Suffrage popup heads outside each Friday in September

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 8, 2020

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BIRMINGHAM — During September, the public is invited to view materials from the Birmingham Museum’s collection that tell the story of some pretty amazing local women and how their experiences relate to the national struggle for women’s voting rights.

From 1-4 p.m. Fridays, visitors can stop by the plaza outside the museum at 556 W. Maple Road to learn about the fascinating evolution of the suffrage movement through the “Rightfully Hers” pop-up exhibition, developed by the National Archives in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Museum staff will be on hand to talk about how local women have expressed their own struggles for independence and empowerment, sharing materials and artifacts from the Birmingham Museum’s currently inaccessible exhibition, “Beyond Suffrage: Empowering Birmingham’s Women.” The outdoor pop-up exhibit is free.

Despite the closure of the Birmingham Museum to the public due to the pandemic, stories and photos from its 2020 exhibit have been made available virtually with video vignettes on Facebook, the museum’s YouTube channel and its other social media formats. Museum staff said they are excited to take exhibit materials out to the public for the pop-ups in September, where visitors, pedestrians and bicyclists can stop by to check out the combined National Archives and Birmingham Museum display. Masks and social distancing will be required for close examination of the artifacts and conversation with museum staff.

“Birmingham was uniquely progressive in comparison with other communities nearby,” said Birmingham Museum Director Leslie Pielack in an email. “But even so, the women of Birmingham had to work determinedly toward greater political and economic independence for decades before the 19th Amendment was finally passed.”

How the women of Birmingham empowered themselves before and following suffrage is the theme of the “Beyond Suffrage” exhibit at the museum, which opened earlier this year, just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down public access. In addition to the national story, the September pop-up will feature women who played significant political roles in the Birmingham community from the 1870s to the 1960s — including Martha Baldwin, Ruth Shain, Hope Ferguson, Mary Utter, Bess Levin, Jane Briggs Hart and Twink Willett — whose collective achievements include founding The Community House and the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, being the first elected woman commissioner in Birmingham, working as a social justice activist and political matriarch, and becoming the first woman astronaut, the first woman mayor in Michigan, and more.

To learn more about the exhibit, visit the National Archives website at museum.archives.gov/rightfully-hers.

For more information about The Birmingham Museum, visit bhamgov.org or call (248) 530-1928.

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