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100 years of Amherst County women honored in new exhibit and special program

100 years of Amherst County women honored in new exhibit and special program


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote in 1920, the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society is teaming up with Amherst Glebe Arts Response, Inc. for a special program and exhibit highlighting the contributions and importance of women in Amherst County from 1920 through 2020.

The board of AGAR and the museum knew they wanted to do something special to mark the hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, hoping to focus on what women’s suffrage looked like locally in Amherst County. They soon realized there was much more to women’s stories and contributions toward equality than suffrage alone, and the project, called “Women Making a Difference in Amherst County 1920-2020,” morphed into something bigger.

“What we discovered was, there was not a lot of formal stuff about suffrage, but there was a lot that women had made really big contributions to Amherst County in a lot of different ways, often in a way that wouldn’t have been written about in the paper,” said Lynn Kable, a member of AGAR who helped spearhead the creation of the exhibit and its contents. “We wanted to include a lot of women and celebrate a lot of women who wouldn’t ordinarily be celebrated, along with some women who would.”

“Women Making a Difference in Amherst County 1920-2020,” honors a diverse mix of Amherst women, some of whom have passed away and some who still are living.

This is the museum’s first exhibit focusing exclusively on women, said Octavia Starbuck, director of the Amherst County Museum and Historical Society.

The Sept. 13 program at 2:30 p.m. will feature a panel discussion with Ted Delany, executive director of the Lynchburg Museum Systems; Diane Shields, chair of the Monacan Indian Cultural Foundation; Gloria Witt, chair of the Amherst County NAACP; and Dr. Joanna Harris, MD, a long-time officer of the Lynchburg League of Women Voters. The panel will be moderated by Marcia Robertson, a member of the AGAR board of directors, at the Hamble Center located behind the Amherst Museum.

A special video made by AGAR will screen first- person interviews conducted between 2009 and 2018 with numerous Amherst women, including Juanita Robertson, Amherst County’s first Black female supervisor; two teachers who taught in small, rural schools in the 1930’s; Phyllis Hicks, the first director of the Monacan Ancestral Museum and first Monacan female ordained Episcopal priest; farmer and homemaker Lena Sandidge; and school principals Louise McCord Faulconer and Barbara Hutcherson Parks.

“Between 2009 and 2015, we interviewed 133 people about the school system and about integration,” Kable said of the video’s content.

The museum exhibit, which features approximately 100 photos, artifacts and biographies from the women highlighted, will be open to explore before and after the panel discussion. Reservations to tour the museum are required, Kable and Starbuck said.

For months, AGAR researched and compiled resources, photographs, biographies and artifacts of local women spanning the last century to create the exhibit which is on display at the Amherst Museum through December. In conjunction with some other organizations and entities, including the Amherst NAACP branch and the Monacan Indian Nation, materials were gathered to bring the exhibit vision to fruition.

Regalia from Sharon Bryant, the first female chief of the Monacan tribe — complete with a dress, shawl and shoes contributed by Bryant’s sister, Brenda Garrison — is featured. Paintings and artwork from several female Amherst artists, including prints by folk artist Queena Stovall, are on display, as well as books and work from Amherst writers, and several baskets made by Bertie Branham.

Amherst women in the fields of medicine and education are also featured, including female Sweet Briar College presidents through the years and a female director of the Amherst Health Department, Starbuck said. A photograph of the first Black Girl Scout troop in Amherst County is among the pictures on display.

Letters and articles from the early days of women’s suffrage, the fight for the right to vote, are also part of the exhibit.

All visitors are required to wear a mask in the Hamble Center, and masks and gloves both are required inside the museum at all times. Reservations must be made with the museum ahead of time. Only 41 seats are available at the Hamble Center for Sunday’s program; reservations are required for the panel program as well.

The video of interviews with Amherst County women will become available on AGAR’s YouTube channel later this month, Kable said.

“I’m sure that we have missed many [women],” Starbuck said. “We have so many women who have done so many wonderful things.”

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