A Self in the Remaking: Katharine Smith Reynolds Johnston

Master Bedroom Gallery

Katharine’s achievements as a businesswoman and social reformer often overshadow who she was as a woman. Her accomplishments at Reynolda make it all too easy to forget that she had her own complex needs, yearnings, and vulnerabilities. After the death of R.J. Reynolds in 1918, Katharine entered the 1920s ready to embrace an era shaped by new ideas, new technologies, and new fashions. Despite the privilege bestowed by her wealth and status, Katharine could not escape the stress of her many familial and social responsibilities, but in the 1920s, she looked to cultural pursuits and more stylish pleasures. This exhibition examines the modern sensibilities and new relationships that defined Katharine in her final years before her death at age forty-three.

Katharine championed women’s suffrage, embraced a sleeker, more modish wardrobe with shorter hemlines, and hosted more parties in her home. And, she embarked on a relationship with a young, handsome war veteran and educator that proved to be an unexpected yet perfect match. When writing to her parents about this new moment in her life, she explained, “I told them how I’d worked and planned for the happiness of others, but now I was working and planning day and night for my own….” A Self in the Remaking: Katharine Smith Reynolds Johnston features historic costumes, photographs, and manuscripts, many on display for the first time, pulled from the collections in the Reynolda House Archives and the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University.