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'Wonder Women:' Remarkable Fairfield women spotlighted at museum exhibit

Published 10:44 am, Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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  • Margaret Rudkin. a founder of Pepperidge Farm, started the company to produce bread that would not aggravate her son's allergies. She is one of the women highlighted in the "Wonder Women of Fairfield" exhibit at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen

    Margaret Rudkin. a founder of Pepperidge Farm, started the company to produce bread that would not aggravate her son's allergies. She is one of the women highlighted in the "Wonder Women of Fairfield" exhibit at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

    Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Fascinating women from Fairfield, including the first to get a helicopter license, the woman who donated Jennings Beach to the town, and the founder of Pepperidge Farm, will be highlighted in a new exhibit, "Wonder Women of Fairfield," at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, 350 Beach Road.

The exhibition opens Thursday and will be on view through April 28.

The exhibit will provide a look into the lives and the efforts of several Fairfield women and their achievements through portraits, biographical information, objects and documents. Among the fascinating women from Fairfield highlighted in the exhibition are:

Margaret Rudkin, the founder of Pepperidge Farm. Looking for natural bread that would not aggravate her son's allergies, Rudkin started baking and selling her bread out of her Fairfield home in the late 1930s. The business quickly grew into one of the country's largest baking companies.

Ann Shaw Carter, a pilot and the first woman to obtain a helicopter pilot's license and fly a commercial helicopter in the U.S. Using the money she saved up working in a Bridgeport factory during World War II as part of the war effort, she took aviation lessons and trained as part of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots in 1944.

Annie B. Jennings, a philanthropist. Born into wealth, Jennings became a pillar of Fairfield's community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dedicated to preserving history, she helped form both the Fairfield Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also donated the land that became Jennings Beach, land for the Birdcraft Sanctuary, and a building for the first high school, and opened the extensive gardens at her Fairfield estate to the public during her lifetime.

Mabel Osgood Wright, a naturalist and a writer. She published books for children and adults illustrated with her own photographs. She founded the Connecticut Audubon Society and was the editor of Bird-Lore magazine for the national Audubon Society. The Birdcraft Sanctuary she created in Fairfield was the first preserve of its kind, attracting thousands of visitors.

Several special programs and events are planned throughout the duration of the "Wonder Women of Fairfield," exhibition. They include:

The Wonder Women of Fairfield Museum After Dark from 6 to 8 p.m. on opening night, Thursday. The evening will be hosted by Irene Chang Britt, president of Pepperidge Farm, and will include a talk by Britt, an opportunity to preview the exhibit, and wine and cheese. Britt's career has included executive positions with Kraft Foods, Nabisco and Kimberly-Clark. She joined Campbell Soup Co. in 2005 and was named Pepperidge Farm president in 2012. The cost for the event is $10, $5 for members. Reservations are requested by calling 203-259-1598.

A session in the Adult Lecture Series, "The Personal is Political: Women's Activism in the 1960s," will be given by Dr. Elizabeth Hohl, a professor of history at Fairfield University, on Sunday, March 2, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. The lecture, sponsored with the League of Women Voters and Fairfield University, will discuss the depth and range of women's grass-roots activism. Hohl teaches courses on feminism and women's activism throughout history.

A Mother/Daughter Tea to share some quality time, a cup of tea and a talk on the health benefits and history of tea by Betty Johnson, of Bigelow Tea, is planned for Sunday, March 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. The cost is $10, $5 for members. Register by calling 203-259-1598.

Lunch & Lecture: the Wonder Women of Connecticut, with Bambi Mroz, senior manager of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, will take place on Thursday, March 20, from noon to 2 p.m. Mroz's presentation will offer a panoramic view of the Hall of Fame's inductees. The cost of the event, which is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, is $20 per person, including lunch. Reply by March 17 by calling 203-259-1598.

For more information on the exhibit or any of the events at the museum, visit www.fairfieldhistory.org or call 203-259-1598. The museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors, free for members and children. Admission to the museum is free Mondays and Tuesdays.