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CANCELED: 5th Annual Berks History Conference

April 4, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

This event has been canceled and will not be rescheduled.

Lunch provided. Cost: $25 Students/ $50 Members / $60 Non-Members / $90 for Admission and a Membership to the Berks History Center ($10 savings on individual level membership)

Call 610-375-4375 to register or send your check and registration form to Berks History Center: 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601

Conference Topics & Speakers:

Problems That Confronted the First Women Jurors in Berks County Brian Engelhardt, Esq.

Although passage of the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, the “suffrage” granted was not universally viewed as including the right of women to serve on juries. This presentation will discuss the legislation in Pennsylvania that guaranteed jury service as a right held by both women and men. It will also explore the problems that arose in the implementation of this right, beginning with getting women’s names on the jury roll, plus addressing the monumental problem of the total absence of rest rooms for women in the Berks County Courthouse as it existed at the time. The presentation will generally revisit the difficult path that confronted the women jurors- pioneers in that important facet of Berks County’s judicial system.

Brian Engelhardt is a native of Reading and is a regular contributor to the Berks County Historical Review on various matters concerning local history, including local baseball history. A graduate of Dickinson College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he is a retired attorney who also regularly contributes to the Berks Barrister, published by the Bar Association. He has written about the problems confronting women jurors in the wake of the 19th Amendment both in the Historical Review as well as the Barrister. He also is the author of the book, “Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games,” a great work of western literature.


Ahead of Her Time: Story of a Berks County Code Girl Discovered 75 Years Later Linda Thompson Thomas a.k.a. L.T. James

Mary Jane Painter Thompson was a WWII veteran of the US Office of Strategic Services, which is now known as the CIA. Uncover her experiences serving for three years as a top secret cryptographer in North Africa and Italy from 1943-45 with a visual journey featuring artifacts that her daughter discovered almost 75 years later in the attic of the family home. After serving her country, Thompson became involved with the League of Women Voters in her hometown, Reading, PA.

Linda Thompson Thomas aka L.T. James is a Berks County native who has lived, worked and traveled around the world. Linda graduated as Vice President of her nursing class in California while raising her three children. Linda has been the Coordinator of the Pagoda Writers group since 2010 and continues to serve as a Youth Aid Panel Volunteer with the Juvenile Probation Office for the last ten years. She is also a graduate of RACC and studied Psychology at Albright along with numerous other institutions of learning in the United States and abroad.

Deeds Not Words: Discovering Our Berks Suffragists Mary Ellen Heckman

This program presents the stories of the Berks County women who worked for the woman suffrage movement locally.  Learn how old newspapers and local records were used to reveal their hard work and personal lives. Learn how to use these same techniques to uncover your own ancestors’ lives.

Mary Ellen Heckman is Associate Dean of Library Services at Reading Area Community College. Mrs. Heckman is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Penn State in American Studies and has a master’s in Library Service from Rutgers University. She was a founding member of the Berks County Genealogical Society and has been helping people research their family histories for over thirty years.

More Thank Just Mrs.: The Importance of Women in Family History Dr. Karen Guenther


Often people researching their family history focus on male relatives or see female ancestors as appendages to their husbands.  This presentation will discuss how researching the women in your family tree – mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc. – can help you better understand your family’s heritage.

Dr. Karen Guenther is a native of Berks County and currently is Professor of History at Mansfield University.  She earned a B.A. in History and Spanish at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, M.A. in History at Penn State, and Ph.D. in History at the University of Houston.  She focuses on Reading’s and Berks County’s religious history in her research and publications.  Her dissertation on Exeter Monthly Meeting during the 18th century was published by Susquehanna University Press in 2005.  She is currently researching the immigration and naturalization policy of the British Empire and its effect on the settlement of Berks County in the 18th century.


Click here for a Conference Brochure & Registration Form

Call 610-375-4375 to register or send your check and registration form to Berks History Center: 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601

Off street parking available at 160 Spring Street, Reading.

All programs subject to change.

Berks History Center is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission



April 4, 2020
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Event Categories:


Berks History Center
940 Centre Avenue
Reading, PA 19601 United States


Berks History Center