In the News: 7 Amazing Women from North Shore History

March 06, 2022 / Art and Music, Good to Know, History/Maritime, In The News, Local Characters

Excerpt from Northshore Magazine | Written by Sarah Shemkus | Published February 28, 2022 

March is Women’s History Month. And while we may all have heard of Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Eleanor Roosevelt, there are many other, lesser-celebrated women who have also had a profound impact on the world. Even just here on the North shore, women have been pioneering poets, stood up for the rights of other women, fought against slavery, and started business empires – many while still filling expected female roles like housekeeping and raising children.

So read on to be amazed and inspired by seven of the most interesting and influential women in the region’s history.

Judith Sargent Murray

Portrait of Judith Sargent Murray by John Singleton Copley

Essayist, teacher, and pioneering feminist, 1751-1820

One of the country’s first feminists, Judith Sargent Murray was born into a prominent shipbuilding family in Gloucester. Her father declined to give his daughter a formal education, so Judith read everything she could get her hands on to educate herself. As she grew, she developed a belief that women should have the right to receive an education, to earn wages, and to manage their own financial affairs, all ideas that were decidedly out of step with her time. She ran a school for girls out of her Gloucester home and wrote for area newspapers, eventually publishing On the Equality of the Sexes, an essay arguing that women had the same innate abilities as men. When she released The Gleaner, a collection of her columns and essays, George Washington was among the first to buy the compilation.

Hannah Jumper

Hannah Jumper

Temperance activist, 1781-1865

Hannah Jumper is known for her activities one night in 1856, when the 75-year-old Rockport resident helped lead a cadre of 200 women, many wielding hatchets, in a nightlong rampage against the illegal sale of liquor in her struggling town. For years, many of the women of Rockport had objected to their husbands’ drinking habits. Fishing provided a scant livelihood and, increasingly, their drinking was wasting valuable money and interfering with their work. Jumper, who never married, began holding secret meetings in her rooms to plan a drastic response to the problem. On the night of July 7, 1856, Jumper led the women into action, emptying and smashing casks of liquor wherever they were found. And their demonstration had a lasting effect: Rockport was legally a dry town until 2006.

Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios

Artist, writer, and educator, 1909-1968

Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, August 1964 | Photo from the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives

Many know Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios as the author and illustrator of the classic children’s book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but her career as an artist runs much deeper than her publishing work. In 1938, she founded the Folly Cove Designers, a guild-like group of printmakers  mostly women, many of whom had no previous design training before meeting Demetrios  who produced distinctive textiles featuring motifs drawn from the beauty of everyday life. By the 1940s, the group was selling their work in local retail stores and at their own outlet in Gloucester; Lord & Taylor displayed the designers’ work in the windows of its Fifth Avenue store in New York.

These three amazing women from Gloucester and Rockport were influential in history. Read the full Northshore Magazine article HERE.