Norman Library Hosts OCW Women Exhibit
As part of Women's History Month in March, the Norman Public Library will feature the colorful museum exhibit Preparing the New Woman at the Oklahoma College of Women: Expectation and Reality March 6-16 in the Gallery Room.
In addition to the exhibit, nationally known forensic sculptor and Norman resident Betty Pat Gatliff is scheduled to speak March 14 at 10:30 a.m. Gatliff is a 1951 graduate of OCW (now USAO) and one of the 10 women honored in the exhibit.
The display is a 12-panel exhibition made possible by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council. Printed on giant fabric panels that measure 80 inches high and 30 inches wide, the series captures the lives of highly successful women whose stories span 1917-58 on the campus of Oklahoma’s public liberal arts college. Of the 10 women, four are living and remain internationally recognized leaders in their fields of medicine, art and music and librarianship.
The series was lovingly researched by a team at the University of Science and Arts, including former state system Chancellor Dan Hobbs. The stories were written by Dr. Brenda Brown, professor of English and chair of the USAO Division of Arts and Humanities.
Designers chose tapestry fabric as a motif and bold colors of purple, green and gold to illustrate the story. In the logo, four female hands are interlocked as a symbol of the timeless bonds and unified strength of women who shared the OCW experience.
From hundreds of possible high-achievers, 10 women were chosen to embody the OCW story. They include Gatliff; Anna Wade O’Neill, widely regarded as the founder of OCW, later a faculty member; Anna Lewis, OCW faculty member and Oklahoma historian from 1917-1956; Mary Thompson Fisher (TeAta), class of 1919, a Native American storyteller of international acclaim; and Brownie Lee Jones, class of 1920, social reformist on worker’s rights.
Other women whose lives are featured in the exhibit include Carma Russell Zimmermann Leigh, class of 1925, a national leader in public libraries; Gladys Anderson Emerson, class of 1925, the internationally recognized biochemist who isolated Vitamin E; Paula Ruth Loop, class of 1937, a proud WWII veteran member of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP); Londa Lee Moore Shaw, class of 1947, a living legend in piano jazz; and Dr. Jeanne Porter Hester, class of 1951, an internationally recognized expert in blood diseases and inventor of the blood cell separator.
“This exhibit tells a story never heard statewide: the remarkable influence of OCW on Oklahoma, on several generations of alumni, and toward the greater good in American higher education,” says Julie Bohannon, who leads the USAO Alumni Association. “As it honors their alma mater, it makes for an impressive tribute to the lives and legacy of 10 of its favorite daughters. The only disappointment is that the exhibit couldn’t include 50 more OCW women!”
The exhibit tells of strong young women who discovered their unique voice and career potential at OCW. Author Brenda Brown says she gained much from the experience.
“When I first came to USAO, pretty much fresh out of graduate school, I heard stories about the grand history of the institution,” says Brown, who wrote the text in the exhibit. “I listened to stories about its history of tradition and excellence, especially in the arts. But, it wasn’t until I began to write the text for Preparing the New Woman that I gained a true understanding of, and appreciation for, the faculty and students who preceded me and who gave this university its tremendous pedigree.”