OC Museum Exhibit Celebrates Pioneer Women

OC Museum Exhibit Celebrates Pioneer Women
Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum Assistant Curator Christine Okerblom is pictured with a couple items from the new exhibit. Photo by Bethany Hooper

OCEAN CITY – A new exhibit featuring the resort’s pioneering women is now on display at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum.

On June 20, the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum opened its newest exhibit, “A Feminine Touch: The Women of Ocean City,” which shares the stories of women who have had a hand in shaping the resort throughout the 1800s and 1900s.

“We decided to do this exhibit in timing with the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote,” Assistant Curator Christine Okerblom said. “This exhibit will be up for at least three years.”

Located on the second floor of the museum, the changing exhibit features informational displays, photographs, guest books, rate cards and clothing highlighting the influential women of hotel, motel and restaurant industry in Ocean City.

“This helps explain and identify the people that are responsible for making Ocean City what it is today,” Okerblom said. “It provides a spotlight for the women who were moving forward in the hotel, motel and restaurant scene. It explains Ocean City’s start and provides an explanation as to the people behind our success and our beginnings.”

Okerblom said the exhibit starts out with the story of Zipporah “Zippy” Lewis, one of Ocean City’s first female entrepreneurs. In the 1850s, she made a living finding and selling shipwreck items.

The exhibit also features the “Petticoat Regime,” which spotlights women who owned and operated some of the resort’s first hotels, as well the “Steel Magnolias,” a group of female hoteliers – including Thelma Conner, Dorothy Taylor and Ann Showell – honored by the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association for being some of the most successful business owners of the 1980s.

“I think we have a really colorful history,” Okerblom said, “and it does make Ocean City unique, to know that much of the tourism and development started because of women.”

The exhibit also features local women in uniform and those who served the resort community with acts of courage. Okerblom said her favorite part of the museum was the display of Naomi Workman, a local switchboard operator who remained on duty for 15 hours to keep lines of communication going during a winter storm on Feb. 4, 1920. She received the Theodore Newton Vail Bronze Medal for her bravery.

“She is a great representation of perseverance and stepping in when the community needed her,” she said.

Okerblom noted that most exhibit items are on display for the first time in the museum’s history.

The exhibit also features lesser-known facts about Ocean City. For example, the resort was once known as “The Ladies’ Resort to the Ocean.”

“Before Ocean City had its name, it was just an island,” Okerblom said. “They were coming up with names for this location and this was the one that came up. It had the potential to be the title of the whole city.”

The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Okerblom encouraged anyone to visit the museum and tour the exhibit.

“I think that it is for everyone to see,” she said. “We hope this is inspiring to not only women, but families and men and women of all ages. It shows entrepreneurship, it shows leadership, perseverance and it’s open for anyone who is looking for a source of inspiration.”

For more information on the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum or any of its exhibits, visit ocmuseum.org.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.