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Mrs. North Dakota


Welcome, as we continue our week at the museum! Perusing the museum's storage you can find a map of North Dakota's counties done up in stamps by a school group or a portrait painted by John Singer Sargent. The owner of that piece was so cheap he smuggled it through customs so he didn't have to pay taxes!

Another piece in the museum isn't exactly a work of art, but it is certainly very creative. Hanging not too far away from military uniforms is a dress used in a Mrs. North Dakota pageant. Started in 1977, the pageant is designed to show off America's married women. Contestants range in age from their 20s to 50s.

When Joyce Fossum decided to compete, she had already been married for 13 years. She prepared for the costume competition by decking out a wedding dress with rhinestones and more. Along the sleeves she attached little flags from 28 countries such as Norway, Israel and Japan. She sewed pink and red roses, marigolds and fern-like greenery over the skirt. In the center of it all, she embroidered, "To God in His glory we two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another." Surrounding the quote, she placed two flags - those of the US and Canada.

The dress represents the International Peace Garden, which celebrated its 50th anniversary the year Fossum entered the pageant. The embroidered words are the same as those on a plaque in the center of a small stone monument. Lying on the international border, the monument was constructed for the dedication of the garden in 1932.

Mrs. Fossum made sure to also include some of the changes to the garden. A rhinestone-music staff on the back of her dress commemorates the Peace Garden Music Festival. Her headpiece, which uses a welder's helmet as a base, shows two other additions - an actual clock surrounded with flowers represents the floral clock in the formal gardens of the site, and springing up from behind the clock are two towers that depict the Peace Towers constructed the year of her pageant. All told, the hat stands 25 inches tall, and the whole costume weighs 50 pounds! In the end, the dress won 2nd place for the costume competition.

Although the US and Canada remain at peace, war has not gone away. In hopes of peace, though, you can celebrate International Peace Day today. The first such day occurred on this date in 1982, the same year Joyce Fossum used the International Peace Garden as inspiration for her Mrs. North Dakota dress.

Dakota Datebook written by Alyssa Boge


Accession record for object 1983.409