Role of state's women on display in MOA exhibit

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Museum of the Albemarle Curator Wanda Lassiter speaks about part of MoA's latest exhibit, Thursday. The exhibit honors the contributions of women in North Carolina.

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By William West
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tar Heel women and their contributions to North Carolina and the nation are the subject of the latest exhibit on display at Museum of the Albemarle.

The exhibit, called “N.C. Women Making History,” shows the contributions of women in the state over 400 years. The exhibit is on loan from the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.

“One of the reasons that we borrowed this exhibit is because it does contain women from our region,” MoA Curator Wanda Lassiter said on Thursday. “And it's very informative.”

Lassiter was referring to the exhibit including Harriet Ann Jacobs and Penelope Craven Barker.

Jacobs, born a slave in Edenton, later wrote an autobiography, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Jacobs became involved in the pre-Civil War movement for the abolition of slavery and also engaged in fundraising to help black refugees in the midst of the war.

Barker was an American revolutionary patriot opposed to what she and many other colonists viewed as British taxation without representation. Barker organized the Edenton Tea Party, which represented the first boycott of British goods by women in the colonies.

The exhibit also includes a photograph of students outside what was the state teachers school in the Pasquotank County seat and the forerunner of today's Elizabeth City State University.

Statewide, the exhibit includes Lillian Exum Clement, who was the first woman elected to the N.C. General Assembly and who was the first woman elected to any state legislature in the South. Clement, who was an attorney, served a term in Raleigh from Buncombe County.

The exhibit also includes Harriet Morehead Berry of Orange County who was a leader in the improvement of North Carolina's road system. Berry's efforts led to the establishment of a state highway commission in 1921.

In 1986, a 12-mile segment of Interstate 40 in Orange County was named in her honor.

Lassiter, who's originally from Gates County, has been MoA's curator for approximately eight years. She likes all forms of history.

“We hope that these exhibits are more of a jumping off point for the readers to make you learn more about a particular topic or more about a particular person, because obviously we can't tell you everything and we can't put everybody and tell every story,” she said.

She said the hope is to engage the exhibit viewer to think to himself or herself, “Oh, I want to go learn more about that.”

The exhibit was created in the 1990s.

MoA's present location off Water Street dates back to 2006. Lassiter said the exhibit was once displayed in MoA's previous location off U.S. Highway 17 South.

Lassiter said the exhibit was shifted to MoA after having more recently been on display in the Camden County Library.

Lassiter was asked whether she hopes the exhibit is going to inspire younger girls and women.

“I had always wanted to be an archaeologist – and I was,” she replied.

She credits a woman archaeologist, Loretta Lautzenheiser, of Tarboro, with coming to speak at a career day at the middle school she was attending at the time.

She said she didn't know that 10 years later, “I was actually going to be working for her.”

The exhibit is going to remain on display at MoA until the end of June.