Sometimes, when we see something that exceeds our ability to easily describe it, we rely on a statement like, “If x and y had a baby, that would be it.” La Musée Rose, a nonprofit organization founded by Cat Bigley (Wellness coordinator at the Betsey Mills Club among other titles), Jenny Powers (Powers Research), and Jessica Wielitzka (Hidden Marietta) can perhaps best be described in this manner. If Hidden Marietta and MOV Red Tent had a baby, it would be La Musée Rose.
As noted on the museum’s Facebook page, and as the three founders emphatically and passionately explained, the mission of this organization is “to recreate moments in time that entwine past and present while using those experiences to educate residents and visitors of the Mid-Ohio Valley about the many women who drive our purpose.” What does that mean, exactly? What these three women hope to do is breathe life into the often-overlooked women who helped build the backbone of today’s community. The museum will strive to gather belongings of MOV’s historical matrons, but it will also offer visitors a glimpse into what life was truly like for these women. Wielitzka gave the example of a freed Black woman who lived in Marietta during the antebellum period of America’s history. “I wonder what it was like for her to look across the river and know that on that side, her people were still enslaved,” she said. Wielitzka then added, “We only know about her because someone else remembered her living there and wrote it down.” Capturing stories of women like that, every-day citizens who made the MOV thrive, is the fuel behind the Musée Rose concept.
The museum is the result of several different ideas that have started to gain strength in the MOV coming together. The first inspiration was the Marie Antoinette Ball, which was founded by Cat Bigley and which began as a way to pay tribute to the Queen of France, who was the inspiration for the name Marietta. The 2017 ball will be the fourth, and it will be expanded to three days instead of just one. The venue will be The Betsey Mills Club, which is full of women’s history on its own.
The second idea behind the new museum is MOV Red Tent. According to Cat Bigley, the Red Tent Movement has already begun to explode across the nation. Inspired by the book The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, The Red Tent Movement pulls on ancient traditions of women being “banned” during their menstrual cycles every month. Many ancient cultures, and some cultures still today, consider women who are menstruating to be unclean. Women would be forced to stay in a tent or a hut until their cycle was complete. The Red Tent Movement is based on the idea that as women became captives together, they also began to build their own sub-culture. The MOV Red Tent Summer Festival will focus on women learning skills ranging from mask-making to slackline Yoga to DIY home fixes. It is a get-away about women, for women, and the hope is that real connections will develop from simply being thrown together while engaging in fun activities.
The final piece of the story behind La Musée Rose is Hidden Marietta. Offering a multitude of tours, including some ghost tours, Hidden Marietta exceeds, as per the name, of bringing the hidden parts of Marietta’s history to the fore. That history can be in the form of ghosted signs on the signs of buildings or a deeper exploration of existing historical landmarks. Earlier in 2017 Wielitzka opened a Hidden Marietta shop in the haunted basement of The Lafayette Hotel, and there you can learn about Marietta’s history or create your own history with costumed photos.
Jenny Powers, the glue that binds the project together, has done land and family research in the area for over 15 years. She mentored Jessica Wielitzka in land title research. She brings a wealth of knowledge of the area’s families, and is adept at searching out the hidden or forgotten records needed to tell the historic woman’s story with accuracy. This triumvirate of women power, each with skills and specialties of their own, comes together to create a unique approach to the museum.
Ultimately, the objective is to create an actual geographic location where students locally and from around the nation can come to learn about the lives of every-day women. Where did they shop? How were the women of Marietta impacted by the Great Depression?
“We’ve made contact with and attended meetings with women who have worked with and curated exhibits for prestigious organizations like the Smithsonian,” Powers notes. “We’re also partnering with Non-Profit Leads and The Marietta Community Foundation. It’s exciting to think that we are going to uncover some of the forgotten women of our local history and learn and grow from telling their stories,” Powers continued.
The 2017 Marie Antoinette Masquerade Ball will coincide with Marietta Main Street’s First Friday, in November. The ball will be a fundraiser this year, helping to make that physical location of the museum a reality. The museum will officially launch August 3rd.
Tears came into the eyes of the museum founders as they discussed their vision for La Musée Rose. “The fact that little Marietta can be a Red Tent destination is so special,” said Bigley. The hope is that the Marie Antoinette Masquerade Ball will continue to grow every year, so that “the streets are filled with people in giant ball gowns and masks.” Creating a museum dedicated to the women of MOV’s past will be yet another distinguished and unique destination in Marietta, the first settlement in the Northwest Territory.
If you don’t want to wait until November to support this amazing organization, be sure to visit the museum’s Facebook page. A “donate” button is available if you can spare some money, or simply share the page if you want to help spread the word.