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Women's History Self-Guided Walking Tour at Independence

Black and white illustration of women wearing "Votes for Women" sashes speaking to a crowd on Independence Square.
In her memoir, Philadelphia suffragist Caroline Katzenstein chronicled events like the suffrage rally on Independence Square in 1911.

Book Jacket, Lifting the Curtain:  The State and National Suffrage Campaigns In Pennsylvania As I Saw Them. Caroline Katzenstein, 1955.

Women make up half the population, yet their stories have often been neglected, excluded, or marginalized in public memory. Despite gender role limitations and legal constraints, women have been active participants in society. They have contributed to and effected change on everything from law and education to politics and science.

Independence Visitor Center

6th and Market Streets

Explore the exhibit area adjacent to the park rangers' desk for an introduction to women who served as leaders and entrepreneurs, working within the system and sometimes outside the system to achieve goals that ranged from supporting an army to obtaining legal custody of one's own child.

Look for the silhouettes of Sally Franklin Bache and Alice Paul. Although these women lived a century apart, they both served as leaders in a movement. Sally Franklin Bache, an ardent patriot, led the Ladies Association of Philadelphia in a successful fundraising effort during the Revolutionary War. Women's rights activist Alice Paul demonstrated leadership and courage when she led the first open-air speaking campaign for women's suffrage in Philadelphia, culminating in a rally on Independence Square in 1911.

Find the image of an entrepreneur selling pepper pot soup in the market stalls. Despite barriers of racism and sexism, women of color sustained their families and contributed to the city's economy.

At the Cosmopolitan City exhibit, look for the image of Dolley Madison. After her first husband John Todd died, the law required her to petition the court to appoint a guardian for their child.

MORE TO EXPLORE

  • Find the quote that Susan B. Anthony spoke shortly before her death in 1906 as inspiration to the younger women taking up the cause of women's suffrage. It begins, "Failure is...."

President's House Site

6th and Market Streets (across from the visitor center)

Enslaved maid Ona Judge seized her freedom from this house in 1796 while President and Mrs. Washington ate dinner. Judge had just learned that Mrs. Washington planned to give her to Eliza Custis Law, Mrs. Washington's recently married granddaughter. Judge made a new life in New Hampshire, experiencing poverty and hardship without regret. Many years later, in the newspaper The Granite Freeman, Judge told interviewer Reverend Archibald, "No, I am free, and have, I trust been made a child of God by the means." However, under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, Judge remained a fugitive until her death in 1848.

MORE TO EXPLORE
  • Find the footprints embedded in the ground. Walk in them. These footprints represent Ona Judge's flight to freedom.

Franklin Court Courtyard

Enter from Chestnut Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets

Although this area was preserved to remember and honor Benjamin Franklin, the house that once stood in Franklin Court speaks to the women who called it their home. Franklin's wife Deborah made decisions and handled a myriad of details as she oversaw the construction of the house while Franklin was in London. Although Benjamin used the phrase a "good and faithful helpmate" to describe his wife, Deborah contributed to the family's wealth as an active partner in her husband's printing business - selling pamphlets, stationery, and the Franklin family soaps from a shop attached to the Franklin Printing Office. While Benjamin was away, Deborah kept the account books and conducted business on his behalf.

Daughter Sarah (Sally) Franklin Bache and her husband Richard raised their eight children in this house during Benjamin's mission to France. Sally Bache stepped into a highly visible public and political role when she took over as the principal leader of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, raising funds for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. At General Washington's request, the Ladies Association used the money to purchase supplies for shirts. Bache then led an effort to produce more than 2,000 shirts for the soldiers in the Pennsylvania line.

Franklin Court Printing Office

Enter from Chestnut Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets. Stand in the courtyard and look towards the brick archway. The entrance door is the second one to the left of the archway. *Note: this site is currently closed to the public.

Prior to 1820, at least 25 American women owned or operated printing businesses that looked much like the one here. Among the most successful women printers of the era was Mary Katharine Goddard who worked in her family's printing businesses in Rhode Island and Philadelphia before moving to Baltimore. As the official printer to the Continental Congress (meeting in Baltimore) and a proud supporter of the American cause, Mary Katharine Goddard risked her life and her livelihood by including her own name on the Declaration of Independence. Mary Katharine Goddard also served as Baltimore's postmaster until 1789, but with the ratification of the new U.S. Constitution, Postmaster General Samuel Osgood removed her from the position. Although political reasons most likely drove his actions, he said that the position would require more travel than a woman could handle. Goddard wrote to President Washington and petitioned the U.S. Senate - to no avail.

MORE TO EXPLORE

  • Find Mary Katharine Goddard's name on a copy of the Declaration of Independence on view in this building.

Independence Square

5th and Chestnut Streets
Visitors entering Independence Square must first pass through security screening. It's also possible to see Independence Square from outside the security perimeter. That route is not accessible for those with mobility concerns.


Women raised their voices on Independence Square, protesting their exclusion from a national commemoration, rallying together to press for the vote, and later celebrating the adoption of the 19th Amendment extending suffrage to women. Certainly others had gathered here over the years, partly because Independence Square (the State House Yard) had been established as a “public greene and walk forever,” but also because this land sits in the shadow of Independence Hall. Women sought to root their cause firmly on the nation’s honored ground – a place forever tied with the ideals of freedom and equality.

The National Woman Suffrage Association planned to participate in the nation's 100th birthday commemoration on Independence Square on July 4, 1876, by presenting their "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States." Organizers denied their request. Despite the potential consequences, the women decided to participate in the official Fourth of July celebration anyway. Susan B. Anthony boldly disrupted the event by presenting President Grant's representative with the women's declaration. After an official shouted for "Order," she and the other women refused to be silenced. They moved around to the other side of Independence Hall, where Anthony read her document in the shadow of the statue of George Washington.

Suffragist Alice Paul dedicated her life to equal rights for women under the law. She organized rallies - like the one on Independence Square in 1911 - as well as parades, demonstrations, and even hunger strikes to help women gain the right to vote. After the adoption of the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women, Paul realized that the work of women's equality was not done, later drafting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972 and went to the states for ratification. After initial successes, ratification stalled and eventually failed by 3 states at the 1982 deadline.

The Justice Bell - a symbol of the women's suffrage movement - pealed in jubilation on Independence Square on September 25,1920. This bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell with an additional inscription to "Establish Justice," had traveled with its clapper chained silent through every county in Pennsylvania in 1915 to rally support for a statewide referendum on women’s voting rights. The Pennsylvania referendum failed, and the Justice Bell remained silent. After women gained the right to vote, suffragists and politicians gathered on Independence Square for speeches, pageantry, and the ringing of the Justice Bell. The Justice Bell is currently displayed in the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

MORE TO EXPLORE
Stand in the shadow of Independence Hall and think of a woman who inspires you. Say her name out loud.

Share Your Adventure

Don't forget to share your experiences with others. Use #FindYourPark on social media. But, most of all, we hope you will make long-lasting memories exploring women’s stories in the birthplace of America.

Independence National Historical Park

Last updated: July 19, 2021