The Trailblazers: 150 Years of Alachua County Women exhibit highlights the stories and accomplishments of eleven women from Alachua County. The women highlighted include Daphne Duval Williams, Sarah Hamilton Matheson, Dr. Sarah Lucretia Robb, Marjorie Harris Carr, Vivian Washington Filer, Judith Brown, Margaret Tebeau, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Clara Backus Floyd Gehan, Mary Etta Hancock Cubberly, and Emmaline Hardy Buchholz.
The exhibit has been open since last spring at the Matheson History Museum located in downtown Gainesville.
The Trailblazers exhibit was initially supposed to open March 24, 2020, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, where the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920. However, due to COVID-19, the Matheson closed March 17, 2020, and the museum did not reopen until April 2021.
Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney, the museum’s curator of collections, described the goal of the historical museum.
"Our mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Gainesville, Alachua County and the surrounding regions," she said.
Hof-Mahoney, said she hopes the Matheson will serve as a central hub for Gainesville’s history, both for locals and those brand new to town.
"We want this to be a place where people can see themselves and their community in the museum and always be a place where people feel welcome and want to learn," she said.
In the exhibit, text panels and photographs describe some of the eleven women's major accomplishments. Some of those accomplishments include Clara Floyd Gehan graduating from the University of Florida College of Law, Dr. Sarah Lucretia Robb being the first female physician in Alachua County and Sarah Hamilton Matheson being the founder and past president of the Alachua County Historical Society. There are also physical objects in the exhibit, such as a signed copy of one of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' books, a reproduction of one of Sarah Matheson’s passports and a painting by Emmaline Buchholz.
Aug. 14 was Kaylinn Escobar's, a public health sophomore at UF, first time at the Matheson History Museum. She originally came to see the McCarthy Moment: The Johns Committee in Florida exhibit and stumbled upon the Trailblazers exhibit during her visit.
Escobar mentioned the importance of what the Trailblazers exhibit stood for.
"It's actually very nice that they were able to get this information and make it accessible,” she said. “It made for a good experience."
She continued to reflect on the impacts of the women featured in the exhibit.
As a college student, it may not have been the community I was raised in,” she said. “Ultimately, women contributed to the community I live in now and have sort of the privilege to live in now."
Escobar also talked about how through this experience, she was able to "walk through time."
She noted the museum shows the environment these women were in and what shaped them. Escobar said she saw they would get married and that would determine what they did with their lives.
“Which sort of was an interesting experience because I would think that these women would be so independent, individualistic, but it actually made it a lot more interesting," she said.
Matheson's History Museum is open from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Trailblazers: 150 years of Alachua County Women does not have an official closing date yet, but it will be open for the rest of 2021. Admission is free to all of those who visit the museum.
Alexis Carson is a third-year journalism major and staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, she loves watching horror movies and going to concerts.