A recently published guidebook goes into detail about the District’s sites that deal with women’s contributions to the city and many of those places are African-American female oriented.
Kaitlin Calogera and Rebecca Grawl have co-authored a guidebook, “111 Places in Women’s History in Washington, D.C. That You Must Not Miss,” published by Emons Verlag of Cologne, Germany. Cynthia Schiavetto Staliunas worked as the guidebook’s photographer with colorful pictures of sites that have connections to women’s history. The guidebook has become a part of a series of publications with a similar title highlighting tourist sites in places such as Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, New York, San Francisco and Palm Beach, Fla. However, the District guidebook focusing on female-oriented tourist sites exists as the only one of its types in the series. Grawl, who works as a tour guide in the city, said the idea of the guidebook came as an outgrowth of Calogera’s District-based tour company, A Tour of Her Own. The two decided to collaborate on the guidebook in 2018 and just as they started the project the coronavirus pandemic took root.
“Just as we hit momentum in March 2020, the tourism industry was instantly devastated by COVID-19,” she said. “During a time of prohibited travel, we pivoted to transfer tourism from the streets of D.C. to the pages of this book. We certainly encountered obstacles but we took the time of some places being closed to dig deep into the women’s history in the city. Our stories of people and places often intersected, and when placed together, they formed a more comprehensive narrative.”
Grawl said no women’s history of the city would be complete without including the role African American females played in its development.
“You cannot tell D.C. history without Black women,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we showcase this in the book.”
Among the places highlighted by the book:
*The AKA Sisterhood Mural located on 4411 14th Street., N.W. Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Black collegiate sorority, had its founding at Howard University in 1908. The mural sits on the back wall of building owned by the sorority’s Xi Omega chapter.
*The Mary Ann Shadd Cary House at 1421 W Street., N.W. Cary became the first Black female publisher in North America with her anti-slavery newspaper in Canada in the 1850s. She moved back to the District to work for the U.S. Army recruiting Blacks to fight for the Union during the Civil War. She lived in the house on W Street for the rest of her life.
*The Memorial to Mary McCleod Bethune. Located in Lincoln Park, 1301 East Capitol Street., S.E., this is the only memorial dedicated to a Black woman in any District public park. Bethune served in the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidential administration as the director of the Division of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration while residing in the District.
*Juanita Thornton Library located at 7301 Georgia Ave., N.W. The library branch gets its name from Ward 4 civic activist Juanita Thornton. Thornton fought to get a library in her Shepherd Park neighborhood instead of another hamburger outlet. In 1990, the fruits of her labor paid off and the branch received approval from the city. Thornton died two months after the branch opened in 1992.
Grawl said Thornton’s struggle to get a library branch for her neighborhood reveals how hard Black women worked to get things done in the city.
“Juanita Thornton really made an impact but she is an example of the hard work African American women performed to build this city,” Grawl said.