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Museum exhibits in Chicago that tout female role models.

Girls can celebrate women’s history month with exhibits that ooze girl power.


By Joanna Batt

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S Halsted St (312-413-5353)

A standing testament to the work of humanitarian superwoman Jane Addams, this museum is housed in the home she opened in 1889 to serve people in need, including a young Benny Goodman, who learned to play clarinet there. Original objects and text-intensive exhibits in the house recently got a face-lift (and way more kid friendly) with Addams’s Nobel Peace Prize and childhood drawings on display, as well as a scale model of the house as it was in 1907, a multimedia area showing what the 19th Ward was like for kids back then and a “sonic landscape” that invites little women to hear the sounds of the home’s past.

“Facing Freedom”
Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark St (312-642-4600)

This interactive, tactile gallery of American history tells herstory, too, by exploring the smaller, often local, yet mighty fights for freedom—such as the Chicago Public School Boycott in ’63—that didn’t necessarily make it into the history books (and weren’t necessarily muscled by men). The exhibit not only asks girls and guys just what it means to be free, but also reminds us that while the adage “behind every great man is a woman” might be true, it misses the real historical bull’s eye; sometimes, women were boxing out the males right at the front of the picket line.

“Anne Frank: A History for Today”
Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E Park Ave, Elmhurst (630-833-1457)

No girl embodied courage in the face of history—in her case, of the most tragic kind—than the inimitable Anne Frank. In this imagery-heavy exhibit, her story is retold through family photos juxtaposed with historical timelines and photos, her own eternal words from her diary narrating the events that affected her and her family.

Waking the T. rex 3-D
The Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr (312-922-9410)

So technically, she’s not really a woman, but we can’t think of a more iconic female that made history for Chicago besides “Sue,” celebrating her 11 years in residence at the museum by dominating the main hall (per usual) and hitting the silver screen in this movie updating what paleontologists have learned from the famous fossil. Oh, wait, we can think of a more iconic female—the skeleton’s namesake, Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dino in 1990, and who is a living role model for anyone inspired to enter the field of natural history.

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave (312-443-3600)

From the “Real and Imaginary: Three Latin American Artists” exhibit (open through May 29) that interactively celebrates the work of, among others, female artist Yuyi Morales in vibrant family picture books, to the Modern Wing’s outpouring of pieces by female artists (finally, a painting in the museum by a woman other than Berthe Morisot) such as Georgia O’Keefe, Eva Hesse and Marlene Dumas, the AIC is full of role models for little ladies aspiring in the arts. Running activities in the Ryan Education Center and distributed family guides keep the masterpieces and the stories of their femmes natales extra kid-friendly, too.

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