Graceland Cemetery: Women of Influence

The days was clear-skied and lovely, with just a little chill in the air. I decided I haven't been taking advantage of my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership, so jumped on the Red Line up to Addison, then got connected to their tour of the Graceland Cemetery.

I'm afraid I've already forgotten our marvelous docent's name. The last name might have been Hoag. (I may have conflated this with a name I saw on a tombstone: Uriah Hair. I thought, hmm, take away the first U and you have a palindrome, and what are the odds of that?) She was, like all the docents, knowledgeable and deeply enthusiastic. She's been a docent for 10 years, and has a little badge that said she had won Outstanding Volunteer, and it doesn't surprise me.

We walked through not only a cemetery, but an arboretum, where once, our docent told us, people left the bustle of the city to take their families up to what was then a rural spot. It was a spring day, with everything coming awake. She said the most of the tours of the CAF focus on men, and to most of the talks in cemeteries. But hers focused on "women of influence," and there were some amazing stories about some amazing women. Among them were:


  • Mary Wilmarth (1837-1919), a social and civic reformer who introduced Chicago to Jane Adams and became a patron of Hull House. [This is all from the sheet our docent provided at the end. The oral version was much livelier!]
  • Juliette Kinzie (1806-1870), an early settler who wrote the first history of Chicago's years.
  • Marion Mahony Griffin (1871-1961), the first licensed architect in illinois, and who worked with Frank Lloyd Write before starting her own practice.
  • Edith Farnsworth (1903-1977), an early advocate of modern architecture, commissioned Mies van der Rohe to build a home for her in Plano, Illinois.
  • Frances Glessner (1848-1932) helped established the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and became its leading patron.
  • Mary Richardson Jones (her tombstone reads Grandma Jonsie), a Free black woman who helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad.
  • Kate Warn (1830?-1868), the first U.S. women detective, who worked for Pinkerton, and helped break up a plot to assassinate president-elect Lincoln before his inauguration.
  • Nettie Fowler McCormick (1835-1923), a formidable businesswoman who guided her late husband's Cyrus McCormick Reaper Works to become International Harvester.
  • Katherine Dexter McCormick (1875-1967), a pioneer in the fight for women's rights, and funded research resulting in the development and approval of the first birth control pill.
And that's not all. But I won't give it all away. Anyone interested in this fascinating tour of some altogether remarkable women - who often had huge influence on the city - should sign up. This would be an ideal trip for book clubs, history buffs, women's clubs, and men's clubs.

Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures.
Pinkerton had a whole bunch of graves for his agents, including Kate Warn, whom he said was one of the 5 best agents he's ever known.

This one, apparently, was the tombstone of an extraterrestrial.


Fantastic statue.

Love the two together.

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