Tag Archives: Women’s History Month

Five Stories of Influential and Fierce Women — and the DC Sites Associated with Them (Part 2)

 

[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.”  She has shared many lesser-known stories and aspects of the DC area with us, including the first part to this series, which you can view here.]

 

This second installment featuring influential and fierce women highlights numerous women who have changed the course of our country’s history. While most of these women have positively impacted on our nation, some have altered our country in irrevocably devastating ways.

Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to learn more about the hidden histories below as well as to discover dozens of additional gems and off-the-beaten path locales in and around the Washington, DC, area.

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Five Stories of Influential and Fierce Women — and the DC Sites Associated with Them (Part 1)

[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.”  She has shared many lesser-known stories and aspects of the DC area with us, which you can view here.]

 

Women’s History Month reminds us all to pay tribute to the countless trailblazing women who have paved the way for so many, as well as encourage us to continue to pave the way for more women to lead, inspire, and create. Here are five fascinating stories about some of the fierce and influential women who have helped shape Washington, DC, and our nation as well as information about local sites associated with them.  (And because it’s impossible to limit the number of bold women who have impacted our world and our beloved capital city, this is part one of two blog posts dedicated to some the powerful women who have had significant roles in DC and our country’s history.)

Check out local DC author JoAnn Hill’s book Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure to learn more about these hidden histories — and to discover dozens of additional gems and off-the-beaten path locales in and around the Washington, DC, area.

 

Portrait Monument at the US Capitol: “We’re Waiting for You, Madam President”


Upon entering the imposing U.S. Capitol Rotunda, visitors are immediately surrounded by opulence, history, and an abundance of testosterone. Most statues and busts in the Rotunda are primarily of presidents, including Dwight David Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and Ronald Reagan. One of the few exceptions is the prominent Portrait Monument, which proudly pays tribute to women’s suffrage, honoring trailblazers Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. These three remarkable women were the leading forces behind the women’s movement and led the crusade for women’s right to vote. While the monument to these pioneering women is impressive, perhaps its most intriguing aspect is the fact that it seems to have been intentionally left unfinished.

Towering behind the three busts is an indistinct and eye-catching uncarved block of marble — an enigma that has led to a great amount of speculation over the years. According to urban myth and many Capitol tour guides, the uncarved lump is reserved for the first female president. In recent years, many visitors have wondered if Hillary Clinton would one day hold the spot. It’s been theorized that the monument’s sculptor, Adelaide Johnson, purposely left the statue unfinished to symbolize that women still had a very long road to acquiring equal rights and left the block uncarved to represent all other women’s rights leaders — past, present, and future.

A year after white women’s suffrage was finally achieved, the statue was moved underground. It was hidden in a broom closet in the basement and remained there for 75 years.

Read All About It: Learn more about how the Portrait Monument was finally relocated to the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on pages 136-137 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: Currently the Capitol Visitor Center is closed. Once it reopens, visitors are welcome to enter the building through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol.

 

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Seances at the Soldiers’ Home: “First Lady Seances at the Soldiers’ Home”

Today President Lincoln’s Cottage, a national monument situated on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, is the esteemed setting of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. In the 1800s, however, the Soldiers’ Home served as a meeting place for spirit circles, known as seances, where bereaved individuals would gather to communicate with deceased loved ones. Perhaps the most recognized attendees were Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband, President Abraham Lincoln.

After the death of their son Willie in 1862, a grieving Mary Lincoln began to attend these seances, where a medium would help those gathered communicate with lost loved ones. Spirits communicated in various ways, including scratching, rapping, playing instruments, pulling on clothing or hair, and pinching participants. While there were many skeptics, spiritualism appealed to many, regardless of class, particularly following the heavy death toll during the Civil War.

Despite increased popularity of seances, Mrs. Lincoln’s involvement attracted gossip and condemnation, not just of her, but of Abraham Lincoln, who periodically joined her. Historians maintain Lincoln frequented seances out of curiosity or support for his wife, not out of credence. President Lincoln was dubious of mediums, particularly of one named Lord Colchester, a man who claimed to be the illegitimate son of an English duke. Lincoln summoned Dr. Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian, to investigate the questionable medium.

Read All About It: Learn more about Mary Todd Lincoln’s participation in seances and her belief in the occult on pages 18-19 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home is located at the Armed Forces Retirement Home: 140 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW, Washington, DC.

