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Northampton (city, England)

Northampton, city (1991 pop. 154,172) and district, Northamptonshire, central England, on the Nene River. The city of Northampton is the county seat. Shoemaking has long been the chief industry; engineering is second (roller bearings, earth-moving equipment, and motor vehicle components). The city was an important settlement of the Angles and of the Danes, and its Norman castle was the scene of sieges as well as parliaments from the 12th to the 14th cent. In 1460, Henry VI was defeated by the Yorkists in Northampton (see Roses, Wars of the). In 1675 much of the town was destroyed by fire. Roman and ancient British relics are in the vicinity. The Church of St. Giles has a Norman doorway; All Saints' has a 14th-century tower; St. Peter's (12th cent.) has a Norman interior; and there is a Roman Catholic cathedral designed by A. W. Pugin (see under A. C. Pugin). The 12th-century St. Sepulchre's is one of the four round churches in England. St. John's Hospital was founded in 1138. One of the few remaining Eleanor Crosses (see Eleanor of Castile) is near Northampton, at Hardingstone.

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Northampton

Northampton City on the River Nene, central England; county town of Northamptonshire. Sites include the 12th-century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of four round churches in England. In 1968, Northampton was designated as a new town. Industries: footwear, engineering, leather goods. Pop. (1994 est.) 187, 608.

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Northampton

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Northampton

NORTHAMPTON

NORTHAMPTON , town in central England. Its Jewish community, first mentioned in the 12th century, was one of the most important in medieval England. In 1194 representatives of Anglo-Jewry were summoned there to apportion among themselves a levy of 5,000 marks for ransoming Richard i from captivity (The Northampton Donum). Northampton had its own *archa. Though expelled from Northamptonshire in 1237, Jews were allowed to remain in Northampton itself. In 1263 they were attacked by the baronial rebels and took refuge in the castle. A ritual murder accusation occurred apparently in 1277, the repercussions and consequences of which were much exaggerated by historians. Several local Jews were executed in London in 1278 for coin-clipping. The community continued in existence until the expulsion of 1290. R. Isaac b. Perez of Northampton was one of the most distinguished medieval Anglo-Jewish scholars. A small community was established at the end of the 19th century and in 1969 numbered approximately 300. In the 2001 British census, its population of declared Jews was 322. There was an Orthodox congregation.

bibliography:

I. Abrahams, in: jhsem, 1 (1925), lix–lxxiv; A.J. Collins, in: jhset, 15 (1946), 151–64; Roth, England, index. add. bibliography: M. Jolles, The Northampton Jewish Cemetery (1994); idem, A Short History of the Jews of Northampton, 1159–1996 (1996); idem, "The Presence of Jews in Northamptonshire," in: Northamptonshire Past and Present, vol. 57 (2004);

[Cecil Roth]

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Northampton

NORTHAMPTON

Called "The Happy Valley" by some, the "Lesbian Capital of the Northeast" by others, and "Lesbianville, USA" by the National Enquirer, Northampton, Massachusetts, has a rich and varied history that has only become widely known as a haven for LGBT people in the post-Stonewall era. However, the town's diversity and tolerance, not just for LGBT people, stretches back over many years. Incorporated in 1654, the town is home to a community made up of a varied cross-section of people; many artists and musicians live and work alongside farmers, professors, students, young professionals, and others. The town's history reflects this assortment of people. In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards preached in Northampton for twenty-three years, until his parishioners handed him his walking papers; Shays's Rebellion took place in the area from 1786 to 1787; and philanthropists of all stripes have played a huge part in shaping the town's direction, whether that was by donating money to local schools or helping fund large concert halls. Northampton is home to the nation's first municipal theater, the Academy of Music, built in 1890. Some of the many notable people who have passed through the town include Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sojourner Truth, and Ethel and Lionel Barrymore. Significant parts of John Irving's The Cider House Rules were filmed in Northampton, as was a section of the 1966 film version of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Residents of the town have included an amazingly wide range of people as varied as Sylvester Graham, who invented the graham cracker in addition to promoting innovative ideas about healthy living and eating habits. United States President Calvin Coolidge practiced law in an office on Main Street that is now home to Fitzwilly's restaurant (as much a landmark as Thorne's Marketplace, which opened in 1979 just before the downtown economic boom Northampton experienced during the early to middle 1980s). Coolidge, elected president in 1923, served as Northampton's mayor for two years prior to his stint as State Senator. Author and poet Sylvia Plath attended Smith College during the early 1950s (and wrote about it in her quasi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar). In the 1980s local cartoonists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird launched the wildly famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1990, Eastman founded the Words and Pictures Museum, also on Main Street, which stayed open from 1992 to 1999, when it was transformed into an online virtual museum.

