Editorial: Following the trail of state’s leading women

Last modified: 3/27/2015 12:08:10 AM
New Hampshire has a rich history of amazing, accomplished women who bravely broke ground here and around the world. Sadly, many of them have fallen into obscurity.

The New Hampshire Women’s Heritage Trail, a project that’s holding an informational meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Concord Women’s Club at 44 Pleasant St. in Concord, is working to rectify that. It is an effort long overdue, and worthy of support and celebration.

An outgrowth of the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Women, the trail project winnowed more than 150 nominations down to 27 inductees. To quote the project’s statement of purpose, these 27 made “significant contributions to the life and culture of the state since its founding.”

Among the women included on the trail are iconic figures such as Concord’s own Christa McAuliffe, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and acclaimed poet Jane Kenyon.

There are also many women who are lesser known but shouldn’t be.

Take Armenia Aldrich White, who was born in Concord in 1817. She worked against slavery and, after the Civil War, joined the battle to gain women the right to vote. She served as the first president of the state’s women’s suffrage association.

Amy Cheney Beach was born in Henniker in 1867 and became an internationally famous composer. She wrote large-scale orchestral works, including a symphony and piano concerto, as well as numerous songs and works for chorus. Many of her compositions have been recorded in recent years, and they’re exceptionally melodic and pleasing.

Further afield geographically, Jaffrey’s Hannah Davis was a pioneering entrepreneur. Born in 1784, she learned woodworking from her father and began a business selling bandboxes. According to the trail’s website, “Davis selected and supervised the cutting of the lumber for the boxes and invented a foot-powered machine to cut the strips of wood needed for their construction.”

And these are just three of the women highlighted. The list continues, and it’s full of education and inspiration.

According to Nadine Thompson, chairwoman of the trail project, the goal is to erect markers across the state honoring the inductees. The gathering today, which also takes place during women’s history month, is a way of raising awareness and enthusiasm for the project. There will be four short talks about four of the women, along with readings of some of their poetry.

And thanks to help from Spark, a group advocating for women in their teens and early 20s, the 27 inductees will be included on Google’s Field Trip smartphone app. Field Trip uses location information from your phone to suggest interesting sites to visit, which means that state school children and residents will be able to experience sites on the trail right now, even without markers.

For information on the project and its background, as well as biographies of all the women included, visit nhwomensheritagetrail.org.

There is much to learn and celebrate about New Hampshire’s trailblazing women and their accomplishments. This is a great place to start.

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