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New exhibit opens – “In Her Shoes: The Women of Fort Nisqually”

May 7 – Sept. 10, 2016

A new exhibit at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum will open to the public with a visit from one of the 19th century ladies of the Fort, Letitia Work Huggins. “In Her Shoes: The Women of Fort Nisqually” opens May 7, with a formal presentation by Letitia at noon.

“This is a family-friendly exhibit exploring the heritage and lives of the girls and women at Fort Nisqually in the 1840s and 1850s,” said Exhibit Curator Chris Fiala Erlich. “It seems fitting to open the exhibit with a visit from Letitia.”


Letitia was the daughter of a Hudson’s Bay Company manager and the wife of Fort clerk and manager Edward Huggins. Her story is one of those featured in the exhibit. Her sewing machine and sewing box are two of the objects on display. Reenactor Dana Repp brings Letitia to life.  Repp has extensively researched Letitia’s life and portrayed her at the Tacoma Cemetery Tour. On May 7, she will give a short performance as Letitia at noon. She will then be accepting callers to the Factor’s House the rest of the day, while working on a needlework project.


“In Her Shoes” will be on display through September. Artifacts from the museum’s collection on display include objects made or used by the women of the Fort.  Footprints guide young visitors to uncover the biographies of historical women of the Fort from their childhood through adulthood. They visitors can see if period shoes fit and try their hand at women’s work such as planting peas, doing laundry, and sewing. For older visitors, the exhibit explores the challenges these women faced at mid-century as American settlers began arriving in large numbers. 


The women of Fort Nisqually were the wives and children of company men – the managers and laborers of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Nearly all of the women had mixed Native American and Euro-American heritage. The women labored for their families and for the Company. Some helped with farm chores and washed the laundry. Others hosted visiting dignitaries. 


“Historical documents and family histories were the main sources for gleaning the information we’ve included about these women,” said curator Claire Keller-Scholz. Men were the authors of most of the historical records, so the lives of their wives and daughters have to be reconstructed through what the men chose to write about. “It is sometimes challenging,” said Keller-Scholz.


Letitia’s visit is made possible through Crafts of the Past, which is sponsored by the Fort Nisqually Foundation and supported by a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission.


About the museum


Located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. Visitors experience daily life during the 1850s with the help of costumed interpreters. Seven restored and reconstructed 1850s buildings are open to the public, including two National Historic Landmarks. There is also a Visitor Center with Museum Store. The Fort is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma.


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