[photograph] Mary Church Terrell[graphic header] Women's History Month[photograph] Poster of Rosie the Riveter
[timeline] 1848: First Women's Rights Conference at Seneca Falls, NY[timeline] 1869: First women's suffrage law passed in U.S. territory of Wyoming[timeline] 1909: Women garment workers strike in New York[timeline] 1920: 19th Amendment to Constitution is ratified, women citizens can vote[timeline] 1933: Frances Perkins is first woman in a president's cabinet[timeline] 1973:  Roe V. Wade legalizes abortion, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in tennis match[timeline] 2000: World March of Women in Washington, DC

[graphic] Featured Properties

Leaning tower of Bottle Village on Mosaic Walk, Simi Valley, California.

Photograph by Janice Wilson, courtesy of California State Historic Preservation Office
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village,
Simi Valley, California

Built between 1956 and 1965, Bottle Village is a 1/3-acre unique folk art environment designed and erected by folk artist, Tressa "Grandma" Prisbrey. Folk art environments are constructed when individuals with no formal artistic or architectural training manipulate a physical area through the creation of three-dimensional structures and objects. Because money is often at a minimum, the media used are frequently found and discarded objects that have no correlation to art, per se. It is this circumstance that is responsible for much of the acclaim given these individuals because "junk" is transformed and redefined into something more.

In Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village, she created 16 house-like structures out of bottles, a walkway from television tubes, a fire screen of intravenous feeding tubes, planters and shrines from car headlights, a "Spring Garden" from various metal automobile springs, and a found object walkway that includes toy guns, license plates, electric shavers, sunglass frames, and much more. Beginning at age 60 with no formal training in art or architecture, she created the environment by herself over a period of 12 years, mostly from materials gleaned through daily visits to the dump. As she kept building, Bottle Village evolved into a bona-fide tourist attraction. For 25 cents a visitor was treated, by Prisbrey herself, to a guided tour, complete with Prisbrey anecdotes, life stories, jokes, and at the end, piano playing and singing in the Meditation Room. The village became so popular; it attracted visitors coming from around the world.

Mosaic Walk & Card Suites Walk, Bottle Village, Simi Valley, California.

Photograph by Janice Wilson, courtesy of California State Historic Preservation Office

Bottle Village is seen by art historians and folklorists as a complex work combining the desires of an elderly lady to provide simple shelter for her valued personal collections; memorialize family, friends, and important life events; grieve over the loss of family members; entertain visitors; and leave behind a testament to her very personal vision, exuberance, and inspiration. To national history, Bottle Village is important because it is a significant folk art environment created by an American folk artist of high acclaim, and also because it is a rarity created out of actual mass consumer throwaway from everyday lives of Americans of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Grandma Prisbrey died in 1988 and the site is now owned by a private non-profit organization that is attempting to preserve and restore the property. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake seriously damaged several features at the site, but the partial "ruins" still contribute in their own way to the overall sense of Grandma Prisbrey's vision for the total folk art landscape.

Front and back view of Azurest South
, Petersburg, Virginia
Photographs courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Azurest South, Petersburg, Virginia
Azurest South is one of Virginia's few mature examples of International Style, a style that espoused a complete break with architectural traditions. Designed by Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984), one of the nation's few black female architects, the house is a significant landmark of African-American material culture and design. Following completion of the dwelling in 1939, Miss Meredith lived there until her death. Trained at Columbia Teacher's College as an artist and teacher, Miss Meredith founded the Fine Arts Department at Virginia State University (VSU) in 1930. Although principally employed as a teacher, Miss Meredith also enjoyed a limited architectural career designing houses and interiors for herself, family, and friends in Virginia, Texas, and New York. At Sag Harbor, a Long Island resort for wealthy whites, including the Roosevelt family, Miss Meredith and her family and friends created Azurest North, an enclave of vacation homes for middle-class blacks.

Interior of Azurest South

Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Azurest South, the home she built adjacent to VSU's campus, demonstrates her fascination with the avant-garde design, her familiarity with modern materials and construction details, and her courage in expressing non-traditional ideas in the public eye of the state's first land grant college for African Americans. This house, a five-room, single-story dwelling, can be classified with other residences designed in the International Style: a place for living, devoid of applied ornament or historic references. Azurest South has clean lines and a strong geometry emphasizing regularity rather than symmetry. The flat roof, designed as a terrace, is highlighted by plain metal coping, and by steel pipe rails, all painted a bright turquoise or "Azurest blue." Dramatic use of color; vivid patterning of walls, floors, and ceilings; and the use of inventive lighting fixtures characterize the interior design. The house functioned in part as a design laboratory and studio for Miss Meredith, so its appearance evolved subtly over the years, reflecting her studies of color and material.

In light of the overwhelming dominance of traditional architecture in Virginia, Miss Meredith's Modern achievement at Azurest was quite advanced. Combine that with her lack of formal training and the fact that she was a female architect in a male-dominated profession, her accomplishments are all the more remarkable.

Piney Point Coast Guard Light Station, Piney Point, Maryland.

