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5 American Cities Where Women Changed the Course of History

The fabric of our nation is woven with the narratives of strong American women. Visit historic landmarks to pay homage to these pioneers.

So much of American history is intertwined with the personal stories of unforgettable women who championed our values and paved the way for great social, scientific and economic progress. It is only fitting then that during Women’s History Month, we pay homage to the heroes who helped craft our national narrative. Visit 5 of our country’s historical treasures that commemorate the contributions and struggles of the women who helped define our nation.

New York, New York

Here are 2 compelling reasons to make a trip to the Big Apple: The Center for Women’s History, one of the newer additions to the dialogue about women in America, tells the story of women from every race and social class—before they had the power to flex their will at the ballot box. Visitors can immerse themselves in a variety of temporary and permanent exhibits, including a multimedia installation, “Women’s Voices,” which explores how women have participated in the national discourse. You might even be able to attend one of the many talks hosted by the center. After your visit to the center, soak up some nostalgia at the Girl Scouts’ national office, where you can see how the uniforms and memorabilia have evolved over the years. Bring your own s’mores unless you’re lucky enough to bag a few of the Girl Scouts’ famous cookies while there. Photo courtesy of the New-York Historical Society / Jon Wallen

Lesson-plan Resources: See New York women in a new light.

Plan Your Trip: NYC, The Official Guide | I Love NY

Driving Distances: 30 minutes from Jersey City, New Jersey | 2 hours from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 2.5 hours from Hartford, Connecticut | 3.5 hours from Providence, Rhode Island | 4.5 hours from Syracuse, New York and Boston, Massachusetts

Where to Stay: Courtyard New York Manhattan/Times Square | Holiday Inn Express New York City Times Square | The Michelangelo Hotel

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, is not just rich in history; it’s also home to a more recent boom in craft breweries and fine dining venues that offer a taste of good old Southern hospitality. While here, drive to the United States Army Women’s Museum in nearby Fort Lee, 35 minutes away. The institution is a fascinating chronicle of the remarkable work of women serving in the Army from 1775 to today. You’ll hear compelling stories, such as how women during the Civil War disguised themselves as men to fight on the front lines after they were denied a role in active combat. Back in Richmond, African-American champion Maggie Walker fought bravely for women’s rights in the Jim Crow South. Her home is now part of the National Park Service. Park rangers offer informative tours of the home and focus on Walker’s history, but get there early as the tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lesson-plan Resources: What role did women play in World War II?

Plan Your Trip: Visit Richmond, VA | Virginia is for Lovers

Driving Distances: 1.5 hours from Newport News, Virginia | 2 hours from Washington, D.C. | 3 hours from Durham, North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland | 5 hours from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Where to Stay: Red Roof Inn Richmond South (Use your NEA member discount!) | Residence Inn Richmond Downtown | Omni Richmond Hotel

San Diego, California

In San Diego, the Women’s Museum of California is a jewel that’s grown organically through the decades. It’s filled with memorabilia and artifacts from one woman’s celebrated collection. A number of rotating exhibits that focus on women’s suffrage and women’s achievements in sports complement traveling exhibits, such as a focus on African-American women and Hollywood pioneers. No visit to San Diego (or California for that matter) is complete without a detour to its historic Spanish-era missions, a small number of which continue to serve as religious outposts. Photo courtesy of the Women’s Museum of California

Lesson-plan Resources: Explore women’s achievements on the world’s waterways.

Plan Your Trip: San Diego Tourism Authority | Visit California

Driving Distances: 2 hours from Anaheim, California | 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, California | 4 hours from Santa Barbara, California | 5 hours from Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona

Where to Stay: Red Roof Inn San Diego - Downtown (Use your NEA member discount!) | Hampton Inn San Diego/Mission Valley | The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The City of Brotherly Love first played host to one of America’s finest historical moments at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia was also home to Betsy Ross, the admirable woman whose signature creation, the Stars and Stripes, is an indelible representation of the United States. The Betsy Ross House is a popular living museum attraction in Philly, and visitors can ask questions of the “real” legendary seamstress. Whether you’re interested in sewing or not, a peek into the workings of an 18th-century upholstery workshop is bound to delight your inner history geek. Photo courtesy of the Betsy Ross House

Once you’ve seen the Betsy Ross House, visit one of the city’s other famous daughters: the gifted African-American contralto singer, Marian Anderson. She occupies a place of pride in the culture scene in Philadelphia. Her home, filled with memorabilia, is now officially the Marian Anderson Historical Residence Museum. While you’re in the city, don’t forget to pick up Philly’s other pride and joy: the cheesesteak. There’s great debate as to which restaurant offers the best cheesesteak in the city, but you can’t go wrong at John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s, Pat’s King of Steaks or Geno’s Steaks.

Lesson-plan Resources: Learn the history of the American flag.

Plan Your Trip: Visit Philadelphia | Discover Philadelphia

Driving Distances: 1 hour from Wilmington, Delaware | 2 hours from New York, New York | 4 hours from Washington, D.C. | 5 hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Where to Stay: The Franklin Hotel at Independence Park | Philadelphia Marriott Downtown | Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel

Boston, Massachusetts

Home to the Tea Party and the “shot heard round the world” (immortalized in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”), Boston is the birthplace of the American Revolution. While most tourists to Beantown visit the iconic Freedom Trail, women’s history enthusiasts must make time for the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, which includes 7 different tours stopping at historic sites featuring a whole cast of pioneering women. As an example, the Beacon Hill tour visits the homes of author Louisa May Alcott (of Little Women fame) and Elizabeth Peabody, who led the charge for kindergarten education in the United States. Just a short drive away is the birthplace of Abigail Adams, first lady to President John Adams and an influential intellectual in early American history. Nestled in the Berkshire mountains in Western Massachusetts, a 2-hour drive from Boston, is poet Emily Dickinson’s home, a museum that is a mecca for the literary-minded.

Lesson-plan Resources: Explore starter poems.

Plan Your Trip: Visiting Boston | Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Driving Distances: 1 hour from Providence, Rhode Island | 2 hours from Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Maine | 3.5 hours from Burlington, Vermont | 4 hours from New York, New York

Where to Stay: Hyatt Regency Boston | Sheraton Boston Hotel | Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill

 


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