Bringing Marian Anderson’s story to life

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South Philly musical icon Marian Anderson’s legacy will be celebrated at the Penn Museum. 

In partnership with the National Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society, the Penn Museum at 3260 South St. will host an afternoon of empowerment, history and fashion on May 7 from 1-3 p.m.

Jillian Patricia Pirtle will bring Anderson’s story to life through her musical legacy as a Mother’s Day Weekend special event. Anderson, a civil rights icon, was known worldwide for her musical contributions as a contralto, performing a wide range of musicals from opera to spirituals. This presentation focuses on her contributions as a fashion trailblazer.

“Little is known about her stylistic elegance and status as a fashion icon,” said Pirtle, who serves as the CEO of the Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society. “We are delighted that we can continue to share this aspect of Marian Anderson’s life and story with this beautiful and historic fashion presentation.”

Tickets are $20 (two for $35) and tea and light snacks will be offered after the presentation. Visitors will have the opportunity to see her collection archives as well as her rarely-seen wedding dress.

Anderson, who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, was known for dressing in breathtaking ensembles like the velvet merlot gown on display in The Stories We Wear exhibition at the Penn Museum. 

Much of Anderson’s collection is kept at the Marian Anderson Museum, her former home, at 762 S. Martin St. in South Philly. Some items were destroyed in a flood that cost nearly half a million dollars in damages a few years ago but repairs are being made to restore the local treasure.

“As the national Marian Anderson Museum & Historical Society continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and our flood emergency, we are extremely grateful for this partnership and the support of the Penn Museum, as we present this wonderful programming to the public,” Pirtle said.