Here you will find members of the BWHT board and staff — the women who help us to “Remember the Ladies.”
Scroll over each member’s name for more information
Among the ladies we remember is our past president and longtime board member Sylvia McDowell, who passed away peacefully on March 11, 2010.
Sylvia was an outstanding scholar of the history of women and African Americans, and a very gracious lady. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Simmons College. She got her first professional job as a medical librarian at Boston University and remained a Boston resident for the rest of her life, going on to work as a librarian at MIT and Harvard.
In retirement, she continued to purse her interest in historical research. In addition to serving on the BWHT board and as its president, she was a member of the Massachusetts Black Librarians Network, the American Library Association, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Association of Black Women Historians. In 1996, she received the Crystal Stair Award granted by the Simmons College African American Alumnae Association for “her dedication to community service via her sorority and her professional affiliations.” She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and was also a member of several other community and educational organizations in the hope of making the world better.
- Maria D’Itria, PresidentBefore her retirement, Maria D’Itria taught in Boston Public Schools for 38 years. Many of those years were spent as fifth grade teacher at the Harvard/Kent Elementary School. She began her involvement with BWHT in 1989 as a participant in the founding of the organization, and her involvement has never ended. She was a major force behind the blazing of the Charlestown women’s history trail, “Walk Her Way,” with Harvard/Kent students; she has worked on grants dealing with women’s history; she led school study groups on Charlestown women’s history; she has worked on the Teacher Advisory Board for the Boston Women’s Memorial and the BWHT Summer Institute; and she presented at the Charlestown Public Library and Women’s Showcase. Maria also has received a Golden Apple Teacher Award for her exemplary teacher and leadership. She has been a Boston Public Schools lead teacher, mentor, math and science facilitator, and “in-school” math coach.
- Katherine Dibble, Vice-presidentKatherine Dibble recently retired as Director of Public Services for the Boston Public Library after a career of 37 years with the library. Her various positions there acquainted her with all sections of the city of Boston and gave her the opportunity to work with many different organizations. Katherine continues to be active with the Boston Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and has held several offices in that organization, including president of the Boston chapter and chair of the national award committee. She served for five years on the Board of Trustees of the French Library and Cultural Center.
- Linda Stern, SecretaryLinda Stern has lived in Greater Boston most of her adult life. She has worked in educational settings from pre-school through community college as both librarian and teacher. She has done research with primary sources on the 19th and early 20th century social movements in the Boston area (suffrage movement, abolitionist movement, and Transcendentalism) and worked on a high school curriculum on Margaret Fuller for the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee. In addition, she did research for the concert that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. The concert was created and performed by Boston Workmen’s Circle’s Yiddish community chorus, A Besere Velt (“A Better World” in Yiddish).
- Mary Rudder, TreasurerMary’s interest in Boston Women began in 1989, when she participated in the project to establish the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. As she worked on the project, she became more aware of how little of American history actually reflected the impact of women. She teamed with Maria D’Itria on many various projects regarding the role of women in history. She has worked with Maria and her class when they created the Charlestown Women’s History Trail, “Walk Her Way,” with their students. Mary has served on the Teacher Advisory Board for the Boston Women’s Memorial Curriculum and the BWHT Summer Institute. Mary has been a Boston Public School teacher for many years and is currently serving as one of the Technology Specialists for the Harvard Kent School in Charlestown. She has been a Lead Teacher, Mentor Teacher, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science Standards Facilitator. She has served as “in-house ” Math coach, a postion which she will resume in the coming year. An enthusiastic traveler, Mary has been fortunate to have participated in Children’s Museum Study Tour of Japan and Primary Source Study Tour of China. She also has been a recipient of the Golden Apple Award.
- Liane CurtisLiane Curtis writes and researches about historic women composers and has a Ph.D. in Musicology. Liane began working with the BWHT as part of her quest to have Amy Beach’s name added to the 87 names of male composers that adorn the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. Beach was added to the Shell in July 2000, and the Boston Pops performed some of Beach’s music at the unveiling. Liane joined the BWHT Board in the fall of 2000. She is affiliated with the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and also taught at Brandeis in the spring of 2007. She is the founder of The Rebecca Clarke Society, Inc. and edited A Rebecca Clarke Reader, the first book on that composer.
