Little Compton, RI – The Little Compton Historical Society is pleased to present its Women’s History Project as a free indoor and outdoor exhibit suitable for the whole family. Since July, we have been welcoming small groups of up to 15 people for private, self-guided tours of the exhibits. These 90-minute appointments are offered free of charge through November 14th. There are two scavenger hunts available for children: one designed for pre-reading and elementary age children, and the other for middle-school-age children.
The special exhibition is part of a year-long effort to research, present, and archive the history of Little Compton’s women in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment this month acknowledging women’s right to vote. The Little Compton Women’s History project has been generously supported by the Acebes Family Charitable Fund, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and dozens of community members. It is part of the Shall Not Be Denied Project, a joint effort of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office.
This winter, LCHS invited the community to submit essays illuminating the histories of Little Compton women, including themselves, along with photographs. The community response exceeded our expectations, resulting in 300+ women’s stories being posted to our website at littlecompton.org. We continue to accept submissions for this initiative and update the site regularly.
One woman, Truong Thi Phuong, fell in love with a GI, Bruce Mason, Sr., in Vietnam and moved to the United States. Her life, full of heartbreak and joy, is lovingly recalled by her son Bruce Mason, Jr. Wendy Zens’ story is relayed by Lucas Roberts, a 5th grader that recently moved to Little Compton, who was impressed by her warmth and sense of community. Gail Greene’s story of tireless volunteerism is shared by an anonymous admirer of her work on the trails of Simmons Mill Pond. Summer resident Augusta Maverick Kelley, memorialized by her grandson Nick Kelley, was arrested several times in 1918 because of her protests at the White House for women’s right to vote.
From those submissions and our own research, we selected several women from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These were converted into the 60 outdoor banners that represent the varying experiences of local women – rich and poor; as private citizens and in public service; Black, European, Portuguese, Indigenous, and multiracial.
The indoor exhibit features items from our collections that bring these experiences to life. They include a spoon erroneously believed for years to have belonged to the famous Betty Alden, an 18th-century high chair, letters written to local suffragists from famous suffragists such as Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a homemade “mod” dress emblazoned with the Beatles’ faces and signatures.
The scavenger hunts are based entirely on the outdoor exhibit to accommodate those who may not be comfortable in an enclosed space under the current circumstances. The preschool and elementary aged children are tasked with finding the images of various women on the banners, and each image has a brief statement next to it about who the woman is and what was important about her. In their scavenger hunt, middle-school-aged children must find specific information about women within the text of the banners. When they complete their hunt, each child receives a small trophy.
The Little Compton Historical Society was incorporated in 1937 to preserve and share the history of Little Compton for the enrichment and enjoyment of the general public.