April 29 , 2020 I www.ggrwhc.org   I 616-574-7307
The Legacy of Women in Downtown Grand Rapids
While we miss the hustle and bustle of downtown Grand Rapids, now is the perfect time to renew your acquaintance—and to register the debt we owe to women of the past. Start with our annotated walking tour! 
Legacy Landmarks: Walking Tour, compilation image
The brainchild of GGRWHC friend Marcie Beck, Legacy Landmarks: Walking with Women Who Left their Mark on Grand Rapids  is a walking tour brochure produced to kick off Women’s History Month in 2010. 

The brochure’s substantive annotations will guide you to sixteen sites, a selection of historical landmarks significant to women’s history in the downtown area  –  the Ladies Literary Club and St. Cecilia Music Center, certainly; but 22 Prospect? Find out why! 

The LLC and St. Cecilia, with the YWCA, belong to a category of buildings originally planned and financed by women. Others were renovated. The Women’s City Club building was a derelict rooming house before 1927; and the Children’s Museum was an eyesore, having been gutted by fire in 1980. 

Some stops highlight buildings owing their existence to small groups of women, like the St. Mark’s sewing circle; others focus on individual women, like Nancy Mulnix Tweddale, the primary engine getting the La Grande Vitesse stabile to Grand Rapids-- and don’t forget 22 Prospect! 

Get some exercise downtown, learn a little about women and the history of the Grand River, and remember to honor all the anonymous women clerks, waitresses, and telephone operators who also gave their bit to our city’s downtown!
Pike House / Grand Rapids Art Gallery
Legacy Landmarks   only makes sixteen stops? 

Yes, alas. Walking tours can only be so long. And, besides warning you that our 2010 brochure hasn’t been translated for high tech yet, we should also note that organizations and brochures are also subject to history, to the passage of time. 

You will see none of the four sculptures dedicated to women in the downtown Community Legends Statue Project. But watch for a feature on them in a future Women’s History Wednesday ! And our 2010 brochure has a little (not much!) information that is outdated. For example, the Ladies Literary Club building is no longer owned by Calvin University--and, although in 1887 it was among the first women-built clubhouses nationwide, it wasn’t the first. We know that now because the GGRWHC is dedicated to checking out such claims and, unfortunately, we sometimes have to skewer local myths!

Remind us that we need to update and expand our downtown walking tour, as well as to branch out into the city to feature many more places where women made their marks on our city. Now, start walking—and reading !
Women’s History Wednesdays!
On the  Legacy Landmarks  walking tour, you will visit the first home of the current Grand Rapids Art Museum.  Fortunately for us, society blue books from the early-twentieth century record that Emily Jewell Clark  “receives on Wednesdays.” So, let’s meet the woman responsible for housing the Art Association in 1920 and creating its core collection from her personal gallery. And we’ll move away from downtown to take a look at the scope of her contributions.  
Emily Jewell Clark ca.1875-1885
Before GGRWHC friend Jennifer Morrison documented   the life of   Emily Jewell Clark  in  Caring Community: The History of Clark Retirement Community  (in 2006 with Gordon Olson), Clark had largely disappeared into time. Now, thanks to archivist and writer Morrison, we know that Clark (1843–1929) was among the early women philanthropists who not only generously donated their funds to found local institutions; she was among those who also rolled up their sleeves to ensure the success of their investments in the community. 

For a nutshell summary of Clark’s life, read a photo essay by Morrison that recaps her family life and club associations. You will learn that she was 63 when her first big investment resulted in the “M.J. Clark Memorial Home for Super-Annuated Methodist Ministers,” now Clark Community. Most of her financial investments occurred later in life after she was widowed—like Starr Commonwealth in Albion and the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children in   1908.
D. A. Blodgett Home for Children
Few people know, however, that Morrison’s recent research gives Emily Clark sole credit for organizing the initial group leading to the 1908 home. The Children’s Aid Society was founded in 1887, when Clark was 44 years old. We could sponsor a tour of the several sites of homes for children before the Blodgett Home was built, and we would learn that Emily Clark was involved in most. Finally, she was the hands-on president of the society overseeing the planning of the Blodgett Home for the five years prior to its opening in 1908. 

Hats off to Emily Clark!
GGRWHC’s program year honoring the 19th Amendment centennial has been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We regret especially the loss of the August 26th celebration, but please stay tuned. And, for now, please stay home and stay safe. Celebrate with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council virtually and in print!

Watch for Women’s History Wednesdays via this electronic newsletter, follow us on Facebook, watch for our monthly features in Women’s Lifestyle Magazine , and click here to receive our hard-copy newsletter and become a supporting member of GGRWHC!
Stay home and stay safe--but celebrate with us virtually and in print! 
GGRWHC |   www.ggrwhc.org   | 616-574-7307
Hats off to the historical women who have shaped West Michigan!
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Thank you for your interest in preserving and celebrating the history of the many phenomenal women who've helped to shape West Michigan!  If you aren't already a supporter of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, consider investing in our work as a volunteer or with an annual donation .  Visit our  website  for more information and the ability to donate online.