- Anita DankerAnita Danker, Ed. D., became interested in the BWHT while conducting research on Boston’s multicultural heritage trails. Born and educated in Boston, she is an enthusiastic fan of local history and has been teaching and writing about Massachusetts topics since the late 1960s. A former history teacher, social studies curriculum coordinator, and associate professor of education, she is now retired from her full time teaching position at Assumption College in Worcester where she still offers her course on multicultural education to both undergraduate and graduate students. She has authored a number of articles on historical and educational subjects as well as the 2005 book: Multicultural Social Studies: Using Local History in the Classroom. Her most recent article: “Grassroots Suffragists: Josephine Collins and Louise Mayo, A Study in Contrasts,” was published in The New England Journal of History.
- Susan GoganianSusan Goganian is the director of the Beverly (Mass.) Historical Society & Museum. She has spent 15 years researching and interpreting Boston history, particularly the stories of Boston’s neighborhoods. During 10 years at the Bostonian Society, she was responsible for all operations and visitor services for the Old State House, the seat of colonial government before the American Revolution. She was the Director of Education and Public Programs, responsible for the Boston Historic Markers Program, school programming, teacher training, public lectures, and special events. Sue is a member of the Boston Landmarks Commission and served eight years on the board of MYTOWN (Multicultural Youth Tours Of What’s New). She has organized oral history projects for the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Moakley Archive at Suffolk University Law School, and has taught public history courses at Suffolk University and Northeastern University. She has a M.A. in public history from Northeastern University and a B.S. in business administration from the University of Maine.
- Elaine JamesElaine James has worked as a librarian in Boston, Somerville and Miami Beach. Presently Elaine is leading the research for “Finding Voices in the Silence” , a project to identify prominent and noteworthy people of African descent who were interred at the Forest Hills Cemetery from the mid- Nineteenth Century to the present day. Sylvia McDowell, the original Scholar-in Residence for the grant, started with one name and expanded the list to over 200 entries. Elaine enjoyed co-leading BWHT’s Women of Roxbury tour in November 2010.
- Michelle Lamarre JenneyMichelle Jenney joined the board of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail in the fall of 2002. She is also active in community outreach projects at the Boston Public Library where she has been a volunteer in the Art and Architecture Tours Program since 1991. Michelle’s interest in public art led to the installation of a mural in the lobby of the library’s Boylston Street entrance that honors achievements of nine women from Boston (http://www.bpl.org/guides/notable.htm). In 2001 Michelle received a special award from the Library and the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston for outstanding contributions to the library. Michelle is a foundation administrator at Grants Management Associates in Boston (http://www.grantsmanagement.com/staff/michelle.html), where she is staff photographer and assists with marketing and public relations projects.
- Mary Frances O’BrienMary Frances O’Brien is currently Director of the Boston Public Library Central Library Services, a position she has held since 2004. Prior positions at the BPL include Assistant to the Director of Public Services, and Curator of Social Sciences. Prior to her service at Boston Public Library she managed library services in various engineering companies in the 128 corridor and began career in the library field as the Head Adult Librarian in a public library that was established specifically for the support of the 22,000 Indo-Chinese refugees who were temporarily housed at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Ms. O’Brien served for more than a decade on the Massachusetts Archives Advisory Commission and the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board. She also served on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner’s Preservation Advisory Committee until 2010. She volunteered with the Boston History Collaborative and provided research support for the Boston Literary History Trail and BostonFamilyHistory.com. She is a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Boston Athenaeum. She holds an M.S. in Library Science from Simmons College and an M. A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Boston where she concentrated on antebellum Boston history. Her thesis explored the Boston Female’s Anti-Slavery Society and their annual fundraising fairs.
- Laura PattisonLaura Pattison has worked for the Boston Public Library since 1992. Ms. Pattison has worked in several specialized library reference departments, including the Social Sciences Department and the Kirstein Business Library, where she also did outreach and program planning. From 2002-2002, Ms. Pattison organized and managed the library’s Local History Collection in a number of library branches. Currently Ms. Pattison serves as branch manager of the Orient Heights Branch Library in East Boston. Prior to working as a librarian, Ms. Pattison co-founded and managed a feminist restaurant in Allston, MA (Beetle’s Lunch). A longtime activist and feminist, Ms. Pattison is currently active in the following organizations: Sharing a New Song (community chorus); Social Action Committee (Arlington Street Church); Villages without Walls (anti-violence nonprofit); Professional Staff Association (library union). Her goal in her positions at the library, and in collaboration with local nonprofit agencies, is to help individuals and organizations find the information and resources they need to move forward in their lives, places of work and business ventures.
