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7 Women Who Shaped Salem’s History

Salem Women's History Day is March 29, 2020

Salem’s Mayor Kim Driscoll named Sunday, March 29th as Salem Women’s History Day, highlighting the accomplishments of North Shore women since Salem’s foundation in 1626. This annual event has brought together historic house museums and institutions for special events honoring these great women for the last few years.

Here are 7 great women who helped shaped Salem’s history into what it is today.

Charlotte Forten Grimké

“The long, dark night of the Past, with all its sorrows and its fears, was forgotten; and for the Future—the eyes of these freed children see no clouds in it. It is full of sunlight, they think, and they trust in it, perfectly.” – Charlotte Forten

Charlotte Forten Grimké (August 17, 1837 – July 23, 1914) was an anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator and the first African-American person to teach white students in a Salem, MA public school. The newly created public park in Salem at 284 Derby Street is now named for her.

Caroline Emmerton

Caroline Osgood Emmerton (1866–1942) was a wealthy philanthropist from Salem, Massachusetts who established The House of the Seven Gables as a combined historic site and settlement house in 1907.

In 1916, Caroline Emmerton’s Settlement House served the immigrant families living in the neighborhood of the museum. The children often attended classes that taught household and industrial skills like cooking, woodworking, sewing, and gardening. The House of the Seven Gables continues Emmerton’s legacy today with ongoing programming.

Lydia Pinkham

Lynn-native Lydia Pinkham (February 9, 1819 – May 17, 1883) was an entrepreneur and pioneer for women’s health in an age where, frankly, women’s issues weren’t being considered. Although she’s seen as a controversial figure, modern-day feminists admire her for distributing information on menstruation and women’s health issues.

In 1922, Lydia’s daughter Aroline Pinkham Chase Gove founded the Lydia E. Pinkham Memorial Clinic in Salem, Massachusetts, to provide health services to young mothers and their children.

Anna Phillips

In 1821 four intact rooms from an earlier house were transported by ox sled to Salem’s fashionable Chestnut Street to form the core of a new Federal-style mansion being built by Captain Nathaniel West. In the 20th Century, Anna Phillips, wife of Stephen Phillips, bought the property and renovated it to its current splendor.

Today The Phillips House remains the only historic house on Chestnut Street open to the public.

Sarah Parker Remond

“My strongest desire through life has been to be educated.” – Sarah Parker Remond

Born free in Salem, Sarah Parker Remond (June 6, 1826 – December 13, 1894) was a lecturer, abolitionist, and agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

In 1999, the Massachusetts State House included Remond in their honoring of six outstanding women of the state. They installed a series of six tall marble panels with a bronze bust in each.

Annie Stevens Perkins

Annie Stevens Perkins (April 12, 1868 – ?) was a writer and a graduate of the Salem Normal School, now Salem State University. Her early work, both stories and poetry, was published in the Salem Gazette, Watchman, Golden Rule, the Silver Cross, among others. During her life she published two larger works: Appointed paths in 1896 and Thoughts of Peace in 1891.

Elizabeth Peabody

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (May 16, 1804 – January 3, 1894) was an American educator who opened the first English-language kindergarten in the United States. She was the sister to painter Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, wife of author Nathanial Hawthorne, and writer Mary Tyler Peabody Mann (wife of educator Horace Mann).


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