Taking the Lead: Women and the White Mountains

What roles have women played in the White Mountains? An exhibition at the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University will vividly depict the many roles women have played through an exhibition on the contributions of female leaders in the region: from farm wives to early hikers, from pioneering conservationists to today’s environmentalists. 

Taking the Lead: Women and the White Mountains, is funded in part by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities and will be on display at the Museum of the White Mountains from April 7 to October 7. Curated by Marcia Schmidt Blaine, Interim Director of the Museum, and Cynthia Robinson, Karl Drerup Gallery Director, the exhibition will open to the public with a free reception on Wednesday, April 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 

This mountainous region gave women a place to explore their talents and creativity uninhibited by the constraints of urban life. In the nineteenth century, female tourists opened up and popularized trails, explored the natural world, and wrote of the beauty, challenges, and discoveries they found in the mountains. In the twentieth century, women connected the White Mountain region to the larger world, while pushing the limits society imposed on them.  Today women are still inspired and empowered by their mountain experiences.

This exhibition will explore the ways women have engaged in White Mountains life over time, stories that have been largely forgotten or ignored.  The exhibition will include stunning paintings by both female and male artists on loan from regional collectors and contemporary artists, an amazing assortment of period photographs, and technological and hands-on experiences. 

Exhibition visitors will have the opportunity to view and interact with beautiful and touchable replica hiking costumes created by Terri Dautcher and Rebecca Fullerton, showing the amazing number of heavy layers women wore while hiking in earlier periods. Thoughts and writings of the many women featured in the exhibition will be featured in audio impersonations created by Plymouth State University theater students and via recorded interviews by PSU history students. 

The hand-on experience includes a  “maker space” where visitors can try creating their own images, as well as a writing area that invites guests to describe their recent experiences in the White Mountains.

The exhibit includes lesson plans for middle and high school social studies teachers that will explore ways through which women of the White Mountains challenged and worked within gender norms of the period, allowing them to “take the lead.” 

Learn more on the Museum of the White Mountains' website.