A newly formed alliance of organizations and individuals has come together to explore the impact of women from Greater New Bedford on its history. The Women of Greater New Bedford project will tell the stories of commitment, determination and sacrifice of women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Organizers envision creating a walking trail, a website, an online application and school curriculum by fall 2018.
“Women’s contributions have often been heard as whispers in history,” said Christina Bascom, the project’s designer. “On Nantucket much of Centre Street became known as Petticoat Row because so many of the shops were run by women in the 19th century. My fascination with this story sparked an intense search for parallel sisterhood in New Bedford. What unfolded are remarkable stories of women from many different backgrounds who significantly influenced the path of history while also creating support networks through women’s organizations. Many of these organizations still exist today.”
Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Fellow at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, will conduct the research for the project, supported by graduate students from the University of Mass. at Dartmouth. The fellowship is named for Emily Howland Bourne. Her gift to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1915 funded construction of the world’s largest ship model, the Lagoda, and the building that houses it at the Whaling Museum, the Bourne Building.
O’Leary is the library media specialist at Bishop Stang High School. For over 30 years, she was a librarian for New Bedford Public Schools and at New Bedford Free Public Library. She holds a Master of Science in Library/Information Science from Simmons College and B.A. in Philosophy from Stonehill College. Born and raised in New Bedford, O’Leary has been inspired by strong women every step of the way. O’Leary is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with other women to bring the stories of these remarkable Women of Greater New Bedford to the forefront.
A website currently under construction will house these fascinating stories of educators and philanthropists, abolitionists and crusaders for social justice, investors and confectioners, and more. In the summer of 2018, a walking trail through New Bedford will guide participants from landmark to landmark that will highlight twelve of the most compelling stories of brave and determined women. Trail guide maps will be available at local museums and the National Park Visitors Center. An online application for use with smart phones is also being developed to guide visitors on the trail walk. The Women of Greater New Bedford committee also plans to create a companion curriculum to support women’s studies in local junior and senior high schools.
To identify inspirational women, organizers are asking the public to suggest names for consideration by May 1, 2017, to Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Fellow, at WomenNB@ whalingmuseum.org. A brief biography and summary of accomplishments along with dates of birth and death will assist the committee in their selection of women to reflect the diversity of time and place.
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