Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Women of Wednesday: The Strong

When I was a kid, I had lots of unstructured time, and I had no problem filling it to the max with all sorts of imaginative play. I don't think that happens as much as it once did. During my teaching career -- and this is just anecdotal -- I saw my students so over-committed, I wondered if they ever had time to just play. They were so busy with formal lessons and team sports and other team activities -- usually organized by parents.

As I was searching for something else, I happened upon The Strong. The Strong bills itself as an interactive, collections-based institution dedicated to the idea of Play.

Even the building looks fun:

The Strong is named for Margaret Woodbury Strong. Margaret led an amazingly privileged life:

'Thanks to her parent’s passion for traveling, Margaret saw more of the world by age 11 than many people do in a lifetime. On one six-month trip, she visited the beaches of Hawaii, played with dolls in a Japanese teahouse, rode an elephant in Ceylon, and toured the waterfronts of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Canton. As an adult reflecting on her travels, she noted, “I was allowed to carry a small bag to put my dolls and toys in, and to add anything I acquired on the trips. Consequently, my fondness for small objects grew.” The Woodburys also spent considerable time visiting museums and attending the theater. In short, they made the world both Margaret’s classroom and her playground.

An active child, Margaret enjoyed numerous athletic endeavors and later became an accomplished bowler and golfer. She also followed the social schedule dictated by the period and class to which she belonged. A comprehensive round of teas, dinners, and dances filled her calendar, and she faithfully catalogued mementos from these occasions in scrapbooks. She also pursued photography and received tutoring in languages, history, music, and art."

Margaret was quite accomplished. She won major awards for her golf game and for flower arranging. The latter even netted her an invitation to exhibit her flower-arranging skills at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

Her real passion was, however, collecting. Margaret was keen and passionate about it as only true collectors are.

"Margaret’s collecting interests ranged so wide and her methods assumed such aggressive proportions that by the late 1960s, she had amassed more than 27,000 dolls and a seemingly endless number of middle-class American household objects spread over more than 50 categories. The vast majority of her collections, however, related in some way to play, and she earned a particular reputation for her outstanding collection of dolls and toys"

She began to think of her collection as more of a museum and added two wings that were more like galleries to her already-huge 30 room home in Rochester, NY. She thought of her home and collection as The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination.

Margaret died at age 72 in 1969. She left behind her collections and a financial legacy that has resulted in The Strong. The museum opened to the public in 1982, and now encompasses The National Museum of Play, The National Toy Hall of Fame, and others.

For her contribution to the world of Play, today The Write Sisters salute Margaret Woodbury Strong.

You can read more at The Strong.


Mur said...

Road trip?

I'm Jet . . . said...

Sounds so cool, doesn't it? We could do the Suffrage tour while we're at it.

That would be so much fun!


Sally said...

What fun! We should plan now for next fall, or we'll never find a time we can all go . . .

Andrea Murphy said...

Diane, Kathy and I stopped there on our way to Chautauqua a few years back. It was terrific. I could do a late August road trip.