 

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Espionage at the Old Capitol Prison: “US Capitol Turns Supreme”

Since its inception in 1789, the U.S. Supreme Court has had a resounding impact on countless aspects of our lives. From public school integration to voting rights, the highest court in the land has been an integral part of the very fabric of our nation. The site of the Supreme Court, however, was not always a place of distinction and justice. In fact, it has quite a long and sordid history.
After the British torched the U.S. Capitol during the War of 1812, Congress built a brick building to serve as a temporary capitol. Once Congress was able to move into its permanent dwelling, the temporary building, now regarded as the Old Capitol, was soon transformed into a boardinghouse. The outbreak of the Civil War, however, left it abandoned and dilapidated. The government removed the fence surrounding the building, replaced the wooden slits above the windows with iron bars, and converted it into a prison.

Many prestigious individuals served prison time here, including Confederate generals, Northern political prisoners, and spies. Many of the spies were women, often playing integral roles in the Confederate victories.

Read All About It: Read more about the female spies who were imprisoned at the Old Capitol Prison on pages 148-149 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The U.S. Supreme Court is located at 1 First Street NE.  It is currently closed to the public, but welcomes visitors  Monday – Friday from 9am – 4:30pm when it is open.

 

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Congressional Cemetery, Dolley Madison and the Public Vault: “Keep It in the Vault”

Over 3,000 individuals have been interred in the Congressional Cemetery’s Public Vault, including three presidents, one vice president, and two first ladies. Many stay here for only one to two days since it was never intended to be used for long-term stays. So, why was Dolley Madison interred in the Public Vault for two years, making her the longest known internment of the vault?

Dolley Madison was a trailblazer. She helped define the role of First Lady, was often credited with helping advance James Madison’s career, and perhaps most notably, saved a historic portrait of George Washington from being burned by British troops during the War of 1812. While the Madisons were among the elite, they weren’t immune to falling on hard times. As James Madison’s health began to deteriorate, he prepared his presidential papers to help secure financial security for Dolley after his death. Their son Payne’s recklessness, however, destroyed their finances. Payne’s alcoholism, frivolous inheritance spending, and struggles with employment forced Dolley to sell the family’s properties to pay his debts. After selling part of her late husband’s papers, she was finally able to rise out of the family’s deep financial woes and set the remaining money aside in a trust and out of Payne’s reach. Ultimately, her efforts weren’t enough to shield her against further financial despair.

Read All About It: Learn more about the Madison family’s financial woes and Dolley’s two-year stint in the public vault on pages 36-37 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: Congressional Cemetery is located at 1801 E Street SE. Congressional Cemetery is open daily from dawn to dusk.

 

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Clover Adams Memorial: “They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky: The Adams Memorial”

Inside DC’s Rock Creek Cemetery sits a creepy, and (according to some) haunted statue of Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams. Hooper Adams was married to Henry Adams, a descendent of John Quincy Adams and John Adams. A prime example of art imitating life, the eerie sculpture is as dismal as the woman it portrays.

Clover Adams was a talented individual praised for her incredible photography, writing, and volunteer work in the Civil War. Sadly, she was often described as unwell, and in 1885, at 42 years old, she committed suicide by swallowing potassium cyanide, a chemical she often used in her photography. Speculation surrounded the motive of her suicide; some thought it was the result of her father’s recent death, while others felt it was because her husband was interested in another woman. Henry mourned the loss of his wife, and in many ways the way he grieved was almost as perplexing as his wife’s death. He destroyed nearly all her photographs and letters, and it was said that he never spoke her name again. Moreover, Henry never even mentioned her in his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams.

The next year, however, after traveling to Japan, Henry commissioned artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens to sculpt a memorial to his late wife.

Read All About It: Learn more about the eerie Clover Memorial on pages 154-155 of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Go and Explore: The Adams Memorial is in Section E of Rock Creek Cemetery in Northwest DC.

 

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JoAnn Hill, author of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, has affectionately called Washington, DC, home for over 20 years. She has written extensively about DC living, its food, and her world travels on her blog dcglobejotters.org and other mediums and publications. Through her writing and research, she shares hidden histories, off-the-beaten-path locales, and lesser-known stories that inspire the insatiably curious explorer. Her next book, DC Scavenger, will be released later this year. She lives in DC with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson and is the co-founder of Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area.

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The Weekend Round-Up: March 9-11

The National Portrait Gallery is one of several places to celebrate Women’s History Month





Celebrate Women’s History Month, go green early for St. Patricks Day parades, take the fam to the circus, catch some more live entertainment, get in one last glide on the ice, buy a bike, see a whole new side of Old Town… These are just some of the ways to enrich your time with the kids over the next few days. And for ideas beyond this round-up, check out the Everyday Play page for all kinds of ongoing DC fun. Happy Weekend!

