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Sonya Green and a selection of gifts at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. The shop is divided into four different vignettes representing Beecher Stowe’s four areas of accomplishment.
omen’s museums and memorials strive to bring focus to the impact women have made in all walks of life. The merchandise sold at the museum gift shops reflect that mission and give visitors the opportunity to take home a reminder of what these groundbreaking women were all about.

While most people remember Harriet Beecher Stowe as the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, few realize that she was also an artist, activist and gardener. At the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn., visitors can witness this woman’s many contributions when they walk through her home and view the historical collections housed there. Apparel and accessory items available in the gift shop allow guests to combine a sense of fashion and fun with a sense of history.

“Our museum receives about 27,000 guests per year and most are women between the ages of 45 and 65,” said Shannon Burke, director of education and visitor services. “We get a great deal of foreign guests who have read her work. They come to learn about Harriet Beecher Stowe, and they love to bring home a fun remembrance of their visit. ”

The 850-square-foot gift shop, which grosses about $25,000 annually, is divided into four different vignettes representing the four areas of accomplishment of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Each section contains T-shirts, baseball caps and tote bags. The gardening section includes gardening hats and gloves as well.

A display of American Woman’s Home Collection merchandise at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Women who sew can buy Beecher Stowe-inspired fabrics at the shop to create their own accessories and apparel.

“The apparel with Harriet Beecher Stowe quotes is always most popular,” Burke noted. “When visitors come here, they are looking to know this woman, and our merchandise helps them do that.”

The museum store also carries a line of fabrics called The American Woman’s Home Collection that is inspired by Stowe’s home and some of its elements. The fabrics are sold by the yard, and have been used to make baby bibs and hats, tote bags, pillow shams, socks and stockings and placemats.

“The fabric lines are so unique and give our guests the chance to use their own ideas to create the perfect memory of their visit.”

As Director of Retail and Wholesale Operations at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., Lynda Marks has greeted visitors in the 700-square-foot store for more than nine years. The gift shop, which earns about $500,000 per year, carries a variety of apparel and accessory items including its most popular gray or black T-shirt that is printed with the museum’s name on the front and the signatures of women artists on the back.

“The T-shirts are the perfect fit for our guests, who are usually women between the ages of 45 and 75,” Marks explained. “They appeal to that wide demographic. We have young women buying them for themselves or grandmothers buying them for their granddaughters. They are universally liked.”

Also popular with the museum guests are the gift shop’s Hermes silk scarves, which have National Museum of Women in the Arts printed in the design. Displayed in a special case, the scarves sell for $395 and all proceeds from their sale is going to fund the 2012 exhibit “French Women Artists.”

“This is a wonderful place to learn about women and their influence in the world of art,” Marks said. “Women feel a great deal of pride when they visit us, and they want to take with them a symbol of that pride. The gift shop reflects the mission of the museum, and that is important to our visitors.”

The San Diego Women’s History Museum and Educational Center in San Diego, Calif., was founded by Mary B. Maschal and other women who were frustrated that women’s contributions were left out of mainstream versions of history. Office Manager Ginger Rosser helps with the small gift shop that offers a variety of apparel and accessory items, many of which are made by local women artists.

“The shop seeks to promote the work of women and local artists, and it carries hats, handbags, scarves, skirts and handmade jewelry, ” Rosser said, “but the most popular item is a T-shirt that is printed with the saying ‘Well behaved women rarely make history.’ ”

Kate Rounds photographed with a special plush collection at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

Rosser noted that the T-shirt is bought and worn by both men and women. The museum, which is trying to re-locate to a more visible area, takes its merchandise to fashion shows and fund raising events including its own wine, cheese and chocolate party.

“We are trying to grab a bigger audience, and we think that bringing our merchandise to other functions does help,” she explained. “When we can move to a better location, more people will take notice of us, and our visitor numbers will grow as well.”

Only opened for six months, the Florida Museum for Women Artists in Deland is promoting artists from Florida while highlighting the contributions women artists have already made to the region. The gift shop, which splits commission with artists, sells many handcrafted items including scarves, which range in price from $35 to $120.

“These are our best-selling apparel item,” said Executive Director Kathryn Peterson. “As we grow, we will stock more apparel, hats and accessories. We are looking to get our name out there and our mission known. We will continue to look for artists who have a unique vision.”

Retired Lt. Colonel Barbara Bavera serves as director of Support Services at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington, D.C. As part of her civilian duties, Bavera supervises the gift shop at the Memorial, which is located at the entrance of Arlington Cemetery.

“Our goal is to show people the impact women have had as part of the military,” Bavera explained. “People come to Arlington Cemetery and see the contributions of men, but they rarely see all that women have accomplished. This Memorial hopes to change that.”

Shannon Burke, director of education and visitor services at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. “The apparel with Harriet Beecher Stowe quotes is always most popular. When visitors come here, they are looking to know this woman, and our merchandise helps them do that,” Burke said

In the gift shop, Bavera stocks T-shirts and jackets bearing the name of the Women’s Memorial. She also carries generic hats, T-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts with Washington, D.C. or D.C. printed on them.

“We are still working on grabbing the interest of the visitors,” Bavera said. “To add to our revenue, we stock tourist items too. That helps attract people and once they come in, they are eager to see what we are all about.”

By Donna Cavanagh

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