WESTFIELD — The next installment of the Westfield Athenaeum’s “Archives Dives” will take place 2-3 p.m. Friday, March 15. This time, local historian Bob Brown will use Alice Burke’s experiences as mayor as a jumping-off point to talk about the city’s government and political culture.

Alice Burke was a Westfield elementary school teacher until 1933, when the city decided to fire female employees who were married to working husbands, Brown said. Angry by the decision, she got into politics and was elected mayor in 1939 — becoming the first female elected mayor in New England. She was reelected to two-year terms in 1941, 1953 and 1957.

In his talk, Brown will talk about her relationship with the City Council and how this left her “terribly ineffectual” as a mayor. He said most people in Westfield don’t know the council is where political power resides, not the mayor’s office. He also wants to talk about how Burke diverted from the norms of the time and treated her position as a full-time job.

“I want to talk about that because that’s the structure of the Westfield government,” he said. “It’s only recently, in terms of my life here, that mayors became a full-time job and mayors tried to run for multiple terms.”

Another thing he will talk about is how the demographics of Westfield’s neighborhoods affected city politics. Burke, an Irish Catholic Democrat, got most of her power from wards 1 and 2, historically immigrant and Democratic-leaning areas, he said. She was opposed in wards 3 and 4, which were historically middle-class, “Yankee” Protestant, and Republican-leaning.

“When you look at Alice Burke’s political career,” he said, “you learn a great deal about the history of the political culture of Westfield, and that’s what I want to talk about.”

Brown said this information will help residents understand their city better. He said being aware of the structure of city government and the city’s political culture would help politicians be successful.

Athenaeum Executive Director Guy McLain said understanding local history is important, and that the way Westfield operates today is influenced by its past.

“The work that Bob Brown is doing with these Archives Dives brings attention to many events in the past that have a deep impact on how we live in Westfield today,” he said.

Like previous Archives Dives, Brown will complement his talk with objects from the Athenaeum’s archives. McLain said the library has city government documents, personal correspondences, and newspaper articles about Burke. Brown said her possessions went to the library after she died, including her famous hat collection.

This year’s first Archives Dive, on Feb. 16, addressed the Noble Hospital revolt of 1939-1941. Brown said the talk was attended by over 60 people. He expects the March talk to have a healthy crowd, too.

All Archives Dives free to attend. The Athenaeum website asks people to register, but McLain previously told The Westfield News drop-in attendees are welcome, in the Lang Auditorium at the Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., Westfield. A calendar of events with links to register, and more information on the Athenaeum archives, can be found at westath.org.