suffrage banner
Click on banner for a description.

  Note: Click on the thumbnails below for more information.

Seneca beaded skirt
Seneca beaded skirt

Temperance Union Quilt
Women's Christian Temperance Union quilt

Aunt Effie portrait
"Aunt Effie"

Val=Kill stool
Val-Kill footstool

Ku Klux Klan objects
Women of the Ku Klux Klan

Anna Cuyler
Anna Cuyler Van Schaick

New York Skyline
Manhattan Skyline-South Street, 1936

ceramics from Prince site
Ceramics excavated from Betsey Prince site - 1993

Mary Banning painting
Painting by Mary Banning - 1878

Goldring's <i>Devonian Crinoids of New York</i>.
Page from Goldring's Devonian Crinoids of New York - 1927

Pot by Tammy Tarbell-Boehning
Ceramic pot by Tammy Tarbell-Boehning - 1986

 

Women's History...

In the Collections of the New York State Museum

First ladies and farm women. Helen Hayes on Broadway and a hippie at Woodstock. One can "meet" these women while exploring the collection of historic artifacts at the New York State Museum. Women from various backgrounds and time periods now permanently reside in the controlled environment of museum storage or exhibition--from Shaker eldresses and Native American clan mothers to little girls with hula hoops. Down other aisles lie darker stories: the stories of enslaved women, female inmates in mental institutions, and the women's auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan.

The New York State Museum's collections include a vast array of objects that illuminate the lives of women in New York. Tools and products used by women; clothing worn by women and girls; art and crafts created by women; and depictions of females from figural images of idealized "Woman" to thousands of photographs of real women and girls at home, at school, at work, and at play. The museum has one of the premier collections representing domestic life, the sphere in which women supposedly reigned or were chained, depending on one's point of view. In addition to artifacts associated with the home, the museum has significant holdings related to women's role in social organizations and the work force.

It would be hard to put a number on how many "women's history" artifacts exist in the New York State Museum's historical and anthropological collections, which total over 1,200,000 objects. As women's history scholarship has broadened over the past 30 years beyond spinning wheels and suffrage, new questions are asked of old things.

A "gendered" interpretation of an object requires asking how or if men and women had a different experience with an object as a result of prevailing sex roles. Seemingly gender-neutral artifacts--such as automobiles or typewriters--can have "gendered" interpretations: when did women go from the disparaging "woman driver" to being the "family chauffeur"? Which sex was the first to use typewriters? (The answer to the latter is men, in the 1880s.) Even artifacts that seem to have no female association--such as a photograph of an all-male graduating class--is a women's history artifact because it is evidence of women's exclusion from a male domain.

The Women's History web page is truly an interdisciplinary, museum-wide effort. Anthropology presents a beaded skirt from the mid-nineteenth century made by a Seneca woman, Caroline Parker. Geology is represented by the work of Dr. Winifred Goldring, the first woman State Paleontologist (appointed 1939). And Biology showcases Mary Banning's natural history illustrations of mushrooms from the 1870's. Contemporary fine arts are represented by Mohawk ceramicist, Tammy Tarbell-Boehning, whose sculpture can be seen in the Governor's Collection of Contemporary Native American Crafts.

Given such a broad definition of women's history, this web site devoted to women's history in the collections of the New York State Museum will be a work in progress. Periodically new artifacts will be added that will expand our picture of the complex history of women in New York. Check back often and see what's new.

Click on any of the thumbnail images to the left to read more about each of these objects.

For general questions relating to women's history and New York State, contact Christine Kleinegger, Senior Historian at ckleineg@mail.nysed.gov





 


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