Layne, Christol Louise
Leavitt, Henrietta Swan
Lesbian Avengers & LGBTQ+ Seniors Group
Lewis, Emily (Barron)
Longfellow, Alice Mary
Lowell, Maria (White)
Lowry, Lois (Hammersberg)
Luscomb, Florence Hope
(b. in Washington, D.C.)
Psychologist, teacher, administrator
Florence Ladd grew up in Washington, D.C. Her father was clerk of the local board of education. She became interested in psychology as a teenager, when she typed papers for her mother, who was preparing herself to be a teacher in special education. Florence attended Howard University, graduating in 1953 with a major in psychology. She spent a semester in France and Switzerland studying psychological testing procedures. She went on to do graduate work in social psychology at the University of Rochester, receiving a Ph.D. in 1958.
Ladd taught psychology at Simmons College, and did research at a hospital for the elderly in Framingham, Mass. When her husband received a Fulbright Scholarship, Ladd went with him to Turkey. She taught at Robert College and the American College for Girls in Istanbul, an experience that spurred her to combine social psychology with environmental studies. She received a certificate in community psychiatry in 1965 and taught related courses at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Design between 1965 and 1977.
Her gifts as an administrator were recognized, and she began to serve as a dean at the MIT School of Architecture. She moved to Wellesley College in 1979 as Dean of Students, remaining there until 1984, strengthening the relationship between Wellesley and MIT. She moved on to an international stage with her work as associate executive director of Oxfam America acting as liaison to the United Nations and as consultant to the Institute of International Education's South African Education Program. In 1989, she became the director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, a post she held until 1997.
Surrounded by creative women, Ladd was inspired to write her first novel, Sarah's Psalm, which was published in 1996. This received the Best Fiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association the following year. Ladd has served as trustee of the National Council for Research on Women, Bentley College, Hampshire College and Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art. She has been an overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and WGBH. In 2007, she was appointed as chair of the Board of Trustees of Hampshire College, from which her son, Michael Ladd, a poet and performer, graduated. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy, France.
Wilma Slaight, “Florence Ladd” Wellesley 125th anniversary, August 28, 2000.
Florence Cawthorne Ladd, personal communication.
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Larson (b July 18, 1947)
Linda Larson studied at Lawrence University and received a master’s degree in the Writing Seminars in 1970 at John Hopkins University. Because of developing schizophrenia and substance abuse, she became homeless, but learned to manage her problems, becoming a leader in the mental health community. In 1993, she began to write for Spare Change News, the street newspaper dedicated to homelessness, poverty, housing and other social issues; and then became the editor-in chief for some years until 2002. Her personal experience of homelessness gave her the knowledge, experience and sensitivity to lead and encourage those involved in producing Spare Change. She has participated in events discussing journalism for the homeless. She was a presenter at a panel on homelessness for the Harvard Extension School alumni in December 1997. In 2002, she interviewed Philip Mangano, Bush’s “homelessness czar” for the paper. A poet as well as a journalist, she has recently read her poetry at Stone Soup in Cambridge.
Doug Holder “Farewell, to the editor of Spare Change Newspaper in Cambridge, MA.” Cambridge Chronicle January 29, 2002
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Louise Layne (d. June 27th, 1983 in Cambridge)
Church member, Childcare provider
Christol Louise came to the United States from Barbados. She met and married her husband, Aubrey Layne in 1925 in the St Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. They were the first couple to be married by Rev. C.B. Lawyer in that church’s new location in what is now 85 Bishop Richard Allen Drive in Central Square, Cambridge. Husband and wife were active in the church, teaching in the Sunday school and serving on various church boards. One of her daughters, Audrey (Layne) Ince has continued as a trustee and clerk of that church. The family was honored as the Family of the Year by St. Paul AME Church in 1973, with a special honor designating Christol Layne as “Mother” of the church. For many years she provided an inexpensive childcare service in her home for working parents, helping to raise between fifty and seventy-five children who went on to hold responsible positions in the community.
Interview by Sandra Pullman, 2003.
