Chesterton Tribune

Township museum exhibit looks at Mother's Day

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The new exhibit at the Westchester Township History Museum may be the mother of them all, at least for exhibits built around the second highest gift-giving holiday in the United States.

“Mother O’ Mine: A Celebration of Mother’s Day,” which opened on May 5, will raise your maternal IQ with lessons on the very earliest Mother’s Day celebrations in Greece and how the holiday has evolved in the U.S since the Civil War. The display also celebrates motherhood in art, games and trivia.

Free Carnations May 12 and 13

An exclusive gift will be handed out to every mom who visits the “Mother O’ Mine” exhibit this Mother’s Day weekend, May 12 and 13. They will each get a free carnation to take with them, museum registrar Joan Costello said. A pink or red carnation honors a living mother while white carnations are traditionally worn to honor a mother who has passed away, Costello explained.

A Group Effort

“Mother O’ Mine” is the first ever Mother’s Day-themed exhibit for the museum and has a few mothers of its own. Museum curator Serena Sutliff developed the ideas and spearheaded the games and trivia portions. Costello was in charge of collecting photographs of township mothers and grandmothers. Researcher Eva Hopkins scanned the photographs while educator Ben Blohm selected the art pieces.

“Everybody does their own piece with the project. I made a lot of phone calls,” said Costello.

Museum staff collected 18 photographs of moms, grandmas, daughters, sons, or any combination. A computer slideshow includes photos of Max, Karyn, and Mason Witt; Lynn Welsh and Ann Hokanson; Avis Lukach; Germaine Brockington; John and Phyllis Canright; Connie Wells; Connie Wells and Verna Largent Snider; Ellena Haslett and Marjorie Hubbard; Marjorie Hubbard and Oral Haslett Smith; Helen Wagner; Marjorie Hokanson with daughters Nancy and Eleanor; Frances Bowen Wells; Ralph and Pauline Sabinske; Adele “Grammy” Doler; Barbara J. Whisler Doler; Claire Williams; Charlotte Read and Tekla Johnson; Jenny and Hugh Hopkins.

Another batch of photos are found on the museum walls of mothers of museum and Thomas Library staff such as Evelyn Bruhn – mother to Eva Hopkins, Elvina Plourde – mother to library reference manager Rudy Plourde, and Alice Marvene Naylor – mother to circulation manager Claire Williams.

Holiday History

Shedding light on the history of the holiday, museum goers can follow the timeline of when the ancient Romans set aside a day to celebrate Juno Lucina, the “goddess of childbirth, motherhood and women” on March 1. Christians in the Middle Ages declared the fourth Sunday of Lent to be “Mothering Sunday.”

Women’s peace groups after the Civil War held events to bring together mothers who had sons that fought on either side. One of the mothers’ daughters, Anna Jarvis, began honoring her mother in church and later sought help to lobby congress to create a national day to honor mothers. Congress did so in 1914.

Interestingly, Jarvis tried to have the holiday abolished once it became increasingly commercialized in the 1920s and was arrested in 1930 for protesting a carnation sale. Her protest proved futile and today 140 million Mother’s Day cards are purchased per year. The public will spend $14.6 billion this year for Mother’s Day, according to Sutliff’s fun facts.

Fun and Games

Pop culture fans can challenge themselves to two games in the exhibit. One game asks visitors to match the literary mothers with the books they are in. The titles range from classics Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” to more recent titles like “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games.”

The other activity quizzes visitors on recognize famous TV and Movie moms (and Mr. Moms) on a range from easy to difficult. You’ll probably recognize June Cleaver but do you know Jill Taylor from “Home Improvement”?

Upcoming exhibits

When asked if there is a Father’s Day exhibit in the works, Costello said there is not but “there’s always next year.”

“Mother O’ Mine” will sunset on May 27 to make way for the museum’s next exhibit “The Lives and Legacies of William and Flora Richardson” which will run June 2 to Sept. 2 in conjunction with the Brauer Museum of Art’s “The Photographs of William D. Richardson” scheduled for May 18 to Aug. 5 at Valparaiso University Center for the Arts.

The Westchester Township History Museum located at 700 West Porter Ave. is open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.


Posted 5/11/2012