Updated: Sep 30, 2022
From Alexandria (previous post), we drove to Washington, D.C. Amazingly we found a parking place on 7th Street NW, not far from F Street and our destination—Terrell Place, a block-long mixed use project with retail stores, offices, and luxury condos that includes renovations on the site of a former Hecht's department store. As you can see in the first image (click to enlarge), Terrell Place is named Mary Church Terrell. The next two images are close-ups. The left side reads: "Terrell Place is named after/ Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)/ Teacher, Writer, Civil Rights Activist/Mary Church Terrell championed equal/rights throughout her life—locally, nationally, and internationally." Despite her many contributions, Terrell wrote in her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World: "I cannot help wondering sometimes what I might have become and might have done if I had lived in a country which did not circumscribe and handicapped me on account of my race."
The right side reads (Terrell is fourth from left in the photo): "From 1951-1952, at the advanced age of 88, Terrell led a campaign to end segregation at the lunch center of Hecht's Department Store (formerly on this site). This was part of a larger effort by the Coordinating Committee for the Enforcement of the D.C. Anti-Discrimination Laws to desegregate restaurants throughout Washington. As chair of the Committee, Terrell organized boycotts, picket lines, and sit-ins, participating in many herself with a cane in one hand and a protest sign in the other. They convinced over 40 restaurants, including Hecht's lunch counter to stop discriminating. Then on June 8, 1953, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that pre-existing anti-discrimination laws (the "lost" laws of 1872 and 1873) were still valid, officially ending segregation in restaurants across the city." The developer, CarrAmerica, "named the complex for Terrell to keep her name alive while celebrating her many achievements." (Note: I advocate using a woman's full name when honoring her because the default is to assume the honor is for a man, realizing that not all names are gender specific.) The daughter of former slaves turned successful business owner, Mary Church Terrell, a graduate of Oberlin College, was also a prominent suffragist. She spoke at many events at the request of her dear friend Susan B. Anthony and joined the Silent Sentinels who were picketing the White House. There is a picture of Mary Church Terrell on p. 50 of my book The Vote: Women's Fierce Fight that appeared in a newspaper after her 1898 address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention. The caption reads: "Her Address on 'Woman Suffrage' the Hit of a Recent Gathering of America's Brainiest Women."
Walking up 7th Street to Terrell Place, we serendipitously discovered a little known landmark to a historic woman: The Clara Barton Museum. It was closed but the sign in the window (see image) was informative.
It started raining so we headed for the nearby National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibit "Out of Many Portraits from 1600 to 1900" an admission by the Gallery that it has long neglected collecting and exhibiting portraits of historic women, including this Time magazine cover, Nov. 30, 1970 of Martha Mitchell of the Watergate scandal. Remember her?
Our last stop in Washington was one I have made many times—the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial sculpted by Robert Berks in Lincoln Park. One of my photographs of this memorial hangs on a wall in our house. The 7' bronze statue (towering over 5'6" me) representing Mary McLeod Bethune stands on a concrete platform set on a pedestal. Her right hand is jauntily holding a cane, representing a cane that had once belonged to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a gift from her friend Eleanor Roosevelt. Her outstretched left hand is handing a scroll representing her Last Will and Testament to statues of a boy and a girl. The text in italics read: "Let her works praise her." The words from her Last Will and Testament are etched on a bronze band, encircling the platform: *I Leave you Love *I Leave you Hope *I Leave You the Challenge of Developing Confidence in One Another *I Leave You Respect for the Use of Power *I Leave You also a Desire to Live Harmoniously with Your Fellow Man *I Leave You Faith *I Leave You Racial Dignity.
Mary McLeod Bethune, a prominent civil rights leader and educator was an adviser to four presidents, founder of what is now Bethune Cookman University, and founder of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. In 1961, Dorothy I. Height, NCNW's president, persuaded the U.S. Congress to pass an act authorizing the erection of a memorial to Bethune. Height then spearheaded a 13-year fund-raiding compaign. Dedicated on July 10, 1974, which would have been Bethune's 99th birthday, the memorial was the first statue for a Black woman, or any woman in the nation's capital. Dorothy Height extolled "the new awakening of the contributions of women in society." (Hmmm—In outdoor spaces in Washington today, I can't think of any other figurative statue solely dedicated to an individual woman, except one of Eleanor Roosevelt that is part of FDR's memorial.)
There is a fact about the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial that I delight in telling: A large memorial to Abraham Lincoln, known as the Emancipation Memorial, stands at the other end of Lincoln Park. Although now controversial because the memorial includes a kneeling slave, the idea to commemorate Lincoln was Initiated by Charlotte Scott, a freed slave, who made a $5 donation. Mostly funded with the wages of freed slaves, the Emancipation Memorial was dedicated in 1876.
In 1974, before the dedication of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial, the west-facing Emancipation Memorial was lifted up and rotated east so that the statues representing Abraham Lincoln and Mary McLeod Bethune directly face each other from their spot at each end of a long lawn!
Just think of what it took to do that, and of how important it was to do that!
Next stop on this women's history road trip (August 20-23, 2022)—Georgetown, Wilmington, and Dover, Delaware.