Celebrating our Matriarchs

May 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021


This virtual exhibition is part of our collaborative Community Photo Project tied to Matika Wilbur’s exhibition Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women.

We all know women who have inspired and influenced us, taught us, raised and cared for us, mentored and encouraged us to become better people. From the past to our shared present, matriarchal figures have an enduring importance. 

As part of the project, we invited community members to share a photo of a matriarch important to them. Submissions were accepted during March and are now displayed below. We’re excited to share these photographs with you, along with words from the photographers. 

Do you see your photo and would like to add more information? Contact us at info@whatcommuseum.org.

Mama Albertina
By Eva Marquez Mohorovich, Bellingham

Magnetic, independent, fierce, and the most intrepid storyteller, you wouldn’t believe your ears. She knits and crochets like she’s writing a letter, not a stitch out of place. Her laughter is contagious and her wisdom admired by many. That’s why we call her Mama!

Woman standing with one hand on her hip

Susan Kraus Jay
By Anonymous, Bellingham

Susan Kraus Jay, my mother-in-law, is an inspiration to me. She survived the Holocaust, navigated her way through Europe to Hong Kong, then to the United States. She became an x-ray technician first in Los Angles, then in New York City. She fell in love, married, and raised three amazing children. She enriched many lives as the head of the San Diego Opera’s docent program. 

She now lives at The Willows in Bellingham surrounded by amazing friends, and continues to entertain friends and neighbors with educational presentations on her favorite operas. Her sight is failing, and her health is not what it used to be, but she is always ready to help and never says no to a new adventure.

Two women smiling sitting next to each other

Stella Zuzarte
By Marcel Zuzarte, Birch Bay

Stella Zuzarte passed away April 10, 2020, short of her 92nd birthday. Mother to 12, grandmother to 25 and great-grandmother to 11. Three-time cancer survivor and the most devout mother and giver to all around her, friends and strangers alike. Extremely humble and left a legacy of love and kindness.

Yoga Teacher, Artist, Healer Sara Todd
By Doreen Standish, Bellingham 

Sara welcomed me into retirement, and home from living abroad, with her healing yoga practice for active elders. She taught yoga into her 80’s and shared teachings about aging with grace and humility. Her artwork continues to inspire the meaning of the circle of life.

Woman with gray hair and a red shirt looking to the right

Sandra Lindstrom
By Lisa Gruwell, Bellingham

During the 1970s, Sandra was one of many hippie momma matriarchs in our small town. An exquisite painter and seamstress, throughout her life, she has sold her watercolors, painted silk scarves, and fantastical clothing. During the counterculture, she taught us teenagers to embroider and sew, skills I appreciate to this day. Sandra sang praises for the Viking Husqvarna sewing machine. 

Today, she continues painting, but has retired from sewing. I inherited her three Viking sewing machines, one works and the other two are for parts—re-use and recycle, the quintessential back-to-the-lander.

Woman wearing glasses and a collard shirt

By Hans Torweihe, Vancouver, British Columbia

My sweet wife Diane, survival and strength run in her blood. Her great-great-grandparents were in the Trail of Tears.

Here she is embracing our granddaughter Anais, who completely surrenders and trusts her. Diane provides an impenetrable shield around them, aware of all the things that may shatter the child’s innocence.

Woman sitting holding a toddler in a blue dress

The Many Faces of Mom
By Lisa Abbott, Ferndale 

This photograph of my mom is a multiplicity photo I created in Photoshop. Do we all have a wide range of emotions and different sides to our personalities? This shows a fun and playful side of my mother. We made memories the day we took these lighthearted shots.

Trish Harding, Artist Extraordinaire
By Ann McMillian Chaikin, Bellingham 

Trish is my art mentor. She is an amazing teacher and knows a great deal about many different kinds of art: drawing, painting (oils, acrylics, watercolor, pastels), illustration, sculpture, and ceramics. I have been studying with her at Studio UFO since 2008 and she has had a profound influence on me artistically and personally.

Woman with glasses and a black shirt holding an object

Dorothy Mackenzie
By Laura Mackenzie, Bellingham 

Photo taken in July 2001 in Paris, France, on a trip with my mother, my sister Louise, and myself. This is such a favorite memory because we were together on a bateau dinner cruise on the Seine, wonderful meal, scenery, and a talented violinist to serenade us all. 

Mom always wanted to go to Paris, and my sister and I were so happy to help make it happen for her. Mom ‘s gentle and graceful approach to life and how to meet the challenges you face continues to inspire me every day. I still miss her so.

Woman with short hair and glasses smiling

By Cherlynn Gates, Birch Bay 

This woman began as a neighbor to a motherless child and has become the most important woman in my life. She has seen me through hardships and celebrations, and has shared with me her knowledge, her guidance, her heart, and her light. She may not have given birth to me, but she has given me a mother.

Woman looking away from the camera at a sign that reads "The Fair"

95 and Fabulous
By Karin Beringer, Maple Falls 


Mimi the Matriarch
By Allison Hegan, Bellingham 

A mother first. Now a grandmother. Always the organizer of family gatherings and creator of lasting memories.

The Whatcom Museum acknowledges that we gather on the traditional territory of the Lhaq’temish – Lummi People – and the Nuxwsá7aq – Nooksack People – who have lived in the Coast Salish region from time immemorial. The Museum honors our relationship with all of our Coast Salish neighbors and our shared responsibilities to their homeland where we all reside today.