The traveling exhibition “Extraordinary Women of the East Bay” opens at the Jamestown Philomenian Library on March 9 with a reception and panel discussion, “Women’s Suffrage 100 Years Later.”  

The reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and panel discussion, beginning at 6:30 p.m., are sponsored by the library in conjunction with the Jamestown Historical Society.  The exhibition, curated by Heidi Benedict, University Archivist at Roger Williams University, and sponsored by the university and the Heritage Harbor Foundation, will be at the library from March 1 to March 31. Six 19th and 20th century Jamestown women are featured in the exhibit.

Five Jamestown women will participate in the panel discussion, which will be moderated by Jane Koster, president of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters.  

Rep. Deb Ruggiero, representing Jamestown and Middletown in the General Assembly, is a businesswoman and broadcaster. She created and hosts the radio show “Amazing Women,” which celebrates the work of women in Rhode Island who make a difference whether in business, healthcare, politics, or the arts.  Her “Amazing Women” interview with Heidi Benedict, the exhibit’s curator, aired on WPRO AM and FM on February 16 and will be rebroadcast on March 15. 

Valerie Southern, a Navy child who came to Jamestown at six, has devoted most of her adult life to public service in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Washington state, including one term on the Jamestown Town Council.  She is currently researching the history of Jamestown’s Black community with the intent of promoting recognition of its contributions to the history and development of Jamestown.

Leslie Clarke Kurtz, a member of one of Jamestown’s founding families, also grew up in Jamestown but left at 18 to pursue a career in the U.S. Air Force.  After five years of active service, she served in the Rhode Island Air Force Reserves Combat Communications Squadron until 1995. She is active in Jamestown’s American Legion Arnold-Zweir Post 22 and was until recently post commander.

Heidi Keller Moon is known statewide for her philanthropy and her support of the arts.  Locally she served on the library Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2013 and lobbied successfully for the development of the town’s Department of Senior Services in 2019.

Sydney Keen, a 2017 graduate of Smith College, credits an ongoing interest in civic affairs to accompanying parents to the Jamestown polls for every election/primary and to involvement in the Jamestown LNG Threat committee as part of a Democracy project at North Kingstown High School.  

A question and answer period will follow the panel discussion.  Questions may be submitted in advance to  During the 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. reception preceding the panel, 3×5 cards will be available for more immediate questions.  

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal....