Mich. Historical Society announces 2018 awards

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The forgotten era of women’s bicycle racing, a history tour through a Petoskey graveyard and other unique projects are among 18 winners of the 2018 State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan.

The State History Awards are presented by the Historical Society of Michigan.

Announced on Sept. 10, the awards will be presented during the group's annual Michigan History Conference in Sturgis from Sept. 21-23.

 The society presents the State History Awards every year to individuals and organizations that have made what the group said are “outstanding contributions to the appreciation, collection, preservation and/or promotion of state and local history.”

Karl Crawford, superintendent of Petoskey’s Greenwood Cemetery, won the society's award for distinguished professional service for creating a series of history tours that feature costumed actors standing at grave sites and speaking about the people who were buried there.

Karl Crawford, superintendent of Petoskey's Greenwood Cemetery, won the society's award for distinguished professional service for creating a series of history tours featuring costumed actors at grave sites, speaking about the people who were buried there.

To accompany the tours, Crawford wrote a series of booklets entitled “Petoskey Stones Speak.” He also initiated a project to digitally scan newspaper obituaries and place them on the cemetery’s new website as a research source.

Crawford told The News he and his staff of six at the cemetery have collected and scanned 60,000 obituaries from local newspapers and 45,000 historical photos of the Petoskey.

“We are committed to having the best possible cemetery records we could. That’s where the project started, to make sure the records are the most accurate possible. We began collecting and became a resource and put in online. It kind of morphed," Crawford said. "When we started, we had no intention of being where we are now.”

 The award for the best article in Michigan History magazine will be presented to Roger Gilles of Grand Rapids for his story: “Pedaling Beyond the Petticoats: Women Cyclists in the Gilded Age.”

Author Roger Gilles with his book, Women on the Move.

The article appeared in Michigan History’s March/April 2018 issue and explored how the widespread popularity of bicycles in the 1890s spurred women to compete in athletic competitions otherwise reserved solely for men and “emancipated” them from binding gender norms of the era.

Gilles said by participating in dangerous, high-speed races that resulted in victories, both on and off the track, women cyclists defied Victorian norms of female frailty and proved they were every bit as good as male athletes.

"This was back in the mid 1890s when they developed the safety bicycle, not the high wheel. Women started racing on small tracks in theaters and auditoriums all across the Midwest. They made a lot of money. There were the first great women athletes of America," Gilles told The News.

"It's really a feminist story and a part of American sports history that has been extremely neglected," he said.

Stanley Bozich of Frankenmuth, who founded Michigan’s Military & Space Heroes Museum, will receive the society's 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.

After serving four years in the U.S. Navy and while enjoying a career as a firefighter for the city of Royal Oak, Bozich established a small nonprofit museum to showcase his collection of military artifacts donated by Michigan veterans and their families.

Bozich has traveled all over Michigan and throughout the United States to acquire more stories and collect memorabilia. Today, the museum houses the stories and collections of nearly 800 individuals.

The Historical Society of Michigan is the state’s oldest cultural organization, founded in 1828 by territorial governor Lewis Cass and explorer Henry Schoolcraft.

A full list of the 2018 award winners can be found at the society's website.