Hillary Rodham Clinton extolled accomplishments of America's forgotten women Wednesday, saying history can no longer afford to overlook their roles in shaping the nation.
As part of a tour of some of the nation's historic sites, Clinton visited the home of Kate Mullany, a launderer who organized the first union for women in the 1860s at age 19. Mullany's role in labor history was all but lost until the 1970s. She died in 1906, and few details about her life are available.The first lady praised Mullany as "someone who literally transformed the lives of women in her time and for all time." It is time, she said, for history to acknowledge women such as Mullany and those who organized the women's movement 150 years ago.
"They believed that they were capable of having a dream and fulfilling it," Clinton said. "Too often history is seen as just the story of great military victories and political leaders. . . . A great country is measured not just by its heroes or well-known people but by what all of us do."
In her "Save America's Treasures" tour, Clinton is visiting the homes of famous women, pointing out little-known feats of ordinary women, even noticing women as they cropped up in dusty old theater stage bills or as a feminine standard in the titles of phonograph records cut in Thomas Edison's lab.
"The last time I looked, women have comprised 50 percent of our population," Clinton said Tuesday at The Mount, the Lenox, Mass., home of author Edith Wharton. "As we look at the full range of the American experience, we need to remember women like Harriet Tubman or Kate Mullany (and) the women who gathered at Seneca Falls."
The brick duplex in Troy, N.Y., honoring Mullany is the only remaining structure associated with her life. Tubman's Auburn, N.Y., house, where she established a home for the aged in 1903 and died in 1913, has a leaky foundation and is virtually gutted. It is near the William H. Seward House, a stop on the Underground Railroad that Tubman made famous.
A historic site since 1971, Wharton's house is one of only a few places honoring women that is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Its interior paint is peeling and its exterior needs major restoration. Still, the first lady said, the majestic chateau-style house - which Wharton designed herself - is "a symbol of what a woman could do on her own."
"Young women growing up could look to her experience and dream themselves of becoming writers or landscape gardeners," Clinton said. "Every woman should really be able to think that American history includes her."
Almost as soon as her tour began, Clinton was tossing in historical tidbits about women at every stop.
The Star-Spangled Banner, she said, was sewn by Mary Pickersgill and her 12-year-old daughter. Women were side by side with men in defending Fort McHenry from British bombardment in 1814 - and one woman was killed carrying water to troops.
At Edison's lab in West Orange, N.J., the first lady pointed out the title of one of the original records made there: "When a Peach in Georgia Weds."
At Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Mass., a stage bill promoted actress Edith Luckett, the mother of Nancy Reagan.