Opening April 3, 2019 for the 103rd Season!

Woodman Speaker Series: Jean Elson’s “Gross Misbehavior & Wickedness”

Woodman Speaker Series Presents a Tale of Scandalous 19th Century Divorce

DOVER, NH—The Woodman Museum’s monthly speaker series continues on June 19, 2019 at 7pm with author Jean Elson, Senior Lecturer Emerita in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, who will discuss her book Gross Behavior and Wickedness.

The bitter and public court battles waged between Nina and James Walker, from 1909 to 1916, created a sensation throughout the nation, with lurid accounts of their marital troubles fueling widespread gossip. The ordeal of this high-society couple, who wed as much for status as for love, is one of the prime examples of the growing trend of women seeking divorce during the early twentieth century. Many of the issues raised still resonate today.

Although the Walker case drew widespread national attention at the time, Jean Elson’s book, Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness, is the first book to recount what happened. The Walkers both came from prominent American families. James Walker’s father, Admiral John Grimes Walker, was a native of New Hampshire and had close Woodman family friends. His children grew up while he was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Yard, and James attended St. Paul’s in Concord. James and Nina Walker returned to the area when James, a Navy lieutenant, was also stationed in Portsmouth. They sent their children to the local public schools. Nina Walker filed for divorce soon after the family left Portsmouth, and she declared that their stay here “proved to be the calm before the storm.”

The Walker story has several twists and a fascinating cast of characters. Book reviews have indicated “Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness chronicles the Walkers’ seven-year divorce battle with meticulous research and vivid narration,” that it “reads like a contemporary detective novel,” and is “a moving and captivating book.”

The talk is $5 for non-members and free to active Woodman Museum members. The lecture will be held at the Woodman House, located at 182 Central Ave., Dover, NH 03820. Parking is free along Central Ave. and Summer Street.


Jean Elson is Senior Lecturer Emerita in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. During her tenure at UNH, Dr. Elson taught classes and lectured on the topics of gender, family, women’s health and illness, and sexual behavior.  She received several teaching awards, including the “Vagina Warrior Award” from the V-Day Committee and the “Pink Triangle Award” from the LGBTQ Community. Jean served as an appointed member of the UNH President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Jean Elson holds a PhD in Sociology and a Master’s in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Brandeis University, where she received academic awards and fellowships, including the Graduate Grant Prize for Research in Women’s Studies. She was awarded the Elizabeth Stanton Michaels Fellowship by the National American Association of University Women.

Jean Elson’s previous book, “Am I Still a Woman?” Hysterectomy and Gender Identity, received enthusiastic reviews from both the popular and academic press. She is also author of a chapter in Our Bodies Ourselves: Menopause. Jean has written articles and been interviewed for a variety of journals, newspapers, and magazines and has appeared on several radio and television programs.

Jean has two grown children, Dave and Jessy, both married, and a grandson, Max. She and her husband Tom have traveled extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.



Woodman House

Built in 1818 as the residence of Charles and Annie Woodman, The Woodman House today is a unique example of an authentic 20th-century museum. It now houses the Natural History and Veteran Memorial sections and contains extensive and well-preserved collections of local area interest.

The War Memorial Museum The top floor of the Woodman House houses an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia, as well as other collections from wars in which local citizens participated.

Among the many items of interest, one of the ten known “Napoleon” Civil War cannons, complete with its original caisson. Batteries of these guns stopped Pickett’s famous charge at Gettysburg.

Birds & Butterflies The Museum’s first curator, Melville J. Smith, created a series of wonderful dioramas to showcase the Museum’s excellent collection of birds. Shore and land birds in their natural settings and several specimens of Arctic Owls are displayed. An additional room is devoted to dioramas of tropical birds.

Several wall-mounted displays show off a beautiful assortment of jewel-toned moths, butterflies, and insects from nearby locales and the tropics.

Rocks and More Rocks An excellent mineral collection which includes nearly 1300 outstanding specimens. There are hundreds of fossils, collections of area rocks, and displays of dynamic geology.

Native American Artifacts A large display of Native American artifacts includes pieces from the Madbury Culture that lived in this area three to six thousand years ago, as well as the famous Red Paint Culture of nearby Maine. Interesting Incan items from South America are also on display.

Mammals & Marine Life  The museum’s first-floor gallery houses a large display of mammals and marine life with emphasis on the wildlife of New England. Included in the exhibit is a mounted specimen of the last cougar killed in New Hampshire — in nearby Lee in 1853, as well as a 10-foot polar bear killed by a Dover man near the Siberian coast in 1969. If sharks fascinate you, don’t miss the museum’s Marine Room where you can see a blue shark caught off the coast of Ogunquit Maine, or visually feast on a 27-pound lobster, a large green turtle, or a man-killing bivalve clam found off the Australian coast.

Snakes & Turtles A collection of snakes and turtles and a cabinet filled with botanical oddities are also housed in this section.

Childhood Gallery If you’re a doll lover, former or current Boy or Girl Scout, or if you simply want to show your children how kids used to entertain themselves, please visit our childhood room.

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Woodman Museum