Three years ago I conducted a survey of the commemorative markers in Old Town Alexandria. One segment of the population that is woefully under-represented in this regard is women. Only a few are so honored, including Kate Waller Barrett and Mistress Margaret Brent.
The good news is the Alexandria Commission for Women has put together a new “Alexandria Women’s History Tour,” a brochure that identifies twenty sites where women made their mark. Yesterday afternoon, Lance Mallamo, Director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, led a group of about two dozen people on the first guided tour since the brochure’s publication a couple of months ago.
Before we take a brief look at the tour, it’s worth recognizing the late Susan Lowell Butler, who created and nurtured this project. As a member of the “Commission for Women and Friends,” and through her own research, she brought to light the hidden stories of women in Alexandria. Before she passed away in 2010, Butler also gave her time and talents to the National Education Association, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and the National Women's Hall of Fame. The beloved community activist also found time to write several books on women and health issues.
In an article by Jeanne Theismann in this week’s Alexandria Gazette Packet, Liz Johnson, Commission for Women chair, said,
“We are fortunate, as a city, to have such incredible history right at our doorstep. And we are even more fortunate to have had visionaries like Susan among us, who understood the importance of integrating the stories of all people into our collective history.”
The tour makes 20 stops (we visited 15) at familiar landmarks such as Market Square, as well as less-familiar ones like the Campagna Center on S. Washington Street. Emerging from the bins of history were ladies such as Ann McCarthy (served as Treasurer and raised $75,000 for the Continental Army), Annie B. Rose (daughter of a slave sold at the Duke Street slave pen who became and educator, and advocate for the elderly and black history in Alexandria), Jane A. Crouch (educator during the segregation era and co-founder of the Saint Rose Institute for African-American children), and Carolyn Hallowell Miller (colleague of Susan B. Anthony and supporter of Women’s Suffrage).
The tour wrapped up at the Lloyd House, where we relaxed in the cooler air, drank fresh lemonade, and discussed the tour. Additionally, Johnson introduced James, Butler’s surviving husband.
All in all, the tour is a great learning experience, and a welcomed new window into Alexandria’s rich history and the legacies of these outstanding women.
Happy Mother’s Day!