that’s the progress that we look for in a man.

Parker, how do you feel about this journey?

We’ve have just been on, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.

It was an emotional roller coaster and now we’ve reached a part where you may not want to count your American Girl dolls before you put them in the box because add he’s coming to Bed-Stuy.


Well, tell him we lost one somehow.

Well Parker.

Thank you so much for joining me.

It’s been so fun.

Such a pleasure.

You’re welcome back anytime.

Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.


This episode was produced by Laura Newcomb.

Next week.

We’re looking back at the notorious b.i.g., 25 years after his death.

It’s hard for people to understand in 2022.

It was like, but it was jarring to see a celebrity gunned down like that.


And so people were really scared and they didn’t know what to blame.

The rest of our team, our producer, Sarah Craig and Amy, Padula are Producers are removed Philip and Julie Carly.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by moral Waltz, Andrea be Scott, Katie feather and Zach Stewart Ponte a fact-checking by Jane Ackerman sound design and mixing by Hans Dale.


She original music by Sachs kicks, Ave.

Willie Green, Jay bless and Bobby.


Our theme song is Toko, Liana by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman, the executive.


Asura DSP.

Media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet as Abbie.

Ruzicka special, thanks to Ellen.


Stephen seals Kelly Brennan and Abigail Schumann at Colonial Williamsburg.

Susan jevons at Mattel, the whole team at on are Fest and to Lydia Pole Green.


Dan, Behar Emily wiedemann list, Styles and Jen, Han follow, not passed it to listen for free exclusively on Spotify.

Click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes.

Thanks for hanging.

We’ll see you next week.


Now I’m going to have you give like a more tepid Applause like you’re like, okay, I kind of vibe with it.

Maybe three, two, one.