Top Ten Parks for Women’s History

March 6, 2009, 9:38 am

Experience women’s history first-hand by visiting the top ten parks that honor women. Parks on our list run the gamut from Rosie the Riveter to Eleanor Roosevelt and cover nearly 100 years of the role of women in American history.

Clara Barton National Historic Site, Glen Echo, MD: The 38-room building in Glen Echo was the home of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, who lived here for the last 15 years of her life. It served as the organizational headquarters of the Red Cross from 1897 to 1904. Visitors to the site can take a free guided tour to learn more about Clara Barton and her work. For more information call (301) 320-1410.

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Hyde Park, NY: Visitors to Val-Kill Cottage can take a guided tour of the grounds and view a film in the playhouse. The cottage served as Eleanor’s retreat, office, home, and the headquarters for Val-Kill Industries, a furniture factory that provided local farmers and their families with crafting skills to supplement their income. While in Hyde Park, also visit the neighboring Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. For more information call (800) 337-8474.

First Ladies National Historic Site, Canton, OH: Visitors can explore exhibits honoring the lives and accomplishments of First Ladies throughout history and watch an orientation movie in a 91-seat Victorian theatre. Don’t miss the guided tour of Ida Saxton McKinley's restored Victorian home, which is led by a costumed docent. A shop on second floor of the Saxton House features a gift shop offering a wide range of Victorian and historical-themed gifts. For more information call (330) 452-0876.

Mary Colter Properties at Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon, AZ: As Chief Architect and Decorator for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, Mary Colter designed many iconic buildings at Grand Canyon National Park during the first half of the 20th century. Her creations, designed to blend and mesh with the landscape, helped define the way buildings would be constructed throughout the national park system. Examples include Hopi House, Lookout Studio, Hermits Rest and Indian Watchtower at Desert View. For more information call (928) 638-7888.

Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, MA: Learn more about the American Industrial Revolution, including the story of the "mill girl" workforce and labor movement. The free Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit, located in the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center, gives visitors a sense of what life was like for the girls staying at the Boot Mill boardinghouse. Most of the girls were young, single women from the farming communities of northern New England between the ages of 15 and 25. For more information call (978) 970-5000.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Richmond, VA: Maggie L. Walker was an ex-slave's daughter who became the first woman in the United States to found and serve as president of a bank. Learn more about her life by viewing a short film at the visitor center. Visitors can also join a ranger-led tour of the 28-room Walker home that is restored to its 1930 appearance using original Walker family furnishings. For more information call (804) 771-2017.

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, Richmond, CA: The Rosie the Riveter Memorial honors the estimated 18 million women who worked in World War II defense industries and support services, including steel mills, foundries, lumber mills, aircraft factories, offices, hospitals and daycare centers. The memorial is open year round, dawn to dusk. Visit the park’s website to download a self-guided auto tour map and view a schedule of events and ranger-led programs. For more information call (510) 232-5050.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, Washington, D.C.: This historic house was the first national headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. Visitors may tour the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum to learn about Bethune’s role as the founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women. The National Archives for Black Women's History house the largest manuscript collection of materials pertaining to black women and their organizations; access to the research library is by appointment only. For more information call (202) 673-2402.

Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY: This park commemorate women's struggle for equal rights and the first Women's Rights Convention, held in 1848. Begin your trip at the visitor center and then continue to Wesleyan Chapel, the site of the First Women's Rights Convention. Visitors can also tour the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who did extensive networking to create a reform movement. Check at the visitor center for more information about the park’s new Dial and Discover cell phone audio tour. For more information call (315) 568-2991.

The Wayside at Minuteman National Historical Park, Concord, MA: Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Sidney and Nathaniel Hawthorne all lived in the Wayside, also known as the “Home of Authors.” Called "Hillside" by the Alcott family, it was one the childhood homes of Louisa May Alcott, and the place where she wrote her first published work. Tour the home and explore exhibits to learn about many events that occurred here and are recalled in Alcott’s book Little Women. For more information call (978) 369-6993.

For more sites related to women’s history, visit the National Park Service’s Women’s History page. The National Register of Historic Places has also developed an itinerary that lists places where women made history.