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About the Lighting the Way Profiles

In the winter of 2017 a newly-formed alliance of organizations and individuals set out to explore the impact of women from Greater New Bedford on the region’s history. Initially called Women of Greater New Bedford, and later renamed Lighting the Way, the project was a collaborative effort of individuals and organizations across the SouthCoast. To compile and share the stories of historic women of the region, New Bedford Whaling Museum named Ann O’Leary, MLS, as the first Emily Bourne Research Fellow and began developing this website. The Emily Bourne Research Fellowship is named for Emily Howland Bourne; her gift to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society in 1915 funded construction of the world’s largest ship model, the Lagoda, and the building that houses it at the Whaling Museum.

To identify inspirational women to feature on the website, organizers asked the public to suggest names for consideration. Dozens of women who were born in or lived in the region were suggested. Names ranged from well-known historical figures like businesswoman Hetty Green, to women who are not as well documented in the annals of history, but are or were beloved by their communities, such as educator Marial Harper.

O’Leary and a handful of dedicated volunteer researchers have used obituaries, newspaper articles, oral histories, and other resources to compile profiles that capture the essence of each woman and highlights from each woman’s story. Some profiles are written by relatives or other people who knew the women well; most are researched and written by community members that are passionate about preserving these stories. Resources used by the profile’s author are in the “Information from” section at the bottom of each profile. If you have feedback on any of the profiles, please let us know by using the contact form on this site. 

A special note of acknowledgement goes to the New Bedford Historical Society and their commitment to documenting the stories of people of color of the region which has greatly facilitated the addition of women of color to the profiles on Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast.

Research continues and new profiles are being added each month.

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