Museum shares stories online of Illinois women who made history

Chronicle Media

Mary Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones

The Illinois State Museum announced the launch of its “In Her Footsteps Series”  running monthly through June. Each program in the series will occur online on the fourth Tuesday of the month.

The series will feature Illinois women and their contributions to history, culture, and society. Its aim is to encourage Illinoisans to learn more about women’s history in their region and perhaps travel, virtually or in person, to learn more about their stories.

“The ‘In Her Footsteps Series’ is a chance for the Illinois State Museum to tell stories of women who called Illinois home,” said Museum Director of Interpretation Jennifer Edginton. “We’re focusing on women whom you may have heard of before, but not sure how exactly you heard of them. We’re telling diverse stories that bring to life the dynamic history of Illinois.”

Additionally, the museum will include each of these women and other female historical figures on its new “In Her Footsteps Illinois Women’s History Trail” website scheduled to launch in May.

The website will pinpoint locations across the state connected to women who have contributed to Illinois history. It will summarize each woman’s story and provide information on historic sites and markers that the public can visit.

Featured women in the “In Her Footsteps Series” include:

The Radium Girls of Ottawa

Tuesday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m.

The young women who worked at the Radium Dial Company in the 1920s were told the radium they were using to paint clock faces was harmless. Encouraged to use their lips to give their brushes a fine point, these women contracted radiation poisoning, and their health suffered terribly. ISM curator of history Erika Holst will discuss the fascinating and tragic tale of the brave factory workers whose quest for justice forever changed the United States labor laws.

Mother Jones

Tuesday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Mary Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones, overcame great adversity in her life to fight for the rights of the working class. An Irish immigrant who suffered the tragic loss of her family and business, Jones organized strikes and demonstrations across the country and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Eventually, she became known as “the most dangerous woman in America.”

Ida B. Wells

Tuesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett gained national recognition for her journalistic investigations of lynching in the American south. She eventually moved to Chicago due to increasing threats and the eventual destruction of her newspaper, the Free Speech. In Chicago, she continued her activism despite racial and sexist prejudice, working with others to found many civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). ISM Director of Interpretation Jennifer Edginton will discuss Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s life as an investigative journalist, civil rights activist, and suffragist.

For registration information, visit