Photo: Tradepoint Atlantic, Bethlehem Steel Collection. Baltimore Museum of Industry

Outdoor Exhibit Honors Female Bethlehem Steel Workers

The Baltimore Museum Industry (BMI) has a new exhibit on display at the southeast side of the harbor, and it’s designed with social distancing in mind.

Women of Steel is an outdoor exhibit dedicated to the female workers at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore from the 1930s until the mill closed in 2012. Those women “endured discrimination, sexual harassment, and childcare challenges. They made choices and sacrifices as they weighed risk and rewards in search of camaraderie, respect, and a livable wage,” as BMI describes it.

The exhibition features photographs and first-person quotes from the women themselves. It is BMI’s first outdoor exhibit, installed along the museum’s fence along Key Highway in South Baltimore. It allows for open-air exploration and soial distancing.

“Planning for this exhibition was well underway when the pandemic hit, and we realized that it would be a long while before people could gather inside to view this remarkable project. We decided to move it outside where visitors would feel comfortable,” says Anita Kassof, the executive director of the BMI. “It’s also a free exhibition, so visitors can enjoy it regardless of income, as we know a lot of Marylanders are facing many challenges in the wake of the pandemic.”

The exhibit opens Monday, October 12, the first day of BMI’s Week of Workers. In the coming weeks, the 1942 Bethlehem Steel Whirley crane will be lit up in red, white, and blue in honor of its service building Liberty ships during World War II.

On Thursday, the BMI will host a Zoom live-streamed performance featuring true stories from “invisible workersthose who toil far from the limelight.” Click here to watch the storytelling evening. You can see a virtual version of the Women of Steel exhibit here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano