Inspiring the Next Generation of Pioneering Women Through Preservation

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October 21, 2019


Timothy J. McClimon, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility

Women have played a critical role in the history of this country. And yet, a great deal of work still remains in telling the stories of the remarkable women who, across the centuries, have made significant contributions to their communities and beyond. Today, celebrating the achievements and legacies of pioneering women is more essential than ever, not only for better understanding the history of our nation but also for inspiring the next generation of leaders.

Women like Emily Warren Roebling, who stepped in for her husband in the 1870s to ensure the Brooklyn Bridge was completed; and Ruth Price Hartley Mosley who, in 1910, in Milledgeville, Georgia was appointed the head nurse of the “Colored Female Department” at the Georgia State Sanitarium — the first African-American woman to achieve that rank. And Dr. Justina Ford, Colorado’s first licensed female African-American doctor, who was prohibited from practicing in local hospitals, and instead treated patients at her home office in the early 1900s.

Unfortunately, stories like these frequently go untold and risk being lost altogether. However, the rise of the modern historic preservation movement has created opportunities to empower organizations and individuals to rally people around the common cause of saving local history, while raising awareness for important places in their communities. One such opportunity that I’m proud to support is the annual Partners in Preservation (PIP) project, a partnership of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

Established in 2006, Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership created to engage the public in preserving historic places. Over the past 13 years, the program has provided more than $28 million in support of more than 260 historic sites across the United States, and has engaged more than a million people. As the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment approaches next year, the 2019 PIP campaign puts the spotlight on local historic sites across the U.S. that highlight the contributions of women in American history.

This year’s 20 historic sites, which are all part of local Main Street communities, are competing for public votes on VoteYourMainStreet.Org to win a share of $2 million in grants to provide much needed restoration funds, which will help ensure that local residents and visitors alike can continue to access these vital institutions in the future.

More than simply being historic places, these sites sit at the heart of the cities and towns they serve, enriching the community by creating economic opportunities and bringing people together - an important area of focus for the modern preservation movement which I’ve discussed previously.

According to a Partners in Preservation Impact Report published earlier this year, in addition to leveraging participation in PIP to raise additional funds and build new partnerships, “one of the most consistent impacts of PIP that participating organizations report is the ability to rally their communities around their historic buildings or landscape.” This shows how preservation campaigns like PiP can bring local communities together in mobilizing support for saving their historic places.

Sites include the home of Dr. Justina Ford and the Ruth Hartley Mosley Memorial Women's Center, as well as the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts, the first women’s club established in Salt Lake City, and the Monroe County Courthouse, of “To Kill a Mockingbird” fame. They are joined on the list by other sites with a legacy of providing social services to local communities, such as the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, which continues to do important work to help end women’s homelessness, and the Economic Growth Gallery Building in Kansas City, which offers entrepreneurs from local immigrant and refugee communities space to run small business pop-ups and hone their business skills.

The stories of these groundbreaking women began at their birthplaces, houses of work and worship, and community centers some helped to build, and it continues, long after they’ve gone, through the preservation of these irreplaceable sites that exist in their honor.

You can join me in helping preserve these stories by voting for your favorite sites daily through October 29, at

Portions of this blog post first appeared on Forbes.

If you have a comment or question, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.

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