Town On Fire 2021

Welcome to Town On Fire 2021, an exploration of Hoosier and Muncie women’s history during the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras (1870-1900 and 1900-1929 CE).

In Fall 2020, students from Ball State University's Department of History celebrated the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment (1920) to the American Constitution by investigating the lives of six women who lived during the long campaign for woman suffrage. Working in teams, students from HIST 200-02 Introduction to History and Historical Methods created six short documentary videos. Archival sources provided indications of their life events and scholarly secondary sources contextualized those experiences amid the country's great changes. The results were surprising and exciting, leading to conference presentations and a second exhibit.

This year the Town On Fire exhibit returns to Gas Boom Muncie and its aftermath (1870-1920 CE) to investigate six working women. Their biographies highlight the different types of work that women participated in, from physically demanding labor to elite cultural skills and socially impactful leadership roles. With the discovery of natural gas in the late 1880s and the construction of many new factories in the 1890s, Muncie's population grew and diversified. The six women profiled in this second exhibit reveal the city's increasing racial, religious, and class differences. Where Robert and Helen Lynd, the authors of Middletown: A Study in American Culture (1929), described a relatively homogenous small city, this exhibit sees evidence of prosperity that did not require uniformity. Muncie's long history of active women and varied work environments reminds us that strength is found in difference.

Feel free to move through the exhibition in order or explore at your own pace. 

Click “Introduction” to begin. 

This project was made in collaboration with the Delaware County Historical Society in Muncie, Indiana; the Ball State University History Department; the Ball State University Libraries; and the Notable Women of Muncie and Delaware County Project. 

Banner Image Caption: Logo by Lacey Back Lantz, Notable Women of Muncie and Delaware County (2021). 

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