Statues and plaques publicly heralding men who changed America are ubiquitous in Washington, while similar public recognition for women who changed America is scant and obscure.
Carol Crouch, founder of Washington Walks tours, was disappointed at the disparate acclaim recognizing similar female heroism. She decided, with a female friend, to be the ones to do something about it.
Although they couldn’t install statues and plaques, Crouch and her friend created a walking tour called “Women Who Changed America” which visits sites commemorating the courageous contributions of indefatigable women who gave to America what President Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”
“The walks are particularly appropriate now and through next year, as America celebrates the centennial of states’ ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowing women to vote,” explained Crouch.
The Clara Barton Missing Soldier Museum at 437 Seventh St. NW speaks to both Barton’s experiences as a brave Civil War field hospital and under-fire “Angel of the Battlefield” nurse, and to Barton’s later tireless efforts on a national scale to help soldiers’ families find out what happened to their loved ones missing in the chaos of war.
Barton (1821-1912) founded the American Red Cross and was its first president until 1904.
The Smithsonian Art Museum, another stop on a recent walking tour, used to be the the U.S. Patent Office, where Hannah Slater (1774-1812) was in 1793 the first woman to file a patent with the feds. Slater’s patent involved a way to make sewing thread from cotton. Other sources say Mary Kries in 1804 was the first female patent filer. Martha Jones in 1868 was the first African-American woman to submit a patent.
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) served in public life as an African-American educator, suffragist and civil rights activist. Some civil rights protests took place in and near the former Hecht’s Department store, a tour stop. Terrell’s father was the first African-American millionaire in the south.
Other stop highlights include the House wing of the U.S. Capitol Building where Jeanette Rankin (1880-1973) was the first woman elected to Congress; and Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and to run for the office of President of the United States.