A Palestinian tea set on display at the World Beat Gallery for a new exhibit on tea and coffee custom. (Courtesy/ Jacob Armas)

Women winning the right to vote began over tea.

Yvonne Putze, executive director of the Deepwood Museum and Gardens, explained that tea rooms were one of the first socially acceptable places for women to gather in the late 1800s where discussions led way to them being able to cast ballots.

Now, Salem residents can learn more about the cultural significance of people getting together for a hot beverage.

Until March 5, people can head into the World Beat Gallery in Pringle Park Plaza at 390 Liberty St. S.E. to learn more about tea and coffee customs from around the world. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment on Saturdays. There is no cost to enter.

The Deepwood Museum has been closed since March because of the pandemic, but previously would host monthly teas to educate people about Victorian-era history.

With a historic building that has small spaces and old wood that can’t be rigorously disinfected, reopening could be many months away for Deepwood.

“We have been so disappointed to have to be away from people and to have our doors closed to people,” Putze said.

So, Putze and Kathleen Fish, executive director of the Salem Multicultural Institute, put their heads together.

They decided to pull items from Deepwood while it’s closed and source other tea sets from the community for a new exhibit that opened this week.

Putze said it’s an important story to tell, how tea traditions play a role in different parts of the globe and the commonalities they reveal.

“It brings people together. It’s a uniting force, a very positive one,” she said.

One of the items on display is a replica of a porcelain teapot from 1914 used during a conference about women’s suffrage. The exhibit also includes furniture, clothing and photographs to contextualize the pieces.

Jacob Armas, assistant director of the Salem Multicultural Institute, said there are a dozen tea and coffee sets in the exhibit divided into sections based on countries or cultures.

One is a tea set on loan from a Palestinian family in Portland. Armas said the set is made of glass and doesn’t have handles so the teacups have tea cozies on them.

“It’s really cool because everything we try to do is from community members,” he said.

Both Armas and Putze said the gallery is following Covid protocols and is safe for those who want to visit.

“It positions us well if people want to see things but don’t want to be around large groups of people,” he said.

The gallery will also be open for the First Friday Art Walk on Feb. 5.

Putze said she’s doing a virtual tea talk about the exhibit in February. Those who are interested can email [email protected]

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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