- Ferna PhillipsDr. Phillips is a native Bostonian and currently resides in Mattapan, MA. She has 30+ years experience in Higher Education. She is the former Director of the Office of Learning Resources for Student-Athletes at Boston College. She served as the faculty advisor to the Voices of Imani Gospel Choir at Boston College for 12 years as well. Dr. Phillips is a former President of the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) and has served on the Executive Board for the organization as the original Historian and Parliamentarian. She was awarded their Distinguished Service award in 2003. Dr. Phillips is a graduate of Salem State University and was selected as Outstanding Alumni in 2003 also. She has been presenter and guest lecturer at various conferences and workshops on the topics of diversity, financial management, spirituality, stress management and leadership development. She is currently an Ordained Deacon and member of the Trustee Board (also serving as the Financial Secretary) for the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church located in Cambridge, MA. Dr. Phillips is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Big Brother, Big Sister Association of Massachusetts Bay. She enjoys reading, sewing and walking and joined the Board of BWHT in 2010.
- Mary Howland SmoyerBWHT is one of her passions! Mary Smoyer has been actively involved ever since 1989, when she was inspired by her mentors, Polly Welts Kaufman and Barbara Clark Elam, to start working with the trail. She especially loves giving guided tours, developing the mini neighborhood trails and helping with programs in the Boston Public Schools. Mary worked as a librarian in public and private schools for over twenty years. The last 11 years of her career she worked at the William Monroe Trotter School in Roxbury. She retired in 2008. Now she can focus on another passion: her seven grandchildren.
- Marie A. TurleyMarie A. Turley is the Executive Director of the City of Boston’s Women’s Commission. The Commission promotes equality and economic opportunity and works on policy issues impacting women and girls in the city of Boston. Ms. Turley has been on the board of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail since 1995. The Women’s Commission has often collaborated with the BWHT. One such collaboration is the Boston Women’s Memorial. This public art sculpture honors three prominent women, Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley, who each had progressive ideas that were ahead of her time and left a legacy through her writings. The memorial will be installed on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue Mall on October 25, 2003. In 1999, Ms. Turley received the Massachusetts’s Women’s Political Caucuses Wonder Woman Award for her work on the creation of the Massachusetts State Commission on the Status of Women in 1998.
- Alma WrightAlma Wright is a first grade teacher at the William Monroe Trotter School, where she has taught for more than 35 years. She is the Trotter’s math facilitator and technology support teacher as well as an active member of the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association.Alma has won many awards, including the Golden Apple Teacher Award, the Henry Shattuck Public Service Award, and the Milken Award. Alma and her class worked with fellow board member Mary Smoyer to develop “Stepping Back, the Roxbury Women’s Heritage Trail.”
- Meg CampbellMeg Campbell is a founding BWHT board member. She is founder and Head of School at Codman Academy Charter School, a college preparatory Expeditionary Learning high school in Dorchester. She was founding Executive Director of Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a comprehensive school reform design working with 120 schools nationally. She has served as Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education where her focus was experience-based education. A poet, she is the author of Solo Crossing and editor of Split Verse: Poems to Heal Your Heart (Midmarch Arts Press). She is also editor of Literacy All Day Long (Kendall Hunt) and a Dorchester resident. Meg was appointed to a four-year term on the Boston School Committee in January 2012.
- Julie CrockfordJulie Crockford is the Executive Director of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a public-private partnership created to protect, restore, maintain and promote the landscape, waterways and parkways of the Emerald Necklace park system created by Frederick Law Olmstead. She is former Director of Development and Communications for Boston’s Museum of Afro-American History, whose collections of nineteenth century artifacts include the African Meeting House, a National Historic Landmark, and Abiel Smith School on Beacon Hill, and the African Meeting House on Nantucket Island. Her career includes working at National Public Radio and the National Endowment for Humanities, serving as Deputy Director of the Boston History Collaborative, a non-profit historical tourism organization, and a long tenure as Executive Director of the Boston Institute for Arts Therapy. Julie is the founder of the Big Draw Camp, a summer arts camp for girls launched in 1996. A feminist and human rights advocate, she supports educational reforms to include all those missed in traditional history telling. A mother of two young people who inspire her, Julie is a long-time advocate for children’s rights through UNICEF and Project Concern International.
- Jean GibranJean Gibran taught for 25 years in the Boston Public Schools. Still a teacher activist, she now serves as Project Assistant for Boston TeachNet where she helps teachers broadcast good news about themselves and their Service Learning projects. Jean became interested in early twentieth century women when researching material for her biography, Kahlil Gibran His Life and World (co-authored with her husband). Determined to tell the stories of the artists, poets, and social workers who influenced the young Lebanese immigrant, she was an original contributor to the first curriculum published by BWHT and served as Board Secretary for five years. A South End resident and frequent Back Bay walker, Jean looks forward to many more stories by and about women achievers from these Boston neighborhoods.
