We may not know them by name, but scores of women have profoundly influenced the history of Alexandria. Now, some of these women are being recognized as part of the Alexandria Womens History Walk, a project of the Alexandria Commission for Women and Friends of the Commission. Over the course of the one- to four-mile walks, these self-guided tours cover 19 different places where women impacted Alexandrias history from the 18th through the 20th centuries.
It is wonderful and appropriate that we have an Alexandria Womens History Walk, said state Sen. Patsy Ticer, Alexandrias first woman mayor. We didnt get the vote until quite late, but everyone both men and women — were working hard to make the infrastructure of our community better.
The tour is concentrated within a relatively small area and can be tailored in length to suit individual time constraints.
Although women were not always in the forefront in Alexandria, they made sure the quality of life here was good, Ticer added. Alexandria had many fine women who fully participated to make our community closer, more efficient and to ensure that every individual had equal rights.
Below is an easy, one-mile walking tour designed to introduce you to some of the women whose lives helped shaped Alexandria.
530 S. St. Asaph Street
Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, serving children in kindergarten through fifth grade, was built in 1958 and is named for two African American educators, Rozier Lyles and Carrie Crouch. Crouch followed in the tradition of other African American women educators who worked hard to ensure education for African American children at a time when Alexandria public schools were segregated. Others include Sylvia Morris, an African American woman who opened a school for African American children in her home in the 1780s. Jane A. Crouch and Sarah Gray (1861) were two free African American women, born in Alexandria, who co-founded the Saint Rose Institute to educate African American children. They also worked to help escaping slaves learn to read and write. Gray later helped open the First Select Colored School in 1862, and she eventually became principal of the Hallowell School for Girls.
DIRECTIONS: Walk north one block to Wilkes Street, turn right, and walk two blocks to Royal Street. Turn right.
HANNAH JACKSON HOME
The east side of S. Royal Street between Wilkes and Wolfe streets
The home is gone, but what occurred remains a part of Alexandria history. Hannah Jackson was a free African American laundress who lived here in the early 1800s. She saved her pennies and in 1815 had enough saved to pay $135 a great deal of money then to buy A man Slave by the name of Solomon. Solomon was Hannah Jacksons son. In the years after, she used her money from doing other peoples laundry to buy her sister, Esther, Esthers four children and her own granddaughter, Ann Weaver. All became free and their names are recorded in court records. Free Blacks, as people like Hannah Jackson were called, were often self-employed in towns like Alexandria, working as seamstresses, laundresses and at other tasks. Many, like Hannah, worked to buy their family members out of slavery and into freedom.
THE SEATON HOME
404 S. Royal Street
The Seaton Home was, in the 1870s, the home of George Seaton, a free African-American carpenter. He was responsible for construction of the first public schools for African-American children, including the Hallowell School for Girls.
DIRECTIONS: Walk north to Wolfe Street and turn left. Walk three blocks to S. Washington Street and turn left. Walk half a block to the Campagna Center.
THE CAMPAGNA CENTER
418 S. Washington Street
The Campagna Center is named for Elizabeth Ann Campagna, a woman who spent her professional life working for needy women and children in Alexandria. She began her work in this building in 1960 it was then a YWCA and over the years she developed dozens of innovative programs for women and their families that formed a vital safety net. In 25 years of work as the YWCAs executive director, Campagna transformed the nature of the assistance the city gave to those in need, developing preschool programs, help for latch-key kids, tutoring, crisis assistance and more all funded through the creative use of city, state and federal funds. Todays Campagna Center, named in her honor, continues her work.
DIRECTIONS: Walk back toward Wolfe Street on Washington for half a block and stop.
604 Wolfe Street
This restored school building, established in 1786 by donations from George Washington and others of wealth, was originally for poor male orphans. The school also accepted girls but only at the ratio of four boys to one girl. In 1812, the trustees of Alexandria Academy opened the Washington Free School for Girls, which was located at 218 N. Columbus Street. Also in 1812, this school was taken over to serve free African-American children. The school continued to operate until 1847, when Virginia state law at the time forbade the education of African Americans. The Academy, recently restored, is open for tours.
DIRECTIONS: Walk north on Washington Street three blocks to King Sreet. and turn right on King. Walk two blocks to the 500 block of King Street.
ALEXANDRIA COURT HOUSE
520 King Street
Alexandria women have not always been part of the citys judiciary, as they are today. The citys first woman judge in any court was Irene Pancoast, who became a full-time judge at Alexandrias Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in 1954 after she completed a distinguished career as a White House staffer and attorney. Pancoast, who served in Alexandrias old courthouse, attached to City Hall before its remodeling, retired in 1977.
HARRIET WILLIAMS HOME
500 block of King Street
Her home is gone now, but the 500 block of King Street was once the home of Harriet Williams, a slave owned by Samuel Lindsay, who lived nearby. Alexandria Archeology, in the Torpedo Factory, has artifacts from Williams home.
DIRECTIONS: Cross King Street and walk one block east to 421 King Street.
ALEXANDRIA OFFICE ON WOMEN
421 King Street
The Office on Women was created in the 1970s after a group of women led by staffer Vola Lawson created the Ad Hoc Commission on the Status of Women, which then persuaded City Council that a city department focused on womens concerns was needed. Todays Office on Women, directed by Lisa Baker, has extensive programs on such issues as domestic violence, sexual assault and teen pregnancy. The office also oversees Alexandrias Womens Shelter, conducts the citys annual Breast Cancer Walk and supports the work of the Commission for Women.
