During this Women’s History Month, feminists will have a new resource spotlighting women who were part of the rich historical tapestry of the national capital. Two professional guides who offer a Tour of Her Own in Washington, D.C., have published a fascinating guide.
Feminist historians Kaitlin Calogera and Rebecca Grawl describe in the new book, “111 Places in Women’s History that You Must Not Miss.” The authors identify historic places in Washington D.C. that were important to the advancement of women’s rights, and recount inspiring stories of female activists and trailblazers. The authors have highlighted a variety of memorials, parks, houses, street signs, and other hidden gems scattered across D.C. that tell the story of women’s struggle for rights and recognition.
By highlighting these landmarks, this book shares the legacies of countless brave and influential women whose stories have been largely ignored by mainstream historical narratives. Further, the book also emphasizes the modern-day contributions of inspiring women throughout the city.
Below, we have selected some of our absolute favorite D. C. places highlighted in this book, so that you can go check them out!
- Rosa Parks SafeHouse
At 81 years old, famous civil rights activist Rosa Parks was assaulted and robbed in her own apartment in Detroit. After this traumatic incident, Parks did not feel safe staying in the city, and traveled to Washington D.C. seeking refuge. She was graciously accepted by H. H. Leonards, the owner of the O Street Museum and Mansion. For many years afterwards, the O Street Mansion served as a second home for Rosa Parks.
One year, to celebrate Parks’ birthday, the Mansion hosted a Sunday Gospel Brunch. Witnessing a crowd of black people entering the Mansion, white neighbors who lived across the street called the police, claiming that criminals were intruding.
Parks refused to be discouraged by this deeply disrespectful, racist incident; rather, as a demonstration of resilience, she encouraged Leonards to purchase the neighbors’ house as soon as it was on the market. Following Parks’ wishes, H. H. Leonards later bought the house across the street, which is now known as the Rosa Parks SafeHouse.
Address: 2020 O Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
- Maya Angelou Stairs
While Maya Angelou is best known for her inspiring poetry and autobiographical writing, she was equally influential as a civil rights activist. Angelou passed away in 2014, but her legacy still lives on through both her great impact and her renowned, inspiring works.
In Logan Circle, a cast-iron staircase in front of a residential home serves as a tribute to the black feminist poet Maya Angelou. On each step of the staircase, a line of her poem “Alone” is engraved. To this day, how this tribute came to be is a mystery, but it serves to memorialize her impact and vision.
Address: 1015 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
- Temperance Fountain
Located in the heart of downtown Washington D.C., Temperance Fountain was installed in 1884 to provide residents with fresh drinking water to consume as an alternative to alcoholic beverages. Several of these fountains were installed throughout the city, but most were ultimately removed due to their costliness to maintain and general unpopularity.
Many do not know that the temperance movement that started in the 1820s was primarily maintained and guided by women. Alcohol abuse was perceived by many women as a common culprit for domestic violence. As a result, the temperance and women’s suffrage movements were uniquely interwoven. Further, the temperance movement provided a political outlet for women, and enabled women to associate and congregate with one another. Temperance Fountain serves as a reminder of how the temperance movement increased women’s political agency during a time of general exclusion from politics and political discourse.
Address: 678 Indiana Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
- Sakakawea Statue
Located in the Capitol Rotunda, this beautiful statue of Sakakawea, a renowned Native American woman, was unveiled in 2013 to commemorate her service to the nation in her various roles as a diplomate, guide, and translator.
Forced to marry a violent man at the age of 12, Sakakawea is remembered for her bravery, strength, and resilience. In addition to serving as a guide and translator, she was a symbol of peace to other Natives on Lewis and Clark’s expeditions. This beautiful, intricate statue honors Sakakawea’s contributions and courageous spirit.
Address: First Street SE, Washington, DC, 20004
- RBG Mural
In a U Street Corridor alleyway, a colorful mural of the smiling Ruth Bader Ginsberg encompasses the side of a brick building. Rose Jaffe, a D.C. native, was commissioned to paint this mural in 2019. The larger-than-life mural acknowledges RBG’s incredible achievements as a lifelong feminist, trailblazer, scholar of the law, and Supreme Court Justice. Further, this mural serves as a demonstration of D.C.’s deep love for RBG and our collective gratitude for all of her contributions to the city, its inhabitants, the country, and all of humanity.
Exact Address: 1508 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
These are just a few of the 111 places that the book identifies which have rich and exciting feminist histories. Washington is indeed a treasure trove of historic significance; it is exciting to see historical feminist figures and events so clearly identified within the city. Exploring these individuals, places, and works of art remind us of those women who have fought for our rights and advanced the cause of feminism. For more ideas of how to celebrate and acknowledge women’s history in Washington D.C., you can purchase this book at the following links and sign up for a guided tour:
Autographed version (limited availability: https://www.atourofherown.com/store/autographedbook
By Nora Weiss, Government Relations Intern