March is National Women’s History Month

By SMW Staff

Gettysburg Civil War Women’s MemorialMarch is National Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the important contributions made by women. One region in the U.S. is highlighting Women’s History Month by encouraging people to visit specific sites to learn more.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide swath of land that stretches from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia, and contains a rich collection of sites that chronicle important contributions women have made throughout history.  Here are a few suggestions that will help you decide to Take the Journey™.

While most envision men and boys marching the battlefield in Gettysburg, PA, many of the town’s heroes are actually women. After the epic battle in 1863, women were often the only ones to tend to the wounded and take charge in cleaning up the town. One such woman is Elizabeth Thorn. Elizabeth who was six months pregnant and the mother of three children, dug over one hundred graves in the rocky soil in the extreme July heat.  Today, a statue of Elizabeth Thorn stands outside the cemetery gatehouse as part of the Gettysburg Civil War Women’s Memorial.

Continuing down Route 15, visitors should stop by the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, MD.  This site promotes the life and legacy of the Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the first native-born saint from the United States.  Seton, who lived, worked, died, and is now buried here, founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s.  Her enduring legacy now includes hundreds of schools, social service centers, and hospitals throughout the world.  She was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975 in St. Peter’s Square.

Near Sharpsburg, Maryland, a monument stands at Antietam National Battlefield to Clara Barton, one of the most honored women in American History.  Known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Barton brought supplies and nursing aid to the wounded at several Civil War battle sites.  She later founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and led it for the next 23 years.

First Ladies also left their mark within the region.  Jackie Kennedy’s style and grace epitomized Loudoun County’s horse country and its capital, Middleburg.  In the early 1960s, the Kennedy’s used Middleburg as an escape from Washington by leasing, and then building, their own country retreat.  In the 1990s, Jackie Kennedy Onassis often returned to spend foxhunting weekends in the Middleburg countryside, which was filled with happy memories from her time as First Lady. Today, visitors can see memorabilia at the Red Fox Inn and other establishments the First Lady patronized, and the town’s public pavilion and garden are dedicated to Jackie.

In Spotsylvania County, the Spotsylvania Museum has a special exhibit at the Spotsylvania Towne Center about the Battle of Chancellorsville, which commemorates its sesquicentennial in May.  The exhibit features the Hawkins Girls, who were at home at the time of General Stonewall Jackson’s Flank attack across their property.  The exhibit will be on display through May 2.

Edna Lewis, born in Freetown, Virginia, inspired a generation of young African American chefs and ensured traditional Southern foods and preparations would live forever.  Before her culinary journey began, Lewis found work as a seamstress and copied Christian Dior dresses for Dorcas Avedon.  She made a dress for Marilyn Monroe and became well known for her African-inspired dresses.  Eventually, Lewis opened up Café Nicholson, a restaurant located in Manhattan’s East Side. She became a local legend and cooked for many celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich, Tennessee Williams, Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, Salvador Dali, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Truman Capote.

And finally, visitors should also make a point to stop at Ash Lawn-Highland in Charlottesville, Virginia.  This home of President James Monroe, and his wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, served as the official residence of the former first family from 1799 to 1823.  Here, they regularly welcomed friends, neighbors, dignitaries, and other visitors with warm hospitality.

There are many other historic sites pertaining to notable women within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.  Maps, suggested itineraries, and other travel resources are available at www.hallowedground.org.