DIRECTIONS: Walk 1 1/2 blocks east on King Street to Market Square.
301 King Street
Market Square was part of the original design of Alexandria, laid out in 1749. In those times, the square was very different than todays clean and elegant site but the purpose was, in some ways, similar. In Alexandrias early days, the square was the site of small shanties from which townspeople and farmers sold merchandise and food men and women alike. Slaves were also sometimes permitted to sell their products here, using the money to help buy their freedom and that of family members. Sophia Browning Bell was a slave who did this in Market Square, freeing her husband, George Bell, in 1801. Bell went on to help establish the first school for African American children in the District of Columbia.
Then, as now, the square was a gathering place for events. George Washington led his troops from here to fight in the French and Indian War and both Confederate and Union soldiers and sympathizers held rallies here. Slaves were sold in Market Square and at one time, the public whipping post stood here as well. The citys first City Hall was built on the square and when it burned in 1871, the new City Hall was rebuilt on the same site.
DIRECTIONS: Walk through Market Square and in the back door of C
ity Hall. Proceed down the hall into the Vola Lawson Lobby.
VOLA LAWSON LOBBY, ALEXANDRIA CITY HALL
301 King Street
City Hall is important to womens history as the representative site of Alexandria womens leadership in government. Alexandrias first woman to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates was civic activist Marion Galland, who was elected in 1963. Women began serving on Alexandrias City Council for the first time in 1973, when Beverly Beidler and Nora Lamborne, were elected. Marlee Inman was elected to Council in 1979, and was the citys first woman Vice Mayor from 1985-86. Redella S. Del Pepper was first elected to Council in 1985 and is the longest serving member of Council in the history of the city. Joyce Woodson, the citys first African American woman to serve on Council, was elected in 2000.
Patsy Ticer was elected to serve as Alexandrias first woman mayor in 1991. She served two full terms and in 1995 was the first woman from Alexandria elected to the Virginia Senate, where she continues to serve today.
The Vola Lawson Lobby was named to celebrate the work of Alexandrias first woman to serve as City Manager. Lawson began working for the city in the 1970s and in 1985 was named City Manager, a position she held until 2001. Her many accomplishments include creating the Office of Women and encouraging the work of the Commission for Women. She was inducted into the Virginia Womens Hall of Fame in 1993 and has received many national awards for her work.
DIRECTIONS: Exit City Hall onto Cameron Street; turn left and cross N. Royal Street to Gadsbys Tavern.
138 N. Royal Street
In the 1770s, Mary Hawkins was the proprietor of a tavern on Royal Street in the oldest of the buildings that have been preserved and restored as Gadsbys Tavern. This site, always a tavern, was the heart of Alexandrias social, political and business life during the time Hawkins owned it. We know that George Washington frequented the tavern, as he noted in his diary for January 17, 1774: Went up to Alexandria to Court Suppd at Mrs. Hawkins and came home afterward. While no one is certain, it is likely that Hawkins took over the tavern, which served food and drink primarily to the upper classes, from her husband at his death. She ran the tavern with the help of her daughter, sons and several male and female slaves.
DIRECTIONS: Cross Market Square walking east to N. Fairfax Street. The large stone mansion there is Carlyle House.
121 N. Fairfax Street
The lives of two women Sally Fairfax Carlyle and Sibyl West Carlyle were, compared to the lives of many women in the city, relatively comfortable. But the reality of their lives, compared to todays womens lives in America, was difficult. Carlyle House is, even by todays standards, a large and splendid home. It was so in 1747, when 19-year-old Sally Fairfax married John Carlyle, a successful merchant at that time. At this young age, she was responsible for overseeing not only Carlyle House but also the family plantation in Fairfax County. She and John had seven children in the 11 years of their marriage only two of whom survived childhood. Sally Fairfax died in childbirth at age 30. Sibyl West Carlyle was Johns second wife. She had four children in six years three of whom survived but she too died in childbirth in 1769.
DIRECTIONS: Walk one block south on N. Fairfax Street to King Street. Turn left on King Street onto the next block.
221 King Street
Ramsay House was the home of William and Ann McCarthy Ramsay, two key figures in Alexandria history. William Ramsay was a Scottish merchant who settled here and was one of the citys founders. Ann McCarthy was the daughter of Alexandria Mayor Dennis McCarthy and Sarah Ball (George Washingtons cousin). Ann married Ramsay bore him five daughters and three sons and in her spare time became one of the most effective fundraisers for the Revolutionary War. She became Treasurer of Alexandria and Fairfax County and led a fundraising drive that collected more than $75,000 (this would be millions today) to help support the Continental Army.
TO RETURN TO LYLES-CROUCH SCHOOL: Walk south down N. Fairfax Street, crossing King Street, to Wilkes Street about four blocks. Turn right on Wilkes (west) and walk three blocks to St. Asaph Street. Turn left to Lyles-Crouch.
For other tours, both guided and self-guided, or to learn more about Alexandria womens history, contact Susan Lowell Butler at 703-370-3334 or visit http://alexandriava.gov/women.