The important role of Boston in American history is reflected all around the city, but women’s contribution is less noticeable.
However, the impact women made to the city and the national history is represented and celebrated in the following sites around the city:
Statues and Memorials
- Probably the most famous tribute to women in the public spaces of Boston is the Boston Women’s Memorial – a life-sized installation of three sculptures depicting Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Lucy Stone. It was created by poet and artist Meredith Bergmann in 2003.
- The oldest female public sculpture in Boston is probably on the grounds of the Massachusetts State House. Installed in 1922 in honor of Anne Hutchinson, an exceptional religious leader of the 17th century Boston. Hutchinson was a Puritan who challenged the male-dominance of colonial religious institutions by becoming a popular preacher. She was also a midwife and a mother of 15.
- Another public sculpture of a woman is a tribute to Mary Dyer near the Boston Common. Not far from there, 300 years back, Dyer was hanged to death as a punishment for her protest against the discrimination of her as a member of Quaker belief. The sculpture was created by Sylvia Shaw Judson, a Quaker sculptor.
- The fourth major public sculpture of a woman in Boston is honoring Harriet Tubman in a park that is also named after her in the South End. As in life, so in the sculpture, Tubman is depicted as a leader of black people freed from slavery. This sculpture also was created by a female artist, Fern Cunningham.
- Near the Boston Science Museum, is the statue of Barbara Washburn and her husband Brad, the founders of the museum.
- Inside the Boston Public Library is an additional sculpture of a woman by a woman. Made in 1893 for the Woman’s Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it is a bust portraying Lucy Stone. Stone was the first woman in the US to keep her name after marriage as a gesture towards gender equality.
- The bust sculptor Anne Whitney was a feminist activist and one of the first accepted female sculptures of the 19th century, responsible for several sculptures of men around Boston and Cambridge. Her statue of abolitionist Charles Sumner, which stands outside of Harvard Law School has an interesting background story. In 1875, Whitney won a national competition to commission a sculpture of Sumner, but the judges withdrew her proposal when discovering that a woman created it. In response, she decided to go ahead and produce the statue regardless.
- Kip Tiernan Memorial – dedicated in 2018 to the social activist and the founder of many organizations in Boston that support poor, homeless, and the less fortunate people, one of which, is founded is Rosie’s Place, the first women homeless shelter, opened in 1974.
Parks and Streets
Around Boston, there is a female legacy presence also in the green areas. In addition to Harriet Tubman Park, some other public parks are named after women:
- Alice E. Gallagher Memorial Park in 1941 became the first park in the history of Boston to be named after a woman. Gallagher was a president of the Brighton Women’s Club and was considered city’s devoted “unpaid social worker”
- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, named after the philanthropist and the matriarch of the presidential Kennedy Family
- Edna V. Bynoe Community Park, named after the community activist who was instrumental in redeveloping the Orchard Park housing development
- Frieda Garcia Park, named after Dominican Republic-born community activist who founded La Alianza Hispana agency of services for poor Latino families
- Rachel Revere Square, named after the wife of the American Revolution patriot Paul Revere.
- Only a few streets of Boston are named women, one of them is Melnea Cass Blvd, named after local community and civil rights activist. Cass co-founded the Boston branch of the first African American labor union Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids.
Alongside parks and streets, there are also several institutions honoring women who made a difference throughout history:
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has both female art history and contemporary artistic activity. It was launched in 1903 as the home of art patron and collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, and a home for artists.
The museum still hosts concerts, lectures, and exhibitions, including dance performances.
Since 1992 the museum has hosted artist-in-residence, many of them female.
- Mary Baker Eddy Library is an open archive of educational materials by the leading religious leader, teacher, and writer. Mary Baker Eddy was a pioneer in exploring and advancing the link between spirituality and health, which she coined as Christian Science.
The library houses another tourist attraction – The Mapparium – a three-story glass globe, providing a three-dimensional perspective of the world of 1935.
- The Cambridge Women’s Center is the oldest community center for women in the US. Operating since 1971, it offers free activities and services for women, including art, sewing, languages, a feminist book-club, therapy groups, and movie screenings.
- About ten public schools in Boston are named after women (out of 125 schools in total).
The rich herstory of Boston-based female contributions has inspired a group of local teachers, librarians, and students to initiate Boston Women’s Heritage Trail in 1989.
Since it has developed into a website and a book for various self-guided walking tours, exploring four centuries of great women of Boston.
We invite you to search through our map to see the information we gathered about the legacy of women in the area you are wandering. Click here to learn about some of the women who left a mark on Boston history.