Women of Jamaica Plain

Based on a panel presentation held on March 26, 2013 at the Loring-Greenough House in Jamaica Plain.

We are all very excited to be here tonight to tell you about three special Jamaica Plain women.  I would like to thank the Tuesday Club and the Jamaica Plain Historical Society for hosting this event.

My name is Mary Smoyer.  Before the panel gets started I’d like to give you a bit of background.  In 1989 a group of women gathered to found the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. We still work together to achieve our original mission: to uncover, document and disseminate the history of Boston’s women. We knew it was important to tell the whole story and realized that, unfortunately, the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail do not tell the women’s stories. We publish this guidebook of seven self guided tours of Boston based on women’s history, maintain a website at bwht.org, give tours and lectures, promote women’s history in the Boston Public Schools and serve as a general advocate for women’s history in Boston. 

As I was researching various women back in 1989, I noticed how many lived in Jamaica Plain. So in 1992 I put together the first version of this brochure, “Let Me Tell You Her Story.” There are 13 women in the brochure which was recently republished. With the new brochure in hand, the Jamaica Plain  Historical Society encouraged me to organize a panel of women of today (mostly from Jamaica Plain) to share the stories of Jamaica Plain women of the past.

And so here we are tonight with the stories of Emily Greene Balch, Mother Mary Rogers, and Rose Finkelstein Norwood.

We are presenting the women in the order of their birth. After all panel members have spoken we will have time for questions – and we also welcome your ideas on JP women we should honor in the future.

Our first panelist is Sandee Storey, a Jamaica Plain woman who really needs no introduction. She was the founder/editor and publisher of the Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill Gazettes for twenty years and is now a columnist with the Jamaica Plain Gazette. Sandee is a co-author with another Jamaica Plain resident of a non-fiction book, “Women in Citizen Advocacy,” published in 1992 about “ordinary” living women’s advocacy efforts on a wide variety of issues around the country. A collection of her poetry has been accepted for book publication in December 2014.

I knew of her interest in Emily Greene Balch after reading one of her recent columns advocating that Balch receive more permanent recognition locally than she does now.

Our second panelist is another JP woman, Marie Turley. As many of you probably know, Marie is the Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Commission. She is a long-time member of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail Board. Among many other accomplishments, Marie led the process which resulted in the installation of the Boston Women’s Memorial in 2003. The Memorial is the only statue on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall which honors women.  Those women are Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone and Phillis Wheatley. I invited Marie to join our panel when I learned that she had first-hand knowledge of the Maryknoll Sisters, the order founded by Mother Mary Rogers.

Our third panelist is Linda Stern. Linda has a Masters in Library Science.  She worked for several years in the Massachusetts community college system, using primary sources to explore 19th century social movements.  She is the co-author of “Written Out of History: Memoirs of Ordinary Activists.”

I first met Linda a few years ago when she contacted me about doing more research on Jewish women of Boston. She has subsequently joined the board of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, focusing her research, talks, and tours on Jewish women. Her research turned up a special Jamaica Plain woman, Rose Finkelstein Norwood, who is now included in the most recent brochure.

Click on the triangle below to listen to an audio recording of the panel.