Women’s Heritage

 

blog_photo_Frederick Douglass House
The Frederick Douglass House in Washington, D.C.

There are many inspiring and extraordinary tales of passionate women to tell during Women’s History Month. Preservation has our own influential set of female advocates who are paving the way in protecting our county’s heritage, past and present, and we’re excited to highlight some of them this month.

Helen Pitts Douglass was one of the very first of these passionate women in preservation. As the daughter of parents who were both active in abolitionist and suffragist movements, Helen developed early on a determination to stand up for what she believed in. She became a teacher at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, a school founded for the education of black men and women, and was involved with the feminist newspaper, Alpha, before she went to work for Frederick Douglass in 1882.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

Women in Preservation: Nancy Schamu Reflects on Four Decades of Saving Places

Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

This profile, written by Byrd Wood, originally appeared on Preservation Leadership Forum blog. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Nancy Schamu. Credit: Nancy Schamu
Nancy Schamu

Preservationists often jokingly refer to some of the early pioneers in the preservation movement as "little old ladies in tennis shoes standing in front of bulldozers." But the movement changed dramatically in 1966 following the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act, when a wave of young history graduates, eager to assume positions in the recently created state historic preservation offices, soon began to replace the feisty, determined volunteers of the early part of the century.

Nancy Schamu, who is retiring this month after 26 years with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), was one of them, and she strode confidently into the new preservation profession with all the energy and idealism of her 1960s generation. From the early days of rousing Section 106 battles over elevated highways to today’s advocacy efforts to protect the tax credits, Schamu has been more than willing to "raise her hand," as she puts it, to speak out clearly -- and often quite forcefully -- in favor of preservation.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Pioneering Women Architects of Kansas City, Missouri

Posted on: July 5th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Gayle L. Goudy, PhD

The tour route. (Click for PDF)

One hundred years ago, women in design fields in Kansas City faced overt and unrepentant discrimination from men in the profession. Many women in this era chose gender-neutral professional names (N.E. Peters, A.E. Evans) to avoid discrimination when only their drawings or ideas were presented. Unfortunately, once her gender was known, professional names provided no protection. The all-male staff at A.E. Evans's first job vowed to walk out if a woman was employed there (the threat was never realized). In 1930, Evans won the American Institute of Architects' Kansas City Chapter's Honor Award in the residential design category for a house under her professional name with her gender unknown to the jury panel. At the awards banquet, Edward Tanner, an architect affiliated with the J.C. Nichols Company and president of the chapter, announced that women should not be in the architectural field and had her gender been previously apparent, she would never have received the award. Furthermore, the AIA denied Mary Rockwell Hook admission based on her gender. In reparation, on her 100th birthday, in 1977, they presented her with a plaque for distinguished service.

Last month I led a trolly tour through Kansas City, Missouri to honor and celebrate the work of these skilled architects. Read along to follow our tour and learn about four women who left their mark in the urban fabric of Kansas City despite considerable discrimination.

N.E. Peters, Ellison Hotel at 308 W. Armour, 1927. (Photo: Gayle L. Goudy)

N.E. Peters (Nelle Elizabeth Peters) (1884-1974) had her own practice, designed nearly 1,000 buildings in Kansas City, and had her design for The King Cole Hotel featured in the Architectural Record (Vol. 67, March 1930, p. 244). In 1903, with an interest in mathematics and drawing and no formal training, she sought work in an architect's office in Sioux City, Iowa. After all the firms turned her down, she tenaciously went back to the offices that refused her. At Eisentrout, Colby & Pottenger, she recalled, “I talked and talked and at last I talked myself into a job.” Colby believed in her and made a bet with his partners. In 1909, she began her own practice in Kansas City and continued to 1965.

Peters firm specialized in apartment-hotels and was associated with builder and developer Charles Philips of the Philips Building Company from 1913 to 1948. They benefited from Kansas City's expanding housing needs due to a building hiatus imposed during World War I and a balooning population. Nelle E. Peters's signature design features several buildings grouped around a courtyard, which had two benefits. First, it allowed more windows per building and gave residents some green space. Second, since most of these hotels were built on speculation, individual buildings allowed the developer to pace each building with the rate that the new quarters were rented.

