Tag Archives: Women

Women’s History Month

Kate’s signature from a letter written in 1937 to Chief A. E. Bargren congratulating him on his 47th anniversary as a Rockford policeman. (Midway Village Museum)

Kate’s signature from a letter written in 1937 to Chief A. E. Bargren congratulating him on his 47th anniversary as a Rockford policeman. (Midway Village Museum)

Kate F. O’Connor

In honor of Women’s History Month, we thought it would be fitting to talk about Kate O’Connor, one of the most notable businesswomen, philanthropists and suffragists from the Rockford area. Here are some highlights from her life story.

 

Early Years

If you lived in Rockford from the 1880s to the 1940s, you would know the name Kate F. O’Connor. Born June 1, 1863 in Rockford, IL to Irish immigrants Cornelius O’Connor and Mary O’Malley O’Connor, Kate was the youngest of 8 children. She graduated from Rockford High School in 1878, and afterwards studied drawing and attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago.

 

Businesswoman

In 1882 Kate was appointed to the position of Deputy to the County Clerk. Four years later she was made a notary public by Illinois Governor Ogilsby. The Register newspaper described her in 1887 as follows: “Though she does the work of an able-bodied man, she is small and slight in appearance, wears her hair down her back in one braid, and never wears her dresses longer than to her ankles.” (12/29/1887) The article continues to state her local popularity in both the business and wider communities.

 

Kate, age 30, pictured in 1894. (Midway Village Museum)

Kate, age 30, pictured in 1894. (Midway Village Museum)

 

Her popularity was put to the test in 1894. That year, the papers reported that the new County Clerk wanted Kate to resign from her position, citing that too much of her time was being spent on other commitments. (Morning Star, 11/15/1894) The local uproar was reported in the papers, citing her faithful and exemplary record in the position, and within 5 days, the County Clerk reversed his original statement.

In 1898 Kate did leave her position, opening up her own offices in the Brown Building, which offered services in pensions, loans, real estate, and insurance, with probate matters listed as a specialty. Kate found much success in the real estate business and focused her efforts in that sector. She eventually opened an office in Chicago, doing business in Winnebago, Stephenson, Ogle, and Cook Counties.

 

Advocate

Looking at Kate’s long list of organizations and clubs she was a part of there were not many clubs in Rockford that she was not involved in. She was a part of groups at St. James’ Catholic Church, member of the Business & Professional Woman’s Club, founded the Rockford Riding Club in 1887, and was involved in the Winnebago County Home for the Aged, among many, many others. She sponsored petitions, directed inquiries into wrong doings, and fought for Civil War widows to receive their husband’s pensions.

In 1921 Kate, along with her fellow members of the Business & Professional Woman’s Club, backed Rockford teachers in a dispute over equal pay for female teachers. She continued this fight when being appointed to the Board of Education, pushing for general teacher and student welfare. Her advocacy eventually led to her appointment in 1933 by Governor Henry Horner to supervisor of the new minimum wage law for women and children in Illinois. She made strides, getting new wage scales for women & minors working in laundries, and pushed for wage regulations in beauty shops. In 1942, she was made assistant to Thomas F. O’Malley, regional director of the federal wage and hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rockford Republic, 4/29/1921

Rockford Republic, 4/29/1921

 

Politics

Kate was an outspoken supporter of the woman’s equal rights movement, cited many times locally in papers for her comments on the subject, and was well known for her strong opinions on equal rights for women in all ways. In an 1888 article noting Rockford women’s differing opinions on the topic, Kate states: “Great reforms will always work out in time, and woman suffrage is inevitable. There is certainly no good reason why woman should not vote if she wants to, and every argument advanced against it so far, is without foundation, and cannot be substantiated by rational proof.” (Daily Gazette, 1/26/1888) As the flag was raised on the newly completed courthouse in Rockford, Kate tied a yellow ribbon, representing equal suffrage, to the flag’s rope.

A charter member of the Illinois League of Women Voters, she spoke to women’s groups across the state, working diligently in the effort to win the vote, and, after that battle was won, continued to remind women of their duty to vote. In 1929, along with Jane Addams & Catherine Waugh McCulloch, she was honored by the National Suffrage Organization for her efforts. The next year, she had another first as a member of the first jury in Winnebago County to have women and men serving together. In 1932, she was Vice chairman of the 12th Congressional District for the Illinois Democratic Women’s Congressional Committee.

