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Portrait of a dark-haired lady with hair in a bun and pink cheeks.  She is wearing a gray simple dress.
Portrait of Helen Ridgley

NPS

A Modern Woman:
The Many Roles & Achievements of Helen West Stewart Ridgley


It was said that she could work at the farm tending chickens all morning, go back to the Mansion and change clothes, then catch the train for Washington and have tea at the White House with her friends, the President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt.

In many ways, Helen West Stewart Ridgely (1854-1929) was a model of the modern woman during her time. She traveled independently, continued her studies, managed the estate and its finances, formed her own opinions and expressed them openly, was active in civic endeavors, kept an apartment in Baltimore, was Chair of the Ladies Auxiliary for the Maryland Delegation to the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, and learned to drive an automobile. However, there are some areas in which Helen was not so forward thinking as in others. For example, she opposed women’s suffrage, and even though she approved “modern” conveniences such as modern plumbing, a new heating system and telephone in the mansion, Helen refused to allow the installation of electricity.

 
 

Helen West Stewart Ridgley As A...

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    Daughter, Sister, & Student

    Helen West Stewart was born on July 27, 1854 at Upton Park, the Stewart family’s country residence which still survives in West Baltimore.

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    Wife & Mother

    A young Helen West Stewart and John Ridgley met while traveling abroad in Europe with their families in the spring of 1872.

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    Household & Farm Supervisor

    In addition to managing the household and gardens, she oversaw some various farm and grounds operations, especially focusing on the poultry.

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    Civic Participant

    Helen Ridgely held several positions of leadership in civic organizations.

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    Author

    Helen was a prolific writer throughout her lifetime.

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    Naturalist & Botanist

    Helen took great interest in the natural world, whether depicting landscapes nearby and abroad.

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    Traveler

    Helen West Stewart Ridgely traveled extensively throughout her life, both in the United States and in Europe.

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    Artist

    Helen Ridgely was a skilled artist who enjoyed creating works with watercolors, pencil, or pen and ink on paper.

 

Last updated: July 27, 2021

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