N.E. Peters, Poet District Buildings on the Plaza, viewed from Brush Creek Bridge on Broadway. (Photo: Gayle L. Goudy)

Along Broadway and Armour, we saw the Valentine Hotel (1927), Ambassador Hotel (1925) and the Ellison Apartments (1927). We then circled around and passed Roanoke Court (1923), which is a low-to-middle-income residential complex. At the end of the tour we saw the Poet District Buildings located on the Plaza - nine buildings named after poets built between 1928-1929.

Annie J. Scott (1876-unknown) grew up an orphan on a dairy farm. By age 14, she had enough saved to enroll herself in a teaching program at the State Normal School in Warrensburg, Missouri where she graduated in 1894. Three years later, she came to Kansas City to become a Methodist home missionary at the Scarritt Bible and Training School. Unfortunately, that same year she was hospitalized for work-related stress. She then refocused her energies and earned a degree in medicine at the University of Kansas in 1897, graduating third in her class. She then switched her energies again into real-estate.

Annie Scott, two houses along State Line Road near 43rd Street showing the stone foundations characteristic of Scott's development in this neighborhood. (Photo: Gayle L. Goudy)

In 1902, she invested $2000 into an 11-acre plot of land here at 43rd Street and State Line. She divided and sold the land earning $5000 net profit. She continued investing in land and began participating in all aspects of home building from drawing plans to overseeing material purchases and construction management. She even branched out and purchased her own stone quarry. From 1904 to 1909, she built and sold over 200 homes in the Kansas City area. She then married and retired from her professional life to focus on her family and her poor heath due to exhaustion. As we drove down the corridor between 43rd and 45th Street along State Line, the houses with foundations and first floors of stone are Scott's houses.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Flannery O’Connor's Farm Receives Critical Grant

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Craig Amason

Andalusia

Andalusia

During her productive years as a writer, from 1951 until her untimely death from debilitating Lupus in 1964, American author Flannery O'Connor spent the majority of her time at Andalusia, her family's farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she penned both novels and collections of short stories.

O'Connor stands among the exalted ranks of deceased authors whose books do not go out of print, whose sales get better with time, and whose reputations continue to grow. She is widely anthologized, and high school and college literature textbooks usually include several of her stories. Her life and work are the topics of conferences, newsletters, and journals all over the world. The Flannery O'Connor Review, published in Milledgeville at her alma mater, Georgia College, is the longest running journal devoted to a female author in the country. There have been two international conferences devoted to O'Connor in Denmark, one in France in 2005, and another in Rome, Italy in 2009. Another major conference is scheduled for April 13-16, 2011 in Milledgeville.

Since O'Connor's death, Milledgeville has become the haven for an increasing number of visitors wanting to know more about one of the most widely respected fiction writers in American literature. Since opening for regular tours in 2004, Andalusia has welcomed more than 24,000 visitors from at least twenty different countries and every state in the United States. Stories and articles about Andalusia appear regularly in newspapers and magazines around the country, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. Seeing the room where O'Connor wrote much of her work has a profound effect on visitors, as they often testify in letters, emails, and cards to the Flannery O'Connor - Andalusia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the site.

Hill House

Hill House

To date, the foundation has completed exterior repairs on the main house and fully-restored three additional structures on the property. Now, a 2010 Save America's Treasures grant from the National Park Service will make possible the most ambitious project at Andalusia to date -- the restoration of the Hill house. This 19th-century structure was the home of Jack and Louise Hill, African-American farm workers at Andalusia during the period of O’Connor’s residence.

Fans of the author will know the Hills from her published letters, The Habit of Being. These real people, their relationships, and their activities on the farm served as inspiration for characters, plots and themes throughout O’Connor’s fiction. The Hill house is an excellent example of the Plantation Plain-style and the oldest standing structure on the property. An important part of the Andalusia complex, it contributes greatly to the interpretation of the site, and to understanding mid-twentieth century farm life in middle Georgia. But its condition is severely threatened. Save America’s Treasures’ federal investment and its required match will provide much needed support, and leverage significant private investment, to restore this structure for the education of students of all ages.

Andalusia is unquestionably the place most associated with O'Connor's life and work. Her mother, Regina O’Connor, operated the farm as a dairy during the 1950s. Today, the site provides invaluable insight into the environment of Flannery O'Connor's productive life. Guests are reminded of O'Connor's fictional settings and characters as they tour the farm complex. Andalusia is not just the place where O'Connor wrote - it clearly inspired much of what she wrote. And with the preservation of the Hill house, Andalusia will offer an even better understanding of Flannery O’Connor, her personal relationships and home life, for the thousands of people from across the state and around the world who visit each year.