She actively campaigned for Ruth Hanna McCormick, Judge Henry Horner, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was appointed by Horner to run his re-election campaign for his second term as Governor of Illinois.

 

Starting around 1907, Kate commented on her preference to wear suits, as seen in this photo, c. 1930. (Midway Village Museum)

Starting around 1907, Kate commented on her preference to wear suits, as seen in this photo, c. 1930. (Midway Village Museum)

Kate died May 25, 1945 in St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago of a heart attack.

This of course is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s lots more to learn about Kate! Go to our Downloadable Resources page here to learn more!

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Rockford & Interurban Railway on unknown Rockford street. A trolley car is at left.

Rockford & Interurban Railway on unknown Rockford street. A trolley car is at left.

This December, Rockford has certainly not seen as much snow fall as it did one year ago, and so this snowy, winter-y entry seems less appropriate.  However, some of us (such as your humble author!) have a higher tolerance for the glittery snowflakes before Christmas than after the new year. Let’s see if we will be treated to a white Christmas this year.

As the weather grows colder, most of us bundle up in big coats, hats, scarves, and gloves or mittens, just like those before us did one hundred years ago.  Here are a few examples of what men and women wore during these blustery winter months.

Ear muffs from Rockford High School, c. 1930. Go RABs! (RAB refers to the school colors, red and black, and was the nickname for school.)

Ear muffs from Rockford High School, c. 1930. Go RABs!
(RAB refers to the school colors, red and black, and was the nickname for school.)

Men's gloves 1920s

Gentleman’s gloves and formal overcoat c. 1920s, perfect for an evening at the theater!

 

Men's overcoat 1920s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies gloves 1920s

 

 

Ladies' fur hat 1920s

Lady’s rabbit fur-trimmed gloves, fur hat, and mink-collar coat, c. 1920s

Lady’s rabbit fur-trimmed gloves, fur-lined hat, and mink-collar coat,  c. 1920s.

 

This decorative pink satin coat was worn by a truly fashionable lady around 1890-1900.

This decorative pink satin coat was worn by a truly fashionable lady around 1890-1900.

Note the exquisite bead and embroidery detail under the collar.

Note the exquisite bead and embroidery detail under the collar.

Enjoy some winter scenes from Rockford’s past!

Cheery winter scene at a Rockford home, c. 1920s.

Cheery winter scene at a Rockford home, c. 1920s.

Skaters on the pond at Sinnissippi Park, c. 1920s

Skaters on the pond at Sinnissippi Park, c. 1920s

Winter at Camp Grant, 1917. The soldiers made their own winter fun by building a snow hill to ski and sled down.

Winter at Camp Grant, 1917. The soldiers made their own winter fun by building a snow hill to ski and sled down.

 

Do you love snow as much as this happy boy? He is believed to be Talcott Williams, c. early 1920s.

Do you love snow as much as this happy boy? He is believed to be Talcott Williams, c. early 1920s.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Midway Village Museum!

1909 Christmas postcard

1909 Christmas postcard

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Second Star to the Right, and Straight on Till Morning!

Our next event is sure to bring out all of the spooks and ghouls – Saturday, October 25 is All Hallow’s Eve at Midway Village! This year, J.M. Barrie’s classic characters in Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up come to life in our haunted woods!

The stage play was first performed on December 27, 1904 at Duke of York’s Theatre in London. Nina Boucicault was first cast to play Peter Pan, and Maude Adams famously played the impish boy in the 1905 Broadway production. This tradition of an adult woman starring as Peter has continued for over one hundred years. The play introduced its audiences to the name ‘Wendy,’ as well as to children’s literature which was still in its infancy.

Peter Pan’s adventures in Never Land take us back to our childhood fantasies of pirates, mermaids, Indians, and fairies. Over time, these figures have evolved in their meaning and place within our culture.  Today, many recognize Peter Pan as the red-headed boy in the 1953 Disney animated film. Fairies are also associated with Disney-inspired design, although Tinker Bell was first represented as a flash of light and tinkle of a bell.  What kinds of ephemera would people have associated with the characters of Peter Pan one hundred years ago? How were fairies, pirates, and Native Americans depicted?

