Honoring the Women of Chesapeake Country

By Kathy Knotts 

Warmer temperatures and longer days: here is the month of March to tempt you from your dark winter dwellings. It’s Women’s History Month—a worthy excuse to get out of the house—as sites around the region line up in-person and virtual events to introduce you to the famous, the infamous and some unknown women of Chesapeake Country. March 8 is also International Women’s Day, celebrating the contributions of women across the globe. But we’re most partial to those right here on the Bay. 

Eastern Shore 

Head to St. Michaels and meet a maritime trailblazer. Jenn Kuhn is a boatbuilder and Shipyard Education Programs Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Kuhn leads classes regularly, sharing her skills with eager students. This spring, women are invited to tap into their inner woodworkers in a two-day introductory workshop. Learn to make a cut list, buy lumber, measure lengths and angles, plus learn how to safely use a variety of power tools and hand tools to make your own custom-made mallet.  

“Passing on the boatbuilding skills I’ve learned, while empowering people to feel comfortable using tools and techniques, is remarkably rewarding,” Kuhn writes on the museum website. “Everyone comes to workshops and classes with a different set of skills. I love seeing a participant’s pride when they’ve completed a project or mastered a new skill, like creating a handmade mallet or using a block plane.” 

Also on the Eastern Shore is the future site of the Maryland Museum of Womens History in Centreville. While the physical building is not open to the public currently, the museum has produced an online exhibit on the life of Anna Ella Carroll. Carroll was very active in both state and national politics during her life and wrote large volumes on her religious and political beliefs, including pamphlets on President Abraham Lincoln’s war powers that presented constitutional arguments supporting the federal government’s actions. Carroll also played a role in Lincoln’s Tennessee River campaign during the Civil War and was known for her political connections. See the exhibit: https://aecex.org/ You can find Carroll’s grave at Old Trinity Church in Woolford.  

Anne Arundel County 

The Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum Heights is the home of the Ann Arundell County Historical Society and plays host to the society’s popular annual strawberry festival. For Women’s History Month, AACHS, along with various women’s service and heritage societies, celebrates the hard-working women of the historic home and the county, with a tour and an introduction to Nancie Smith Benson, wife of the builder, and the Kelly sisters who lived in the home.  

  • March 13, 11am-3pm, 7101 Aviation Blvd, Linthicum Heights: www.aacgs.org

If you are up for a lengthier experience, Annapolis Tours by Watermark offers its Women of Achievement tour. Stroll through the historic district with a suffragist guide and hear stories of notable female Marylanders, including Harriet Tubman and Barbara Mikulski.  

“Learning about these impressive, brave women leaders makes me grateful for their unwavering efforts. In the face of plenty of obstacles, they opened doors and paved the way for us, our daughters, and our granddaughters,” said Watermark President Debbie Gosselin. “To inspire the next generation with these trailblazing women’s accomplishments, Watermark is offering a complimentary ticket to each child with an accompanying adult,” Gosselin said.  

  • March 13, 10:30am-12:30pm, starting at Market House Park, 25 Market Space, Annapolis, $20/adult and $5/child (ages 3-11). One complimentary child’s ticket is available with the purchase of an adult ticket; RSVP: www.AnnapolisTours.com/Women-ofAchievement/

Historic London Town’s deputy director Lauren Silberman literally wrote the book on Maryland women. She is the author of Wild Women of Maryland: Grit and Gumption in the Free State and will tell some of the stories she uncovered during her research in a Zoom talk with the Anne Arundel County Public Library. Daring women of Maryland made their mark on history as spies, would-be queens, and fiery suffragettes. Sarah Wilson escaped indentured servitude in Frederick by impersonating the queen’s sister. Baltimorean Virginia Hall spied against the Nazis, while having just one leg. From famous figures like Harriet Tubman to unsung heroines like “Lady Law” Violet Hill Whyte, Silberman introduces Maryland’s most tenacious and adventurous women.  

Although Black History Month is over, Black women are still being celebrated in March. Join the Banneker-Douglass Musuem for its program Honoring Black Women of Courage. Moderators will explore the life of Maryland-born freedom fighter Gloria Richardson who led the Cambridge Movement, a civil rights movement which led to the desegregation of all schools, recreational areas, and hospitals in Maryland. The program is made possible by partnerships with the University of Maryland Black Alumni Association and the Eastern Shore Change Network

The Hammond Harwood House in Annapolis hosts a virtual presentation by Dr. Julie Rose on Women’s History at The Marietta House Museum in Prince Georges County. Rose is the director of the Marietta House and a Hammond-Harwood House Trustee. She will share the stories of five historical women, some who lived free and some enslaved at Marietta around 1830. The women’s lives intersected in their work duties, family ties, social norms and their womanhood. Multiple generations of the free slaveholding Duvall families and multiple generations of enslaved families including the Butler family lived at Marietta. Indentured servants and wage laborers also left their mark and their histories at Marietta for us to learn from, to commemorate, and to interpret for social justice conversations and advocacy.  

Calvert County 

At the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Homeschool Week (see Jillian Amodio’s story this week) comes during Women’s History Month. Families are invited to visit the museum and pick up the kit on Southern Maryland women. Museum goers will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through a hands-on exploration of the Museum’s HERStory exhibit.  This exciting new program shines a light on some of the pioneering women from Maryland’s history.  Participants will identify fossils like paleontologist Dr. Susan Kidwell, tie knots like boat captain Edie Taylor, and get up close with sting rays like Dr. Eugenie Clark. 

You can also celebrate Women’s History Month by learning about some of the incredible contributions women have made in the field of science, and hear what is currently being done to close the gender gap within the field. The Calvert Nature Society hosts a gathering with naturalist Kim Curren to discuss the matter; membership purchase required to attend.