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Mahwah Women Make ‘Herstory’

Cathy Moran Hajo is the curator for the Mahwah Museum's exhibit on the changing roles of women in Mahwah's history.
Cathy Moran Hajo is the curator for the Mahwah Museum's exhibit on the changing roles of women in Mahwah's history. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson

MAHWAH, N.J. – When Cathy Moran Hajo saw the “Mahwah’s Who’s Who” display on a wall of the Mahwah Museum, she wondered, “How come there’s no women on there?”

That question spurred the research for one of the museum’s newest exhibits: “Mahwah’s Herstory; The Changing Roles of Women in Mahwah’s History.”

Women are often, “the glue that holds everybody together,” but they don’t always get put in the history books, said Hajo, curator of the exhibit and a history professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

The exhibit examines the roles of Mahwah women, starting with the township’s first settler, Blandina Bayard, in 1700, up until 1960. It highlights activities like pioneering and farming, changing workplace roles, and accomplishments in the arts, charities and social reforms.

“We tried to feature as many Mahwah women as we could,” said Hajo.

Those women include people like Bayard, who settled land in 1700 and built a house, that served as a trading post, on the Ramapo River, in what is now Mahwah, Clara Snow, who organized the Red Cross in Mahwah, and Alice Blache, a French filmmaker who died in Mahwah.

Also featured is Florence Halsey, who Hajo described as, ‘a modern-day woman in the early 20th century.’ Halsey was born in Mahwah, drove an ambulance, served as president of the New Jersey League of Women’s Voters in the 1920’s, and never married.

By looking into the census, Hajo and those who helped her, discovered Halsey, as well as women with more local jobs, like widows and teenage girls working in factories in the 1920’s.

Hajo said she hopes people walk away with “a little bit of an appreciation of what life was like” for Mahwah women throughout the years.

The museum is soliciting nominations for women to be featured on a digital display within the exhibit. The museum is asking people to send a photo and up of 75 words to honor the contributions of people like mothers, doctors and other role models.

To learn more, email women@mahwahmuseum.org.

The exhibit is scheduled to run through June. For more information visit mawhwahmuseum.org or call 201-512-0099.

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