Publication Date

March 2, 2020

Perspectives Section

From the Editor

The AHA TownhouseAfter the Great Depression sent diamond sales plummeting, a simple advertising campaign put diamond rings at the center of a couple’s engagement. In 1947, advertising copywriter Frances Gerety penned the iconic slogan “A diamond is forever” for De Beers, starting an enduring tradition. But do you know what else is forever? A life membership in the AHA.

While her peers may have hoped for that diamond ring from their sweethearts, Edith Proctor Young was different. Young has been an avid historian for her entire life. She studied Elizabethan England at Vassar College, graduating in 1944. After earning a master’s in education from Boston University in 1946, she went on to spend 40 years as a history teacher and counselor in the Los Angeles City School District. When her beau Irwin Young proposed in 1947—the same year De Beers launched their famous campaign—Edith asked for a unique gift. Instead of a diamond solitaire, she wanted an AHA life membership. Irwin complied; Edith has been an AHA member for 72 years.

Edith Proctor Young in her Vassar years.

Edith Proctor Young in her Vassar years. Courtesy Edith Proctor Young.

Young exemplifies the AHA membership’s dedication to both history and teaching. She emphasized African American and women’s history in her Los Angeles High School classrooms, attending AHA summer teachers’ workshops at California universities to learn more about these growing fields. She planned to travel to China in 1948 to learn about Chinese history, before the revolution shut its borders. Soon after China reopened for tourism in the 1970s, Young finally took this trip and two others and brought these experiences to her classroom. She built a large personal archive, including documents on California history, China, and the Vietnam War, primary sources that she was able to use in her teaching. She worked full-time while raising two children, and always dreaming of pursuing a PhD. Young has remained an active member of the AHA, attending several annual meetings—most recently in San Diego in 2010, where she spent three full days attending sessions on her varied interests.

We hope that K–12 teachers today find as many benefits from being AHA members as Young has. In recent years, the AHA has placed a renewed emphasis on the importance of primary and secondary education to our mission, and the Teaching Division is working on bridging the K–16 divide. Through teaching resources on our website and sessions at our annual meetings, we hope that teachers find the support they need to teach history in exciting and innovative ways—and that they will let us know other ways we can support K–12 educators.

And as you approach big milestones in your life—whether personal or professional—maybe you will follow Edith Proctor Young’s example and celebrate with an AHA membership.

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Laura Ansley
Laura Ansley

American Historical Association