By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
History books often give men all the credit for the establishment and growth of the United States. What these books fail to recognize, however, is the role women played in the development of this great country. Many women moved far beyond the traditional roles of homemaker and child bearer to help shape this nation. The National Register of Historic Places has identified several dozen places tied to the lives of women who ignored the limits of society and pursued their passion — human rights, the arts, or matters of faith. Many of the sites are still in private use, but the ones below are open to the public. If you live in or are planning to visit Massachusetts and/or New York, consider adding these sites to your itinerary.
1. Women’s Rights National Historical Park
This park celebrates the origins of the women’s rights movement. In 1848, women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others met in Seneca Falls, New York, and proclaimed that “all men and women are created equal.” The park includes Wesleyan Chapel, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention, as well as homes of several important participants in the fight for women’s equality. The visitors center is located at 136 Fall St. (U.S. 20) in Seneca Falls, New York, and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, call (315) 568-2991.
2. Susan B. Anthony House National Historic Landmark
For 40 years, this simple brick house served as the private home and political headquarters of one of the American women’s rights movement’s most prominent leaders. Initially, Anthony (1820-1906) traveled throughout New York organizing abolitionist meetings, but after the Civil War ended and the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution granted African-American males full citizenship — but did nothing for women of any color — Anthony turned into a suffrage activist, traveling, speaking, and inspiring the formation of suffrage societies throughout the United States.
The Susan B. Anthony House is located at 17 Madison St. in Rochester, New York. Guided tours are offered throughout the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day), Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The rest of the year it is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. An admission fee is charged. Call (585) 235-6124 for more information.
3. Harriet Tubman Home For The Aged
Harriet Tubman (1820-1913) is famous for her work to abolish slavery and as a leader of runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. But she didn’t stop helping other African-Americans when the Civil War ended. She used her Auburn, New York, farm to shelter needy freed men and women for several decades before the Tubman Home was built in 1908. Now a museum and a National Historic Landmark, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged is located at 180-182 South St. in Auburn. The property is open to the public by appointment. Call (315) 252-2081 for more information.
4. Watervliet Shaker Historic District
Ann Lee (1736-1784), founder of the American branch of the Shaking Quakers (Shakers) helped establish the movement’s first settlement in 1774. The 22 buildings that remain include splendid examples of Shaker architecture as well as Shaker crafts and furniture. The historic district functions as an open-air museum. Located on Watervliet Shaker Historic Road (State Route 155) in Colonie, New York, it is open to the public (except for the first two weeks of January) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (518) 456-7890 for more information.
5. Emma Willard School
Thanks to the efforts of Emma Willard (1787-1870) to expand educational opportunities for women, this school became the United States’ first secondary school for females. Her writings about the need for women’s education drew the support of such contemporaries as James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. In 1895 the Troy Female Seminary was renamed the Emma Willard School in tribute to its founder. The school is located at Pawling and Elmgrove avenues south of Troy, New York. Its grounds are open to the public
6. Fruitlands Museum Historic District
Long before outdoor museums were commonplace, Clara Endicott Sears (1863-1960) spent 37 years gathering historical properties into a collection. The first building was once part of Bronson Alcott’s Fruitlands, a transcendental communal village. After restoration, Sears opened it to the public in 1914. Two years later she added a building originally in Harvard Shaker Village that dated back to 1794. The discovery of American Indian artifacts on Sears’ own property sparked the development of the American Indian Museum in 1928. The Picture Gallery, an art museum, completed the collection.
Fruitlands Museum Historic District is home to all four museums, and is located on Old Shirley Road off State Route 2 in Harvard, Massachusetts. It’s open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and on Monday holidays from mid-May to mid-October. The grounds are open year-round from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call (978) 456-3924 for more information.
7. Margaret Fuller House
Critic and social reformer Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) lived in this house until the age of 16. Her first book, Women In The 19th Century, published in 1845, became the first major American treatise on feminism and was used as a primary source of information during the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The Margaret Fuller House is located at 71 Cherry St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The property is currently a neighborhood community center and is open to the public during operating hours.
8. Mary Baker Eddy House
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of the Christian Science religion, lived in this home between 1875 and 1881. She set aside a place to write in the attic and rented the other rooms to her followers. In 1879 the Church of Christ, Scientist was officially chartered, and two years later Eddy became its pastor. Just two years before her death, she conceived and set in motion publication of the Christian Science Monitor. She is still the only American woman to establish a worldwide religion. The Mary Baker Eddy House is at 12 Broad St. in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the Diamond District Historic District. The house museum is open to the public free of charge. Call (781) 593-5634 for more information.
9. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) was a longtime patron of contemporary European art and ancient art. During the 1890s, as Gardner began collecting works from around the world, she dreamed of building a museum to display them. Eventually she had a four-story Italian palazzo-style building constructed between 1900 and 1902 to house her collection. In her will Gardner bequeathed her museum building and its collection to the city of Boston, but with one condition: nothing was to be added, removed, or rearranged. The art museum is located at 280 The Fenway in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s open to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and on Monday holidays. For more information, call (617) 566-1401.
10. Maria Mitchell House
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), an astronomer and a professor, was born and raised on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Her father is credited with inspiring her interest in science and the stars. When Mitchell was just 12 years old, she assisted her father in recording the time of an eclipse. At 20 she became the librarian of the Nantucket Athenaeum during the day, but she spent her evenings studying the heavens with her father. At 29, she became the first person in America to record a comet sighting. The Maria Mitchell House is located at One Vestal St. on Nantucket Island. The property is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. between June 15 and September 1. For more information, call (508) 228-2896.
11. Emily Dickinson House
Unknown and unpublished throughout her lifetime, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) spent the majority of her existence in this house, writing poetry at a small desk in her bedroom. It was only after her death that her work was published upon the insistence of her sister. Although critics disliked her first published book of poetry, the public response was quite the opposite. Today Emily Dickinson is considered to be one of America’s most important writers. The house is located at 280 Main St. in Amherst, Massachusetts. The house museum is open to the public for guided tours from March through December. The grounds and garden are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Call (413) 542-8161 for more information.
12. Ames Mansion
The Borderland Historic District was once the 1,200-acre estate of Blanche Ames (1878-1969), a multitalented inventor who was involved in art, farming, engineering, and politics. Ten years after Blanche married Oakes Ames, they began building a stone mansion. The couple wanted a fireproof house, and when their architect couldn’t meet their requirements, Blanche took over its design and construction management.
Once settled in her new home, Blanche set up a full-size studio and workshop on the third floor where she and her brother developed a scientific color system for mixing paints. In her “spare” time, Blanche illustrated her professor husband’s botanical books. She also co-founded the Birth Control League of Massachusetts, and served as treasurer of the League of Women Voters. She attained notoriety for her political cartoons urging women’s suffrage. Did the woman ever sleep?
Borderland Historic District is part of Borderland State Park near Easton, Massachusetts. The grounds are open year-round, but the mansion is open only on the third Friday and Sunday of each month from April to November. Call (508) 238-6566 for more information.
13. Cambridge YWCA
Beginning in 1891, the Cambridge Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) provided single working women with low-cost housing. Later an employment office was added, as were classes in music, physical culture, dressmaking, cooking, water-coloring, German, Bible study, and hygiene. The Cambridge YWCA still provides rooms for women. It’s located in the City Hall Historic District at 7 Temple St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Parts of the building are open to the public during normal operating hours.