Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

Women's Guild Room

  • 6500 S. PULASKI ROAD
    CHICAGO, IL 60629
  • TEL.: 773.582.6500
  • FAX:773.582.5133
  • Open 10 AM - 4 PM Daily
  • Closed Christmas, Easter &
    New Year's Day
  • Directions

Women's Guild Room

An initiative of the Balzekas Museum's Women's Guild, the Women's Guild Room features a collection of Lithuanian folk arts and amber (gintaras), including elaborate textiles and sashes (juostos), traditional folk costumes, dolls, Easter eggs (vėlykaičiai), wood carvings, jewelry and sculpture. Traditional Lithuanian textiles, usually woven from linen or Textileswool, are noted for their colorful and intricate geometric designs: checks, stars, stripes, and stylized leaves and flowers. In addition to costumes, the Women's Guild Room exhibition features numerous hand woven blankets, tablecloths, towels, and sashes, representing some of the finest examples of Lithuanian weaving.

Dolls with musical instruments by Aldona PečiurieneThe exhibition is always evolving as new bequests and acquisitions continue to expand the Museum's extensive folk arts collection.  The most recent updates include a collection of dolls (playing musical instruments and dancing) by artist Aldona Pečiurienė, as well as a collection of amber jewelry from the estate of the late Paulina Vaitaitis, D.D.S.


Easter Eggs

The Women's Guild Room features a display of Easter eggs by two renown Lithuanian folk artists, the late Ursula Astras, from Michigan, and the late Ramutė Plioplys, from Chicago. For many years, Mrs. Astras would travel from her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to conduct Museum workshops in the traditional etched method of decorating Easter eggs. A linguist and ethnographer, Ms. Plioplys took traditional egg decorating techniques to new levels, intricately carving the fine shell surfaces. (See more about the artist and her work.)

Easter Eggs at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

An egg came to symbolize creation, fertility, and life. The oldest known decorated eggs, two colored goose eggs with decorative scratches, were found in a 4th century grave of a young girl near Worms, Germany. By the 12th century, decorated eggs were blessed in churches during Easter ceremonies and the tradition to decorate eggs at Easter is wide spread in Saxony, Bohemia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Hungary. By the 13th century, egg decoration is also know in Lithuania: archaeological digs at the base of Gediminas Hill in Vilnius uncovered decorated artificial eggs made of stone, clay, and bone. In 1549, Martynas Mažvydas, the author of the first Lithuanian book, a catechism, mentions the tradition of giving decorated eggs during Lent was wide spread in all parts of Lithuania.

People in the countryside believed that decoration added to the already existing mystical powers of the egg. A decorated egg afforded its owner protection from life's disasters and brought luck and fortune. The head of the household would bury a decorated egg at the threshold of the front door to his home as a way of protecting his family and hoe. Decorated eggs were also buried in the stable to protect animals; in the fields, to ensure a plentiful harvest; and in the orchard to make the bear more fruit. It is no wonder that decorated eggs were and continue to be welcomed gifts and prized possessions.

Learn more about Easter egg making techniques at the Museum's Easter Egg Making Workshop. More . . .

Balzekas Museum
Women's Guild

Barbora Radvilaitė

The Women's Guild of the Balzekas Museum is an energetic group of volunteers who undertook the task of creating the first Women's Guild Room, a permanent exhibition of Lithuanian folk art, at the Museum's former location on Archer Avenue. The exhibition opened on March 7, 1976.  When the Museum moved to its current location in 1986, Guild members again collaborated to install the new Women's Guild Room exhibition. As former Guild member and president, the late Irene Norbut stated, "The Guild planned, prepared and worked to create the Guild's room under the guidance of the Guild's officers and Guild Room coordinator Elli Katauskas.  A wall showcase was constructed for exhibiting the authentic regional Lithuanian costumes." More about the Women's Guild and its activities ...



Lithuanian National Costumes

Lithuanian Costume of the late Honorable Josephine Dauzvardis

Renown for their colorful, intricate patterns, several Lithuanian costumes are on display in the Women's Guild Room.  Finely woven and embroidered, these costumes reflect regional tastes, traditions and motifs and are cherished family heirlooms. The costume picture above (Žemaitija region), belonged to the late Hon. Josephine Daužvardis, Consul General of Lithuania. A photograph of Mrs. Daužvardis, wearing her costume, appears in the background.

Dolls on Display

Doll from the Aukštaitija (Highlands) region by Aldona Vaitonis

The permanent collection of the Women's Guild Room features an exhibition of dolls representing Lithuanian costumes from the regions of "Aukštaitija", the Highlands; "Žemaitija" ("Samogitija") the Lowlands; "Dzukija"; "Zanavikija";"Kapsai", "Klaipėdos Kraštas" and "Vilnija", the Vilnius region. The dolls were the creation and gift of master weaver and folk artist, the late Aldona Vaitonis from Toronto, Canada.


Amber Necklace

The rare facetted amber necklace above was donated to the Museum in memory of Marija Skardžiuvienė by her daughter Dalia.

The Women's Guild Room boasts a collection of amber that is unrivaled outside of Lithuania. Not only was amber used for jewelry, but it was also carved and displayed as a decorative object. Some people believe that the it has healing properties. A translucent fossil resin exuded from ancient conifers 60 million years ago, amber is found on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Often plants and insects were trapped and preserved in amber pieces.