This 1870s teddy bear is much like the one Michael carries to Never Land.

This 1870s teddy bear is much like the one Michael carries to Never Land.

This Rockford-made collapsible top hat is similar to what John wears as he pretends to be his father. “A little less noise there!"

This Rockford-made collapsible top hat is similar to what John wears as he pretends to be his father.
“A little less noise there!”

This thimble is representative of the kiss that Wendy tries to give Peter. Thimbles are a must in any good sewing kit, especially at a time when most people made their own clothes.

This thimble is representative of the kiss that Wendy tries to give Peter. Thimbles are a must in any good sewing kit, especially at a time when most people made their own clothes.

This charming book may have been a favorite bedtime story for a child who loved whimsical tales. Published in 1903, it tells the story of a star fairy prince who falls in love with a princess on Earth.

This charming book may have been a favorite bedtime story for a child who loved whimsical tales. Published in 1903, it tells the story of a star fairy prince who falls in love with a princess on Earth.

Fairy Wings c. 1920s-30s

 

This handmade fairy costume, complete with wings, may have been a little girl’s Halloween costume or, more likely, costume for a play or recital in the 1920s-1930s.

This handmade fairy costume, complete with wings, may have been a little girl’s Halloween costume or, more likely, costume for a play or recital in the 1920s-1930s.

For the adventurous, only a pirate book will do! G.A. Henty’s historical fiction Among Malay Pirates, published in 1899, contains short stories set in Malaysia and Indonesia. During a time when travel was limited to the wealthy, this book could take any person across the seas and among the pirates!

For the adventurous, only a pirate book will do! G.A. Henty’s historical fiction Among Malay Pirates, published in 1899, contains short stories set in Malaysia and Indonesia. During a time when travel was limited to the wealthy, this book could take any person across the seas and among the pirates!

Children dressed as Native Americans during Rockford parade, c. 1905.

Children dressed as Native Americans during Rockford parade, c. 1905.

Child’s colorful, handmade headdress.

Child’s colorful, handmade headdress.

What of the crocodile, who took Captain Hook’s hand? Well, he’s become a pair of lady’s pumps. Made in Rockford in the 1960s. (Not real crocodile!)

What of the crocodile, who took Captain Hook’s hand? Well, he’s become a pair of lady’s pumps.
Made in Rockford in the 1960s. (Not real crocodile!)

 

All Hallow’s Eve at Midway Village Museum, 2014

Sat. October 25  2pm – 8pm

Admission: $6 for adults and children. Museum members and children under 3 are free!

Bring your family to “trick-or-treat” in safety at the charming Victorian Village.  Additional children’s activities and crafts will also be offered throughout the day.  The Woods opens at 4:30 pm.

All Hallow's Eve

 

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The 19th Century Does Black Friday

After the turkey and stuffing are gone and you’ve taken a snooze on the couch, you’re energized to rise before the sun, pull on your parka, and stand in front of that big box store to get the best deal on that Christmas present for your nephew.

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start of the Christmas season ever since the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924.  The tradition of Black Friday began in the 1960s.  The term refers to businesses moving from the ‘red’ to ‘black’ in their accounts.  Retailers realized that they drew large crowds with super sales on this day.

Which Rockford shops might you have visited one hundred years ago on Black Friday?  Here is a small selection.

Department Stores were just as popular back then as they are today!

88.122.374

88.122.375

Nordstrom’s, c. 1871

Owned by Gust and Josephine Nordstrom

No connection to today’s national Nordstrom’s chain.

85.109(I).642

Henry F. Norris art goods store, 1920s

221 East State Street

748.41.8

DJ Stewart Department Store, 1958

113-117 South Main Street

74.780.68

Marie N. Freberg’s Exclusive Millinery, c. 1910

514 7th Street

Window shopping at its finest!

81.29.118

Swanson Millinery, c. 1909-1913

404 East State Street

91.135.6a

J. Beale and Bro. Jewelry, c. 1900

406 East State Street

Looking for a sparkly rock or impressive timepiece for that special someone?  Head over to Beale’s Jewelry!

