Women Feeding Boston is a thematic trail that consists of three sub-trails. This trail can be toured in-person and online, so please feel free to hop on the T, rent a bike, or drive to explore all the sites you can. This tour takes you all over Boston, from Charlestown to Roxbury. You will see the Charles River, Boston Common, and so much more.
Public Foodways Trail
Follow the blue pins
The Public Foodways Trail takes us through the history of public dining in Boston. Women have produced and prepared meals for residents of this area for centuries. Take a look at how this has evolved by getting to know these extraordinary women.
Food Advocacy Trail
Follow the red pins
The Food Advocacy Trail focuses on the inequality of access to food in Boston. Through their work as advocates, the women recognized on this sub-trail have provided food for those in need.
Follow the green pins
The Education Trail focuses on how these women introduced the significance of and the skills necessary to prepare food. We see them in cookbooks, scholarly writings about food, and educational food and nutrition programs at institutions in Boston today.
Begins: At City Square in Charlestown
Zipporah (Public Foodways Trail)
City Square, Charlestown
In the 18th century, Nathaniel Brown owned The Three Cranes Tavern, located on this site. From 1757-1775, Zipporah, an enslaved woman, resided there. The Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 saw the destruction of the Three Cranes Tavern; however, the site remains accessible in Charlestown’s City Square.
Zipporah would have likely cooked, cleaned, and served the patrons of the tavern. As enslaved persons, she and her husband, Caesar, would have worked arduous shifts without pay. Unfortunately, there is no record of what happened to Zipporah and Caesar after the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Indigenous women who had dark skin tones also faced similar experiences, working as domestics in the homes of settlers in the city of Boston. Indigenous and enslaved women served in this role, feeding the Boston residents for centuries, but remain almost entirely uncredited for their service.
Maria Pace Barker (Public Foodways Trail)
54 Salem Street
Maria Pace Barker (1939-2020) moved to Massachusetts from Italy in the 1950s. Her family became heavily involved in the North End, opening a deli just around the corner from where her restaurant Nicole’s, would be for the next 15 years.
Barker, throughout her career, would serve a myriad of influential figures, including the President of Japan in 1989 and the Archbishop of Boston. Members of the Archdiocese of Boston would affectionately call her restaurant “The Vatican of the North End.” Her work as a chef extended past the walls of her restaurant; she donated her time and kindness to various feeding programs in the South End.
Nicole’s closed in the early 2000s. However, her family has continued their tradition of feeding Boston, with Pauli’s, her son’s restaurant at 65 Salem Street.
Ruby Foo (Public Foodways Trail)
50 Essex Street
Born in San Francisco, Ruby Foo (1904-50) moved to Boston in 1923, where she began a single-room restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown. Its popularity quickly grew, and she opened Ruby Foo’s Den on Hudson Street in 1929—heralded as the first Chinese restaurant to successfully cater to non-Chinese clientele. Throughout World War II, the Den remained a legendary meeting place for theatrical and sports figures and other celebrities.
She opened similar restaurants in New York, Miami, Washington, and Providence, becoming a nationally-known restaurateur and mentor to dozens of aspiring chefs in her native Boston. In 1938, newspapers ran a photo of a Chinese baby sitting amidst rubble in a Shanghai railroad station that the Japanese had bombed. Foo had the child brought to the United States, where she adopted him and raised him along with her other children.
In 1989, Ruby Foo’s Den in Boston was torn down, however we still recognize the site at 50 Essex Street as a landmark of this infamous food establishment. The other locations remained open until fairly recently.
Mary Yick: The Tiki Hut (Public Foodways Trail)
10 Tyler Street
The Tiki Hut at 10 Tyler Street was owned and managed from 1961 to 1972 by Mary Yick (1933-2013), fondly called “The Dragon Lady.” In February of 1970, The Boston Globe cited the restaurant and bar as “a favorite after-show stop.” Tiki Hut provided guests with “an exotic Cantonese and Polynesian” fusion, termed “island style,” food and cocktails.
Mary Yick struck a prominent figure in Boston’s Chinatown. She was photographed in the Globe on numerous occasions, showcasing her work in the food services arena, as well as her advocacy for equal rights.
In 1971, the owners of 10 Tyler Street began the process of auctioning Yick’s lease. In response, Mary Yick petitioned to retain her lease, citing the upheaval of several other female-owned restaurants in Chinatown. In her petition, she highlighted the social stigma of being a Chinese woman and her position as less than the Chinese man, especially in her roles as entrepreneur. When the Tiki Hut closed in 1973, Mary Yick had been the only female entrepreneur and restaurateur in Chinatown for a number of years.
Massachusett Women: pre-contact (Before 1492) (Public Foodways Trail)
The women of the Massachusett tribe fed their community as farmers and by gathering shellfish in pre-contact Boston. Excavation for the subway in the early 20th century uncovered a fishweir and revealed that the Boston Common was once the shoreline of the bay; in this area, the Massachusett tribe could spear or fish. Boston continues to eat one of the dishes introduced by the Massachusett tribe: clam chowder.
