Category Archives: Historic Preservation

March 8 is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month.

Since the first United Nations celebration in 1975, International Women’s Day has emerged increasingly as a focal point for reflection on the progress made, changes still needed, and celebration of courage and accomplishments around the globe.  By 1980, it had spawned a National Women’s History Week in the United States that evolved, in 1987, into March becoming Women’s History Month through Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation.

As we know at Ursuline, collaboration can be powerful and International Women’s Day with events at the U.N. and around the globe as well as Women’s History Month are meant to serve as rallying points as we acknowledge the impact we can have when we work together.

That is not to say that individual effort is not equally powerful. There are countless examples of women who worked individually for the greater good and it is important for us to acknowledge and pass on their legacy as part of this larger collaborative effort.

hunter_janeOne such individual was Jane Edna Hunter of Cleveland who battled immense personal, professional, and historic challenges to become an advocate for women and African-Americans.

This young South Carolinian was the daughter of slaves-turned-sharecroppers and was forced into domestic service at the age of 10, then into an arranged marriage.  Even after she received nursing training she encountered extreme prejudice when northern doctors refused to hire her because she was a southern black nurse.  When she moved to Cleveland during the Great Migration, she encountered housing discrimination and was forced to seek shelter in a brothel.

DoorwayPWAIn spite of overwhelming challenges, Hunter turned her entrepreneurial skills to the problem of appropriate housing for single women.  In 1912 she became a local “mother of modern social work” when she founded the Phillis Wheatley Association, which would become the single largest private social service agency in Cleveland as well as the largest residence for single African-American women in the nation.  It is still active today.

Recognizing the increasingly important role that the law played in parity and accomplishment, Hunter managed to graduate from (Cleveland) Marshall Law School and passed the Ohio Bar in 1925 to become a practicing attorney.

Understanding the importance of individual effort combined with collaboration, she helped found the Women’s Civic League of Cleveland, and rose to the vice presidency in both the National Association for Colored Women and NAACP.

It’s a rag to riches story of sorts, if you consider riches analogous to accomplishment and contribution, that takes place during a Great Depression and two world wars.

Tolliveras Hunter (1)You can hear her story for yourself when Sherrie Tolliver of “Women in History” presents a first person living history interpretation of Jane Edna Hunter.   This FREE presentation is sponsored by Ursuline Studies 351 in celebration of Women’s History Month.

When:  Tuesday March 22 from noon-1 p.m.

Where:  Little Theatre, Mullen Building, Ursuline College

Join us for inspiration from a real-life local S/Hero!


George Masa: A Biography of a Preservationist

May is National Historic Preservation Month!  Thank you to Freshman Historic Preservation major Aly Nahra for sharing this biography she recently wrote on George Masa who inspires her with his commitment to preservation.

George Masa

George Masa

George Masa was an influential person in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Little is known about him before he came to the United States except that he came from Japan in the early 1900s. When he first came to America, he was going to school. Later, he moved to North Carolina and worked a few different jobs there until he opened his own photography studio. He spent much of his time there exploring the Smoky Mountains, which were the subject of many of his photographs. After this, he began promoting the preservation of the Smoky Mountains by selling photographs from his studio. He spent the rest of his life working to preserve the Great Smoky Mountains through his photography, hoping that his pictures would move others the ways the mountains did him.

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For Women's History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

For Women’s History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

Meghan O’Connor of the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently reported “only 8% of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places embody underrepresented communities, including women.”[i]

Women, however, are approximately half the nation’s population. Further, they have historically been integral in promoting preservation of historic sites at the national level as well as state and local levels.

American women have historically asked questions about their role, their “place,” in American society as well as American history. We would do well to also ask with increasing vigor about women’s “place” in preservation and at historic sites. These are the most noticeable, nonverbal cues about our cultural values and legacy that we can offer to our population.

And so, in the spirit of introducing one woman’s “place” in preservation, I ask: What do former Ohio Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton and our first President George Washington have in common besides public service in national politics?

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