91.135.8

Joe and Art Beale can find something he or she will love!

83.114.3

Blomberg and Swenson Bakery, 1883-1891

603 7th Street

No time to bake?  Blomberg and Swenson will sell you delicious holiday treats!

85.109(I).738

Keigs Bakery, c. 1900-1910

405 State Street

Miss Ethel Shaw can help you pick out your Christmas cookies!

Midway Village Museum wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving and a safe and warm Black Friday!

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Women in Wartime: Nursing

Lt. Marilyn Cedarleaf

Lt. Marilyn Cedarleaf

Marilyn Cedarleaf, the daughter of Swedish immigrants, was born in Rockford in 1921.  She trained as a nurse at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago and graduated in 1943.  In 1945, at the age of 24, she went with a friend to the Red Cross on Wabash Ave. to get information about joining the war effort.  Marilyn wasn’t sure that she wanted to go, but she got a hard sell from the recruiter and signed up that day.  Social pressures of wartime often influenced volunteers for service.

Marilyn went to basic training at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, then Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, and lastly at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey.  She and a friend from Camp McCoy stuck together throughout their service.

Nurses Training at Camp McCoy

Nurses Training at Camp McCoy

Nurses Training at Camp McCoy

Nurses Training at Camp McCoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photos courtesy of Lieutenant General Richard R. Taylor’s Medical Training in World War II.  Medical Department, United States Army)

After basic training, they and 200 other nurses set sail for Europe.  Marilyn described the trip as scary.  They had to turn their lights off at night, and one time she got in trouble for having her porthole open.  Their ship landed in Scotland on May 8, 1945 – VE Day.  They went to England to receive their assignments before heading back to Glasgow to a general hospital to treat soldiers.  Many of those Marilyn treated were POWs, which she remembered as being a very sad time. They cared for a train load of wounded every day or two.

Marilyn’s nursing uniform with cap.

Marilyn’s nursing uniform with cap.

After the hospital closed, she went to France from hospital to hospital, moving around by ambulance.  In Marseilles, she was getting ready to go to China but her orders were cancelled when the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan.  Instead, she was sent to Belgium before being discharged as a First Lieutenant.

Marilyn’s dress uniform.

Marilyn’s dress uniform.

These decorative pitchers are made from bullet and shell casings and represent trench art.  Trench art dates back to the Napoleonic Wars, but is most often found from the World War I.  This type of art is directly linked to armed conflict.  Marilyn’s trench art, seen below, was made in Belgium and commemorates the places she traveled during her service.

Scotland, England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Holland, 1945-1946

Scotland, England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Holland, 1945-1946

Lt. Ruth M. Cedarleaf 12th Field House

Lt. Ruth M. Cedarleaf
12th Field House

WWII Trench Art 2

Glasgow, London, Paris (1945 inscribed on back) and Geneva, Le Mans, Liege (1946 on inscribed on back)

Glasgow, London, Paris (1945 inscribed on back) and Geneva, Le Mans, Liege (1946 on inscribed on back)

Become a Nurse

Upcoming Event!!!  World War II Days

Saturday, September 21, 2013  11 am – 5 pm

Sunday, September 22, 2013  11 am – 4 pm

Midway Village Museum hosts the largest World War II era re-enactment in the United States with over 1,000 uniformed re-enactors from 40 states representing soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan, Italy and Germany along with vintage tanks, halftracks and other 1940s era military vehicles!

World War II Days includes elaborate and realistic battles complete with tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, and exciting pyrotechnic displays. Saturday the battle shows are featured at 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. Sunday the battle time is 2:30 pm. Maps of the event site will be available when visitors arrive showcasing the battlefield and the various encampments and attractions. The event will be held rain or shine.

 One Day Admission Cost

$12 adults; $6 for children (3 to 17); and free for World War II veterans and Museum Members

Two Day Pass Cost
Two day event passes are $18 for adults; $9 for children (there is too much to see it all in just one day!)

