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New exhibit exploring Victorian women’s history now open

Victorian women weren’t allowed to vote, and in fact, they were often discouraged from attending public meetings, so they had to find creative ways to influence public policy and advance social causes. One method was organizing a charity bazaar, or “fancy fair,” which sold handicrafts and other items to raise money for a popular cause or other philanthropic endeavor.

Bazaars were widely popular in the nineteenth century. They could range in scope from a small fair to raise funds for repairing the roof of a local church to a huge, regional destination event featuring in-house restaurants, concerts, and dramatic productions. Middle and upper class women were highly involved in organizing and staffing these events, as well as contributing their handmade goods for sale.

The Library’s newest major exhibit, “Welcome to Our Charity Bazaar,” examines the Victorian charity bazaar, its place in nineteenth century society, and the rich literature which was produced for and about bazaar culture. The exhibit will be open through June 2018 in Special Collections’ main gallery.

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