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Swan Leavitt (b. July 4, 1868 in Lancaster, MA, d. December
12, 1921 in Cambridge, MA)
The daughter of a Congregational minister, George Leavitt and his wife, Henrietta (Kendrick), Henrietta Swan Leavitt was brought up in Cambridge and attended public schools. She attended Oberlin College from 1885 to 1888. In 1892, she finished her undergraduate work at Radcliffe College and began to work at the Harvard Observatory in 1895 under Professor Edward Pickering, who employed women with mathematical skills as “computers”. Made part of the permanent staff in 1902, she was named chief of the photographic photometry department, and began to chart variable stars. She worked out a method to determine the distance of particular variable stars, the Cepheid variables, by studying how rapidly they varied in brightness. This proved to be the method that later astronomers used to measure the size of the universe and laid the foundation for the theory of the “big bang” origin of the universe. She worked at the observatory until her death from cancer at fifty-two.
Notable American Women, Vol 2
Ogilvie and Harvey, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science (2000)
Boston Globe, February 1, ’05.
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Lesbian Avengers and LGBTQ+ Seniors Group
1384 Cambridge Street, Intersection of Hampshire and Cambridge Streets
Until 1998, the Lesbian Avengers had weekly poetry slams and other events at Ryle’s Jazz Club, the oldest jazz club in Cambridge and the second oldest in the Greater Boston area (closed in 2018). The group was focused on lesbian visibility and they were known for their spontaneous public skits such as passing out Hershey Kisses on the subway for Valentine’s Day while wearing Lesbian Avengers shirts. After 1998, they rented meeting space at Boston GLASS, an organization that still provides mentorship programs to LGBTQ+ youth of color. Lesbian Avengers was involved in the founding of Dyke March in Boston beginning in 1996 which still happens every year on the Friday before Boston’s pride parade. Across the street at S&S, another Cambridge restaurant staple, a LGBTQ+ seniors group meets weekly sponsored by the Cambridge Somerville Elder Services.
References: The Lesbian Avengers archive is housed at The History Project. www.historyproject.org
Written by Kimm Topping, printed in Mapping Feminist Cambridge guidebook, 2019: https://www.cambridgewomenscommission.org/download/CCSW_MFCamb_book_190717.pdf
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Lesley (b. 27 January 1872 in New Granada (now Panama); d. 16
May 1953 in Boston)
Founder of The Lesley School (now Lesley University); teacher
Portrait of Edith Lesley Wolfard by Caroline Nettleton Thurber, 1928, Lesley University Archives
in what is now Panama in 1872, Edith Lesley was the daughter of Alonzo and Rebecca
Cousens Lesley. At age two, she moved to Bangor, Maine with her family where
her father worked as a shoemaker and her mother took in boarders. She attended
Bangor public schools and studied privately in lieu of high school. When she
was eighteen, the family moved to Boston and later settled in Cambridge.
Edith Lesley studied to be a teacher at the Anne L. Page Kindergarten School in Boston, which followed the principles of kindergarten founder Friedrich Froebel. By 1898, both she and her sister Olive were teaching kindergarten at the Riverside School in Cambridge. She later moved to the Houghton School where she became the principal kindergarten teacher. Between 1904 and 1908, Edith Lesley studied philosophy as a special student at Radcliffe College, likely in preparation for opening her own school.
In 1909, Edith Lesley founded The Lesley School, known also as the Lesley Normal School in its early years. The primary purpose of the school was to train young women in kindergarten education. She initially rented rooms at the Cambridge School for Girls at 36 Concord Ave. for classes before moving them to her family’s home at 29 Everett Street. She and her sister ran the school part-time for three years while continuing to teach at the Houghton School. In 1912, after she married engineer and inventor Merl R. Wolfard, Edith Lesley resigned from her teaching job at the Cambridge schools to run The Lesley School full-time, adding a program in primary teacher training. In 1915, Edith Lesley purchased the house her family had long rented at 29 Everett Street. Merl Wolfard, who served as an advisor and investor, later purchased additional nearby houses to serve as dormitories.
Edith Lesley hired Boston kindergarten teacher Gertrude Malloch in 1914 as a part-time instructor. Malloch soon became a valued friend, administrator and the first principal of the School. Enrollment grew rapidly in the 1920s and the School gained a solid reputation in teacher training, expanding its curriculum to include liberal arts courses and a program in household arts. By 1928, the School had grown to include a campus quadrangle, extending between Everett and Mellen Streets. Though the School struggled to maintain enrollment during the Depression, Edith Lesley’s achievements were recognized in 1938 when she was awarded an honorary degree from Suffolk University. By 1941, she began to experience chronic illness and withdrew from direct involvement in the School, though she continued to serve as a trustee until 1947. Chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1943, Lesley College became a four-year, not-for-profit educational institution authorized to confer bachelor’s degrees. Edith Lesley continued to live at 29 Everett Street until her death in 1953.
