The Woman's Room

Enter the Women's Room, and you enter a place of beauty, creativity and power. The dresses along the wall were worn in the 18th and 19th centuries. Even the strange item that looks like a torture device was once used in the pursuit of beauty. 


Throughout the room are examples of "in-home" creative clothing decoration and production. Making clothes by hand was common and some of the examples in the room show the creative flair of the seamstress.


The power in this space is represented by Rhoda Fox Graves, the first woman in the New York State Senate.

That wicked looking permanent wave machine...will literally "curl your hair." An African American hairdresser named Marjorie Joyner (1896–1994) invented this permanent wave machine to straighten very curly hair and curl very straight hair. She registered the patent in 1927.


The machine is dome-shaped and used electric current to heat the hair that was clamped in sections on rods. She got the idea for rods from a pot roast cooker. Marjorie Joyner was the first African American woman to receive a patent and was the Director of Chicago's Madam CJ Walker Beauty Schools.

As one of our leading political citizens, a special alcove is dedicated to Rhoda Fox Graves. Rhoda Fox Graves was the first woman elected to New York State Senate.


One year after her election to the Assembly, Graves was appointed chair of the Assembly Public Institutions Committee. A former teacher, Graves sponsored legislation to finance school buildings and to create teaching scholarships. She also sponsored legislation authorizing the Conservation Department to issue pamphlets on state tourist attractions.

Woman's Room Docent: Tania Sterling