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Several Months After Flood, Hall of Fame Museum Strives To Continue Celebrating Women From MI

Wall of photos and biographies of honorees within the Hall of Fame including Rosa Parks and Laura Freele Osborn
Courtesy Michigan Women Forward
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The organization, Michigan Women Forward, has managed the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and Historical Center since 2018.";

WKAR’s Sophia Saliby speaks with Meaghan Bergman about International Women’s Day and the work the Michigan Women's Historical Center Hall of Fame museum does to celebrate the achievements of women from Michigan. 

Meaghan Bergman runs the Michigan Women's Historical Center Hall of Fame museum in Lansing with the organization, Michigan Women Forward—a statewide foundation devoted to the economic and personal well-being of women and girls in the state.

Following a flood in early 2021 the museum closed but Bergman says, “because of the flood, the museum has gotten back on the radar.”

WKAR’s Sophia Saliby spoke with Bergman about International Women’s Day and the work her organization does to celebrate the achievements of women from Michigan.

Interview Highlights

On Any Michigan Women She Thinks People Should Know More About

I would love to talk about two amazing honorees of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2020. One is Najah Bazzy, who is the CEO of Zaman International, an organization that strives to support Michigan women and girls and families in general, predominantly in the Detroit area. And then I would like to talk about a historical honoree, Atlas Ruth Westbrook, who was a teacher in Michigan. I am a former educator, so that's one of my favorite things about her. But she was also, if you've seen the movie "Hidden Figures," she was one of those women that wrote the programming to get the men to the moon.

On Where Can People Can Learn More About Women’s History In Michigan

You can go to our website, miwf.org, and review the entire timeline of Michigan Women's Hall of Fame members, and learn for yourselves about the incredible women that come from Michigan and how proud we should be to be Michigan women. We are tough. And you're just reading through that list of women and we have pictures and, you know, it's a really nice website. You can read through and draw out your own toughness as you're reading it. It really is an incredible cohort.

On What’s Happened Since A Water Main Break Flooded The Museum In January

There was a lot of loss. It was a flood. But, I would really like to focus on the fact that because of the flood, the museum has gotten back on the radar. It's, you know, it's kind of a blessing in disguise. So, before the flood, nobody even remembered that we were around [and] that we were the first of its kind in the nation. And now, people are like, "Oh, there was a flood, maybe, you know, we should care."

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby.

Today is International Women’s Day. The global celebration marks the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also focuses on what can be done to achieve women's equality.

Meaghan Bergman runs the Michigan Women's Historical Center Hall of Fame museum in Lansing with the organization, Michigan Women Forward. The statewide foundation is devoted to the economic and personal well-being of women and girls in the state.

She joins me now. Thank you for being here.

Meaghan Bergman: Thank you for having me.

Saliby: What is your organization doing to celebrate International Women's Day, today, as well as March which is Women's History Month?

Bergman: You know, we have an International Women's Day campaign going on right now at Michigan Women Forward. You can honor a woman who you admire and send us a picture and a short little description, and we will put that on our website. And of course, in order to get that on the website, you can donate whatever amount to Michigan Women Forward and so many other things.

Saliby: Are there any Michigan women trailblazers you think people should know more about?

Bergman: You know, I would love to talk about two amazing honorees of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2020. One is Najah Bazzy, who is the CEO of Zaman International, an organization that strives to support Michigan women and girls and families in general, predominantly in the Detroit area.

And then I would like to talk about a historical honoree, Atlas Ruth Westbrook, who was a teacher in Michigan. I am a former educator, so that's one of my favorite things about her. But she was also, if you've seen the movie "Hidden Figures," she was one of those women that wrote the programming to get the men to the moon.

Saliby: Are there any that you think are especially worth celebrating this year, as we're marking a year of this pandemic?

Bergman: Of course, I mean, you know, there are women who have created vaccines. For example, in Michigan, it was a group of women that created the whooping cough vaccine, for example.

And you can go to our website, miwf.org, and review the entire timeline of Michigan Women's Hall of Fame members and learn for yourselves about the incredible women that come from Michigan and how proud we should be to be Michigan women.

We are tough. And you're just reading through that list of women and we have pictures and, you know, it's a really nice website. You can read through and draw out your own toughness as you're reading it. It really is an incredible cohort. And it makes me proud every day to wake up and be like, yeah, I'm a Michigander, you know, and I'm a woman and here I am.

Saliby: I understand some artifacts in the Lansing museum were damaged after a water main break caused flooding in the building in January. Can you tell me more about what was lost?

Bergman: I've been grappling with this question. What was lost? Yeah, so artifacts are damaged. Paintings [and] art by Michigan artists are damaged. Traveling exhibits that we use for revenue are damaged. Of course, there's a lot of damage. There was a lot of loss. It was a flood.

But I would really like to focus on the fact that because of the flood, the museum has gotten back on the radar. It's, you know, it's kind of a blessing in disguise. So, before the flood, nobody even remembered that we were around [and] that we were the first of its kind in the nation. And now, people are like, "Oh, there was a flood, maybe, you know, we should care."

And it's relieving to be honest with you, honestly, you know, it's been a crazy couple of months [and a] crazy year with COVID. I just started this job [in] January of 2020. I was so excited. This was a dream job of mine and....COVID. And then I thought, 2021 was going to be wonderful, and then January 6 [and] the flood happened.

But a couple months later and thinking about that question [of] what was lost, I am now at the place where I can say, no, this is good. We're back on the radar. We're back on the map.

Saliby: So, what is the future of the museum in light of both the flooding and the pandemic?

Bergman: The future of the museum and Hall of Fame is going to be determined by our community. Is this something we want to continue to support? Is this something we want to see, you know, stick around for another 40 years? And I am confident that we're going to choose to invest in the future of "HERstory."

Saliby: Is there anything you would recommend our listeners do to celebrate International Women's Day today?

Bergman: Well, of course, I think you should go to our website again, miwf.org. And tell us about an incredible woman that you know, please tell us, send us a picture, send us a little paragraph and donate. We will get that up on the website, and that woman will live in "HERstory," live in history, if you will, on our website.

Saliby: Meaghan Bergman is the program manager for the Hall of Fame museum with Michigan Women Forward. Thank you for joining me.

Bergman: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you for allowing me to get our message out there.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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