Monadnock’s Wondrous Women: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

"Poster" of Women's History - "Equality is the Sacred Law of Humanity"

March is Women’s History month and the Monadnock Region is replete with courageous women to celebrate! There is certainly no shortage of successful ladies who have made tremendous impacts throughout our long history. With passion to pursue their life’s work, these amazing women contributed to our community in remarkable ways.

It’s impossible to highlight every dedicated, hardworking woman throughout the region’s history, but locals are making a great effort to spark inspiration by bringing some of the most notable to the forefront. Applauded are women who stand out against the fabric of history as community leaders in in such areas as women’s suffrage, animal rights, and protecting the rights of abused women and children.

Empowered Women of Cheshire County

One of the best places to find an extensive list is the Historical Society of Cheshire County, featuring the Empowered Women of Cheshire County. There you’ll find detailed biographies on forty of Monadnock most significant women, those who led lives beyond the scope of the average lady of their time.

Take Abby Bickford, the first woman elected to the Keene Board of Education, Hannah Davis, a skilled craftswoman who produced wooden band boxes that remain highly collectible to this day, or the famous Madame Sherri, an eccentric Chesterfield resident and Manhattan costume designer whose NH property is now preserved by the Forest Society. Those are just a few of the fascinating stories that can be traced back to the women of NH.

Ruins consisting of the foundation, chimneys, and part of the stone staircase of Madame Sherri's castle

Ruins that remain at Madame Sherri’s Forest

Keene Walldogs

You don’t have to look far to find women’s history being celebrated here. For instance, try downtown Keene, home to a series of recent murals completed during the historic Walldogs festival in 2019.  Two of the murals portray particularly inspiring women who lived their lives here in the Monadnock Region. See all the murals in the Walldogs Magical History Walking Tour.

Catherine Fiske founded Miss Fiske’s Young Ladies Seminary in Keene in 1811 as the first high school for women in NH and the second in the nation. This incredibly intelligent individual was a dedicated learner and educator. In its time, the school taught over 2,500 women lessons in reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, history, geography, music, painting, botany, needlework, French, Italian and Latin. Consider the minds that graduated from this leading Granite State school! Take it all in when you view Fiske’s east-facing mural at 21 Roxbury Street.

Portrait of Catharine Fiske

Catharine Fiske

Jennie B. Powers was a sincere, brave individual and was even known across the country as “The Woman Who Dares.” Possibly the first sheriff deputy in the state, she arrested more men than any other women in America in 1906. Powers prosecuted cases against animal rights cruelty and worked to protect the rights of abused and neglected women and children. Her efforts forwarded the suffrage movement, gaining women the right to vote and have legal rights to the welfare of their own children. View her south-facing mural at 120 Main St at Eagle Court.

Jennie B. Powers

Jennie B. Powers at the Colonial Theater

The public is welcome to view a documentary on the life of “The Woman Who Dares” on Sunday, March 13, 2022 at 4pm at the Colonial Theater’s Showroom. Stick around after the film for a discussion presented by SALT project president Elizabeth Myer Boulton and Historical Society director of education Jennifer Carroll. Get tickets and review the COVID-19 guidelines.

Emblem "The Woman Who Dares"

Because of Her Story: A Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit

Upstairs at the Jaffrey Public Library, you can delve into the long, courageous fight for women’s right to vote. Spanning three generations, fearless, determined women and men throughout the country fought for equal rights one state at a time. If you can’t make it to check out this gorgeous exhibit before it leaves at the end of March, PBS has an informative two-part documentary titled: The Vote.

One of the displays at the Jaffrey Public Library featuring women

Display at the Jaffrey Library

It’s truly because of the valor of these patriots that American women of today and tomorrow have modern civil rights, such as electing officials or serving in congress. Standing on the shoulders of these women are national heroes like Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Just think what the next generation of women will accomplish.

Monadnock’s Extraordinary Women of Today

Local news outlet, The Keene Sentinel, annually recognizes 10 area extraordinary women. The 2021 recipients’ accomplishments include exceptional community service, non-profit work, local activism, and more. Last year’s honorees were Mindy Cambiar, Shay Croteau, Kimberley Diemond, Anjalee Dreher, Dawn Martin, Susan Maydwell, Katrina Nugent, Phyllis Phelps, Denise Thomas, and Caragh Wilder. Congratulations and thank you to these incredible women! We can’t wait to learn who will be celebrated for their efforts on the behalf of our beautiful community in 2022.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

This March, take time to honor the amazing women in your life. (If you’re an empowered woman, cheers to you!)  Look back in your family’s history books and discover the stories of strong women in your family. Share these histories with the children in your life. Helping our children understand and value the diverse roles mothers, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, neighbors and friends play in making a community thrive is how they begin to write new stories of their own.

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