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Cemeteries, I have discovered . . .

Cemeteries, I have discovered, are a rich source of women's history: Places where I have learned about women I didn't know about and gotten information about women I have written about. An example of discovering a new woman is when I happened upon the gravestone of Susan Contesse in Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Paterson, New Jersey. (The wet spot in the photo is from where I removed wet grass that was covering the granite.) As for a woman I've written about, the fact that Frances Perkins' gravestone in Glidden Cemetery, Newcastle, Maine, was engraved with her married name—"Frances Perkins Wilson"—astonished me. Frances Perkins, famously did not use Wilson. In my book about Perkins, I quoted from her letter to the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Association expressing her annoyance about receiving letters addressed to her "under my husband's name . .. . I do no use my husband's name either socially or professionally . . . .Please change your records . . . ."

Frances Perkins and her husband Paul Wilson have identical gravestones that are placed side-by-side. Perhaps that is why a name she never used in life was chosen (by her or her daughter) as her name in death. I wonder.

I also visit cemeteries to pay homage to historic women. I am not the only one: On election day, visitors put "I Voted Today" stickers on Susan B. Anthony's grave in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York. (Her grave was covered with stickers in 2016.) In 2020, organizations and individuals joined the "Here Lies a Suffragist" campaign to identify and visit the graves of suffragists. In Vineland, New Jersey, a sign was placed at the grave of Portia Gage who attempted to vote on March 1868.

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