By Lisa Foster, Ruth Caswell, Sheryll Ruecker, and Kristin Patterson.
Defining moments appear at unexpected times in our lives. The idea for Women Exhibitors (WE) came, appropriately, after an American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors meeting. Several women were in attendance at the meeting, and all had a voice in the discussion, influencing the decisions that were made. It was a unique hour in philately, and it was the basis for a eureka moment for Ruth Caswell: There should be an organization dedicated to women exhibitors. Ruth Caswell approached Barbara Harrison and Elizabeth Hisey to ascertain whether the idea had merit. The three agreed that there is a need for an organization that would help empower women exhibitors and improve their exhibiting experience. Thus WE was born.
In February 2007, thirteen women exhibitors, imbued with purpose, held a meeting at AmeriStamp Expo in Riverside, California. Prominent philatelists Cheryl Ganz, Vesma Grinfelds, Janet Klug, Pat Stilwell-Walker, Denise Stotts, Ann Triggle, and others sat at the table with the three organizers. All felt that a group dedicated to issues of women exhibitors was necessary. They formed an association which they called Women Exhibitors. Within a few minutes, the group wrote their mission statement: “to provide a vehicle through which women exhibitors can encourage each other through sharing information, ideas, experience, advice, problems and solutions.” They planned to hold meetings twice a year, at the APS summer and winter shows. By consensus, leaders for the coming year were chosen and other necessary tasks were assigned.
The monthly newsletter, WE Expressions, established in October 2007, encouraged members to answer questions on a monthly topic and share ideas. Satellite meetings were held at stamp shows around the country, encouraging more women to join. By June 2007, there were over 50 members.
The WE Sterling Achievement Award.
WE became APS Affiliate #230 in May 2007. In June, the first stamp show exclusively for Women Exhibitors was held in Walnut Creek, CA. COALPEX 2008 filled 40 frames of exhibits, all by WE members. WE accepted its first male members the same month, with membership reaching 95.
The Sterling Achievement award, sponsored by WE, was created to encourage newer exhibitors. Featuring an engraved image of the Penny Black stamp, it was first awarded at APS StampShow 2008. It is awarded to an exhibit winning silver or below which shows notable accomplishment in treatment. The recipient does not have to be a WE member nor a woman.
The first Festival for Philatelic Women, shortened to WE Fest, was held at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, PA on May 28–30, 2009. The Festival was a resounding success and paved the way for more WE Fests.
The Fests combine serious philately with collegiality. They are held in conjunction with major stamp shows throughout the United States, and have a day or two of seminars followed by participation in the show. A popular seminar, You Be The Judge, allows participants to learn best practices from a philatelic judge, before judging approximately ten exhibits on the floor. A follow-up seminar is held after the ribbons are posted, at which time participants compare their judging results with those of the show judges. You Be The Judge remains so popular that the seminar is held every few years.
The first WE Fest, Festival for Philatelic Women, was held at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte PA in 2009.
BACK ROW: Kurt & Joann Lenz, Sandy Strazalkowski, Linda Cox, Nancy Swan, Pat Walker, Kathryn Johnson, Ruth Caswell, Virginia Eisenstein, Harry Winter, Marge & Jim Faber, Kristin Patterson, Nancy Clark, Ann Triggle, Anne Harris, Janet Klug, Lois McGuinness, Betty Nettles.
MIDDLE ROW: Ken Martin, Jane Childs, Marj Sente, Suzanne Haney, Liz Hisey, Sue Dempsey, Vera Felts, Dottie Winter, David Eeles, Betsey Carter, Barb Harrison, Maria Rodriguez, Diana Sadler.
FRONT ROW: Shane Guyer, Dana Guyer, Charles Verge, Miriam Weisz, Denise Stotts, Hillary Griffin, Cheryl Ganz, Cheryl Edgcomb, Ann Byerly, Missing: Bonnie Smith.
After 2010, Fests were held every other year. Each WE Fest has encouraged new collectors (both women and men) to experience the joys and challenges of exhibiting.
WE was created with the vision that knowledgeable women in philately would help those who wanted to learn. The women helping women continues to this day. Whether at stamp shows or the WE Fests, women get together to talk about the issues that are confront them in philately.
WE successfully took on the 40–80–120 frame challenge in its early years, encouraging members to get their ideas for exhibits into the frames. Once there, one member’s progress to higher levels is celebrated by all WE members. Progress from a novice exhibitor to a grand award is indeed reason to make merry. I recently overheard a comment at a national show awards banquet: “Look at all those women receiving awards.” Good for WE — Good for Philately!
WE members gather wherever there is an opportunity, sharing information and stories. WE has brought women into philately, into exhibiting, and into knowing they have a place in philately.
Ganz, Cheryl. “The History of American Women in Philately.” The American Philatelist (December 2009)
Editor's Note: The “Good for WE — Good for Philately! A Brief Women Exhibitors History” article was published in the March 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. We are bringing the archives of The American Philatelist to the Newsroom - stay tuned for more columns and articles from 2020, and read the full March issue here. Happy Women's History Month!