The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
A Hidden Woman
Women are hiding in archives across the country. While some women's papers make it into archival collections in their own right, many others are swept up with their husbands' papers.
One woman hiding in the Archives is Mary Foote Henderson. Born in 1842, in Seneca Falls, New York, the daughter of a prominent judge, she was educated at Grove Ladies Seminary (now Skidmore College) and Washington University.
She married Missouri Senator John B. Henderson, sponsor of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It was not as a senator, but as an expert on West Indian mollusks and a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents that Henderson is represented in Record Unit 7075 - The Henderson Family Papers, 1868-1923.
The pieces of ephemera Mary Henderson left among her husband's papers give a glimpse at the interests of a remarkable woman.
In 1889, after accumulating a fortune, the Hendersons moved back to Washington, D.C., where they built a castle-like mansion on 16th Street called "Boundary Castle" or "Henderson's Castle." Mrs. Henderson bought blocks of land in the Meridian Hill area where she constructed elaborate residences that were sold as embassies. Mary Henderson's interest in the neighborhood led to her unsuccessful campaign to have a new White House constructed there. She was, however, successful in lobbying Congress to support the acquisition of the land and its development as Meridian Hill Park.
- City Beautiful movement, University of Virginia
- Record Unit 7075 - The Henderson Family Papers, 1868-1923, Smithsonian Institution Archives