- Erica HirshlerErica Hirshler is Croll Senior Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she has worked since 1983. She organized the highly praised exhibition A Studio of Her Own: Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940 and wrote the book of the same title. Dr. Hirshler has a special interest in American paintings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in art and patronage in Boston, and in women artists. She has written and lectured extensively on these topics, and among her publications are essays on Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Edmund Tarbell, Dennis Bunker, and Sarah Sears. She has nurtured her interest in the historical achievements of women since her days at Wellesley College, and she was very pleased to join the BWHT Board in 2002 after working with them to co-produce a walking tour and brochure of sites relating to Boston’s women artists.
- Vera JohnsonVera Johnson is currently on assignment in the Boston Public Schools Office of English Language Learners. Prior to that she was principal of the Murphy K–8 School in Dorchester and the Ellis Mendell Elementary School in Roxbury. Formerly a teacher at the Joyce Kilmer School in West Roxbury, Vera and her grade 2 class developed “We Will Walk in Her Steps: The West Roxbury Women’s Heritage Trail” in 2001.
- Polly Welts KaufmanPolly Welts Kaufman is one of the founders of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail and the former program director of elementary and middle school libraries for the Boston Public Schools. She now lives in Maine where she teaches history at the University of Southern Maine, and has developed women’s history trails in Portland and Brunswick. During her recent year as a Fulbright lecturer in American studies in Norway, she developed a walking trail to statues of named women in Oslo, printed in both Norwegian and English. She is co-editor of a new book: Her Past Around Us: Interpreting Sites for Women’s History. She is also the author of National Parks and the Woman’s Voice: A History; Boston women and City School Politics, 1872-1905; and Women Teachers on the Frontier.
- Barbara LocurtoAlthough retiring after 40 years in the Boston Public Schools, Barbara Locurto continues to serve BWHT. Between 1984 and 2007 she developed and directed the Boston IMPACT II model designed to identify, recognize, reward, and disseminate successful classroom-based, teacher-developed programs. As BWHT board member since 1993, she coordinated Women’s History Showcases/Materials Grants, and featured Boston Women’s Memorial projects on Boston TeachNet. Recognized nationally and locally for her commitment to promoting good citizenship, she served as Massachusetts State Coordinator of Center for Civic Education’s We the People… Program. Awards include: Virginia M. White Service & Support to Girls & Women’s Sports; Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Henry L. Shattuck Public Service; City Year Moccasin/Community Service; and Freedoms Foundation George Washington Honor Medal, Constitutional Studies. Other board membership includes: BPS Student Engagement Advisory Council; BPS Access Technology Center; Massachusetts Board of Education Service Learning Advisory Council (past); and Extras for Creative Learning/Recycle Center (past).
- Gretchen Dietz O’NeillGretchen O’Neill joined the BWHT board in 1996 and was treasurer from 1998 to 2011. She is the publications specialist for the Boston Public Schools, responsible for researching, writing, and designing publications for BPS families, staff, and the public. Her particular BWHT interest is working with BPS teachers and students to develop neighborhood women’s history trails. Gretchen lives in West Roxbury, where she is active in community organizations including West Roxbury Saves Energy, West Roxbury Friends of Rosie’s Place, and Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church. She graduated from Yale University.
- Susan WilsonSusan Wilson is a professional photographer, writer, and educator, who first encountered the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail when writing history features for the Boston Globe. A BWHT board member since the mid-1990s, Susan has shared her skills as photographer, editor, art critic, trailblazer, website consultant, and occasional spokesperson for the trail; in 2001, she helped develop the walking tour to accompany “A Studio of Her Own” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. After earning a B.A. and M.A. in history from Tufts, and teaching history at both the secondary school and college levels, Susan moved into journalism, photojournalism, studio photography (www.susanwilsonphoto.com), feminist activism, historic consulting to area trails and sites, and authoring accessible, multicultural books on Boston history, which include Boston Sites and Insights, Garden of Memories, Literary Trail of Greater Boston, and The Omni Parker House. She is a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Boston Athenaeum, on the board of Boston by Foot, and a longtime consultant and instructor for the New England School of Photography.