Photograph by Candace Clifford

Piney Point Coast Guard Light Station, Piney Point, Maryland
The Piney Point Coast Guard Light Station represents one of the little known occupations held by women since the era of American Independence. Between 1776 and 1942, 141 women were officially appointed Keepers of the Light by the United States government. Nineteen women served as keepers in the state of Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. Many women became keepers when they replaced their husbands and fathers who served before them in that capacity, and from whom they learned the job. Hundreds more women served as assistant keepers, some were officially appointed while others served unofficially with their husbands and fathers. Many women welcomed the opportunity to be keepers, especially when occupations for women were still limited. Lighthouse keepers in the 18th and 19th centuries, male and female, faced many dangers, particularly during storms and hurricanes, and performed heavy physical labor. The keeper lit a number of lamps in the tower at dusk, replenished their fuel or replaced them at midnight, and every morning polished the lamps and lanterns to keep their lights shining brightly.

Built in 1836, Piney Point was the first lighthouse built on the Potomac River, 14 miles upstream from its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay. It was a manned station under the lighthouse service until the incorporation of that service into the Coast Guard in 1939. Of the 14 keepers who manned Piney Point, four were women. Charlotte Suter served for an unknown number of years in the 1840s. Mrs. Ann Nuthall served from 1850 to 1861 after her husband John died while serving as keeper. The same situation occurred in 1873, when Mrs. Eliza Wilson, who had carried out her husband's duty during his long illness, finally replaced him as keeper after his death. Eliza served until 1877, when she resigned and the post was taken on by Mrs. Helen C. Tune, who served until 1883. The Coast Guard discontinued the Piney Point light in 1964, and the keeper's position was abolished. Unlike many lighthouses, Piney Point was never automated. Today all operating lighthouses in the country, except for the Boston Harbor Light, are automated. Piney Point was poorly maintained until recently when St. Mary's County purchased and restored the property. In 1999 it was opened to the public as the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Park.

Rachel Carson House in Silver Spring, Maryland

Photograph by Linda McClelland

The Rachel Carson House, Silver Spring, Maryland
The Rachel Carson House in Silver Spring, Maryland, is significant as the place in which American biologist, naturalist, writer, and poet, Rachel Carson, wrote the highly acclaimed 1962 book, Silent Spring, which made her, more than any other person, the acknowledged advocate of the early ecology movement. Silent Spring drew popular attention to the poisoning of the earth and the endangerment of public safety by the indiscriminate use of modern chemical pesticides and herbicides. Though Carson was already a famous writer before completing Silent Spring, this book is widely acknowledged, by friends and foes, to have changed the way Americans think about their natural environment, and is responsible for beginning the modern environmental movement. A panel of more then 150 American scholars, including former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, Frank Talbot, Director of the Natural Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and Harvard historian of science Barbara Gutmann Rosenkranz, named Rachel Carson to Life Magazine's list of "the 100 most important Americans of the 20th Century."

Rachel Carson was born on May 27, 1907, and grew up on a farm in Springdale, Pennsylvania. After graduation from Pennsylvania College for Women (later Catham College) she earned a Master of Science degree from John Hopkins University and began teaching at John Hopkins and the University of Maryland. In 1936 she began her career with the Bureau of Fisheries (later the Fish and Wildlife Service). During her time in government service she lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, and briefly in Chicago. By 1952 Carson's writing earned her enough money that she could resign from government service. Her career as a writer began with a few pieces for the Baltimore Sunday Sun. Later, Carson developed one of her Bureau assignments into an article that attained publication in the Atlantic Monthly. This article developed into her first book, Under the Sea-Wind.

It was Carson's research into the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health that began her work on Silent Spring. Carson's research helped establish the essential interrelatedness of all living systems, and made this an item of public knowledge. For example, DDT sprayed on elm trees would not stop with the trees, but make its way into the soil and become digested by worms, which were eaten by birds to disastrous effects. Also, the run-off might enter the pastures of a dairy farm a half mile away and the DDT would enter the milk supply. Although Rachel Carson had a cottage in Maine, she spent most of her time writing Silent Spring in her Silver Spring home, making it the most significant property associated with her.

The publication of Silent Spring caused an immediate uprising. The chemical industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to discredit Carson. They defended the use of DDT, portrayed the author as a "hysterical woman who wanted to turn the earth over to the insects," and threatened lawsuits. Such bellicosity created more publicity than the publishers could have afforded and ultimately worked to gain the book serious attention. President Kennedy, as a direct result of Silent Spring's message, set up a panel of his Science Advisory Committee to study the problem. Its report was a vindication of her thesis. Ultimately this led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency and the eventual banning of DDT. On April 14, 1964, she died in her home in Silver Spring. Her last work, The Sense of Wonder, was published posthumously. The book dealt with her awareness of the need to preserve children's love of nature.

The Rachel Carson House, a designated National Historic Landmark, is a simple, post-World War II ranch house, designed by Rachel Carson and constructed in 1956. It is situated in a naturalistic landscape.

Women's History Home | Mary Colter | Willa Cather | Other Featured Properties
NR HOME | NPS Links to the Past

Comments or Questions