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home : commentary : thisissue April 29, 2016

Many faces of women at the fair


"The sculpture represents the fractured continents of the world. The surface of the steel has been burnished to show scars and wars. The pieces are joined together by a pillar which is women coming together to work for peace, equality and development among people of the world."
- words on the Katherine Nash sculpture's plaque

by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson


"It did take some courage to come, knowing that I might be the only lady delegate." Jessie Walkup's statement was recorded in the minutes of the Minnesota State Fair's annual report. In 1912, she was the first woman delegate to serve on the Minnesota Agricultural Society's board, representing Pipestone County. The first State Fair had been held in 1859, nearly 50 years earlier.

In 1912, the Minnesota Women's Suffrage group had a booth at the fair. Perhaps, not a surprise, there was also an anti-suffrage booth.

In this August issue, we share stories and memories of women at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. When we asked our readers to send their favorite memories of the fair, Terri Berthiaume Hawthorne wrote recalling Women's Equality Day at the fair on Aug. 26, 1975, which celebrated women getting the right to vote and marked International Women's Year (IWY).

"It was one of the first times we came together in a big group on feminist issues," Hawthorne told the Women's Press of the women's efforts from nearly 40 years ago. Hawthorne was the co-chair of a planning group for the day's events, working with 32 women's organizations.

"It was a moment of real cooperation and excitement," she says.

Women bagpipers led the day's events. Mary Anderson, Gov. Wendell Anderson's wife, presided over the opening ceremonies. Parade marchers wore yellow sashes, honoring the early suffragists. Banners with the IWY symbol were carried in the parade and displayed throughout the day. The 4-H girls staged a presentation called the "Many Faces of Women." A performing-arts festival was held in the evening that featured women acting, singing, reciting poetry and dancing.

A highlight for Hawthorne was the dedication of a large steel sculpture by Katherine Nash in honor of IWY. Nash was a professor of sculpture in what was then the University of Minnesota's Studio Arts Department. "The planning group decided we'd like to have something that memorialized this in a permanent way," Hawthorne says. The sculpture stood on a pedestal outside of the fair's administration building until about six years ago, when it was moved to the far northeast corner of the fairgrounds near the campground.

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While there were conferences and other events happening around the United States in 1975, to Hawthorne's knowledge, Minnesota was the only state to choose this format. "I think it says something about Minnesota and the fair - that it really is our great coming together," she says.

You can read Hawthorne's prose poem about the event on page 28, along with her 12-year-old granddaughter's short poem about her State Fair memories.

Women at the fair are showcased in this issue - Brooke Blakey, the fair's public information officer; Shirley Barber, longtime food competition judge; Barb Schaller, top prizewinner of blue ribbons for her canned goods; Teresa Anderson, radical crop artist, and Mama Lou, Strong Woman.

When you go to the fair, bring along Carrie Hartman's illustrated map of women's sites at the fair (see page 15). See if you can find Katherine Nash's "Year of the Woman" sculpture.

Coming up:
September's theme is "businesswomen doing good." How have you seen women in business be a force for good? Tell us a story in 150 words or less. Send to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: August 10, 2014
September advertising sections:
• Elder Guide
• Grrrrls Go Green Guide
• Spirituality Guide
• GoSeeDo Guide
Deadline: August 10, 2014

Watch for the Minnesota Women's Directory with the September issue.

October's theme is "politics as personal." What issue caused you to attend a political rally? What was your experience and what difference did it make? Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: Sept. 10, 2014

October advertising sections:
• Health Guide
• Home Guide
• Voting Guide
• Women and Pets Guide
• GoSeeDo Guide
Deadline: Sept. 10, 2014





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