- Stephanie Wong-FanStephanie Wong Fan is co-president of the Chinese Historical Society of New England (2002-2003) and a member of a project it sponsors with the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, the Chinese American Women’s Oral History Project. The Chinese Historical Society documents and promotes the legacy of Chinese immigration and the Oral History Project is a volunteer group that interviews Chinese American women who lived and/or worked in the New England area prior to 1965. She was a board member during the first years of BWHT. Stephanie is a former teacher and administrator in the Boston Public Schools Bilingual Department. She is currently a consultant working with non-profit organizations in the Asian American community.
- Barbara Clark ElamAs one of the founding Board members of BWHT, Barbara Clark Elam helped to conceptualize the initial trail and institutionalize the contributions of Boston’s women in the Boston Public Schools. She vividly recalls the excitement as BWHT board members had the opportunity to acknowledge and include largely unsung Boston women from a variety of ethnicities and persuasions on the Trail. As co-director of the Boston Public Schools Library Program and a life-long resident of Boston, Ms. Elam was particularly interested in the inclusion of African-American women and community women and in curriculum materials for teachers and libraries. She recalls researching and writing biographies of Melnea Cass, Muriel Snowden and Myrna Vasquez for BWHT’s Twenty Notable Women curriculum guide. Her involvement has been exciting and rewarding!! Ms. Elam retired from the Boston Public Schools in 1990.
- Carol Geyer
- Charlotte HarrisCharlotte Harris is a founder of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. In 1989, she co-wrote the original proposal to establish the trail. A former Connecticut high school teacher, she worked for the Boston Public Schools from 1981 until her retirement in 2005, most recently as Director of External Funds for BPS. She is most interested in the trail programs in the schools and in connecting women’s history in Boston over the centuries to current student interests and issues.
- Diana LamDiana Lam is Head of School of the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton (Boston), Mass. A founding BWHT board member, she was Community Superintendent of District A in the Boston Public Schools when the federal grant, the seed idea for the BWHT, was awarded. She has been a superintendent of schools in Chelsea, MA, Dubuque, IA, San Antonio, TX, Providence, RI and Marston Mills, MA, and was Deputy Chancellor leading the Teaching and Learning division for the New York City Department of Education. She has written a chapter touching on gender issues in the book Courage, passion and vision: A superintendent’s guide to leading systemic school improvement and, with Meg Campbell, a chapter on “Gender and Public Education: From Mirrors to Magnifying Lens,” published by the National Society for the Study of Education.
- Joyce Stevens
- Elaine TaberElaine Taber is a founding board member of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. While serving as Mayor Raymond Flynn’s Advisor on Women’s Issues, she helped to launch the trail in partnership with the Boston Public Schools. As Director of the Boston Women’s Commission, she chaired the Boston Women’s Memorial committee, resulting in the choice of the three women to be memorialized in a sculpture on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Currently working as the Director of Education Policy for Project Bread, the State’s leading anti hunger organization, she works to reduce child hunger in an effort to increase academic achievement for the state’s neediest children. Prior to this, Elaine served for six years as the Policy Director for the Massachusetts Speaker of the House. During that time, she focused public policy on childhood literacy and other early learning efforts.(
- Sara MasucciSara Masucci is an educational consultant who has worked with the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail for two years; she first became involved while pursuing a Master of Education focused on gender and curriculum. She is committed to bringing women’s history into schools and providing teachers with tools and strategies for integrating women into their teaching. Sara recently created the Boston Women’s Memorial Curriculum for the trail and the accompanying Summer Institute staged in August of 2002. This project introduced students and teachers to the lives and messages of Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Lucy Stone. Sara also organizes student art contests for the trail about women’s history. In addition to her work with the trail, Sara has designed curriculum materials for the Patriot’s Trail Girl Scouts and worked with the City of Boston Women’s Commission. Before becoming a consultant, she taught English and history.
- Bonnie Hurd SmithBonnie Hurd Smith joined the board in 1997 while she was directing the State House Project to Honor Women for the state Humanities Foundation. She helped research, write, and design BWHT’s guidebook. In 1999, she became BWHT executive director where she developed collaborative programs, expanded membership, helped create BWHT’s web site, published research findings, and other methods to promote the trail. At the end of 2000, Bonnie became a consultant to the BWHT. She designed the trail’s first color brochure, and remains involved in special projects.Bonnie’s recent women’s history initiatives include creating a women’s heritage trail in Salem, Mass., writing and designing its guidebook, contributing a chapter to Her Past Around Us on reinterpretting house museums, and contributing a chapter on the eighteenth century women’s rights advocate Judith Sargent Murray to Her Past Around Us. Bonnie is an expert on Murray’s life, and has published and spoken widely on her.