As we celebrate Mother’s Day and all of the wonderful women in our lives, we started to reflect on National Park Units and how many celebrate the lives and contributions of women. There aren’t that many – we identified 9 National Park Units that are directly associated with women- but each of them are interesting and inspirational.
Note: in case you wondered, over 60 National Park Units are specifically dedicated to men not counting parks like Mount Rushmore National Monument or Whitman Mission National Historic Site (honoring both husband and wife).
National Park Units dedicated to Women
- Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Washington DC
- Clara Barton National Historic Site, Maryland
- Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, New York
- First Ladies National Historic Site, Ohio
- Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, New York
- Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, Maryland
- Maggie L Walker National Historic Site, Virginia
- Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington DC
- Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park, California
- Women’s Rights National Historical Park, New York
There are a few other parks that indirectly honor the contributions of women – for example, at Lowell National Historical Park you discover the role of the “mill girls” in the industrialization of the US economy or at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park you see the role Sacagawea (with baby in hand) played in making that expedition a success.
At these parks you find out more about women’s contributions – from the fight for equality and women’s suffrage, to the role women have played in shaping the future of this country.
For example, there are two National Park Units that remind us of Harriet Tubman’s unselfishness and bravery in establishing the Underground Railroad and fighting for women’s rights right up until her death in 1913.
At one of the units you can find out more about her life and visit her gravesite, and at the other you can learn more about the underground railroad.
You can also see the influence that each of the first ladies of this country have had – from Martha Washington, the first “first lady”, to Rosalind Carter, an advocate for mental illness and key to the overhaul of the United States mental health system or Betty Ford with her focus on drug and alcohol addiction and rehabilitation. The First Ladies’ National Historical Site had displays for each of the past first ladies detailing their not insignificant accomplishments.
Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most powerful women of her time, not only during her husband’s over 12 year term in office but for many years afterwards. She has an amazing history, but one of the fun things was that when we visited her home in Hyde Park, they pointed out how every chair in her living room was different. Her goal was to let every guest select a chair that would be comfortable for them. But, when JFK came to ask her blessing for him to run for president, she put him in the most uncomfortable chair in the room!!!
Another one of our favorites is Maggie Walker… someone we knew nothing about until we visited the Maggie L Walker National Historic Site in Richmond, Virginia.
We went to her home and we were amazed. Her story was so inspirational. Early on in life she recognized the value of education, especially important as a young black girl growing up during emancipation in post Civil War Richmond. The docent at the museum made it come alive, telling stories of her life and accomplishments.
One story that stayed with me was that when she would go to market with her father, he couldn’t read, but she could, so when people tried to swindle him she stepped in.
As a teenager she joined the local council of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal burial society established in 1867. We hadn’t really thought about it, but after emancipation there was no one there to pay for burial for former slaves. Maggie founded the St. Luke Penny Bank to encourage people to save and become more self-reliant.
Maggie Walker was the first woman (and black) to charter and become a president of a bank, building a comfortable life in a wealthy area of Richmond. She even had an elevator in her home – a rarity in those times.
Celebrate Mother’s Day
There are so many stories … of woman who have made such a difference in their communities and in forming our future. Celebrate Mothers Day by visiting one of these National Park Units #findyourpark and learn about the contributions of these amazing women, and mothers!