After her death, Lesley College continued to flourish, establishing graduate schools of education, management, arts and social sciences, and incorporating the Art Institute of Boston in 1999. Reflecting the breadth of its academic mission and programs, the institution Edith Lesley founded was renamed Lesley University in 2000.
"Edith Lesley Wolfard," American Women: The Official Who's Who Among the Women of the Nation, vol. II, 1937-38. Los Angeles: American Publishing Inc., 1937, p. 751.
"Edith Lesley Wolfard," Who's Who in New England, vol. 3, 1938, Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1938, p. 1386.
“Edith Lesley” Wikipedia online
“Edith Lesley” Lesley University Archives on-line site, December 7, 2007, http://www.lesley.edu/about/archive/news.html
Editorial contributions from Lesley University faculty and staff: Cynthia Brown, Sharlene Cochrane, Patricia Kramer, Alyssa Pacy, and Will Suter
See also, Lesley University's Centennial web page, http://www.lesley.edu/centennial
(Barron) Lewis (b. February 22, 1908 in Adams Run, SC, d. May
20, 1997 in Cambridge, MA)
Nurse, Community Leader, Volunteer
Emily Lewis was born Emily Barron on February 22, 1908 in Adams Run, South Carolina. Shortly there after, she moved to Cambridge, MA where she was raised by the family of Leila and Henry Springer. She attended Webster Grammar School (on Upton Street) and continued her education at Cambridge High & Latin School. Emily's husband, Arthur Lewis, died in 1973 and Emily died on May 20, 1997 at the age of 89. She is survived by her daughter, Florence, of Cambridge, MA and her son, William Lewis, Jr., who resides in Whitinsville, MA.
Emily was employed as a nurse. The opportunity arose during World War II when the call went out from the Red Cross for Nurses’ Aides. Emily applied and with the support of several women with whom she had served on various health related committees, she overcame the Red Cross initial reluctance to admit her. Thus, she became the first woman of color in the very first class of Nurses’ Aides. She completed the class work and upon entering the next phase of the course, she was assigned to cleaning the supply closets. She, supported by the members of her class, objected and she was subsequently assigned to the patient care work for which she had been trained. Emily took every opportunity for training and to increase her knowledge and eventually joined the staff of the Allerton Hospital in Brookline in the OBS delivery room. Her care and concern for her patients led to such esteem for her that several patients named their daughters after her. The Allerton Hospital later moved to a new innovative round structure in Brookline and became the Brookline Hospital. The hospital ultimately closed the OBS unit. Emily, having prepared herself with further training, passed the examination, became a Licensed Practical Nurse, and joined the staff of the Brookline Hospital’s new Intensive Care Unit. After some forty years of service there, she retired.
Her community contributions include membership on the fund raising committee for the building of the current Cambridge Community Center facility. She served many years on the Board of Directors there. Her initial volunteer work at the Center included, helping to establish the Health Unit, which worked in concert with the Cambridge Tuberculosis Association. They worked offering support and encouragement to TB patients at the Cambridge Sanitarium through personal visits and presentations. The Health Unit’s work included classes and workshops in pregnancy, preparing for newborns with emphasis on nutrition and care and the establishment of well-baby clinics. The members of the Unit raised funds through home luncheons, and Sunday Afternoon Teas. In answer to a disparaging remark about the Western Avenue community not being a reliable source of charity, Emily spearheaded a committee and the community responded by presenting United Fund (now the United Way) with an eye-opening donation.
Emily was an active member of St. Paul AME Church serving on the stewardess Board, the Missionary society and as a Sunday School Teacher. She was also an active member of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Daughters of Isis. Upon her retirement, she worked as a warden for the Election Commission, as a member of the Cambridge-Somerville Council of Elders and a member of the Cambridge City Republican Party Committee.
Nomination received from Mayor Kenneth Reeves' office
Cambridge Vital Records
Information also provided by Florence Lewis, daughter of Emily Lewis.
