Westport Library funds suffrage exhibit with $4,999 grant

Kathie Bennewitz, a curator for the WestportREADS exhibition “Westport’s Suffragists - Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders, displays an infographic by the Westport library about the upcoming exhibit.

Photo by Lea Rivel ’22

Kathie Bennewitz, a curator for the WestportREADS exhibition “Westport’s Suffragists - Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders, displays an infographic by the Westport library about the upcoming exhibit.

Lea Rivel ’22, Staff Writer

The WestportREADS exhibit entitled “Westport’s Suffragists – Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders” will be on display at the Westport library’s Sheffer Gallery from Feb. 26 until May 13, with an opening reception on March 6 from 6:00-7:30p.m.  

Connecticut Humanities awarded the Westport Public Library a $4,999 grant on Jan. 17 to help fund the exhibition. 

The focus of the exhibit is to recognize Westport’s history regarding the women’s suffrage movement and to show the town’s involvement and engagement with the 19th Amendment. 

“This exhibition celebrates how Westport women, with a shared feminist voice and strength of purpose, joined forces with neighboring towns and state and national suffrage coalitions to change history for American women,” the Westport Library said in a printed infographic regarding the exhibit. 

The exhibit highlights how events related to the suffrage movement and passage of the 19th Amendment fit into both the local story and the nation.

“It’s the first time that this subject has really been addressed,” Kathie Bennewitz, guest curator for the exhibition, said. “It’s revealing, for the first time, the given names of the women and giving them the identity they deserve.”

It’s revealing, for the first time, the given names of the women and giving them the identity they deserve”

— Kathie Bennewitz

Some Staples students embrace the goal of the exhibit, acknowledging the importance of remembering different time periods in history. 

“I know a lot of students from Staples go there after school to study,” Grace Horton ’22 said. “Seeing important, impactful women there would be super inspirational to young women getting work done, trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.”

Connecticut Humanities also recognizes the relevance of the topic of the passage of the 19th amendment and suffrage movement. The organization looks at state history and events and movements of the past, giving out grants for compelling projects. 

“It’s a competitive process and it’s terrific,” Bennewitz said. “They look for ways it [a project] connects with communities and brings the past to the present to make it relevant.” 

Jennifer Keller, co-chair of the WestportREADS committee, aims for Staples students to view the exhibit demonstrating the history of suffrage on a local level. 

“I hope to maybe open a conversation about what we’re doing now for voting rights and how we can further everyone voting in the future,” Keller said. 

In addition to Connecticut Humanities, the exhibition is supported by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman and The Drew Friedman Community Arts Center. 

“We were very lucky with Kathie’s steadfast guidance in helping us secure this grant to support the exhibit,” Jennifer Bangser, director of strategic community partnerships for the Westport Library, said, “because [Connecticut Humanities] are very much are celebrating throughout the state, Connecticut’s role in the suffragette movement.”