Learn about the women of Shelter Island’s Sylvester Manor

The Horsford Girls ca. 1872. Clockwise from top left: Mary, Kate, Gertrude, Cornelia, Lilian Horsford, taken in Cambridge Mass. Courtesy: New York University Files Library.

The voices of women are generally those most easily lost to history. Deeds, lawsuits and business interests are the documents of men and these are what often can be found in archives when one is doing historical research.

But this weekend, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm opens an intriguing exhibition that focuses on the particularly strong matriarchal lineage that dominated the property for centuries. 

“Women of the Manor: Portraits from Three Centuries,” is Sylvester Manor’s first in-house exhibition and it has been assembled by curator and archivist Donnamarie Barnes who found a treasure trove of documentation and imagery in the Manor house related to the women who lived there over the course of 300 years. The exhibition shares images and stories of several female Sylvester descendants, and also pays homage to the enslaved women who lived and worked in the house and on the grounds.

During a tour of the manor earlier this week, Ms. Barnes noted that the timing of the exhibition coincides the 100th anniversary of state voting rights for women. Based on the amount of documentation she has found in a relatively short time, she feels there are plenty of stories yet to be told about the women of the manor.

“Last summer I was doing an inventory project here. The material has never been categorized,” Ms. Barnes said. “There were papers and letters everywhere — and when I say everywhere, I’m not exaggerating.

The opening reception for “Women of the Manor: Portraits from Three Centuries” is Friday, June 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $65 online ($75 at the door). On Saturday, June 10 from noon to 3 p.m., Sylvester Manor offers guided tours of the exhibition. Tickets are $25. Online reservations recommended. For information, call (631) 749-0626 or visit sylvestermanor.org.

You can read more about this exhibit on the Shelter Island Reporter website.