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Mary Longfellow (b. September 22, 1850, d. December 1928)
A life long resident of Cambridge, Alice Mary Longfellow was the oldest daughter of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his wife, Fanny Appleton. She grew up in the family home at 105 Brattle Street (now the Longfellow National Historic Site) and was inspired to devote herself to preservation of historic homes and to education for women. As a young woman in the 1870s, Alice helped to form the first community theater group in Cambridge. She joined the organizing committee with Elizabeth Cary Agassiz for the Harvard Annex or the Society for the Collegiate Instruction for Women (which later became Radcliffe College), as its youngest member. She attended its first class as a special student. Early commencements of Radcliffe College were held in the library of her home. She served on the Radcliffe College executive committee and the Board of Trustees of the college until the end of her life. In recognition of her work as a benefactor of the college, Longfellow Hall was named in her honor.
As a preservationist, Alice was a member of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, and the Cambridge Historical Society. She led her family in the preservation of the Longfellow House and was responsible for the development of its gardens. She also opened the house to the general public, including children and students. Her philanthropic work extended to the Cambridge public schools, public gardens and playgrounds in the 20th century. She was keenly interested in the Arts and Crafts movement in Massachusetts and became a member of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston. In 1901, she published a reprint of her father’s poem “Song of Hiawatha” with her account of a visit to the Objiway people in Ontario, where she was made an honorary tribal member.
Alice M. Longfellow. An account of a visit to Hiawatha’s people (1901).
Alice m. Longfellow Papers, Longfellow National Historic Site.
Biography of Alice M Longfellow, Longfellow National Historic Site.
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(White) Lowell (b. July 8, 1821 in Watertown,
MA d. October 27, 1853 in Cambridge)
Maria (White) Lowell was born in Watertown to Abijah White and Anna Maria (Howard) White. Maria attended the Ursuline Convent School in Charleston, but her formal education ended in 1834, when the school burned down. Five years later, Maria joined a group of “well-educated and thinking women,” whom Margaret Fuller guided in her “Conversations.” The goal of these women was stated to be: “What were we born to do and how shall we do it”? Maria was also a member of the “Band,” a club for Harvard students and their sisters. An ardent abolitionist, she worked to raise money for that cause and contributed poems to the abolitionist periodical, the Liberty Bell.
On December 26, 1844, Maria married the poet James Russell Lowell, whose first book of poetry was dedicated to her. The couple lived in Cambridge where their first child, Blanche, was born. Sadly, Blanche died in 1847, and their second daughter, Rose, born in September of 1849, died after only 6 months. In 1850, Maria’s son, Walter, was born. A year later the family went to Italy in hopes of restoring Maria’s failing health; where Walter died in 1852. Only one child, Mabel, survived into adulthood, outliving both her parents.
Maria’s poetry was published in Rufus Griswald’s Female Poets of America and Putnam’s Magazine. In 1853, one year after she returned from Italy, Maria died of tuberculosis at the Lowells’ home in Cambridge. Although only sixteen of her poems were published during her lifetime, her husband published a memorial volume of Maria’s poems in 1855.
Notable American Women, Vol II; Vernon, Hope Jillson
The Poems of Maria Lowell, with unpublished letters and a biography. Providence, Rhode Island: Brown University Press, 1936;
Papers of James Russell Lowell, Houghton Library, Harvard University (includes letters to and from Maria White Lowell)
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(Hammersberg) Lowry (b. March 20, 1937
Author of young people and children’s literature
Lois (Hammersberg) Lowry was born on March 20, 1937 in Hawaii to Robert and Katharine (Landis) Hammersberg. Since her father was an Army dentist, the family went to Japan during the occupation following the end of WWII. Returning to the States, she attended a private school in Brooklyn and then went to Brown University for two years. She left after her sophomore year to marry Donald Grey Lowry in 1956. They settled in Maine, where they raised four children.
She worked part-time as a professional photographer while her husband studied for his law degree. Eventually, she returned to college in the late 60s and earned her degree from the University of Southern Maine in 1972 in the writing program.
Lois Lowry began by writing textbooks on Black American Literature and on American Revolutionary Literature in the mid-1970's. In the late 1970s, she began to write books for children, the first based on her childhood recollections of the death of her sister from cancer. This book, A Season to Die (1977) launched her into a successful career. That same year, she was divorced from her husband. She has produced 20 novels and won the Newbery Medal twice, as well as winning many other awards. Her books often cover difficult subjects such as adoption, mental illness, and the Holocaust. She is best known for her “Anastasia” series.
Lowry moved to Boston and then to West Cambridge, spending weekends in her 19th-century farmhouse in New Hampshire.
" Lowry, Lois." Contemporary Authors. Ed. Susan M. Trosky. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1994, pp..
