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Historical Society of Carroll County to celebrate 100 years of women voting with new ‘Breaking Barriers’ exhibit and gala

The Breaking Barriers exhibit will open at the Historical Society of Carroll County on Aug. 25, focusing in part on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The Breaking Barriers exhibit will open at the Historical Society of Carroll County on Aug. 25, focusing in part on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

The Historical Society of Carroll County will be opening its doors on August 25 to introduce its new exhibit, Breaking Barriers, in the historic Cockey’s Tavern.

The exhibit, according to Catherine Baty, curator of collections at the historical society, will be honoring the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote and the prohibition movement, which was championed by women as well.

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“These were the two big social movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, and women played a vital role in both of these,” said Baty.

The exhibit will be open by appointment only, and wearing face masks as well as social distancing will be required to tour the exhibit according to the press release.

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Some of the items that will be up for display, according to Baty, include a glass ballot box from the early 20th century that was used to vote in Carroll County along with documents relating to the prohibition movement. Most of the materials that will be on display date back to the 19th and 20th centuries, with the oldest artifact, a minute book, dating back to the 1840s.

Baty said many of these items were donated to the historical society by Carroll County residents.

“We’re a local history organization and we really focus on Carroll County history and we don’t have the budget to go out and buy things so basically all of the artifacts in the exhibit can be traced to Carroll County families,” said Baty.

Kristen McMasters, the board of trustees chair, says the name “Breaking Barriers” has evolved to have two different meanings. The first highlights the barriers that were broken by men and women in the last century, such as passing the 19th amendment, and barriers that are being broken now amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to McMasters, the Breaking Barriers exhibit was originally slated to open on April 4, but got pushed back due to the virus. However, not only was the opening of the exhibit delayed, said McMasters, but the exhibit itself had to go through changes in order to be open to the public.

The Breaking Barriers exhibit will open at the Historical Society of Carroll County on Aug. 25, focusing in part on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The Breaking Barriers exhibit will open at the Historical Society of Carroll County on Aug. 25, focusing in part on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“When talking to the health department on how to reopen safely, we had to change so much with this exhibit. We originally had planned for a touchscreen exhibit that would give you lots more information, but museums across the country now have to reconsider touchscreens,” said McMasters citing that most of the additional information will now be digitally available through their website.

An interactive display was also originally planned for the exhibit, according to McMasters, but that had to be changed as well in response to the pandemic.

“We just sort of came from an era where museums were encouraged to have people touching things and operating levers and now we may have to reconsider that entirely at least throughout the pandemic,” said McMasters.

Information and artifacts in the exhibit will be limited to glass displays and text panels.

Although most interactive and touchscreen information will be available online, the exhibit will still feature groundbreaking women, including early local icons such as Mary Bostwick Shellman, who participated in both the suffrage and prohibition movements in Westminster.

Information about the movements and other notable figures in the community will also be posted online on Facebook for those interested, according to Steven Jakobovic, executive director of the historical society.

“We’ve really tried to bring the museum to the community rather than have the community come to us,” said Jakobovic.

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Alongside the exhibit, the historical society will also be organizing its annual Legacy Gala, however, this time it will be conducted online on September 12.

The Breaking Barriers virtual gala, which is the society’s biggest fundraising event of the year, was also delayed since it was originally planned to be in-person in April.

The historical society has partnered up with the Carroll County Media Center and will be streaming their hour-long gala starting at 7 p.m. on Facebook and Youtube, while also being broadcasted on Channel 1086HD.

The gala, according to McMasters, is an annual event that makes up 25% of the society’s budget each year through silent auctions and donations during the event.

This year, with the gala online, McMasters hopes they’ll still be able to receive support from the community.

“We’ll have lots of voices from the community talking about supporting history. We’ll have trivia questions about local history, and we’ll have opportunities for anyone in the community to support us,” said McMasters. “This is a free event, you don’t need tickets, all you need to do is tune in and see what we’ve been doing for history in our county, and hopefully you’ll want to support us as well.”

There will be a silent auction during the event in which people can view items beforehand on the society’s website. A registration link will then be sent to interested parties to participate in the auction during the gala. Items such as men’s watches, gift cards, and vacation homes will be available to bid on.

The gala will also feature interviews from notable Carroll County women who are “current barrier breakers in business, education, healthcare, and civil rights,” said Baty.

They include Leslie Simmons, Virginia Harrison, and Joan Develin Coley.

Leslie Simmons, an executive director for LifeBridge Health, was Carroll Hospital’s first female president according to Baty, while Virginia Harrison is a former Board of Education member as well as a founding member of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality, a nonprofit committed to promoting racial equality in Carroll County. Joan Develin Coley was McDaniel College’s first female president, serving from 2000 to 2010.

Baty said she hopes both the exhibit and the gala will encourage people to learn from the past and appreciate the work that has been done up until now for women’s’ rights.

“I think we tend to take voting almost for granted today, everybody just assumes that everybody can vote,” she said. “We forget that our grandmothers fought really hard for that.”

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