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New exhibit highlights women who changed the world

December 2, 2020

Rochester Museum & Science Center exhibit includes ten women with connections to the University of Rochester.

Ten women with connections to the University of Rochester are among the 200 women visionaries, trailblazers, inventors, activists, and entrepreneurs highlighted in a Rochester Museum & Science Center exhibit called “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World.”

The exhibit was prompted by this year’s 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, recognizing the right of women in the United States to vote. In a similar recognition of the anniversary, the University has created an online celebration of “Visionary Women of Rochester,” a gallery highlighting the lives and legacies of 25 women who had roots in Rochester—both at the University and in the region.

Carolyn Stiles, RMSC’s marketing communications manager, says the exhibit is the work of both the center’s staff and members of the community. “We are very excited and passionate about this exhibit,” she says. “There has been so much love, and so much effort put into it by both our own internal team and also the community. And I think that is probably the most amazing part of it.”

museum display

The Rochester Museum & Science Center exhibit “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World” was prompted by the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, recognizing the right of women in the United States to vote. (Photo: Rochester Museum & Science Center)

The center engaged 50 community curators, 11 partner organizations, and also hired three diversity and inclusion consultants through a grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation to ensure that the exhibit was as representative as possible, including notable women of Rochester’s Black, Latino, Haudenosaunee, and Asian communities, Stiles says.

For example, visitors to the exhibit will learn about Jikonsaseh, the “Mother of Nations,” who helped unite the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations into the Haudenosaunee Confederacy along with contemporary Haudenosaunee changemakers carrying out important work today.

They will also learn about Aesha Ash, who was born and raised in Rochester, and is the first African American woman hired as a permanent faculty member at the School of American Ballet. And Anna Murray Douglass, who was key stationmaster on Rochester’s Underground Railroad, helping Frederick Douglass lead escaped slaves to safety in Canada.

The exhibit, which will continue into next spring. The women with connections to the University are:

  • Ruby Belton ’72M (MD), ’74M (Res), the first African American woman to graduate from the University’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and founder of Physicians and Laypersons Educational Associates of Greater Rochester.
  • Esther Conwell ’44 (MS), a research professor of chemistry at the University and a pioneer in the field of semiconductor research who was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2010.
  • Loretta Ford, founding dean of the University’s School of Nursing, whose “unification model of nursing” established the nurse practitioner as an integral part of medical teams.
  • Rebeca Gerschman, an Argentinian scientist and a tireless fighter for the rights of women in science fields who conducted groundbreaking research at the University on the links between oxygen and aging.
  • Norma Holland interviewed and shared the stories of tens of thousands of Rochesterians as the longtime anchor and reporter at the local ABC affiliate, 13WHAM. She recently was named director of public relations and engagement for the Office of Equity and Inclusion at the School of Medicine and Dentistry.
  • Constance Mitchell, the first African American woman elected to the Monroe County (New York) Legislature and a fierce advocate for education, housing, jobs, and equality in Rochester. She was the 2017 recipient of Frederick Douglass Medal for outstanding civic engagement from the University.
  • Louise Slaughter, who represented Rochester’s 25th district in Congress for more than 30 years. Her advocacy of women’s health, reproductive rights, medical research, genetic testing, and environmental conservation was recognized the by University with a Presidential Proclamation in 2014 and the Eastman Medal in 2009.
  • Donna Strickland ’89 (PhD), who shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for her work on chirped pulse amplification as a graduate school at the University, leading to lifesaving advances in the use of lasers in imaging and medicine.
  • Alexis Vogt  ’00, ’08 (PhD), a Monroe Community College associate professor who has reinvigorated the school’s Optical Systems Technology Program to address an acute shortage in the technical workforce of an industry vital to Rochester and the nation.
  • Ruth Watanabe ’52E (PhD), who was relocated to internment camps with her family during World War II, and later became a noted librarian at the Eastman School of Music. She built one of the world’s greatest collections at the Sibley Music Library.

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Category: Society & Culture