Bessie Phillips Salem Massachusetts

The Incredible Women of Salem, Massachusetts

Many incredible women with ties to Salem have contributed our city’s history and the history of the world. We are thrilled to honor them on March 27th, 2022, Salem’s Annual Women’s History Day with multiple events throughout the city.

Here are some of the remarkable women in Salem’s history:

The innocent women who were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are perhaps the inspiration for many of the bright and strong women who have led Salem ever since. Join The Salem Witch Museum from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm to celebrate the memory of Ann Dolliver who was accused and arrested on charges of witchcraft. We also remember the 14 women who lost their lives Bridget Bishop, Martha Carrier, Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Sarah Good, Dorcas Hoar, Wilmott Redd, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, and Sarah Wildes. 

Mary Spencer (1759- 1835) created the gibraltar using only a barrel of sugar given to her by some of her neighbors on Buffum Street in 1806. She first sold these candies on the steps of First Church until she opened what is now Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. She also was an abolitionist and transported escaped slaves in her wagon as she sold candy from town to town.

Salem Massachusetts Peabody Sisters
The Peabody Sisters

Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894) opened the first kindergarten in the United States. She was a writer, prominent figure in the Transcendentalist movement, and considered to be the first female book publisher in America. In 1849 she published a single issue of a “Transcendentalist journal, Aesthetic Papers” which contained, among other essays, Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.” One of her two sisters, Sophia (1809-1871), was a prolific painter who donated works to be sold to benefit charities and was the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne, her younger sister, Mary (1806-1887) was active in various reform movements including women’s suffrage, world peace, and Native American rights. She was also the wife of Horace Mann.


Sarah Parker Remond (1826-1894) was a free-born African American lecturer, abolitionist and physician who was born in Salem. From 1856 to 1861, she toured the east coast as well as England, Ireland, and Scotland giving anti-slavery and women’s rights lectures. In 1866, Remond was among the 1500 women, and possibly the only black woman, who signed the first women’s suffrage petition in Great Britain.


Charlotte Forten Grimké
Charlotte Forten Grimké


Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914) was Salem State University’s first African American graduate as a part of the class of 1856. For 65 years Charlotte was a tireless advocate for the end of slavery; equality for women and people of color; and education for all.

Caroline Emmerton (1866 – 1942) was dedicated to preserving Salem’s history through saving threatened buildings. She purchased The House of the Seven Gables, turned it into a museum, and use the profits from the museum to fund her Settlement House, which provided training for immigrant girls, boys, and adults. She also purchased and restored the Turner-Ingersoll mansion, The Hooper-Hathaway House, and The Retire Becket House, all of which have been moved to The House of the Seven Gables site. Today, The House of the Seven Gables’ campus constitutes its own national historic district on The National Register of Historic Places. To learn more about Emmerton and the other women of the House of the Seven Gables, check out their lecture taking place from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm.

Bessie Phillips Salem Massachusetts
Bessie Phillips in front of the Phillips House

Bessie Phillips (1907-1971) established the Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House as a museum to be enjoyed by all, which today is part of Historic New England and the only home on Chestnut Street that is open to the public. The Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve Trust still does significant work including maintaining The Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund which provides renewable, four-year scholarships to students with financial need who display academic achievement, a commitment to serving others (in school, their community, or at home), a strong work ethic, and leadership qualities.


Colonel Cheryl Lussier Poppe

Colonel Cheryl Lussier Poppe is a Salem resident, who during 30 years of service in the National Guard, spent 13 years on active duty in which she served a variety of roles including working before reaching the rank of Colonel. She retired from the National Guard in 2008. She spent 12 years continuing her work advocating for Veterans from within the Department of Veterans’ Services; the mission of which is to advocate on behalf of the over 300,000 Veterans in the Commonwealth and their families.  In 2020, she was appointed Secretary for the Department of Veterans’ Services by Governor Charlie Baker. She is still serving in this role.

To learn more about these women and more notable locals click here.


Categorised in: ,

Tags: , , , , ,