Economically, Northampton sat in an ideal location for early industry, as it is situated almost equidistant from Boston, New York City, and Albany. Initially limited by the very few transportation options over the Connecticut River (just one, in fact: the ferry), bridges, canals, and the railroad all appeared within forty years of one another. Fittingly, an industrial boom resulted, and Northampton developed with an emphasis on the silk trade.

Northampton is also well known as a site for education, primarily because of the prestigious all-women's Smith College, whose campus is a very brief walk from the bustling commerce of Main Street, where galleries, funky shops, and restaurants rub proverbial elbows with one another. In addition, there are four other colleges and a university not far from Northampton: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Not far from UMass Amherst, in fact, is the Stonewall Center, which was one of the nation's first LGBT centers on college and university campuses. Northampton is where a number of off-campus students from these nearby institutions of higher learning make their homes. This link with education is not by any means limited to college and university involvement with the town. Northampton's long history includes some of the best-known prep schools for girls in the 1800s, as well as the Clarke School for the Deaf, which is widely considered progressive in its methods and educational mission.

Primarily known for being LGBT friendly (with the possible exception of the issue of FTM transmen who enroll as women at Smith and later transition to men during their time at the all women's college), Northampton has long been—and remains to this day—politically progressive. A Free Congregational Society was first organized in Northampton in 1863; this was a group that called for racial equality, radical change in education, women's rights, and the reform of child labor standards, in addition to temperance. In 2002 Northampton was one of very few cities in Massachusetts to pass resolutions resisting and urging the repeal of the USA Patriot Act.

Smith's inclusion within the town has encouraged an atmosphere friendly to feminism and to women's concerns. As such, it seems unsurprising that lesbians would want to live, work, and settle in the area. By the early 2000s a substantial LGBT population existed in Northampton, one of the largest LGBT groups found outside of a major city, and the lesbian population in the town was dramatically larger than the population of gay men. This gender disparity is fairly unusual in LGBT communities, which may be part of why Northampton earned the "Lesbian Capital of the Northeast" moniker. The annual Northampton Lesbian Festival, held during the summer, may be another.

Like Smith's students, LGBT people are readily visible in Northampton, though they certainly do not dominate the town's population. In fact, no one group does: the town's population is generally balanced, diverse, and tolerant. It is queer-friendly, obviously, but anyone coming to Northampton to see nothing but lesbians in the streets will be sorely disappointed. Still, due to the high numbers of visible LGBT people, one may well see same-sex displays of affection at any given time (not just during a Pride festival), and there are out LGBT people who hold offices within city government (including openly lesbian Mayor Mary Claire Higgins). In addition, the Political Alliance is based in Northampton. This group makes sure LGBT issues are being addressed by local politicians, researches and sponsors candidates, and holds voter registration drives and public forums on Hate Crimes (and other topics) in addition to pushing for domestic partnership benefits for Northampton city employees—not something a person would expect to find in the average American city.

Bibliography

Gay.com. http://www.gay.com.

Northampton Chamber of Commerce. Available from http://www.northamptonuncommon.com.

Northampton, Massachusetts.Available from http://www.noho.com.

Van Vorhis, Jacqueline. The Look of Paradise: A Pictorial History of Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654 to 1984. Northampton, Mass.: Phoenix Publishing, 1984.

Anne N. Thalheimer

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