A Publication of WTVP

On November 1, historic women of Peoria take the spotlight at The Peoria Historical Society’s first Salute to Women. The event combines a fashion show with a luncheon and special award, all of historic dimensions, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 400 NE Perry St.

The Salute to Women provides the backdrop for the first annual Guardian Award, which will be presented to a tri-county woman who’s made an outstanding contribution to preservation of local history. Nominations for the award were solicited last month.

The event also marks the release of the book Women of Peoria, 1620-1920 by local author Channy Lyons. The book highlights the stories of 40 women who lived in Peoria and influenced history here.

The book forms the basis for selection of historic women and their historic costuming, and recaps the facts of their lives. Commentator Rebekah Bourland will describe the relationship of a particular style to a woman’s life, as well as her activities in Peoria.

The fashion show that begins at 11 a.m. represents a step back in style, chronicling women’s apparel from buckskin to bustles and beyond. The models, Peoria women whose activities reflect the qualities of their forebearers, include Sharon Atteberry, Suzette Boulais, Heather Clevenger, Esther Cohen, Margee Farnum, Denise Heilman, Tracy Heuermann, Taunya Jenkins, Jane Shadid, Jill Scherer Vicary, Margaret Swain, Gail Thetford, Deborah Totten, Caitlin Weinstein, Christine Zak-Edmonds, and dancers from Illinois Ballet. Ann Marie Dunn is coordinating the creation of the historical costumes, and Gail Hay serves as stage director. Music from the period will be performed by the Central Illinois Youth Symphony quartet.

The luncheon, which follows at noon, features a menu drawn from historic references. In 1888, the Transcript Publishing Co. of Peoria published Gathered Crumbs, a cookbook filled with recipes by local women. Good Things to Eat, compiled by the Domestic Science Club of the Peoria Women’s Club, provided other useful references. Charlotte Russe, a popular dessert of the day, will be the centerpiece for the luncheon. The menu will also include pate in puff pastry, cranberry relish, rice salad with peas, pecans and orange zest, and chicken salad on English muffin. "A Matter of Taste" is catering the luncheon.

"We’ve made modifications because early recipes were so involved," said co-chair Amy Kelly. "The women must have cooked all day or had domestic help."

Ingredients have changed, she observed, with unsaturated fats and cooking oils replacing lard in our diets. Their menus also reflect seasonal availability. "Lettuce simply wasn’t to be had year-round, and refrigeration was an issue," she said.

Sponsorship of the award comes from Kenyon & Associates Inc. architectural firm. Event sponsors include Mrs. Thomas Foster and The Peoria Woman magazine.

Beyond the event, a Web site ( will allow elaboration of the lives of Peoria women. "We’ll be encouraging people to respond with stories from their own families," Lyons said.

She hopes to have the site fully developed following the event.

Another dimension involves the education of school children through a teaching unit being developed by recently retired District 150 teachers Alice Brophy and Linda Mullen. Those who interpret the lives of historical women will use some of the costumes for reenactments. Model Sharon Atteberry, for example, frequently portrays Civil War nurse Lizzie Aiken. Atteberry traveled to Gettysburg this past summer for the 140th anniversary of that battle. She’s also a Flanagan House volunteer and conducts teacher workshops and visits classrooms.

Native Americans, pioneers and early settlers, organizers and leaders, educators, healers, creative spirits, and activists all have their place in the book and on stage. The outgrowths of their efforts endure today. For example, Arminie Hardin, who was president of the Women’s Christian Home Mission, helped found the Home for the Friendless on Knoxville Avenue, which is now The Children’s Home. Nora Jane Houston’s Women’s Mutual Aid Club Community Center grew to be Carver Center. Lydia Moss Bradley left a tremendous legacy in Bradley University. Ardella Brown of the Peoria Equal Suffrage Association went on to national fame in the crusade for voting rights.

Come learn more about Peoria women, have fun, and enjoy lunch at the Salute to Women. Tickets for the style show cost $10, while tickets for the style show and luncheon cost $25.

For more information, call 674-1921. AA!