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Women's Pavilion

When a group of women was denied permission to exhibit independently in the Main Exhibition Building, the result was one of the novel and more controversial exhibit buildings of the Centennial. The Women’s Pavilion was the brainchild of Mrs. Elizabeth Duane Gillespie and her committee of thirteen Philadelphia ladies. Intended to showcase the abilities of women in all spheres of activity, the Pavilion displayed not only needlework, corsets, and household items, but new inventions such as emergency flares, model interlocking bricks, and a patent land pulverizer. Mrs. Gillespie was adamant in her insistence that every item in the Pavilion be the work of women. Only the structure itself was designed by Schwarzmann, a woman architect from Boston having applied too late for consideration.

A popular attraction was Emma Allison who, dressed in formal attire, tended a steam engine, which in turn powered several other machines in the pavilion, including a printing press, which was used to publish The New Century for Women, the official voice of the Women’s Centennial Committee. To visitors who worried about her safety, Miss Allison replied that tending the steam engine was less tiring and dangerous than working over a kitchen stove.

Other views of Women's Pavilion:

Mrs. Gillespie was careful not to align herself too closely with what was considered the radical element in the women’s movement at the time. Women’s suffrage was not mentioned, and no attempt was made to identify with the demonstration led by Susan B. Anthony on July 4 at the Independence Hall ceremonies. In a final insult, Women’s Day at the Centennial was celebrated on November 7, Election Day because, it was argued, men would be at the polls and would not mind missing this event.

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2001 Free Library of Philadelphia