Harlem Wizards Basketball Game
Where: Freedom High School | Chantilly, VA
When: Friday, 7pm
Admission: $15-30

The Harlem Wizards brand of “Trick Hoops & Alley Oops” entertainment basketball has been packing gyms across the globe for 50 years! See them play a local team on Friday evening.  This is a family friendly event for all ages and proceeds will support Freedom High School Athletics.


Women’s History Month Family Day
Where: National Postal Museum | Union Station area, DC
When: Saturday & Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Women’s History Month with the Postal Museum! All ages are welcome to the event that highlights extraordinary women from the past to present through special programs and fun activities. Go on a scavenger hunt, watch a stamp-making demo and create your own, enjoy story time, meet “Amelia Earhart,” and more. (FYI: The museum always hosts fantastic events — KFDC thinks so, anyway.)

Portrait Stories & Discoveries
Where: National Portrait Gallery | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Saturday & Sunday, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

Drop in at the Portrait Gallery to listen to a story about a notable woman in honor of Women’s History Month and complete a hands-on activity — this weekend faetures Harriet Tubman. When you’re done there, pick up a Portrait Discovery Kit to explore the museum (and the American Art Museum housed in the same building). Be sure to visit the recently installed portraits of President Obama and Michelle Obama while you’re there, too! For more about the program, see this post about a past experience and this one with scenes from a very recent visit.

Big Apple Circus
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Through April 1
Admission: $25-59

The Big Apple Circus is in town and celebrating its 40th Anniversary Season, featuring stunts never before seen under the big top. Known for its one-ring, artistic, European-style, no seat is more than 50 feet from the performers. That’s perfect for viewing some first-ever feats for the Circus’s along with fan favorites. Hire wire acts, contortionists, bicycle acrobatics, hilarious clowns, and doggie dances are some of thrills and fun you can expect. Read a review of one of our past experiences at a Big Apple Circus show.

Show Time
Where: Theatres around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

* Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is back at Adventure Theatre after many cancelled shows due to an electrical fire — show them some love and see the show!
* Reserve free tickets for Shakespeare For The Young: The Tiniest Tempest, this week’s Saturday Morning at the National performance
* The Wiz opens at Ford’s Theatre this weekend
* The Prince and the Pauper – A Bollywood Tale is on the Imagination Stage
* And little ones will love Balloonacy at the Bethesda Theatre
* Catch a fairytale classic as The Puppet Co. presents Beauty and the Beast
* And Mother Goose Caboose is the Tiny Tots performance for littles there on Sunday
* The Alden Theatre presents The Snow White Variety Show at The Old Firehouse on Saturday

Women in Aviation and Space Family Day
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center | Chantilly, VA
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

It’s a day full of hands-on activities, inspiring women, and fun challenges to celebrate women’s contributions to space, aviation, and STEM fields. This special event is designed to introduce every member of your unique family to groundbreaking women of the past and the women driving us into the future. Visit the website to see the schedule of activities.

Later, Skaters
Where: Ice rinks around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

This weekend is probably your last chance to hit the ice al fresco. Most local outdoor ice skating rinks are shutting down their Zambonis after Sunday. See this post listing them all for details on where you can glide ‘neathe the sky one last time this winter.

Recycled Cycles for Sale
Where: Big Bear Cafe | Bloomingdale, DC
When: Saturday, 10am while supplies lasts
Admission: Free

Spring is coming, and with it great cycling weather, so now is a good time to make sure you have a ride that meets your needs. Just in time, Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit youth program and community bike shop in Arlington, VA, will be selling a large inventory of quality, refurbished bikes and new bike gear along with Gearin’ Up Bicycles and Bikes for the World. Check out the sale for a great deal on a bike that also benefits local non-profits and be ready to ride this spring! Big Bear Cafe is located at 1700 1st St NW.

INTERSECTIONS
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Varies – see the website

It’s the last weekend of the Atlas’ annual INTERSECTIONS festival that presents tons of fantastic performances in music, theatre, dance, film, and spoken word. Theater for the Very Young: Inside Out is the only one geared especially toward little ones this weekend, but there are many more that older kids and adults will enjoy — see the website for more details.

Gaithersburg St. Patty’s Parade
Where: Washingtonian Center | Gaithersburg, MD
When: Saturday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The city’s 18th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will include both traditional Irish performances and classic parade pageantry. Celtic dancers, bagpipes, marching bands, clowns, firetrucks, and more will make their way through town.

