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Women who rock take center stage in new EMP Museum exhibition

Lady Gaga's infamous dress made entirely of meat in support of PETA is among the artifacts on display in the new EMP Museum exhibition "Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power" (AP image)

As the old saying goes, “You’ve come a long way baby.” And that’s certainly the case for women in popular music, who get their due in the new EMP Museum exhibition “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.”

The exhibit was originally put together by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, and showcases the most influential female musicians

“The exhibit goes over nearly a century of women’s achievement in music really from the early 20’s all the way up to Lady Gaga and Rihanna and all the stars of today,” says EMP Senior Curator Jacob McMurray.

Over 70 artists are showcased along with a treasure trove of artifacts, video and listening stations. Among the most notable are Madonna’s bustier worn during the Blonde Ambition Tour, guitars from various artists over the decades, the Runaway’s handwritten lyrics to “Cherry Bomb” and Lady Gaga’s notorious dress made of meat.

“It’s actually more of a beef jerky dress now, it required plenty of dehydration,” McMurray laughed.

The organizers hope audiences come away from the exhibition with a deeper appreciation of the contributions women have made to popular music from even the earliest days. McMurray was particularly moved by the stories of early blues women like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, true pioneers playing “a man’s music” before women even had the right to vote.

“Hopefully we would get to a point where we wouldn’t have to do a show about women who rock,” McMurray said.

“I think that we’re still at a point where there is an inequality gender wise in music but what I think is really amazing is when you see nearly a hundred years of women’s advances in American society which shows you how far we’ve gone.”

Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power runs now through September 22, 2013 at EMP Museum in Seattle.

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