The Order of the Eastern Star at the Chicago World’s Fair
August 06, 2020
On August 18th, 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Throughout August, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this momentous occasion, Museum staff will highlight items from our collection related to women’s fraternal groups. Many of these groups offered not only a place of community for women but also a place to organize. A number of these groups were actively involved in the suffrage movement and had members who championed women's equality. We first feature this recently donated photograph from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
On May 1st, 1893, thousands of visitors streamed into the newly opened Columbian World Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois. This exposition, commonly referred to as the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ (1451-1506) arrival in the Americas in 1492. Organizers built over 200 new structures and pavilions that spanned over 600 acres in the South Side of Chicago, including a “Woman’s Building,” designed by architect Sophia Hayden (1868-1953). The structure, created to showcase women artisans and highlight women’s achievements, was managed by an all-female board. A number of female associations were featured in the building, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Order of the Eastern Star, and Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association.
Board member Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), a women's activist and high-ranking member of the Order of the Eastern Star (OES), a Masonic women's auxiliary group, advocated for this Eastern Star exhibit (pictured at left) to be displayed in the Woman’s Building. The photograph shows various Eastern Star charts, signets, and banners from over nine of the organization's chapters in the Upper Midwest.
Pitkin also participated in the World’s Congress of Representative Women on behalf of OES. The Congress, a week-long conference managed and attended by women as part of the World's Fair, included a day of programming devoted to the Eastern Star on May 16, 1893. Sessions from that day included "The Value of the Eastern Star as a Factor in Giving Women a Knowledge of Legislative Matters" and "Eastern Star and the Benefit it Has Been to Women as an Educational Organization." Pitkin later served on the Board of Directors of the World's Fair Fraternal Building Association held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1902. This photograph will be featured in our upcoming Flickr album about women and fraternalism. Stay tuned!
Have a favorite item related to women's suffrage or fraternalism at the World's Fair? Let us know in the comments below!
May Wright Sewall, ed., The World's Congress of Representative Women... (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894), 68-72.
Maude Howe Elliott, ed., Art And Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893 (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1894), 180-185.