About the Trails


About the Trails

Why a history trail? Why do we need to walk to find history? Can’t we just look it up in books or experience it on television or read about it online? And why a women’s history trail?

Maine author Sarah Orne Jewett expressed the answer to the first question after she visited the home of Charlotte and Emily Brontë on the edge of the Yorkshire moors: “Nothing you ever read about them can make you know them until you go there,” she said. “Never mind people who tell you there is nothing to see in the place where people lived who interest you. You always find something of what made them the souls they were, and, at any rate, you see their sky and their earth.”

The second question is easily answered as well. Without the work, contributions, and insights of women, Portland—and the world—would be a very different place. Because women’s lives, in many ways, have been different from men’s lives, so has women’s history been distinct. By walking this trail, you can begin to connect with the lives of your figurative sisters, mothers, aunts, and great grandmothers in all the diversity of backgrounds that these women represent. You will never see the city of Portland in the same way again.

The Portland Women’s History Trail is divided into seven walks and introduces women from (mainly) two centuries in a variety of settings, activities, and backgrounds. The two downtown walks, Congress Street and State Street, can be joined into one walk or traveled separately. The three neighborhood walks are Munjoy Hill, the West End and Gorham’s Corner. You need to drive to the historic Stroudwater District on outer Congress Street but can walk that part of the trail. Likewise, you need to drive to the Stevens Avenue portion of the trail but can walk the area.

The Trail also intersects at different points with three other walks of diverse ethnicity: the Portland Freedom Trail, highlighting Portland’s African-American and anti-slavery history, primarily on Munjoy Hill; the Chinese-American Walking Tour, with sites along the Congress Street and part of State Street walks and some of which abut the Munjoy Hill walk; and the Maine Irish Heritage Trail, which features several of the same sites on all of the same Women’s Trail walks except Stroudwater. These three trails complement the Women’s walks with their own rich history.

–Project Director, Eileen Eagan, Associate Professor of History, University of Southern Maine


This digital project is made possible by a grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF) for Digital Maine, a digital humanities initiative at The University of Southern Maine (USM). Digital Maine’s Principal Investigator John Muthyala, Professor of English, guided this project, and Jan Piribeck, Co- Principal Investigator and Professor of Art, provided useful insights about design and other aspects of the project. Using his experience in software innovation, Stephen Houser, Director of Academic Technology & Consulting at Bowdoin College and Adjunct Faculty in Computer Science at USM, developed the mobile application for the walking trail using a web-based platform, and Justin Varberakis of Bigroomstudio provided the visual design for the mobile app. Administrative support was given by Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, Associate Provost of Graduate Studies, and Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity, and Lynn Kuzma, former dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Eileen Eagan, Associate Professor of History, was the project leader.

This project is based on the existing Portland Women’s History Trail which was developed at the University of Southern Maine 20 years ago and has been an ongoing enterprise.

The Portland Women’s History Walking Trail has always been a collaborative effort, involving a variety of individuals and institutions, including the University of Southern Maine (USM), Maine College of Art (MECA), Maine Humanities Council, and Maine Historical Society. Polly Welts Kaufman brought her experience with the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail to Portland and to USM’s History Department where she jump-started the Portland trail and joined with Eileen Eagan, Patricia Finn, and others in the project. Kaufman was the Project Director for the grants from the Maine Humanities Council that supported the Portland Women’s History Project. That work resulted in the booklet, A Women’s History Walking Trail in Portland, Maine. Candace Kanes, then teaching at Maine College of Art and now director of Maine Memory Network at Maine Historical Society, joined in a second project that resulted in Working Women of the Old Port: A Portland Women’s History Trail, drawing on Kanes’s work and that of students at MECA, who contributed art to the booklet and a street exhibit. The trail was certainly grounded in the community women who met to talk about the history of women in Portland at 100 State Street, the Community Center on Munjoy Hill, and at Portland West in the People’s Building. Support also initially came from the USM History Department and its Women’s Studies Program, its staff, and the community and university individuals who served on a planning board for the project. Early contributions, assistance, and planning came from Ardis Cameron, Nancy Gish, Rita Kissen, Diana Long, Andrea McCall, Victoria Bonebakker, Suzanne Hunt, Anita Talbot, Mary Anne Wallace, Wendy Sue Lamb, Kathlin de Francisco, Martha Hamlin, Carla Barron, Binney Brackett, Sandra Hartford, Faye Huntress, Joyce Lamb, Bill Barry, Nan Cumming, Joel Eastman, Nathan Hamilton, Nance Parker, and Stephanie Philbrick as well as from the Archives Section of the Maine Medical Center Library. Roger Kaufman provided invaluable help in producing the pamphlet.

Students played a crucial role in researching the trail. USM students who took History of Women in Maine or the History of Women in the United States courses, especially in the fall semesters of 2012 and 2013, did important research. Specific work for the digital project was done by students in Eileen Eagan’s course History of Women in the U.S. in fall 2013 at USM. Photos and research on specific sites were contributed by Lucie Tardif, Jeremy Cochran (who created a new Stroudwater trail), Darien Brahms, Jenny Googoo, Kelsea Dunham, Harper Batsford, Tracey Berube, Katie Cobb, and Tegan Talbot. Other excellent work was done by students in the fall 2013 class but has not been included at this time. As both a student going beyond her assignments and as a paid assistant, alumna Lucie Tardif (‘14) retyped the entire guide into an editable file and contributed her skills in research, fact-checking, proofreading, copy editing, photography, and writing some entries as well as offering ideas for additional sites to further extend the trail. Many of the photographs are her work. The MEIF grant also funded the work of student Hans Nielsen, many of whose photographs for the trail are included here, adding another view to the Trail. The text draws on the writing of Polly Kaufman (who drew on the group research and writing), Candace Kanes, and Lucie Tardif, but Eileen Eagan edited, rewrote, and wrote much of the new work and accepts responsibility for the content. A list of photographers and their specific work is available.


  • Agger, Lee. Women of Maine. Portland: Guy Gannett Pub. Co., 1982.
  • Barry, William and Anderson, Patricia McGraw, Deering: A Social and Architectural History Greater Portland Landmarks, 2010.
  • Conforti, Joseph, ed., Creating Portland: History and Place in Northern New England Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2005.
  • Federal Writers Project, Portland A City Guide, 1940.
  • Kaufman, Polly Welts and Katharine T. Corbett, eds., Her Past Around Us: Interpreting Sites for Women’s History Malabar, Fl: Krieger Publishing Co., 2003.
  • Weiner, Marlie, ed., Of Place and Gender: Women in Maine History Orono, ME: University of Maine Press, 2005
  • Price, H. H., and Gerald E. Talbot.Maine’s Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of its People. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House, 2006.


CC BY-NC-SA License

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) License

Historical photographs used here by permission of the Library of Congress, Maine, Historical Society and New York Public Library. Any further use of the photos from the Maine Historical Society requires their permission.

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