History Cafe: “You Have to Start a Thing”: Early Women in NC Governance
October 19 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
In 1894, Asheville became the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement in North Carolina when Helen Morris Lewis formed the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina, the first of its kind in the state.
In this talk, Catherine Amos and Katherine Cutshall will explore how Helen Morris Lewis, Lillian Exum Clement Stafford, and Leah Arcouet Chiles could all be viewed as iterations of an emerging figure that was emblematic of this zeitgeist of women’s advancement–The New Woman. These women were elected to public offices that previously had been exclusively held by men, before most of the women had even obtained the right to vote. Their political and public success did not exist in a vacuum, however.
Through the lens of so-called “New Women” like Helen Morris Lewis, Lillian Exum Clement, and Leah Arcouet Chiles, Amos and Cutshall will explore the idea of Asheville and Buncombe County as an environment that produced progressive and professional women, and the suffrage movement in North Carolina.
Catherine Amos is a local historian and UNC Asheville alumna, class of 2017. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in history with a focus on women & gender identity in early 20th-century Germany, she joined the Biltmore Company as a Historic Interpreter. Catherine has been working in the field of public history since 2014, with four and a half years of experience as a Historic Interpreter, both at Vance Birthplace State Historic Site and the Biltmore Estate. Her background includes internship work with the Department of Historic Preservation and Collections at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, UNC Asheville’s Center for Diversity Education, and Biltmore’s Museum Services team.
Katherine Calhoun Cutshall is a proud alumnus of UNC Asheville where she earned her BA in History (2016) and an MA in Liberal Arts and Sciences (2019). Katherine began her career in local history at the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site researching the lives of enslaved people of Buncombe County, and has served on the African American Heritage Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County, and as the Assistant Director of the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center. Today, she is the collections manager and lead archivist of the North Carolina Collection at Pack Memorial Library. Her research interests include the enslaved people and women of Buncombe County and the long term history and effects of tourism on the local economy.
About History Cafe
Ever wonder how Asheville came to get its drinking water from Black Mountain? What slavery looked like in western North Carolina (Yes, there were enslaved people here.)? How wagons, stagecoaches, and trains made it up the steep grade from Old Fort into Ridgecrest? Come to the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center one monday a month at 10:30am for a discussion about local history. Come start off your morning getting to know our region a little better!
Cost: $5 for museum members and students with ID. Nonmembers may pay $10 in advance online or at the door. Coffee will be provided.
Designed for adults and modeled after the popular Science Cafes taking place across the nation, Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s monthly History Cafe offers lectures and workshops led by local experts and researchers on regional history topics. These hour-long meet-ups engage the many stories that have shaped our southern Appalachian community as a place — from geological changes to native histories, musical innovations, pioneer experiences, and labor struggles — and will end with informal discussion bringing our shared history into context with contemporary issues.