Where To Learn More About Women’s History

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RHS Director Offers Overview

Editor’s note: The following story was submitted by Eric Wilson, executive director of the Rockbridge Historical Society.

In a closing salute to Women’s History Month, the Rockbridge Historical Society is sharing a menu of links, resources, and museum exhibits to spotlight the lives and legacies of women of Rockbridge, Virginia, and America.

Across that continuity and reach, these portals seek to illuminate, amplify, and engage audiences through different cultural arenas and across chronological eras. While museums gradually reopen, these inviting chords broadly resonate with current curiosities and challenges.

Last year, the first public program RHS had to cancel was its expanded communitytour: “Walk with the Women of Rockbridge History.” (A 2021 variation may again be possible this summer, with a careful eye to group gatherings.) In the year since, Rockbridge and the nation have witnessed the centennial of women’s suffrage, the inaugural election of a female vice president, and the resilience of women who’ve individually, collectively, and creatively met the challenges of our historic moment.

What follows is a sampler for girls and women of all ages – no less than for the boys and men who live and love and study and work with them – to explore leadership, distinction, and the everyday stitchings of local, state and, national life. These are exhibits that can be viewed online and in some cases by walking the museum’s doors.

“Girlhood (It’s Complicated)”

Not just for girls, the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s hybrid installationonline exhibit is framed around authentic, creatively curated themes such as work, wellness, education, fashion and politics. Multimedia galleries and videos, distinctive and representative artifacts bring “A Girl’s Life” to light in sincere, colorful ways. Visit AmericanHistory.si.edu/girlhood.

National Women’s History Museum

Still awaiting final approval for its long-awaited building on the National Mall, NWHM’s standing treasury of online content provides centuries worth of (inter)national riches. Their sleek, sophisticated digital pathways frame many familiar icons, while voicing and spotlighting the cultural range and diverse experiences of women who’ve constituted the American experiment, now nearing its 250th anniversary, while drawing on centuries before. Visit WomensHistory.org.

My Tenacity

This signature exhibit and program series emerged from Virginia’s recent 400th-anniversary tributes, “American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619-2019: Diversity, Freedom, Opportunity.” Its themes and archives call to “Celebrate 400 Years of Tenacious Women” of indigenous, Euro-American, and African-American descent who’ve represented and shaped this state and the nation through time. Visit LegacyWall.historyisfun.org/Tenacity.

“Agents of Change – Female Activism in Virginia”

This interactive, 360-degree digital tour of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture’s exhibit features landmark contributions and more common experiences of women across the commonwealth, as they continue to evolve: coupling contemporary women with their predecessors. You can also access a range of primary resources, artifact images, conversational prompts, and creatively leveled lesson plans to engage the thinking of schoolchildren, their parents, and teachers (as well as seniors who can share their longer arcs of perspective). Visit Virginia-History.org/exhibitions/pastexhibitions.

Stonewall Jackson House

Its newly opened gallery and lively media resources have increasingly fronted the experiences of the women, free and enslaved, who lived on Washington Street: as parents, and children, as laborers and as owners of land and human property.

These portraits vitally complement the experiences between 1858 and 1861 at the home of Mary Anna and Major Thomas J. Jackson, bringing new texture to his own achievements as a local deacon, businessman and slave-owner, VMI professor and former U.S. Army officer.

Accounts of the determined, widowed, and emancipated lives of Amy, “Hetty,” and Mary – even her infant, Julia – also point toward new needs, freedoms, and gender conventions beyond the Civil War, and before Mrs. Jackson sold the house to the United Daughters of the Confederacy to establish a hospital in 1906. Visit vmi.edu/museums-and-archives/stonewall-jackson-house.

Rockbridge Women

RHS continues to enrich and expand its general mission in local history by fronting oftenobscured dimensions of gender, in varied contexts.

Its new YouTube channel, school resources, slideshows, and recorded lectures newly spotlight the activism, artistic achievements, and charitable work of Lexington pioneers like Eliza Bannister Walker and Coralie Franklin Cook.

There you can learn about their strategic use of poetry, the performing arts, and the community-based and nationally connected organizations they led. Both here and in Washington D.C., Walker and Cook were on the front lines of social reform and racial equity, while forging partnerships with iconic Black and white American leaders. Alongside three centuries of Rockbridge women who preceded and followed them, their early-20th century stories are also coupled with contributions by their contemporary white author and suffrage advocate, Ellen Glasgow.

Explore a range of local lives and legacies at Rockbridge Historical Society YouTube; RockbridgeHistory.org/rhs-essays; and RRRockbridge.org for your own self-guided tour through downtown Lexington.

The News-Gazette

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