Chaput & Wang ’20 to Collaborate on Grant-Supported Dorr Rebellion Research

History Master Erik J. Chaput, author of “The People’s Martyr: Thomas Wilson Dorr and His 1842 Rhode Island Rebellion” (University Press of Kansas, 2013), is part of a recent grant award to expand the scope of a website devoted to an important event in antebellum American history. The Heritage Harbor Foundation awarded an educational grant to Providence College, where Chaput also serves as an instructor in the School of Continuing Education.
The grant will be used to expand the Dorr Rebellion Project website. The site was created and curated by Chaput and independent scholar Russell J. DeSimone in 2011. Operational support for the website is provided by professor Mark Caprio at Providence College. The new phase of the website will look at the role of women in the Dorr Rebellion, along with Thomas Wilson Dorr’s prison correspondence. Elaine Wang ’20 will serve as a research assistant on the project.
“I have always advised teachers interested in discussing issues of class and gender in antebellum America in the classroom to focus in on the remarkable story of the political activism of women connected to Providence attorney Thomas Wilson Dorr’s attempt at constitutional reform,” said Chaput. ”In the spring of 1842, Rhode Island was torn between rival governors, separate legislative assemblies, and warring militias. After Dorr’s forces were defeated, it was women who kept the reform cause alive.
Chaput is already at work. “As soon as I found out that the grant would be awarded, I immediately began selecting letters from women connected to Thomas Dorr in 1842 and 1843,” he said. “I was familiar with many of the women because they appear in my book. I will work on transcribing these letters in the spring of 2019. In the summer, I will write formal headnotes for each letter, along with a 1500 word interpretative essay to accompany this new portion of the website. I will also draft an essay on Dorr’s time in prison.”
The History Master looks forward to working on the project with Wang, who he called, “without question one of the most gifted students I have had the pleasure to work with around the Harkness table in my six years at the Lawrenceville School.” Wang has begun helping Chaput transcribe dozens of letters written in 1844 by Dorr while he was in the state prison in Providence, R.I. “Since Dorr’s health declined dramatically while in prison, it was important for me to have an extra-set of eyes on the handwriting and Elaine was without question up to the task,” explained Chaput.
The Heritage Harbor Foundation awards grants to support projects aimed at increasing the awareness of Rhode Island adults and school-age students of their historical, ethnic, and cultural heritage.
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at

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