Chesterton Tribune



Township History Museum spotlights more 'Women of Duneland'

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The new exhibit at the Westchester Township History Museum, “Women of Duneland”, brings a social media project to life so visitors can see it in person.

Last March, the Westchester Public Library shared Facebook posts every day telling the stories of women who had a major impact on Duneland in honor of Women’s History Month. The project continues this year, both on WPL’s Facebook and in hard copy at the Westchester Township History Museum. Visitors can view the new Museum display now through Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10.

Museum staff wanted to reach more than just the people who follow WPL on Facebook, according to Researcher Tori Binelli. Binelli said the WPL Facebook following, to her understanding, is largely parents of children and teens. “We have a wide array of age groups that come in here. For us to just try and reach and educate people through one platform would be unethical,” she said.

There’s crossover between the current display, both this year’s and last year’s Facebook posts, and last year’s exhibit on Duneland pioneer women, but they’re not the same projects. Binelli said she and Museum Curator Serena Ard have prepared approximately 20 new stories since last year.

“Women of Duneland” is the first exhibit Binelli has developed on her own. Binelli, originally from Illinois, has worked at the Westchester Township History Museum for about three years, and formerly worked at the Porter County Museum through AmeriCorps. She has a History degree from Valparaiso University.

For the most part, Binelli tried to sort the stories into three categories: child-rearing and education, artists and environmental activists, and business and political figures. Binelli said she focused on old newspaper stories and artist notebooks and various documents from the Museum’s archive for her research. Her use of online resources was minimal. Three of her favorite new women featured this year are Rheua Rand, Margaret Mabin, and Betty Wheele Phares.

Binelli said a lot of women’s history goes unrecorded in the background of other events, and women are erased from their own histories by documents that list them only in relation to their husbands, complicating research into their lives.

The Museum is continually looking for new information, and Binelli urged residents to share their stories. “We haven’t covered even a small percentage of what’s out there,” Binelli said. “No matter how small you think someone’s impact was, I promise you it has historical value, and it matters.”

Meanwhile, WPL and partner organizations are celebrating Women’s History Month bigger than ever in recognition of the centennial of women’s suffrage. Last week, the monthly session of Music at the Museum focused on the music of women’s history, and Sunday, Ard gave a presentation on the early women of Duneland. “Rightfully Hers”, a pop-up exhibit from the National Archives commemorating the century since the passage of the 19th amendment, is currently on display at the Thomas Branch.

Ard is also scheduled to present on the lives of 31 Duneland women for the Duneland Historical Society Thursday, March 19 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Baugher Center and give a lecture on researching women in family history for the Northwest Indiana Genealogy Society at the Valparaiso Library Saturday, March 21 at 10 a.m. Patrons can then learn about Badass Women of the Dunes from the National Park Service at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 22 and celebrate Diana of the Dunes at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 at the Museum.





Posted 3/10/2020




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