Succeeding women of the Wadsworth and Longfellow families managed their large households alone while their husbands served in state and national legislatures. Peleg, husband of Elizabeth Bartlett Wadsworth (1753-1825, grandmother of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), built the house in 1786. He served in the U.S. Congress from 1792 to 1807. Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow (1778-1851), mother of the poet, also managed her household, including eight children, and the law office of her husband, Stephen, while he served in Congress. The poet’s younger sister, Anne Longfellow Pierce (1810-1901), preserved and lived in the house until her death in 1901. She bequeathed the house to the Maine Historical Society.
The Longfellow Garden Club, founded by Pearl Davis Wing (1892-1957), created and has maintained the historic garden of native plants behind the Longfellow House since 1924. Wing is also noted as being the first woman to make an outdoor public speech for women’s suffrage in Portland.
The Maine Historical Society contains many sources for women’s history, including diaries, letters, reference works, and artifacts. The diversity of people and lifeways in Maine are illustrated in the exhibits in the MHS Museum next door.