The BMI connects with several of the women, and the families of women, featured in the exhibition.
COVID-19 restrictions are put in place in Maryland and Baltimore. The BMI is required to close the museum to keep visitors and staff safe, but that doesn’t stop it from moving forward with the new exhibition.
Themes emerge as research continues: good pay, dangerous work, harassment, fellowship, and childcare struggles. It’s decided that the Women of Steel exhibition will explore these themes by highlighting the experiences of a few women who worked at Bethlehem Steel and use their own words from existing oral histories in the BMI collection. A new search begins for images of these women and requests are sent out through social media, word of mouth, and online searches.
Community funds are secured to make and install the new exhibition, including gifts from Tradepoint Atlantic, PNC Bank, Robert Patterson, The Macht Fund of the Associated, and the Alvin & Louise Myerberg Family Foundation.
Consultants and volunteers are brought in to help create a quality experience for visitors, including graphic designer, Danielle Nekimken, labor historian Bill Barry, folklorist Michelle Stefano, community engagement consultant Deb Weiner, women’s studies professor Kate Drabinski, and photographer Jennifer Bishop. Additional research help comes from Dena Whitener, Deborah Rudacille, Mark Reutter, Karen Olson, and Bill Shewbridge.
Research begins by consulting books and films, talking to local historians, attending union meetings, reaching out to retired women steel workers or their descendants. Artifacts in the BMI collection are tagged for potential inclusion.
Women of Steel gets its start. A milestone and legacy project come together to give rise to Women of Steel: the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and the BMI’s Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project, a multi-year effort to preserve the stories of Baltimore’s steel workers.