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Save the date—“Women’s Work: Campaigning for Social Change”


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote, Delaware’s 22nd annual Chautauqua tent shows—“Women’s Work: Campaigning for Social Change”—will be presented during two successive weeks in September 2020.

Photo of Pat Jordan as Mary Chapman Catt
Pat Jordan will portray suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt on Sept. 19, 2020.

The first week’s activities will take place from Noon to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10 and 11, at the Zwaanendael Museum located at 102 Kings Highway, in Lewes, Del. The second week’s activities will take place from 1 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19 and 20, on The Green located adjacent to the New Castle Court House Museum at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del. NOTE: This is the first time in the 22-year history of the state’s Chautauqua that events will be held in both New Castle and Lewes.

Activities will be held under a large tent at both venues and admission is free and open to the public. NOTE: In keeping with Gov. Carney’s guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, proper social distancing and other hygienic practices must be followed during all Chautauqua activities. As such, visitors are asked to bring their own lawn chairs as no seating will be provided. In the event of poor weather, activities may be cancelled and will not be rescheduled. For additional information, call the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148 or the New Castle Court House Museum at 302-323-4453.

“Women’s Work: Campaigning for Social Change” will demonstrate the passionate efforts of suffragists striving toward one goal—earning the right for women to vote and participate equally in the nation’s political, social and economic life. Through theatrical enactments by both individuals and groups, lectures and musical performances, Chautauqua guests will be immersed in the women’s suffrage movement and experience the impact that it had on Delaware and its people. Activities will be capped on Sept. 10, 11 and 19 with evening performances by actor-historians from the American Historical Theatre portraying, respectively, the noted suffragists Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt. Sept. 20 events will be capped with an evening concert by the Women’s Orchestra Project. A complete schedule of Chautauqua activities will be published in August.

Photo of Kim Hanley as Lucretia Mott
Kim Hanley will portray suffragist Lucretia Mott on Sept. 10, 2020.

Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (also known as Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.

Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors take on the personas of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a wide variety of historical figures including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Mark Twain; Woodrow Wilson; Teddy Roosevelt; Abraham Lincoln; Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Pvt. James Elbert, Maj. Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.

“Women’s Work: Campaigning for Social Change” is co-sponsored by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael and New Castle Court House museums, the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and the New Castle Historical Society. Partial funding is provided by a grant from Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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