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Celebrating Pennsylvania Women: The Book of Honor

In honor of Women’s History Month we’ll be taking a look at The Book of Honor, one of the ways the Committee of 1926 and Historic Strawberry Mansion documented and celebrated notable Pennsylvania women. Throughout its long history, Pennsylvania has been influenced by many incredible women, from Betsy Ross to Mary Cassatt and beyond and the Book of Honor is a record of all those women and their incredible accomplishements.

The Book of Honor is displayed under glass in our exhibit room on the second floor.
What is the Book of Honor?

It is a record of outstanding deceased Pennsylvania women presented in a large, leather bound illuminated manuscript. Originally presented June 10, 1931 by Mr. Cyrus H.K. Curtis, famed Philadelphia publisher responsible for The Ladies Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post among other papers.

The title page from the Book of Honor

The Committee of 1926 created Book of Honor subcommittee who would nominate candidates for the book. Each woman has her life and accomplishments documented on one page of the book. Beginning in 1942, more complete histories of each woman in the Book of Honor were complied into the book, Notable Women

Notable Women of Pennsylvania, published in 1942, contains more complete biographical information

of Pennsylvania, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

 

Why was it created?

From the beginning, The Committee of 1926 wished to honor the women who came before them. The initial idea came from Miss Sarah Lowrie, who, during the first Committee meeting in 1929, suggested creating a commemoration of Pennsylvania women of the 18th and 19th centuries to be kept at Historic Strawberry Mansion in perpetuity. Eventually, the time limit was expanded to include prominent women of the 20th century.

 

Who created the book?
Miss Lowrie’s entry in the Book of Honor. She was added to the book after her death in 1957. She is one of the few women to have two pages dedicated to her accomplishments

Sarah Dickson Lowrie was instrumental in the creation of the Book of Honor. A founding member of the Committee, Miss Lowrie uncovered and shared the history of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Historic Strawberry Mansion with the public. For many years she wrote a column in the Public Ledger, titled “One Woman Sees It” where she shared her views on a range of topics. She was dedicated to many philanthropic causes and was an organizer of The Junior League, in addition to being a vocal member of the Suffragette movement in Philadelphia.

 

Close up of the entry on Mary Cassatt, showcasing Carolyn Haywood’s beautiful calligraphy

Carolyn Haywood was a writer and illustrator from Philadelphia. Known for books such as “B” is for Betsy and Little Eddie. For many years, she illustrated the book, lending her artist talents to the beautiful calligraphy and illumination found within the manuscript. She studied under Violet Oakley, another prominent Philadelphia area artist.

 

Mr. Cyrus H.K. Curtis created the book for the Committee of 1926. Mr. Curtis was a great friend of the Committee and a prominent publisher. His newspaper publishing companies were responsible for newspapers such as Ladies’ Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Holiday, the Philadelphia Public Ledger, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Evening Post.

 

Fun Facts!
  • In November 1931, Violet Oakley, prominent area artist and friend of Historic Strawberry Mansion, entertained a party of friends to view the Book of Honor.
  • In 1942, in case of air raids, the Book of Honor was moved to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was kept in a tin box to protect it.
  • The book was loaned out and put on display at art museums on more than one occasion.

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