Women’s History with the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archives Specialist in the Electronics Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

This post is part of an ongoing “road trip” featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

“Women suffragists were honored at Missouri women’s state meeting” (National Archives Identifier 7452306).

March is traditionally set aside as Women’s History Month and the records of the National Register of Historic Places include descriptions of properties pertinent to Women’s History. Many of the sites commemorate the Women’s Suffrage Movement such as the actions of the women depicted above, who were recognized as part of the observance of International Women’s Year in 1975.

You could travel the George Washington Memorial Parkway (National Archives Identifier 117691603) and head to the United States Capitol (National Archives Identifier 117691895) to look at the statue of the famous American Women, featured in the image below.

George Washington Memorial Parkway – Statue of Prominent Women in U.S. History (National Archives Identifier 7718581).

Next, head northwest to the Bethlehem Steel Factory in Pennsylvania (National Archives Identifier 71994668) to see where female munitions workers, “Miss Mary Gonzon, Mrs. Florence B. Hilles, Miss Lulu Patterson, Mrs. Marie McKensie, Miss Aida Walling and Mrs. Catherine Boyle,” pictured below, urged President Woodrow Wilson to support the national suffrage bill to provide women with the right to vote. Their argument stated that “women are serving the government in war industries and [therefore] feel the urgent need of federal enfranchisement.”

“The Lehigh Plant Mill #2 Annex is a large, square, two-story, six-bay brick industrial building constructed in 1940 by Bethlehem Steel . . . The factory’s exterior ornamentation includes stark brick walls punctuated by large steel windows and expansive sawtooth monitors. The interior of the building reflects its industrial heritage with its open manufacturing floor, steel skeleton, and overhead cranes . . . Mill #2 Annex is generally defined by its immense size, striking rooftop monitors and long expanses of industrial steel windows along each facade. The building is constructed of six large roof and mechanical bays stretching perpendicular to the river.”

Women munition workers urge President [Woodrow Wilson] to support suffrage bill. (National Archives Identifier 533770).

There are also a number of properties in the NRHP records pertaining to Women’s Clubs, including the Florida SP Miami Women’s Club (National Archives Identifier 77843161), which was “organized in 1900, and has maintained an unparalleled record of community service to the city. Both civic and cultural interests have been associated with the club since its founding at the turn of the century. The history of the Miami Woman’s Club is really a history of the development of the city of Miami, and the club played a vital role in that development. The club was first known as “The Married Ladies’ Afternoon Club” and was presided over by Mrs. Curtis W. Gardner. Among the charter members are found the names of many notable pioneer families . . . Organized for both social and literary purposes, the club soon expanded its interests into varied phases of civic work. One of the first projects was the establishment of a small library. The club provided library service to the city of Miami and worked toward the establishment of a municipal library system . . . The club maintained an impressive record of library service to the community for a period of 42 years, and is credited with the founding of the present public library system in Miami . . . The Miami Woman’s Club was chartered on July 24, 1911, and through their outstanding record of community leadership and service, had attracted the attention and interest of Henry Flagler. In 1912, Flagler’s interest in the club and its expanding library program caused him to donate a tract of land on East Flagler Street at Second Avenue as a site for a club house.”

Many historical women’s clubs served social and charitable purposes, including the creation of libraries like the Miami Women’s Club, pursuing historic preservation, advancing the causes of women’s suffrage and women’s rights, and hosting social activities and lectures for the general population in which the club was located.

Photograph of the Beginning of the Conservation Caravan Sponsored by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs (National Archives Identifier 2129402).

There are also a number of NRHP records pertaining to the Salvation Army, headed by Evangeline Booth and Eliza Shirley, who organized the Salvation Army in the United Sates, including the Minnesota SP Salvation Army Women’s Home and Hospital (National Archives Identifier 93202697), which “is architecturally significant as a sophisticated design by one of Minnesota’s most prominent architects, and is historically significant as a long standing charitable institution which has provided services to women and children in the community since the turn of the century . . . Twelve years after a rescue home for women was opened in Brooklyn, New York, the St. Paul chapter of the Salvation Army established the Women’s Home and Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Joseph and William Elsinger provided funding for the construction of a new building to house the facility . . . From 1913 to 1971 the house served as a home and hospital for unwed mothers and their children. In 1971, the facility became known as the Salvation Army Booth Brown House Services and its focus changed to a treatment center for young women with behavioral or emotional problems. The facility still serves this purpose and is still operated by the Salvation Army.”

“Salvation Army lassies giving sweets to returned [African American] soldiers,” (National Archives Identifier 533625).

You could also visit the MPS World War II-Era Aviation-Related Facilities of Kansas (National Archives Identifier 123863299) and see where the Women’s Land Army performed work to support the home front during World War II, as these women did to support the United States Department of Agriculture in the image below. In Kansas, “with most able-bodied men, as well as many women, enlisted in the military, there were shortages of civilian workers to keep the home machinery going. In Kansas, 227,000 male and female Kansans served in the armed forces between September 16, 1940 and June 30, 1946, according to a database compiled by the Kansas State Historical Society. Although draft regulations changed in 1943 so that many farmers and workers were deferred, many enlisted anyway, believing it was their patriotic duty.”

Photograph of Women’s Land Army Members (National Archives Identifier 175539337).

No tour of Women’s History or Women’s Rights would be considered complete without a visit to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca, New York (National Archives Identifier 75321854, 75321856, and 75314656), a visit that President Barack Obama made in 2013. “The Women’s Rights National Historical Park Historic District is comprised of four discontiguous units that are thematically linked to the early nineteenth-century Women’s Rights Movement in the United States and to the First Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. The four units are the Wesleyan Chapel Visitor Center and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House in Seneca Falls and the M’Clintock House and the Hunt House in Waterloo, New York.”

The Visitor’s Center “is located at 136 Fall Street. It was constructed in 1915 for Adrian Boyce as a state-of-the-art automobile showroom and garage. Architect Martin Van Kirk of the neighboring village of Waterloo designed the building. In 1927, the village of Seneca Falls purchased it and converted it to the Village Hall, which housed village administrative offices as well as the fire and police departments. The NPS acquired the building in 1987 and converted it to a Visitor Center for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.”

Click on any of the hyperlinked National Archives ID numbers above to open the fully digitized records in the National Archives Catalog. The NRHP files include additional documents, photographs, drawings, and maps.

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