Women Remembered: A Guide to Landmarks of Women's History in the United States

Women Remembered: A Guide to Landmarks of Women's History in the United States

Women Remembered: A Guide to Landmarks of Women's History in the United States

Women Remembered: A Guide to Landmarks of Women's History in the United States

Synopsis

"Written as a travel guide to the landmarks and memorials dedicated to American women, this book will receive more frequent use as source of brief biographical information on hundreds of famous and obscure historical figures. It is arranged by geographic section of the country, and then by state, city, and personal name. Each entry is from one to four paragraphs long, concentrating on the accomplishments that prompted the creation of the landmark. At the end of each state listing are broadranging and up-to-date bibliographic notes, and a general bibliographic essay on women's studies concludes the book. This was obviously a labor of love for the author. Libraries large and small will find it a major ready-reference source on historic women in America."

Library Journal

Excerpt

Women may be slighted by those who write history books, but feminist history can be found all across the land, chiseled in stone and engraved in brass. Women who played a part in history are commemorated in the preservation of their birthplaces and homes; the erection of monuments; the naming of parks, schools, buildings, and streets; and the placing of historical markers. Some women left their own monuments when they established hospitals, art galleries, colleges, or business enterprises.

Sarah Orne Jewett, a great admirer of the Brontë sisters' novels, once visited the Yorkshire home of the Brontës. She wrote enthusiastically to a friend at home: "Nothing you ever read about them can make you know them until you go there. . . . Never mind people who tell you there is nothing to see in the place where people lived who interest you. You always find something of what made them the souls they were, and at any rate you see their sky and their earth."

Jewett would be surprised to know that admirers of her writings now visit her home in South Berwick, Maine, to experience her sky and earth and feel her unseen presence.

Every year thousands of Americans and travelers from foreign countries make pilgrimages to historical sites. The nation has made a strong effort to seek out such places, to restore and mark them, and to interpret their meaning and value. Such visits to the past illuminate history. They connect us to the network of previous lives. Standing in a spot where some great event took place or where some admired person was born, lived, loved, and worked puts us in touch with our own roots. Statues and buildings may be only brick or granite, marble or bronze, but they can evoke powerful tribal memories.

Monuments also reflect the attitudes of those who erect them. Anthropologists take seriously totem poles, cave drawings, and pyramids, not as art forms alone but as symbols communicating beliefs. Today even graffiti are studied as a way of understanding those who produce them. Can we understand the American attitude toward women through a study of the memorials to them?

Monuments are erected by governments, by relatives or family associations, or by historical societies. Patriotic, fraternal, and professional groups commemorate those who seemed significant to their contemporaries or now assume value to their descendants. Memorials are set up most often well after the event, so that the importance of the person or happening seems to have increased in time. Homes of the famous, fallen into oblivion, are rediscovered and restored. Graves go unmarked until someone realizes that the person buried there is deserving of remembrance.

One of the earliest historical site markers we know of in America was put up by a woman (in Reading, Vermont, sometime between 1799 and 1810). It commemorated an Indian captivity, as did many of the first memorials. Heroines of the American Revolution were remembered, many with markers put in place by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Monuments to the women of the Confederacy were erected in the South and statues of the pioneer woman across the West. While statues of male heroes graced every public building, it was not considered at first quite proper to erect statues of real women.

One of Aesop's fables concerns a lion and a man engaged in a dispute over which was the more powerful. As they passed a statue of a man strangling a lion, Man claimed it as proof that he was dominant. Lion replied, "Let the lions make the statues, and we will see who is stronger."

When women began studying women, monuments to forgotten heroines, such as Sacajawea, were raised. Statuary Hall in the National Capitol, established in 1864 to honor national heroes, had no women represented until 1905. The Hall of Fame in New York City, which began selecting honorees in 1900, chose its first women in 1905. An American Women's Hall of Fame was established in 1968, and in Seneca Falls, New York, the site of the first convention called by American women to discuss their legal and civil rights . . .

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