Ewy and Mattie in Maine

Contributed by Deborah Staber

The L.C.Bates Museum is a natural history and cultural museum in rural inland central Maine. Its mission is to inspire wonder and learning through sharing its exhibits and collections and offering unique programs for our regional economically challenged schools and families. The museum is a program of Good Will-Hinckley that also has programs that serve at-risk children and a charter school, the Maine Academy of Natural Science. We used the matchbox car project with family visitors, for special Ewy Rosquist Saturday events, school students and children from campus.

We wanted to do the well recommended program with diverse toys and objects, but also, because we are a natural close up of a mounted collection of orange and brown butterflieshistory museum, decided to tell and illustrate a story of a woman entomologist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mattie Wadsworth was a very knowledgeable collector and well documented her collections. Her collections are in our museum, the Smithsonian and a large Natural History museum in Philadelphia. She did most of her collecting on her 146 acre farm in Manchester, Maine. She did find a type specimen, the first recorded of its kind. But, she did not receive fair recognition for her work. Recently, some of her collections have been used for research. Her story tells of her issues with not receiving support for her work. We found this story, told when looking at her collections was a good lead into Ewy’s story of change and illustrated the need for change in the public and girls view of the roles woman play.

Students learn how these insects Mattie collected many years ago are valuable and used for research today. They learn how professional entomologists today respect her work and have used it for research. DNA from her collected specimens is supporting environmental stewardship work today. We do ask some girls if they would like to explore science careers as part of the program.

With support from The National Girls Collaborative Project, Mercedes-Benz, and Mattel, we held three special public family Saturday events and February school vacation events that worked to tell Mattie’s and Ewy’s stories to confront gender stereotypes and encourage participating girls to feel empowered. We tried to discuss the past and present and what has changed or is the same. Another goal was also to introduce the participants to women in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning and women who have worked in the field of Natural Science.

On the special event days and for many drop-in visitors, we also had Earth and Space and Maine Animals activities including NISE Kits, museum science scavenger hunts, watercolors to draw animals, an open space for experimenting with racing the cars and of course the museum exhibits available to work together to enhance and encourage science learning for girls. The car experiences and story was a highlight of the girls’ visits. Making the cars race across the floor was fun no matter who won.

Programs we did with school classes were appreciated by teachers because they were working during February to group of students sitting on the floor, holding a matchbox car package up to their facesbuild understanding of women’s’ role in society. A museum educator and volunteer took the program to four 2nd grade classrooms and two 5th grades as part of a science series of activities that included understanding of the importance of everyone’s work in the STEM fields. The educator said she did not have any students who knew what empowerment meant. By the end they were very excited for the woman and shocked to hear how limited she was in her life by society. This was true of most of our museum program participants too.

We did the program for many including at-risk youth. Part of our goal was to let those with special issues feel they could accomplish their personal goals regardless of their gender or issues. Doing the activity for these children was most rewarding for the staff and volunteers.

We thank the National Girls Collaborative Project for support, cars and materials that made this worthwhile project possible. But we also strongly thank them for sharing Ewy’s story, so we could share it with young girls in our rural community. The museum will build on this experience to develop more learning experiences that address gender issues and support girls’ possible future roles in science.

Deborah Staber is the L.C.Bates Museum Director. She is devoted to the museum mission of sharing its collections and resources to inspire wonder and learning. With the support of volunteers, museum educators, teachers and parents, Deborah managed the project activities and enjoyed seeing the girls engaged and excited about the project events. All children liked receiving Ewy’s special car to pretend to race and to take home

NGCP's partnership with Mercedes-Benz USA is tackling the issue of gender stereotypes and showing young girls they can aspire to be and do anything they desire. #GirlsHaveNoLimits. Via NGCP mini-grants, thousands of girls have been gifted a die-cast Matchbox replica of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE commemorating Ewy Rosqvist's historic 1962 Argentinian Grand Prix performance. Learn more about this initiative.