Women Forging the Way

Overview

Throughout 2020, the nation will commemorate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the U.S. The 19th amendment, ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens on the basis of sex.

To mark the centennial of this watershed moment in American history, the History Center is launching Women Forging the Way – an initiative focused on highlighting women’s history in 2020 and beyond.

There is no shortage of history-making Pittsburgh women. Journalist Nellie Bly traveled the world in a record-breaking 72 days. Musician Mary Lou Williams introduced new audiences to the world of jazz. Filmmaker Lois Weber became America’s first woman film director. Abolitionist Jane Grey Swisshelm fought against slavery and advocated for women’s rights.

The History Center will honor these women and many more through public programs, museum displays, digital storytelling, and more throughout the year.

Public Programs

Thursday, March 5

Sophie: The Incomparable Mayor Masloff

Dr. Barbara S. Burstin’s new book, “Sophie: The Incomparable Mayor Masloff,” is the first biography of the “Jewish grandmother” who became one of the most beloved mayors of Pittsburgh. The book mixes anecdotes with an analysis of Masloff’s career, providing a personal and critical look at a quintessential Pittsburgher. On March 5, the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center will host a special evening event to celebrate Dr. Burstin’s recently released biography, featuring selections from the book and rarely seen materials from Masloff’s archive.

Learn more and register

Sunday, March 8

Trailblazers of the Suffrage Movement – Celebrating 100 Years

On International Women’s Day, join the Heinz History Center and Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh for the premiere of a new documentary honoring the 100th anniversary of the suffragist movement.

Learn more and register

Thursday, March 19

Breaking Barriers: “Women of Steel” Film Screening & Discussion

The Heinz History Center and the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh invite you to explore the changing role of women in the workforce and the power of video storytelling through excerpts from the locally produced documentary “Women of Steel,” followed by a panel discussion with local filmmakers, historians and women in skilled trades.

Learn more and register

Thursday, May 7

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence

Marking the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence will explore the history and complexity of the national suffrage movement. Join Dr. Lisa Tetrault and Dr. Allison Lange for a conversation that brings to light underrecognized individuals and groups and examines how suffragists used portraiture to promote gender equality and challenge the popular cartoons that mocked them. The authors will also consider how photographic portraits proved to be a crucial element of women’s activism.

Learn more and register

Saturday, June 20

Cooking Up History with Ashley Rose Young

The Heinz History Center will welcome Ashley Rose Young, food historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and a member of the McGinnis family, for a special program. Dr. Young and members of the McGinnis family will lead a fascinating exploration of female entrepreneurship through the lens of family food heritage.

Registration information forthcoming.

Highlights

The Suffrage Shirtwaist Ball

Billed as “the Most Democratic Fete ever attempted in Pittsburgh,” the Equal Franchise Federation held its Suffrage Shirtwaist Ball more than one hundred years ago on Nov. 10, 1916. Though its memory has long since faded, the fundraiser itself was widely attended and lived up to its tagline. The more than 3,000 attendees who gathered in East Liberty’s Motor Square Garden to “be merry under the auspices of Suffrage” included students and businessmen, working class men and women, and the prominent socialites who formed the base of the Federation.

Learn more about the Suffrage Shirtwaist Ball.

“Her Hope, His Opportunity.” An advertisement poster for the ball created by Liberty Show Print.
“Her Hope, His Opportunity.” An advertisement poster for the ball created by Liberty Show Print. Winifred Meek Morris Papers and Photographs, MSS 1103, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center. Photo by Liz Simpson.
Winifred Meek Morris served as general chairwoman of the Suffrage Shirtwaist Ball.
Winifred Meek Morris served as general chairwoman of the Suffrage Shirtwaist Ball. Winifred Meek Morris Papers and Photographs, MSS 1103, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.

On the History Center’s Blog

Visit the History Center’s blog to learn more about women’s history in Western Pennsylvania. You’ll find some of the many stories we tell called out below, however you can visit the Women Forging the Way category for more.

We’re Collecting!

The History Center is actively looking for objects, photographs, and archival material documenting women’s history in the region to add to the museum’s collection.

To learn more about donating an object, contact Emily Ruby at 412-454-6350 or elruby@heinzhistorycenter.org.

To learn more about donating photographs or archival material, contact Carly Lough at 412-454-6367 or ctlough@heinzhistorycenter.org.