clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

12 historic sites that pay homage to the women's movement

A cross-country list of parks and places that showcase the struggle for suffrage and equal rights

Powerful live footage from the grave of suffragette and civil rights pioneer Susan B. Anthony from earlier today, with women were adding “I Voted” stickers to the tombstone, further underlined the groundbreaking (and potentially ceiling-shattering) nature of this election.

The potential welcoming of the first female president would be an historic moment, a high point in the long arc of the women’s rights struggle in the United States, which explains why Anthony’s grave at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York, became a (virtual) pilgrimage site in mere hours. To begin to fill in other parts of the story, here are some of the other historic landmarks across the country that serve as vital milestones in the journey towards equality. A wealth of other sites, resources, and history trails to fill in the expansive story can be found at the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites and National Women’s History Project.

Women's Rights National Historical Park (Seneca Falls, New York)

Established in 1980, this 6.8-acre site contains landmarks, and launching pads, for the suffragist movement, including the Wesleyan Methodist Church, site of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention. The park also includes the homes of many of the key players in the convention and early suffragist struggles, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Hunt, and the M'Clintock house, where the Declaration of Sentiments, the key statement signed by convention attendees in 1848, was drawn up. Hallowed ground for the women’s rights struggle, the park also connects to the Votes For Women History Trail, a route that connects a strong of other important sites in upstate New York.

Pauli Murray House (Durham, North Carolina)

An attorney, poet, activist, teacher and Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray was an early civil rights leader and trailblazer, coining the term “Jane Crow” to describe the impact of segregation on women. She even co-authored a judicial decision with future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in addition to writing a celebrated autobiography, Proud Shoes. Her 1950 volume on discriminatory laws, States' Laws on Race and Color, twas called the “bible of the civil rights movement” by Thurgood Marshall. In 1966, she cofounded the National Organization for Women. Recently, the Pauli Murray Project and National Trust for Historic Preservation worked to restore and repair her childhood home, and are in the midst of a campaign to get the building designated a national historic landmark.

Clara Barton National Historic Site (Glen Echo, Maryland)

This large wooden home was built with its occupant in mind, a pioneering nurse and founder of the Red Cross, in mind; much of the wood was salvaged from emergency structures used in the aftermath of the 1889 Johnstown Flood. A famous educator and humanitarian known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Barton tended to Union Soldiers during the Civil War, and later founded the American chapter of the famous medical aid group. The home became a National Historic Site in 1975.

Kate Mullany House (Troy, New York)

Mullany was an Irish immigrant and early labor activist who, at age 23, founded the first sustained, all-women union, the Collar Laundry Union, in 1864. She would go on to be a vice-president of the National Labor Union.

Lowell National Historical Park (Lowell, Massachusetts)

An early part of the New England textile industry, this industrial park started the then-rare practice of employing young women to work in the mills. The factories here gave many young women in New England a chance to leave home, find employment, and live more independent lives.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Richmond, Virginia)

This stately “urban mansion,” located on a street known as the Harlem of the South, served as the home base of Maggie L. Walker, a progressive African-American community leader and entrepreneur during the Jim Crow era of the early 20th century. At a time when prejudice and discrimination were rampant, Walker ran a store, started a newspaper, and even chartered a bank, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, that prospered and even stayed solvent during the Great Depression.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site (Washington, D.C.)

This three-story Victorian townhouse served as the birthplace of the National Council of Negro Women and the home of founder Mary McLeod Bethune, nicknamed “The First Lady of the Struggle.” A daughter of slaves who herself began working in the field at age five, Bethune became a fierce advocate of education, eventually founding a private school for African-Americans in Daytona Beach, Florida, that would later become Bethune-Cookman University. She would serve a variety of roles during her storied career, including college president and a trusted advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of his “Black Cabinet.”

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (Richmond, California)

A celebration of “We Can Do It,” this museum explores the origins of the iconic female factory worker, and the many ways that the war effort brought women into the workforce and helped catalyze societal shifts towards equality.

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway (Cambridge, Maryland)

Considering her role in the Underground Railroad, it seems fitting Harriet Tubman would be celebrated with a historic trail that showcase the realities of slave liberation This trail and audio tour take visitors through Tubman’s role in leading slaves north to freedom. Tubman, who would later become a leading voice of the suffragist movement, will also be honored with a permanent visitors center in 2017.

Rankin Ranch (Avalanche Gulch, Montana)

The first female member of Congress (and a Republican), Jeanette Rankin, who was elected in 1916, was instrumental in passing the 19th Amendment. A lifelong champion for social justice—she would be the only legislator to oppose a declaration of war in both World Wars—she believed that female participation in politics would lead to a more peaceful, just society. "The peace problem,” she said, “is a woman’s problem."

Ida B. Wells-Barnett House (Chicago, Illinois)

This stately greystone was the home of pioneer and firebrand Ida B Wells, an African-American activist and early investigative journalist who wrote a vital piece about the use of lynching as a form of community control, called "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.” Born on a Mississippi plantation shortly before the Emancipation Proclamation, Wells would go on to be a key player in the early civil rights movement, cofound the NAACP, and become a champion of the suffragist cause.

Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument (Washington, D.C.)

Designated a national monument by President Obama earlier this year, this longtime headquarters of the National Woman's Party was named after two key players in the early days of the organization; Alva Belmont, who was a major benefactor, and Alice Paul, who founded the Party and was the chief strategist. The house is one of the oldest historic mansions in the capital, and was one of the few sites of resistance to the British invasion in 1812.