For more information on event details, click here: https://midwayvillagemuseumcollections.wordpress.com/tag/military/

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Camping 100 Years Ago: It Was In Tents

Family Camping 1900s

As summer begins to wind down, there are only a few more weeks left to pitch a tent and sleep under the stars.  There are still those who like to ‘rough it,’ but many campgrounds today are overrun with giant RVs and mobile homes with most if not all of the luxuries of home.

Camping Inside Tent

Campers in the early 1900s did not have all of the options that we do today.  The camping movement that occurred around the turn of the century was born from the child labor movement.  It was designed to improve the lives of children who lived in poor, overcrowded cities by developing civic responsibility, intellect, and physical and social skills and to bond with nature.  And as cities became more crowded, people were looking for activities away from the hustle and bustle.  Camping was no longer a necessity for hunters, lumberjacks, and other mountain men.  It became a recreational activity for the whole family in every class.

Rockford Chautauqua, 1902

Rockford Chautauqua, 1902

Rockford’s Chautuaqua was a very popular two-week long event that offered lectures on cultural, political, and social topics as well as Buffalo Bill’s exciting Wild West Show.  Those who attended often camped in tents during those two weeks while they enjoyed the festivities.

Rockford Chautauqua, 1906

Rockford Chautauqua, 1906

Campers did not often have special equipment for camping – they brought what they already had.  Rugs and carpets from home made up the floor, and campers sat in wicker or rocking chairs from their own porches.

Ladies Camping Outfit, 1910s

Ladies Camping Outfit, 1910s

Many ladies, like those in the photographs above, wore their everyday clothing, blouses and skirts, while camping.  This outfit is an example of what ladies began wearing during the 1910s.  It’s militaristic style is similar to men’s uniforms worn during WWI.

Canoeing

 

Many of our camping traditions have remained the same in the last 100 years, such as canoeing with family and friends.  What are your camping traditions?  How are they similar or different?

 

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The Swedish Can Really “Break a Leg”

Hjalmar FryxellIn the days before Netflix, television, radio, and moving pictures, the theater was the place to go for entertainment.  The Swedish Theater of Rockford was born from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1911 when Hjalmar Fryxell (left) and J. Herman Hallstrom, who later became mayor of Rockford, formed the group.  Carl Bruce, who had previously acted with a traveling theatrical company in Minnesota, joined the theatrical group early on.  Bruce acted and created the sets.  Fryxell wrote a few plays as well as yearly revues of Swedish Rockford performed by the players.

Carl Bruce as Sven pa Lappen

Carl Bruce in his Sven pa Lappen (Sven on the Patch) persona.  He performed comic monologues as Sven in Swedish communities and organizations throughout Northern Illinois.

Carl Bruce Accordian

Carl Bruce played this M. Honer accordion as part of his Sven persona.

Carl BruceCarl (left) was born in Sweden on July 19, 1887.  He immigrated in 1903 and became a naturalized citizen in 1916.  He married Wilma Peterson around this time, who was an actress in the Swedish Theater.

Wilma Peterson BruceBorn in Rockford to Swedish immigrants, Wilma (right) worked at the National Lock Factory as a Fore Lady who supervised a department of young Swedish women.  Carl worked at National Lock as a machinist.  Wilma passed away in 1933.

Gunnar Edstrom

Gunnar Edstrom (left) and Carl Bruce put on acts together from the late 1920s to the 1950s.

Actress Alma Nelson (below) helped her husband, Albin, operate Nelson’s Home Bakery at 7th Street and 5th avenue.Alma Nelson

Swedish Theater

Group photo of the Swedish Theater of Rockford players performing as Swedish immigrants.  Carl Bruce is seated with his accordion that he used as Sven pa Lappen.

Swedish Theater Carl Bruce

Scene from a production.  Carl Bruce is on the right.

Swedish Theater Group Carl Bruce

Scene from a production.  Carl Bruce is on the right.

Swedish Theater Group Rockford

Scene from a production. Carl Bruce is second from the right.

Al Goranson, Gunnar Edstrom, Carl Bruce

Al Goranson, Gunnar Edstrom, Carl Bruce, 1937

Swedish Theater Group of Rockford

Group photo of Swedish Theater of Rockford players.  Wilma and Carl Bruce are at the far left, Hjalmer Fryxell is third from right, and Alma Nelson is at the far right.

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