Lucy Burns Museum to open at Workhouse Arts Center

Press release | The Lucy Burns Museum opens to the public on Saturday, January 25, 2020, with a grand opening celebration scheduled for May 9, 2020.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment in 2020 the museum presents the story of the imprisonment of the 72 Suffragists at the Occoquan Workhouse in 1917 — and an event on these grounds that marked a turning point in the Women’s suffrage movement to secure voting rights for all women in the United States.

The Lucy Burns Museum will also honor 91 years of prison history on the site — the Workhouse Arts Center funded, designed, and renovated a new museum, restoring a decrepit prison building vacated in 2001. Where there had been only peeling lead-based paint, asbestos, and rusting cell bars, the renovation created a space that could accept professional exhibitions telling the national story of courageous women imprisoned at the Workhouse a century ago for demanding the right to vote. The sacrifices of these heroic suffragists will be honored at the opening of the new museum.

Containing more than 10,000 square feet, the museum will boast 4,000-plus square feet of exhibit space to include the 91 years of history at the District of Columbia’s Lorton Correctional Complex in addition to the suffrage story. The Workhouse is honored to be able to preserve history and provide history education related to its former identity as a prison which housed suffragists and civil rights protesters, launched the musical and broadcast careers of Chuck Brown and Petey Greene, and presented prison concerts with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington to name a few. Faded murals painted by prisoners during the 1970s remain on several buildings. Our Lucy Burns Museum will tell these stories.

“It’s a part of history that isn’t showcased anywhere else,” says Ava Spece, CEO of the Workhouse Arts Center. “We’d like that national story to ring loudly. History is something that has the power to captivate us. It has the power to teach us lessons as we move forward. We are honored to shine that light.”

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