FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cambridge Honors Maria L. Baldwin with Historic Trail Marker
Cambridge, Mass. (October 4, 2023) — Suffrage100MA, the City of Cambridge, MA, Office of the City Manager, and Cambridge Historical Commission unveiled a historic women’s suffrage marker at an event honoring extraordinary women’s rights activist and educator, Maria L. Baldwin, on Saturday, September 30 at the Cambridge Senior Center. Event speakers included Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui; Cambridge City Councillor E. Denise Simmons; Representative Marjorie C. Decker; Representative Mike Connolly; Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner, Cambridge Historical Commission; and Fredie Kay, Founder and President, Suffrage100MA. The marker, which is now permanently installed at the Maria L. Baldwin House at 196 Prospect Street in Cambridge, is one of five Massachusetts suffrage marker sites on the National Votes for Women Trail, which includes over 200 suffrage markers throughout the country.
The suffrage marker project, which has now ended, was funded through a grant by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation®, sponsored by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS)’s National Votes for Women Trail (NVWT), and coordinated in Massachusetts by Suffrage100MA.
Maria Louise Baldwin (1856-1922), who was born and raised in Cambridge, Mass., served as the first Black principal of an integrated school in New England (1889-1916) at the former Agassiz Grammar School, where she was later appointed headmaster, becoming the first Black individual in the state to be appointed to that position. (The school was renamed The Maria L. Baldwin Elementary School in 2002.) In 1893, Baldwin co-founded and helped lead the nationally influential Woman’s Era Club, as part of the Black women’s club movement prominent in the late 19th century, along with other Black Boston suffragists: Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Eliza Gardner, Arianna Sparrow, and Florida Ruffin Ridley. The Club was dedicated to racial betterment and advancing the suffrage movement. Additionally, the group sought to undertake civic, social, educational, and charitable work for the benefit of the local Black community by initiating a variety of social service programs.
Baldwin was also an early member of the NAACP and president of the Boston Literary and Historical Association. Baldwin regularly hosted Black students, including civil rights activists W.E.B DuBois and William Monroe Trotter, for intellectual “salons” at her home at 196 Prospect St. in Cambridge, a National Historic Landmark, which will be the permanent location of the National Votes for Women Trail marker honoring her legacy.
“The echoes of the women’s suffrage movement can be heard in our current national struggles with voting access, and we can look to historic activists like Maria L. Baldwin for inspiration and strength,” said Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui.
“Cambridge is proud to honor Maria L. Baldwin with this women’s suffrage marker, and to continue educating our community and visitors about her leadership and her legacy. As a Black suffragist from Cambridge, Maria L. Baldwin provided a lasting national impact,” said Cambridge City Councillor E. Denise Simmons.
“Maria Baldwin was a Cambridge educator, civil rights leader, and suffragist whose guidance shaped the education of teachers and children, and who worked to ensure that Black people were centered in the suffrage movement, not left as an afterthought. We can only imagine the courage and fortitude that was required of her every day both as Massachusetts’ first Black principal and in political spaces. She served as both an inspiration and support for many who organized alongside her, and we honor them when we exercise our right to vote and appreciate the power of voting in shaping our neighborhoods, schools, state, and country,” said Representative Marjorie C. Decker.
“This marker is a fitting tribute to Maria L. Baldwin, one of the most influential figures in Cambridge history, having helped promote racial equality while advancing the causes of women’s suffrage, education and social services,” said Representative Mike Connolly.
“Maria L. Baldwin was a person of action as well as an intellectual. She rose above the gender and racial prejudices of her day to advocate for public education, equal voting opportunities and civil rights,” said Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner, Cambridge Historical Commission.
While neither were able to attend, Senator Elizabeth Warren noted that Baldwin “understood that the struggles of marginalized peoples are interconnected and her brave fight for abolition and equal voting access inspires us to continue to follow her lead,” and Senator Ed Markey noted that Baldwin’s marker “serves as a valuable reminder of all that was fought for and that we continue to fight for in Cambridge, in Massachusetts, and beyond – equal rights to vote, learn, and participate in American democracy regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Sponsored by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, the National Votes for Women Trail seeks to recognize and celebrate the enormous diversity of people and groups active in the struggle for women’s suffrage. The Trail consists of two parts: 1) a database with 2,423 sites on a digital map and 2) a program of historical markers for over 200 women’s suffrage sites across the country, funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation®’s National Women’s Suffrage Marker Grant Program, and coordinated in Massachusetts by Suffrage100MA.
The Maria L. Baldwin marker is the final of five Massachusetts suffrage markers that have been unveiled since 2022, also including: Anne L. Page (Danvers); Remond Family (Salem); Sojourner Truth (Northampton); and Sarah E. Wall (Worcester).
“We are delighted to celebrate Maria Baldwin as one of five suffrage markers in Massachusetts highlighting the history of women’s suffrage in Massachusetts. Each marker honors the lives of those who bravely worked to advance women’s voting rights, with more than half of these markers dedicated to women and men of color,” said Suffrage100MA Founder & President Fredie Kay, the Massachusetts State Coordinator of the National Votes for Women Trail. “These markers are the result of more than three years of dedicated collaboration between municipal leadership, passionate community historians, Suffrage100MA, the Pomeroy Foundation, the NCWHS and NVWT.”
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Suffrage100MA is dedicated to commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, prohibiting the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. Suffrage100MA presents events and activities that highlight the history of the women’s suffrage movement and women’s rights, notably the tireless work and essential contributions of women of color, who were often excluded by white women’s suffrage organizations, and whose role in the suffrage movement has been largely overlooked. In 2023, Suffrage100MA is transitioning to become an online Massachusetts Women’s History Center, with its flagship program, the Massachusetts Women’s Hall of Fame! Suffrage100MA is, and as the MWHC will continue to be, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization, with over 200 non-profit Partners. Learn more at Suffrage100MA.org.
About Cambridge Historical Commission
The Cambridge Historical Commission (CHC) is a department of the City of Cambridge. It serves as the city’s historic preservation agency. This CHC protects more than 3,100 designated historic buildings, administers a preservation grant program funded by the Community Preservation Act (CPA), and oversees the restoration and maintenance of historic public sites, monuments and statues. The CHC maintains a dynamic public archive focusing on the architectural and social history of Cambridge and including information on all 13,000+ Cambridge buildings. Cambridgema.gov/historic/
The National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites is a non-profit organization established to support and promote the preservation and interpretation of sites and locales throughout the country that bear witness to women’s participation in American history. A project of NCWHS, the National Votes for Women Trail consists of a database with digital map, and a program of historic markers for over 200 suffragists/women’s suffrage sites. Visit: NVWT.org.
About the Pomeroy Foundation
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation® is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. Established by Trustee Bill Pomeroy in 2005 to bring together his two greatest passions, the Pomeroy Foundation is a private, grant-making organization located in Syracuse, N.Y. As the nation’s leading funder of historic roadside markers, the Pomeroy Foundation has awarded nearly 1,700 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 45 states. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.