Craig Amason is the executive director of The Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation in Milledgeville, GA.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Lady Astor, Virginia-born Feminist

Posted on: April 14th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Written by Sonja Ingram

Langhorne House, Lady Astor’s birthplace in Danville, Virginia.

"I married beneath me. All women do."

"I’m a Virginian; we shoot to kill."

"I am a born feminist."

"The more I see of men, the more I think of women."

To Winston Churchill: "If you were my husband, I'd poison your tea." To which Churchill responded: "Madam, if you were my wife, I'd drink it!"

These spirited quotes are attributed to Nancy Langhorne Astor, the first woman to serve in the British Parliament. She was described in contradictory terms such as witty, saucy, outspoken, feminist, socialite, prudish, devout (she was a staunch Christian Scientist), and even cruel —although never boring.

Pat Maurakis, president of the Langhorne House, with the bust of Lady Astor.

Nancy was born in an unassuming but appealing house on Broad Street in Danville, Virginia in 1879. Now known as the Langhorne House, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently a public museum displaying Langhorne family belongings and furnishings, as well as a bust of Lady Astor.

The Langhorne House was in danger of demolition in the 1980s and was saved only when local preservationists and the former owner of the local newspaper, Elizabeth Stuart James Grant, stepped in to save it.

Nancy’s parents were Chiswell Dabney Langhorne and Nancy Witcher Keene. Nancy had seven surviving siblings, one of whom, Irene, became the model for the Gibson Girl after she married Charles Dana Gibson.

The Langhornes struggled when the end of the Civil War left many prominent Southern families in ruin. However, her father -- known among other things as inventor of the tobacco auctioneer’s chant -- was able to rebound financially when he amassed a fortune in contracts with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The family later moved to Mirador, the family home near Charlottesville.

Nancy was first married to Robert Gould Shaw II, cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, a colonel in command of the all-African American 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War. Nancy and Robert were divorced five years later, in a time when divorce was rare.

Pat Maurakis inside the Langhorne House.

In 1906, Nancy married again to one of the wealthiest men of the time, Waldorf Astor. The Astors were a prominent German-American family. They had made their fortune in fur trading, real estate, and later, publishing. One of the Astors, John Jacob Astor IV, died in the sinking of the Titanic. The branch Nancy married into had moved to England. Waldorf’s father gave him and Nancy the family estate at Cliveden, now owned by England’s National Trust, as a wedding gift.

In 1919, Lady Astor decided to run for her husband's vacated seat in the House of Commons. Now Lady because Waldorf Astor was a member of the House of Lords, she won the election and held the seat for twenty-six years. Throughout her time in Parliament, her wealth and persona helped aid the efforts of women serving or attempting to serve in government at a time when women were not seen as effective leaders.

Lady Astor’s time in parliament was not without controversy, but she was heavily involved in social reforms particularly those affecting women and children. She was also committed to the moral transformation she believed women could offer to government and advocated for temperance, suffrage, child labor laws, and the development of nursery schools for poor children.

Painting of Lady Astor entering the House of Commons (in Danville Municipal Building).

Ever the socialite, Lady Astor had many famous friends including Charlie Chaplin, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), George Bernard Shaw, and Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. She often went with T.E. Lawrence on motorcycle rides, but fortunately for Astor, she declined the day Lawrence suffered his fatal accident.

Drawing on the many friends of Lady Astor, Pat Maurakis, president of the Langhorne House, is currently holding an event entitled “A Few of Nancy’s Friends,” which features photographs, items, and information on T.E. Lawrence, Charlie Chaplin, Edward VIII and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

A colossal 16 by 8-foot painting depicting Lady Astor entering the House of Commons currently resides in Danville’s downtown municipal building. The painting, completed by artist Charles Sims in 1926, was purchased by Stuart Grant in the 1980s and moved to Danville from England.

It initially hung in the Stair Hall Lobby of the House of Commons and was later moved to several locations including Bedford College, the University of Virginia, and Jamestown before it finally settled in Lady Astor’s birthplace. The painting’s grandiosity, though it conveys Lady Astor in a simple black and white dress, is a fitting way to honor one of Danville’s most complex and legendary women.

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Visit the Langhorne House:

117 Broad Street

Danville, VA 24543

Open by appointment

Phone: (434) 793-4696

www.visitdanville.com

Sonja Ingram is Field Representative for Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.