The modern clam chowder recipe is slightly different; the indigenous dish “Quahog Chowder” is made with quahog clams, corn, and beans in a clear broth. Upon settlement in New England in the 1620s, settlers were introduced to this dish, cream became a part of it, and the rest is history.
Edith Ban (Public Foodways Trail)
47 Huntington Avenue
Edith Ban (1917-1988) opened Cafe Budapest in the late 1950s, initially in Brookline, before moving to the Copley Square Hotel here at 47 Huntington Avenue in 1964. She managed this restaurant until her death in 1988 at the age of 71. Her sister, Dr. L. Hedda Rev-Kury, managed the restaurant until its closing in October 2000.
Edith Ban was born in Hungary, and with her sister and mother, survived two Nazi concentration camps. They were 3 of the 10 surviving members of their extended family. In 1957, after the uprising in Hungary against the Soviet-controlled Hungarian government, Ban and her family escaped to the United States of America. Ban worked in the medical industry until she opened her restaurant in 1959.
Cafe Budapest served Hungarian cuisine, with some innovations by Edith Ban and her mother. They created a rich and sophisticated experience for customers while introducing them to an exotic and delicious meal.
Tommiejo Dixon (Public Foodways Trail)
478 Blue Hill Avenue
Ma Dixon’s, opened in 1943 by Tommiejo Dixon (1914-1979), is a fixture of Boston’s food scene. It was initially called Ma Dixon’s Diner, a sandwich shop opened with the encouragement and support of her husband, Lewis Dixon. Ma Dixon’s serves a southern-style cuisine and is currently managed by her great-nephew and niece, Pierce and Joanne Waltower.
This family-owned restaurant was initially located on the corner of Hammond Street & Shawmut Avenue. Dixon and her sisters, Janie and Ruth, would cater to the Black community and provide a comfortable space to hang out after work. Upon her death in 1979, her sisters Janie Ford and Ruth Waltower took over the business. The restaurant has operated out of its Grove Hall location since 1968, weathering all to continue to serve a delicious meal to the community.
North Bennet Street School 1881-present (Food Advocacy Trail)
150 North Street
To meet the immigrant community’s needs in the North End, the North End Industrial Home, later, North Bennet Street Industrial School, was opened in 1881. The institution provided a blend of social work and education and a haven for women and children. Pauline Agassiz Shaw (1841-1917), one of the founders of the North End Industrial Home, also introduced kindergarten classes and Boston’s first day nurseries with the North Bennet Street Industrial School.
Settlement houses allowed immigrant people to better their lives through vocational training, recreation activities, childhood education, and necessary resources. Zelda Brown, who joined the organization in the early 1900s, facilitated more formalized social service resources, including housing and food services assistance.
Located here today, the North Bennet Street School, renamed in 1983, has full-time craftsmanship training, including bookbinding, cabinet and furniture making, and carpentry.
Kip Tiernan (Food Advocacy Trail)
Old South Church at 645 Boylston Street
Kip Tiernan (1926-2011) dedicated over 30 years to the fight against hunger in Boston. Between the early 1970s and 1990s, she co-founded over 15 different shelters in the city, including one of the first female-only shelters in the country, Rosie’s Place, in 1974. Kip Tiernan was compassionate to homeless people in the city and provided a comfortable and beautiful place to encourage rehabilitation. Rosie’s Place provides women a place to sleep and eat, where there is always a beautiful and safe space for them, with a rose, of course!
Located on the sidewalk outside Old South Church, The Kip Tiernan Memorial includes quotes from speeches she made over the course of her life. The Memorial was installed in October 2018, a few years after her death in 2011.
Women’s Service Club (Food Advocacy Trail)
264 Massachusetts Avenue
The Women’s Service Club (1918-present) began as a knitting club, organized by Mary Evans Wilson (1866-1928), to meet the needs of Black servicemen in and from Boston during World War I. Their efforts expanded to support the needs of the Black community who suffered extensively from the racist circumstances of the era.
The Women’s Service Club was part meetinghouse part settlement house in the mid-twentieth century. They provided the essential service of a haven for Black persons, for both new or long-time residents of the city. In addition, food and other essential items and vocational training were accessible through the Women’s Service Club.
During the Civil Rights Era, African American Women could find housing with the Women’s Service Club when denied access to the dormitories in the universities. The rise in these racial inequalities transitioned the club to a critical hub for the Black Rights Movement. Melnea Cass (1896-1978) became president during this period, supporting the rights of Black women as domestic workers through legislation and a homemakers program.
League of Women for Community Service (Food Advocacy Trail)
558 Massachusetts Avenue
The League of Women for Community Service (1918-present) focused its efforts on improving the lives of the Black community in Boston. The League began as a World War I effort in 1918. Black soldiers and sailors received hospitality, supplies, comfort, and cheer from the women, known as the Soldiers Comfort Unit.
