By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY —
Women are the focus of the upcoming Legends program as the fall exhibit closes Thursday at the History Center of Traverse City.
The closing program features a workshop and lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Faue of Wayne State University. The three-year Legends exhibit will continue next spring by highlighting different local historical figures.
First up on Thursday is the afternoon workshop "Lost Mothers." The topic will cover how to trace women's genealogical information, since until the mid-20th century little information was recorded about them.
Faue's evening lecture, "Barriers and Gateways: Women, Gender and the Professions in the United States," discusses female pioneers' workplace contributions.
Two notable Traverse City pioneers were among the groundbreaking women: Dr. Augusta Rosenthal Thompson and Emelia Schaub. Thompson was the first female physician in northern Michigan (1886). Schaub was the first female practicing prosecuting attorney in Michigan (1936).
"In the Legends series, we are looking at some of these pioneers; in this case, pioneering women doctors and lawyers who opened the gateways to these professions not only for themselves but for other women," she said. "Women in the labor force today, even those who do not practice law or medicine, are the heirs of these women."
Research and teaching about women and gender helps shift the understanding of women's roles in history. Instead of viewing their place in history as occupying only the private realm, the ordinary lives of women can provide key insight into events and eras.
"The new work we do about these ordinary lives have made us understand that it wasn't only Cleopatra, Madame Curie and Queen Victoria who were historical figures," said Faue. "Aunt Martha, who fought for women to have the vote, or sister Rose, who worked in the airplane factory, were part of history, too."
Faue's goals for her presentations are threefold: generate discussion, present ideas and information and connect with new people.
"I both am excited about being able to provide some food for thought as well as to learn from the participants," she said. "These are topics that have been with me a long time. I continue to learn more as I study and talk with others about them."
The Legends Exhibit kicked off Sept. 8 and is the first in an ongoing series of explorations of people and families from diverse backgrounds who together built the community. A grant from the Michigan Humanities Council provided key support for the multi-year program, which will feature programs every fall and spring through 2014.
The program fulfills a longtime goal of the History Center of Traverse City and its archives to showcase key people in the region's development.
"People who may not be well-known, but who affected the growth of the town," said Peg Siciliano, archivist of the History Center and the program director of Legends. "We're looking at people from ethnic, racial and cultural minorities and how they've moved in and affected the wider culture."
Legend partners include a range of local organizations: the Grand Traverse Genealogical Society, the Northwest Lower Michigan Women's History Project, Congregation Beth El, the Hispanic Apostolate of the Diocese of Gaylord, the Traverse City Human Rights Commission, Jim Press of Northwestern Michigan College's History Department and Cindy Patek of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Eyaawing Museum and Cultural Center.
"The reason we have so many collaborative groups is that we wanted key input from those communities today as to who they would like to see highlighted," Siciliano said.