Around the World: Places to Visit During Women’s History Month
The month of March, officially designated as Women’s History Month is a time to honor the heroic feminists who have championed equal rights and opportunity for women and to remember the brilliant women who’ve made significant contributions to America’s social, political and cultural history. What better way to get to know them than to visit the places where they lived and worked and effected change?
The National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Places for up-to-date listings of places of special interest during Women’s History Month. Both organizations advocate preservation of the sites and your visits and contributions help to maintain them for the enjoyment and enlightenment of future generations.
The sites are located coast to coast, so you have the option of driving to a nearby place to visit the home of a local female hero or of taking a long road trip to learn more about a women whose story has always fascinating you. Either way, most of the sites have terrific visitor centers that enrich your appreciation with information, guided tours of the site’s key attractions and special exhibits and events. Visiting the sites is sort of like stepping back into America’s history to learn more about America’s present.
Two of the sites that offer full emersion in a heroic woman’s life and achievements are located on the East Coast. New York’s the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site is full of feminist spirit. This is the only historic site dedicated to Mrs. Roosevelt, activist partner to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At their home, Val-Kill in Hyde Park, Franklin and Eleanor entertained official state visitors, famous friends and influencers, the press, and their political associates. The site features their residence, fully furnished as it was while they lived there, and quite revelatory about their private lives. In addition, there is the nation’s pride-worthy first Presidential Library, as well as beautifully landscaped grounds with tranquil gardens and wilderness areas that cover 180 acres. There is also access to the woodland hiking trails that Eleanor Roosevelt used to enjoy on a daily basis and are considered to be the inspiration of her famous My Day columns.
The hiking trails around Val-Kill were also trod by the royals and moguls and foreign heads of state who shaped policy and changed the course of history during the mid-20th century. At the highest point on the trails, Top Cottage is the retreat where FDR convened many critical policy-making meetings. And there is an incredibly beautiful view of the Hudson River Valley
The site also has a marvelous visitor center that’s staffed by well-informed guides who provide background information, give tours and lectures, stage special exhibitions and events. Unfortunately, the visitor center and other building on the site are currently closed due to the pandemic, but the grounds and trails are open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and a visit is still very worthwhile. More information at https://www.nps.gov/elro/index.htm
Also on the East Coast, it actually stretches over several states. It honors the legacy of Harriet Tubman, the most famous American abolitionist, and comprises historic sites that represent her story and accomplishments via what is known as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway, a self-guided, scenic driving tour that covers 125 miles through the beautiful landscapes and waterscapes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and then another 98 miles through Delaware. It includes 45 historically significant sites related to the Underground Railroad, many of them with outdoor markers or interpretive signs that impart the importance of that particular place. Basically, the byway follows the route that Tubman followed as she guided 70 African-American slaves from the South to freedom in Canada.
There are actually several historic sites dedicated to Harriet Tubman, but the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway, that begins in Maryland’s Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, is the most comprehensive. Before setting out for the full tour, stop at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, a gateway facility that provides background information, has special exhibitions, shows a film about Harriet Tubman and provides maps and brochures that are valuable assets when touring other sites along the byway, including the Harriet Tubman Memorial Garden and the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center, as well as Brodess Farm (where Harriet spent her early years), the Bucktown General Store (where Harriet’s activism began), Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House (the gathering place for Quaker abolitionists) and Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, which honors Tubman and Thomas Garrett, two of the Underground Railroad’s most dedicated agents. More information at https://www.nps.gov/hatu/index.htm
For more sites honoring America’s heroic women, check the National Park Service Website at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/index.htm