Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Orleans 1885: Woman's Department.....

The extensive exhibits of the Woman's Department filled the entire west gallery of the Government & States Building. Boston-based activist & poet Julia Ward Howe was appointed chief of the department in October of 1884. This appointment initially caused much offense among many southern women, who felt the choice of Mrs. Howe indicated that no woman from the southern states was capable of doing the job. Despite the controversy, Mrs. Howe took charge of the department and, along with her numerous commissioners, helped to create a successful showing of women's accomplishments. A series of alcoves lined the gallery, filled with displays from twenty-nine states & territories which included: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Dakota, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. Choice examples of embroidery, crocheting, quilting, drawing, painting, sculpting, and other forms of "feminine art" were shown in large quantities. Additionally, contributions by women to the fields of literature, music, photography, architecture, botany, astronomy & other sciences were represented. The National Women's Christian Temperance Union also had a prominent display, where plentiful amounts of ice-water were made available to thirsty visitors. The commissioners of the Woman's Department were involved in the planning of many daily receptions during the course of the exposition, and their contributions in this area were applauded. Although the Woman's Department sought to show the progress made by women in recent years, it was criticized as displaying more of women's play rather than women's work.

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