Each week leading up to our 50th Anniversary, we’re bringing you stories from the community about the history of Hemisfair. This week, we take a look at the Women’s Pavilion and the role women played in the 1968 World’s Fair.
The 1960s was a time of rapid change in American society. The civil rights movement was surging forward, and by 1968 second-wave feminism was a voice in the national conversation about equality. Just two years prior, the National Organization of Women (NOW) was founded and by September the term “bra-burning” would be forever (and erroneously) attached to the movement. But in San Antonio, a group of people came together to build a place at the World’s Fair to celebrate the contributions to civilization by women throughout time.
The list of organizers reads like a who’s-who of San Antonio leadership: Sherry Wagner, Edith McAllister, Bertha Gonzalez, Lila Cockrell, and Patsy Steves, to name a few. Beginning with coffee meet-ups hosted by Faye Sinkin, the group used small contributions – many of just $1 – to eventually raise the funds needed to build the pavilion.
During the Fair, millions of people visited the Women’s Pavilion to learn the vital role the women play in the transmission of culture, from ordinary San Antonians to visiting dignitaries like Princess Grace of Monaco. The brochures for the pavilion touted the inspiration message of the space: “Women are eternal, interesting, productive, resourceful, incredible; they must be part of such an exposition.” Women were also cast as keepers of culture and the guardians of traditions: “Women were the single most important instrument in the merging of the old and new cultures.”
We hope you’ll join us on April 6-8 to celebrate our 50th Anniversary at ¡Viva Hemisfair! and celebrate our city’s tradition of activism, equality and the confluence of civilizations. If you’ve got a memory from the last 50 years of Hemisfair, we’d love to hear about at hemisfair.org/memories.