The League expanded to meet the varied needs of the Black community after the war, with social service programs including a lunch program for students attending the Dwight School (now the Hurley School). In the 1940s and 50s, African American women found lodging at the League when they were not welcome in their university dormitories. In addition, the organization recognized the community’s cultural and artistic needs, creating a space for concerts, exhibitions, and literary meetings.
The League of Women for Community Service continues to assist girls and women in Boston’s Black community through scholarships and programs like the “Glennon Program,” which provides mentorships and support to African American women in Post Graduate Academic Programs in the area. They also regularly support the community through charitable donations of food and supplies.
Mothers for Adequate Welfare (Food Advocacy Trail)
515 Blue Hill Avenue (formerly Grove Hall Welfare Office)
The Mothers for Adequate Welfare was a group of women from the communities of Dorchester and Roxbury. They decided to protest the inadequate conditions dealt to them by the welfare services in Boston. In June 1967, The Mothers for Adequate Welfare held a sit-in here at the local Welfare Office. This was one of many welfare protests erupting across the nation in 1967. In Boston, the Black mothers who participated on this day had a simple list of demands, including school lunches for their children, but a sit-in intended to be a peaceful protest descended into rioting with multiple injured persons and arrests.
Patricia Kelly: Boston Culinary Historians (Education Trail)
Boston University, 735 Commonwealth Avenue
Patricia Kelly (1930-2016) was president of the Boston Culinary Historians and editor of their newsletter for over 20 years. The Boston Culinary Historians is an organization based in Boston, which has since early 1980 concentrated on studying and teaching food history. Kelly was an avid researcher of food and was devoted to learning and passing along as much knowledge about global cuisine as possible to others. She helped establish the culinary programs at Essex Agricultural School, later known as North Shore Community College.
Patricia Kelly’s work can be found in her published works, Luncheonette: Ice Cream, Beverage and Sandwich Recipes from the Golden Age at the Soda Fountain and Bibliography of Culinary History Food Resources in Eastern Massachusetts: Food Resources in Eastern Massachusetts, with Barbara Ketcham Wheaton. She also assisted Julia Child with the indexing for her book, The Way to Cook.
Fannie Farmer: Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, 1888-1915 (Education Trail)
30 Huntington Avenue
Fannie Farmer (1857-1915) was a prodigious educator whose school offered opportunities to women from all backgrounds and ethnicities. In 1888, she began her career as an instructor at The Boston Cooking School, where she wrote and published her renowned book, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. The Boston Cooking School, founded in 1879, was dedicated to educating women who wished to pursue careers as cooks or enhance their skills in the kitchen. Fannie Farmer’s book, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, would be one of the first to provide accurate measurements of ingredients.
In 1902, she opened her school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery; she remained here until her death in January 1915. Her students included Lena Richards (1892-1950), an African American woman who wrote The New Orleans Cookbook and had her own cooking show. Fannie Farmer trained many women to be competent cooks; her 1904 book Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent would also lead to her tenure as a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, explaining the connections between nutrition and illness.
This location is now operating as a parking garage, however for a number of years it was a space wholly devoted to the education of women in culinary arts.
Frances Stern (Education Trail)
260 Tremont Street
Frances Stern (1873-1947) became one of the first nutritionists in the United States. She focused her work on the relationships between nutrition, health, class, and ethnicity, and the effects of industrial employment on health. Frances Stern calculated the desirable calorie count for the family unit rather than the individual. Born to German Jewish immigrants in Boston, she was a lifelong learner. She studied Sanitary Chemistry with Ellen Richards at MIT, social work at Simmons College, and economics at the London School of Economics. She co-founded the Louisa May Alcott Club in the South End for immigrant children and was recruited by the Red Cross in France during World War I. The Frances Stern Nutrition Center is part of the Tufts Medical Center.
Ellen Swallow Richards (Education Trail)
501 Boylston Street
Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was the founder of the home economics movement. At MIT, she was a chemist, the first female student, and the first professor of sanitary engineering in the country. She set up the Woman’s Laboratory at MIT so that other women could have access to a scientific education. She did pioneering work in the testing of water and food, revolutionizing the work of the housewife with new ideas about sanitation, cleaning, and cooking. She founded and led the American Home Economics Society. When Richards attended MIT, it was here on Boylston Street near Copley Square. She and her husband Robert Richards lived at 32 Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain.
Mia McMorris collaborated with the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail to create this thematic trail as a part of her Capstone project for the MA in Public History program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her supervisors Prof. Jane Becker and Prof. Heidi Gengenbach at UMass, and Katherine Dibble and Mary Smoyer at BWHT oversaw the selection of women and development of this trail. This project is still in progress. We recognize that there are still many women not recognized on this trail; and hope to see more women added to this trail that reflects the multi-ethnic, and multi-background experiences of women in this city.