Forging Ahead with Women of Steel – an exhibit comes to life in the time of COVID

October 2020

Former Crane operator Addie Smith stands in front of the exhibit panel featuring her story of carrying her baby up into the crane for a shift when she was unable to find daycare.

Nicolette (left), daughter of Edie Papadakis (right) donates her mom’s hard hat to the museum. Edie worked at Bethlehem Steel for more than 30 years while raising three kids.

October 2020
October 2020

Alberta Buckson, one of the women featured in the Women of Steel exhibit, visits the BMI. She worked at Bethlehem Steel for 27 years as a First Class Welder. Her son (also pictured) worked at Bethlehem Steel for five years.

The BMI connects with several of the women, and the families of women, featured in the exhibition.
October 2020
September 2020

Women of Steel opens along the BMI’s Key Highway fence.

A virtual rendition of the exhibit goes live online here.
October 2020
May 2020

Women of Steel takes an inspirational turn and is re-imagined as an outdoor exhibit, free for all and viewable in a safe and accessible format.

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.
March 2020
February 2020

Rendition of Women of Steel inside the BMI’s temporary gallery – Danielle Nekimken.


The BMI exhibit team reviews first-person stories for inclusion in Women of Steel.

January 2020
December 2020
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.
November 2020
November 2020
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.

November 2020
October 2019
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.

Visit the BMI’s Connection Factory to connect with stories that show how education, exhibitions, and partnerships strengthen our community.

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