Exhibit Opening Celebration
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: Saturday,
Admission: Free with $15.95 museum entry fee

Join Port Discovery for the grand opening of their temporary Native Voices: New England Tribal Families exhibit, where children and families will learn about native communities around New England today by exploring a native school, museum, Pow Wow, artist’s workshop, and grandma’s kitchen. The opening celebration will include including special demonstrations from representatives of the Baltimore American Indian Center, plus interactive theatrical, art, and science activities designed to teach visitors about Native American culture and traditions.

Farm Fun
Where: Ticonderoga Farm | Chantilly, VA
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: $14.95/ages 2+, $12.95/adults

Start celebrating Easter early at Ticonderoga Farm’s annual spring festival! With giant slides, awesome jumping pillows, playgrounds, animals, mazes, and more, the farm in Chantilly is a blast everyday (it’s open daily), but they take the fun up a notch on weekends in early spring. Along with the permanent amusement, there are egg hunts and visits from the Easter Bunny. Be sure to check the website for timing of specific activities. For an idea of what’s there, see this post about their Winter Festival, which is much of the same, but with Easter instead of Christmas festivities.

Bizarre Alexandria
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: Saturday, 2-3:30pm
Admission: $28

Join Atlas Obscura Society D.C. as they take an unusual tour led by the walking, talking encyclopedia Ed Moser. A former White House scribe, writer for the “Tonight Show,” historian, author, and professional tour guide. Explore a colonial mansion turned Union hospital that’s home to a ghostly cat. Learn how an ailing Washington was treated by doctors who were influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. See the place where the author of Treasure Island found “real-life pirates.” Alexandria is also where the Bill of Rights was formulated, the “South’s Tea Party” took place, and Confederate spies faced off against Northern adversaries. It’s an exploration of Old Town as you’ve never seen it before!

Ireland on the Wharf
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: Saturday, 2-6pm
Admission: Free

They’re bringing the luck of the Irish to the waterfront at the Ireland on The Wharf festival! Celebrate the beauty and tradition of the Emerald Isle with bagpipers, a beer garden, Irish dancers, live music, and plenty of family-friendly activities.

Little Red Riding Hood
Where: Highland Elementary School | Silver Spring, MD
When: Saturday, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Seymour Barab’s funny and sprightly one-act opera delights youngsters as they follow Little Red Riding Hood’s merry jaunt through the woods to Grandmother’s house. Join InterAct Story Theatre and Victorian Lyric Opera Company for their fresh take on this classic children’s opera…and watch out for that sneaky Big Bad Wolf! Best for ages 4 and up.

Nowruz: A Persian New Year Celebration
Where: Freer|Sackler Gallery | National Mall, DC
When: Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Ring in the Persian New Year at the annual Nowruz celebration! Free attractions and activities for all ages include storytelling, hands-on art projects, live music, film screenings, calligraphy, food, and the featured exhibitions Engaging the Senses, Feast Your Eyes, and The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran.

DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Where: Constitution Ave. 7th to 17th ST NW | Downtown DC
When: Sunday, 12pm
Admission: Free

Find a spot on the curb along Constitution Avenue to watch the 48th annual St. Patrick’s parade roll through the city. “Showcasing DC Irish Culture” is this year’s theme, celebrating local Irish-American leaders who showcase Washington’s unique Irish heritage beyond the city. Floats, marching bands, Irish dancers, bag pipers, members of the police and fire departments, and other entertainment will be part of the celebratory procession.

Family Dance
Where: Glen Echo Park Ballroom Annex | Glen Echo, MD
When: Sunday, 3pm
Admission: $5/ages 4 and up

Join the Family Dance session that takes place the second Sunday of each month. It’s a rare opportunity to experience the joy of dance with your children and the community. No experience is necessary, just and dance — a family dance leader will show you everything you need to know right then and there, with a focus on having fun! Recommended for families with kids ages 4-12, but all ages welcome!

***MORE GOOD STUFF TO KNOW***
* Do you have worn kids’ shoes to donate? Avaaz, a global, independent campaigning organization, is planning a political art installation — a monument to victims of gun violence — in front of the US capitol early next week. They will place thousands of shoes to represent the lives lost to gun violence in the last decade, and they need more shoes! Go here to find out where to send or drop off shoes around the DC area.
* The long overdue obituaries of remarkable women are now being featured in The New York Times’ new Overlooked series.
* I recently attended my first Moms Demand Action meeting. Find out how you can get involved, too.
* Sasha and I have been reading this book together, and we both love it.
* For the T(ween) Scene: Coming up at the National Building Museum is a Teen Workshop: When Architecture Tells a Story on March 25.
* Little Pearl (from the Rose’s Luxury team) is a great new Capitol Hill spot — café by day, wine bar at night.

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