Montgomery's April 16 McGinty Lecture focuses on Edith Wharton's tireless mission to aid France in WWI

Dr. Maureen Montgomery, Salve Regina’s first McGinty Distinguished Chair in History, will present the spring McGinty Lecture, “An American Witness: Edith Wharton and World War One” on Thursday, April 16.

Free and open to the public, Montgomery’s talk will be presented at 7 p.m. in the State Dining Room of Ochre Court, 100 Ochre Point Ave. As seating is limited, those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at salve.edu/mcginty.

Soon after expatriating herself to France in 1913, Edith Wharton found herself swept up in the maelstrom that hit Paris as it mobilized for war. Her response was to put into action her amazing organizational skills, to respond to the plight of displaced peoples, unemployed Parisian women, and people with tuberculosis. She worked tirelessly in raising funds for her war charities. In addition to all this, she wielded her pen to persuade her fellow Americans of the necessity to come to the aid of France, not just with money and supplies but also militarily.

In 1915 she made five automobile tours of the front line and transformed what she witnessed into material for her essays and fiction on the war. Among numerous honors, she was made a Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government in 1916 and, two years later, was awarded the Queen Elisabeth medal by King Albert of Belgium.

Established in honor of the late John E. McGinty, former trustee and parent of John W. McGinty ’01, the McGinty Chair furthers the educational advancement of undergraduate students in the areas of American studies, cultural and historic preservation and history. Montgomery has been selected as the first chair holder following a nationwide search, and will serve through the 2014-2015 academic year.

Montgomery, a longtime professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has taught and served in a variety of positions there over the last 28 years. She has been program coordinator for American Studies, Gender Studies and Feminist Studies, as well has head of the School of Culture, Literature and Society and Head of the Department of American Studies.

She has published three books, including “Gilded Prostitution: Status, Money and Transatlantic Marriages, 1870-1914,” based on her doctoral dissertation at University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and “Displaying Women: Spectacles of Leisure in Edith Wharton’s New York,” the winner of a New York Society Library Award.

The author of numerous articles, chapters and papers on American studies, Montgomery has lectured extensively at universities in the U.K. and the U.S. A specialist in the Gilded Age, she was drawn to Salve Regina and Newport by its rich history during that era.

In addition to her April 16 lecture, Montgomery this spring will be speaking on a variety of topics at several other locations in the region:

Wednesday, April 22: At a Pell Center symposium on “The Legacy of the Civil War for Modern America,” Montgomery will talk on the transformation of the American economy. The public event will be held at 7 p.m. at Bazarsky Lecture Hall in O’Hare Academic Center on the campus of Salve Regina University.

Saturday, May 9: Montgomery will present “Transatlantic Marriages and the British Peerage: From Staatsburgh to Downtown Abbey” at 2 p.m. at the The Mills Mansion, Staatsburgh, N.Y.

Friday May 22: The American Literature Association will welcome Montgomery to The Westin, Copley Plaza in Boston for a 2 p.m. lecture on “ Eyes that have seen what one dare not picture: How Wharton and Hemingway tell a true war story in ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Soldier’s Home.’”

Tuesday, June 23: “Edith Wharton’s ‘The Buccaneers’ and the early years of the American invasion” will be the topic of Montgomery’s talk at St. Botolph Club, Boston.