Smith, Amanda. "PW Interviews: Lois Lowry." Publisher Weekly. 21 Feb. 1986: 152-153.
Zaidman, Laura M. "Lois Lowry." American Writers for Children Since 1960. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol 52
Lois Lowry Papers-1977-1993 Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota. Includes book manuscripts
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Hope Luscomb (b. February 6, 1887 in Lowell, MA, d. October
27, 1985 in Watertown, MA.)
Suffragist, social activist, peace activist, architect
Florence Luscomb was a committed believer in world peace, women’s liberation, and workers’ unions, and a familiar figure at protest marches and rallies throughout her long life.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Hannah (Knox) and Otis Luscomb, her parents separated when she was a baby. Her maternal grandfather was a Republican Congressman from St. Louis, and her mother shared his love of politics. Her mother was active in the early women’s suffrage movement, and Florence recalled being taken by her mother to hear Susan B. Anthony when Florence was five.
She attended Chauncy Hall, a private secondary school, and then went on to MIT, graduating in 1909 with a B.S. in Architecture, among the first women to receive this degree at MIT. Her interest was primarily in Landscape Architecture, a study that echoed her life long love of the outdoors. After graduation she practiced architecture with Ida A. Ryan, a fellow graduate, in Watertown until the First World War, when a building slump ended the demand for new residential housing.
In 1918, Luscomb left architecture to become executive secretary for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, and began to sell copies of the Woman’s Journal on Boston Common, and to give speeches on suffrage throughout New England. After 1920, she found full-time work in various socially concerned organizations. She was a founding member of the Boston League of Women Voters. She also worked with the Massachusetts Civic League, where she initiated prison reform, and was a significant member of the Joint Board of Sanitary Control, concerned with factory safety, and the Massachusetts branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom,with which she was associated for the rest of her life. She found employment as a labor organizer in Boston, and in 1927, she was inspector of safety conditions for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
Florence Luscome, 1977.
Ellen Shub, photographer.
She lived with her mother until her mother’s death in 1933, when a small legacy from her grandfather allowed her to give up paid employment and devote herself to social reform and political activism. She worked for the Boston wing of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and the American League for Peace and Democracy, among other organizations. By the late ‘40s, she set up a co-operative household in Cambridge that offered like-minded women, including Radcliffe graduate students, a nurturing environment. She continued this style of cooperative living with a new groups of young people into her nineties when illness compelled her to give up independent living. In the late 1930s, she bought land in Tamworth, NH, where she designed and built a rustic cabin. Each year until she became almost blind, she spent the entire summer working in a carefully designed garden and climbing in the White Mountains.
Luscomb ran for public office at least four times, first for Boston City Council in 1922, losing by less than one percent of the vote.. She was a candidate for the US House of Representatives on the People’s Labor Party. Most notably, when the Massachusetts state chair of the Progressive Party, she ran for governor in 1952. At the age of 71, she turned out for a “March for Peace” in 1958 to the United Nations, walking from New Haven to Manhattan to appeal for an end to nuclear weapons testing. In the early 1960s, she traveled to Cuba, attended a peace conference in Moscow, and then went on to China, in spite of US policy forbidding such travel. On her return, she lectured on China and continued to work for peace movements. In her eighties, she was rediscovered by the women’s movement as one of its “foremothers” and began a new lecture career, speaking throughout the country. She also was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, joining marches and speaking out on behalf of the peace movement. During this period, she continued to work for improved racial relations and on behalf of school busing. She reminded her fellow feminists that women included poor and minority women, and served as a consultant to the young women organizing the professional labor union, Nine to Five. At a celebration of her ninetieth birthday in 1976, she was feted by leaders of all the organizations with whom she had worked. On this occasion, she urged her listeners to think about social justice with the words: “It’s time for a second American revolution.”
In her mid-nineties, ill health forced her into a nursing home in Watertown, where she died at the age of ninety-eight.
Sharon Hartman Strom. Political Woman: Florence Luscomb and the Legacy of Radical Reform. Philadelphia, 2001.
Rollins, Ann. Women’s History Tour of Cambridge. Ribe: Cambridge, Mass., 1987.
MIT Museum. Biographical file.
Schlesinger Library. Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1904-1959: A Finding Aid. Cambridge, Mass., 2005.
Schlesginer Library. Florence Luscomb Papers, 1856-1987: A Finding Aid. Cambridge, Mass., 1989.
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Women's Heritage Project