Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 47
Images courtesy of the New-York Historical Society
Clockwise from left: A
"Suffrage and The Man" poster
advertising a 1912 political
comedy. Women's Voices, a
multimedia installation that
reveals the hidden connections among influential women.
Activist Inez Milholland
Boissevain (class of 1909)
leads an NYC suffrage parade
in 1913. From a 1915 Topeka
State Journal article featuring
actress Dorothy Newell, who
generated controversy (and
publicity) by wearing a prosuffrage message on her back.
Valerie ritter Paley '83, Director of the Center for
Women's History and Chief Historian of the New-York
Historical Society Museum & Library in New York City.
she says. "Our focus is on movements and collective action in different subject areas."
By using touchscreens in Women's Voices, visitors can learn how women in a range
of fields-politicians, artists, actors, and scientists-are united by a common cause,
interest or experience, such as political activism or attending a women's college.
A new short film, We Rise, plays daily in the museum's main auditorium, a first
stop for many visitors. It provides an overview of the social movements leading up to
the passage of the 19th amendment and places them in a broader historical context.
Paley reached out to fellow Vassar alumna Meryl Streep '71 to narrate.
"She couldn't have been more gracious," says Paley, who was delighted by
Streep's prompt and positive response. "Finding the right narrator was extremely
important, and to have her support behind this project is very meaningful to us."
As institutions that share a commitment to recognizing the role of women in
history, it's not surprising that the connections between Vassar and the New-York
Historical Society run strong. Sue Ann Gotshal Weinberg '51 serves as a member of
the Board of Trustees at the museum and Barbara Manfrey Vogelstein '76 chairs an
ad hoc Women's History Advisory Group. Barbara Knowles Debs '53 is a former
president of the New-York Historical Society and a current trustee.
Overseeing exhibitions at the museum, Paley has an eye to the future: "There
are millions of books and documents in our library and hundreds of items in our
collections," she says. "Wouldn't it be exciting to look at these things with fresh eyes
and see the women's stories in them? We have a vast treasure trove of materials just
waiting to be mined in a new way."
The Center's next exhibition, Walk this Way, opening April 20, will explore the style and
cultural significance of antique women's shoes. Visit www.nyhistory.org for information.
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