The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center will not only highlight and honor renowned Maryland women, but the innumerable unsung heroines in each of our lives who have sustained our families, taught or volunteered in our schools, worked for social justice and shaped our communities—often behind the scenes, serving anonymously, without recognition and praise.
Maryland’s unsung heroines were first defined in the book, Notable Maryland Women, by Winifred Helmes. This description was adapted somewhat for today’s realities and was published in Women of Achievement in Maryland History, written by Carolyn Stegman, a member of the MWHC Board of Directors, and initiated by Frances Hughes Glendening, MWHC President. Maryland’s unsung heroine was described in the following way:
Beyond the “notable” Maryland women are the unsung heroines—your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, daughter, neighbor, and friend. Their partnership in building our communities and strength in building our families has often gone unrecognized and unpraised. Yet without each “heroine” there would have been no state of Maryland – no country – no America. She kept us warm, she fed and clothed us; she encouraged us and listened to our joys and our woes; and unfailingly she recognized our accomplishments, no matter how large or small.
She has always been strong, individually and collectively. Her number is legion and her faces many – from the Indian woman teaching pride to her children, to Rosie the Riveter working in our factories, to the contemporary woman sustaining her religious and community organizations. She is many colors, shapes, sizes, cultures and philosophies. She is young and she is old, sophisticated and homespun. She is the mountain woman and the farm woman and the woman inhabiting the tidewaters of Chesapeake Bay. She scrubbed the steps of Baltimore and fed the poor family down the block, and she chaired the committees of a thousand worthy causes.
She rose at dawn and worked till long after dark, - tending her vegetable garden, raising chickens and pigs, milking cows, spinning wool and making bread, soap and candles. Often the only way a woman could hope to fight a disease like smallpox or rheumatic fever lay in constant, vigilant nursing – around the clock – and those she saved pay a silent tribute to her tireless attendance.
She has been an athlete, domestic worker, scientist, artist, elected official and adventurer. She has been nurturing and creative, sensitive and strong. She has been the anonymous poet, economist, architect and military strategist. She has preserved and transmitted our diverse heritages. She has fought to improve her community in battles that ranged from better sanitation to building schools. She has been in the forefront of every struggle for human dignity and civil rights. She has typed the letters, sewn the banners and marched in the streets. Her volunteer work has kept our hospitals running, her employment has kept our families afloat.
She has reached and grown, despite the obstacles, and has challenged each new generation. She combines roles as friend, mother, or wife with doctor, auto mechanic, teacher, seamstress, psychologist, chauffeur, coach, and financial planner.
The unsung heroine historically has sustained, and continues to sustain, her family and community. She has reached and grown despite the obstacles, and has challenged each new generation. The unsung heroine forges a positive path for all who follow and carry on her work.