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Women as homesteaders exhibit now at Hjemkomst Center through March 6

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A great deal of research has been compiled about the North Dakota men who made the lands their own through hard work and diligence, but very little was known about the independent women who homesteaded across the state and lived as neighbors alongside them.

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Starting in the 1870s, thousands of single, divorced, and widowed women in North Dakota took advantage of the government's offer of "free land" and filed claims in their own names.

These remarkable women of every ethnicity and background, some barely past their teens and some already in their 60s made their homes, worked the land, and raised families in an era and area that was not only difficult but dangerous.

To acknowledge these women and their accomplishments, the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County will have on display for a limited time "Land in Her Own Name," a traveling exhibit from the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The exhibit opens today (Wednesday) and will be on display at the Hjemkomst Center until March 6.

This exhibit presents the findings of Dr. H. Elaine Lindgren, a retired North Dakota State University sociology professor and author of "Land in Her Own Name," who researched the fascinating history of women homesteaders in North Dakota.

HCSCC Executive Director Dr. Maureen Kelly Jonason states, "Although created more than fifteen years ago, this exhibit's themes remain relevant today as younger women seek powerful role models from the past."

Prior to Lindgren's work, this topic had been relatively neglected, but thanks to her efforts, these women who triumphed on the Plains will have voices that will echo throughout history.

They persevered, working to build new communities, and thus became an integral part of North Dakota's rich heritage.

Along with her extenisve research, Lindgren was able to interview surviving women homesteaders for a personal look into what it was like for a woman to take the land in her own name.

From the ornate handwriting of letters and diaries and from the many photographs and lively stories of the survivors, a strong picture emerges of the women whose names we remember with the land. A presentation by Lindgren is being planned.

February will be a special month at the Hjemkomst Center museum. In addition to the opening of "Land in Her Own Name," "A Woman's Perspective on Ritual," a multimedia art exhibition, opened on Feb. 1.

This non-juried exhibit allows for both emerging and experienced artists to presents diverse works of various media.

In addition, "Prairie Daughters: the Art and Lives of Annie Stein and Orabel Thortvedt" explores the lives of two local female artists who preserved their family histories and made a name for themselves before there was an art scene of Fargo-Moorhead. This exhibit is funded in part by a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council through a Minnesota State Legislative appropriation.

Admission to see all three exhibits is included in the regular museum admission rate of $8 for adults, $7 for college students and senior citizens, and $6 for children over five.

The HCSCC collects, preserves, and presents the history and culture of Clay County and the region, and also provides interpretation of the Hjemkomst Viking Ship, Hopperstad Stave Church Replica, and hosts traveling exhibits in 7,000 square feet of temporary exhibition space at the Hjemkomst Center, located at 202 First Ave. N., Moorhead. Call 218-299-5511 for more information.

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