The first comprehensive state-based center and museum of its kind in the nation, the mission of the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center is to preserve the past, understand the present, and shape the future by recognizing, respecting, and transmitting the experiences and contributions of Maryland women and girls of diverse backgrounds and from all regions of the state.
The Center not only honors historical and contemporary renowned Maryland women, many of which are “firsts” and “founders,” but also unsung heroines in our families and communities.
Click here for a complete list from the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
Maryland Women “Firsts” and “Founders” include:
Helen Avalynne Gibson Tawes
Helen Avalynne Gibson Tawes was the First Lady of Maryland from 1959-1967. She participated in her husband Millard Tawes' campaign for the governorship and included copies of her favorite recipes from the Eastern Shore in his campaign literature. As First Lady, she worked to popularize Maryland cuisine.
Martha Murphy (1847-1915)
Martha Murphy and her husband, John H. Murphy, founded The Afro American Newspaper in 1892, one of the nation’s largest black-owned newspapers. She also became an advocate for black women and founded the Colored Young Women’s Christian Association (CYWCA) of Baltimore, serving as its president until her death in 1915.
Rebecca Alban Hoffberger (1952 - )
Rebecca Alban Hoffberger is the founder and director of the internationally-renowned American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, which displays the work of self-taught artists who have unconventional visions of art. At the age of 16, she became the first American to apprentice mime Marcel Marceau in Paris. She has delivered babies in Mexico while studying shamanism; and has received the title of Dame for her work in helping set up emergency field hospitals in Africa. She is the recipient of numerous mental health advocacy and equal-opportunity awards and has three Honorary Doctorates. In addition to having been inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, she has received the YWCA of Greater Baltimore President's Award.
Bessie Olive Cole (1883-1971)
Bessie Olive Cole was one of the pioneering women pharmacists and has been called the “First Lady of Pharmacy in Maryland.” She earned her doctorate degree in 1913 from the University of Maryland, School of Pharmacy and served as a professor and secretary there for 27 years. She was the first woman to become a full professor of pharmacy in the United States.
Eleanora Fagan “Billie Holiday” (1915-1959)
Known as “Lady Day,” Billie Holiday is one of the greatest jazz and blues singers of all time. She grew up in East Baltimore and moved to New York City in 1927 where she was discovered in one of the Harlem night clubs. Many of her songs protest against domestic violence and lynching practices in the south. As noted in her autobiography, she not only faced racism as an African-American, but also sexism in the once male-dominated world of jazz. Since her death in 1959, she has received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1987) and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2000).
Lillie Carroll Jackson (1889-1975)
Lillie Carroll Jackson was a leading black activist for civil rights in Maryland. She not only dedicated her time as a volunteer with the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but also served as its president from 1935 – 1970. She founded the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP and other organized branches throughout the state. She also played a substantial role in bringing desegregation to Baltimore.
Henrietta Szold (1860-1945)
Henrietta Szold is the founder of adult education for immigrants in the United States. She started a Russian Night School in Baltimore to teach Eastern European Jewish immigrants in order for them to get better jobs. She also founded Hadassah, the largest women’s volunteer organization in the world.
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, American computer scientist and United States Navy officer, was a pioneer in the field, she worked on the first commercial computer and was at the forefront in the development of computer and programming language.
Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)
Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman freed herself, escaping to the north. She is best known for helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad risking her life fighting for the abolition of slavery. She also worked for women’s suffrage. During the Civil War, she was a scout and a spy for the Union Army, and acted as a nurse to the sick and wounded during the war.
Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816)
Mary Katherine Goddard fought for the right of women to pursue a career. She was the first woman postmaster in Baltimore and also served as a printer publishing Baltimore’s first newspaper, The Maryland Journal. As a printer, she published the first copies of the Declaration of Independence to include the signers’ names. She also opened her own bookstore.
Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig (1898-1986)
Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig is known for her work in co-developing the “blue baby” heart surgery as a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She also became the first woman to be made a full professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1964, she was the first woman elected president of the American Heart Association. She also received a Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the president of the United States can bestow. She was one of the first 20 women in the United States to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1973.
Margaret Brent (1601-1671)
Margaret Brent was the first American woman to request the right to vote in 1698. She was also the first female attorney representing locals’ interest in land disputes and neighborhood quarrels. She was noted for her professional business protocol throughout the state of Maryland.
Mary Lemist Titcomb (1857-1931)
Mary Lemist Titcomb created and implemented the first bookmobile, a traveling library bringing books to those living in rural Western Maryland. She also helped to establish the first chartered county library in the United States.
Mary Young Pickersgill (1776-1857)
Mary Young Pickersgill is the flagmaker of the famous Star Spangled Banner Flag hoisted over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. A widow, she supported her family by making flags. Additionally, she was a philanthropist addressing social issues such as housing, job placement assistance, and financial aid for disadvantaged women.
Anna Ella Carroll (1815-1894)
Anna Ella Carroll, an unrecognized member of Lincoln’s cabinet, was involved in espionage activities for the Union and helped to contribute to the Union victory in the Civil War. She was an author and newspaper reporter who had traveled extensively throughout the South and Midwest before the Civil War. While living in Baltimore, she was a public relations official for several shopping and rail companies and worked as the press agent for the newly formed American Party.
Frances Watkins Harper (1824-1911)
Frances Watkins Harper was a teacher, an anti-slavery activist, and a writer and poet. She was also an advocate of women's rights and was a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association. She published some of the first African American poetry in the United States.