Living History

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Rose Festival Living History Program

Established in 2007, the Rose Festival Living History Program has served more than 3,500 students since it was developed. The goal of the program is to bring the history of Portland and the Rose Festival to life for students of history, both young and old, through costumed characters and a historical curriculum. The program focuses on three interesting local figures from the early to mid 1900’s: Mayor Harry Lane, Thelma Hollingsworth and new character Rosie the Riveter.

The characters made appearances in grade schools around Portland during the month of April. The 50-minute Living History Presentation is free to interested teachers, and brings a unique and interactive method of teaching students about Oregon history. The Rose Festival Living History Program is made possible by a generous grant from the Royal Rosarian Foundation.

Rosie the Riveter
Self-Sufficient Woman (1927-2000)

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In the 1940s, millions of American women went to work in untraditional jobs while the men were fighting in World War II. ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was a character invented by the media to encourage women to pitch in. Our Rosie the Riveter is Rose Wade from Battle Ground, Washington, who moved to Vanport City in 1943 to work in the Kaiser Shipyards on Swan Island. At the young age of 21, Rosie had already experienced the deprivation of war, working alongside men in a ship-building factory and losing her home in the devastating Vanport Flood in 1948.

Thelma Hollingsworth
Portland’s First Elected Queen (1896-1984)

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Back in 1914 the Rose Festival decided to identify a queen through a competition among young Portland businesswomen. Thelma – a 17-year-old clerk – was asked by her boss to take part, representing the Harriman Transportation Club of railroad workers. The Rose Festival sold ballots ten for a penny, and Thelma won with more than 12 million votes! Always fun-loving, Thelma spent her life representing the Rose Festival, still making appearances right up to her death. She comes to life from the 1950s when the Rose Festival was in full bloom and celebrating exciting ‘new’ things like television and Disneyland!

Mayor Harry Lane
Father of the Rose Festival (1855-1917)

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Sometimes called the ‘father of the Rose Festival,’ Portland’s Mayor Harry Lane was a doctor and a well-known scrapper. The grandson of Oregon’s first territorial governor, Joseph Lane, Harry had never planned to go into politics but ran for mayor because he wanted to fight corruption and make a difference. At the end of the celebrated Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905, Mayor Lane gave a speech announcing a plan to use the proceeds of the fair to build a park and fund a “permanent rose carnival” each summer. “It would be the greatest permanent advertising for this city that was ever attempted and would make Portland’s fame as a rose city world-wide,” he said.