Women of Steel: The BMI's First-Ever Outdoor Exhibition

The BMI’s first-ever outdoor exhibition featured women at work at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point plant.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry opened this exhibition outside of the museum to allow for social distancing and open-air exploration during COVID-19. The exhibition, titled Women of Steel, hung on the museum’s fence along Key Highway in South Baltimore and was free of charge to view. This was the BMI’s first outdoor exhibition.

Hear the voices of Women of Steel in the audio companion to the outdoor exhibition. Featuring oral history excerpts from the Mill Stories documentary as well as a recording of the exhibition script, this audio guide is accessible from your mobile device on-site or from the comfort of your own home.

Women of Steel highlights the stories of women who worked at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore from the 1930s until the mill closed in 2012. In many cases, women endured discrimination, sexual harassment, and childcare challenges. They made choices and sacrifices as they weighed risks and rewards in search of camaraderie, respect, and a livable wage. The exhibition features photographs and first-person quotes from the women themselves.

“Planning for this exhibition was well underway when the pandemic hit, and we realized that it would be a long while before people could gather inside to view this remarkable project. We decided to move it outside where visitors would feel comfortable,” says Anita Kassof, the Executive Director of the BMI. “It’s also a free exhibition, so visitors can enjoy it regardless of income, as we know a lot of Marylanders are facing many challenges in the wake of the pandemic.”

The Women of Steel exhibition was made possible through gifts from Tradepoint Atlantic, PNC Bank, Robert Patterson, The Macht Fund of the Associated, and the Alvin & Louise Myerberg Family Foundation. Thanks to our lenders Bill Barry, Jennifer Bishop, and Dena Whitener. Special thanks to Deborah Rudacille, Mark Reutter, Bill Barry, Karen Olson, Michelle Stefano, and Bill Shewbridge, whose research provided the source material for the quotes featured in the exhibition.


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