During Women’s History Month, it is important to remember the courageous, influential women that went against the status quo and enacted positive change in their communities. These activists, workers, and founders are just some of the legendary women that helped pave the way for a brighter future. Learn more about women’s history in Lehigh Valley!

Benigna von Zinzendorf (1725–1789)

Benigna von Zinzendorf, originally from Germany, was a Luthern missionary that visited the moravian settlement in present day Bethlehem with her father in 1741. (Fun fact! Her father, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf is responsible for bestowing the name Bethlehem to the Moravians) Inspired by the beliefs of the Moravians that everyone deserves an education, she created the first girls’ boarding school in America in May of 1742. The Bethlehem Female Seminary became Moravian Seminary and College for Women in 1913 and is now Moravian University. 

Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College 

The Allentown Female College was founded in 1867 in the basement of Allentown’s Zion's Reformed Church. Over the years, the school underwent multiple moves, additions, and name changes. Now known as Cedar Crest College, this private, liberal arts institution continues to educate primarily women. 


Elizabeth Mammy Morgan (1761–1839)

Mammy Morgan is known as “Mother of The Whole Township” in Easton. She was highly educated and helped citizens of the area with their ailments by researching them in her late husband's medical books. Mammy had a library full of law books and would distribute legal advice when requested. Morgan Hill and Morgan Hill Road are named in her honor, and she is buried on the property of Easton Public Library beneath an old Indian grinding stone that is surrounded by a cast iron fence.

A 1916 photograph by Harris & Ewing of women in fur-adorned coats and mink muffs gathered around the Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell, to campaign for women's suffrage.

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress

Justice Bell Parades through Lehigh Valley

The Justice Bell, a 2,000lb bronze replica of The Liberty Bell, was created by the Pennsylvania Women Suffrage Association in 1915. The same year, This bell took a 5,000 mile tour throughout Pennsylvania in a campaign to convince male voters to vote for women’s right to vote. The bell was escorted by speakers and activists, and was often met with supporters, parades, and speeches in the cities it traveled to. The Bell arrived in Allentown in August, and made stops in Bethlehem, Bath, Nazareth, and Easton. Though the referendum for women’s suffrage was defeated in 1916, Pennsylvania became the 8th state to ratify the 19th amendment in 1920.


The Young Women’s Christian Association, with chapters founded in Allentown in 1868 and Bethlehem in 1927, was created to support women and promote education. YWCA has always served as a life-long positive force among women and girls and as a catalyst for social change designed to achieve equity and equality. The YWCA dedicated their mission in 1970 to eliminating racism and empowering women. 


Anna Mae Hays (1920-2018)

Anna Mae McCabe moved to Allentown with her family when she was 12 in 1932. She was a graduate of Allentown High School and Allentown Hospital School of Nursing and signed on to become an army nurse in 1942. Her career in the army lasted nearly three decades serving in World War II in Asia, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She became the first woman to achieve the rank of brigadier general in the Army in 1970.


The Lehigh Valley Rosies

During World War II, many Lehigh Valley women took on non-traditional roles and worked in factories including Bethlehem Steel. The Lehigh Valley Rosies, referencing the iconic campaign that encouraged women to support the war effort, were a part of the 6 million women that stepped up. June Coringrato of Allentown was a drill press operator. Anna Hall of Treichlers cleaned steel molds for 80 cents an hour. Evelyn Csasar of Bethlehem sharpened tools. Mary Rose Welle of Allentown sewed Army shirts. Helen Vaughan of Hellertown was a riveter at a manufacturing plant in St. Louis.

Postcard shows a photographic reproduction of a drawing of the Bethlehem Steel factory, near the river and railroad tracks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. 1908

Rummell, Richard, 1848-1924, artist, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Linny Fowler (1940-2013)

Marlene Fowler was an artist, educator, philanthropist, and more. She moved to the Bethlehem area with her husband and children in 1966, and immediately began making her mark on the valley. She served on 20 local boards throughout her life, funded countless artistic and humanitarian organizations throughout the valley, co-founded the ArtsQuest Banana Factory Arts Center, and devoted her life to ensuring education and the arts were accessible for the entire community. Her dedication and generosity earned her the Lehigh Valley Lifetime Achievement award. 


Dixie Dugan White (1943-2020)

Patricia Ann Dugan was born in Bethlehem, PA in 1943. She was a tireless activist and champion for equality for women, the LGBT community, human rights, workers' rights, and the environment. Dixie also was the president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), a Caseworker for Northampton County Children and Youth, and so much more. 

Jane C. Storch (1943-2021)

Jane C. Storch was an accomplished poet, advocate for the disabled community, and generous volunteer in Lehigh Valley. She was resilient and compassionate, creating art and helping others though she was struggling with cerebral palsy. Involved for many years with the Interfaith Coalition for Disabled People of Lehigh County and United Cerebral Palsy of Lehigh Valley (UCPLV), she also served on the Board of Directors for the Center for Independent Living. Jane received the President's Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama. In 1999, Allentown City Mayor William Heydt proclaimed a Jane Storch Day in recognition of her many contributions.

These inspiring women and monumental events helped shape Lehigh Valley into the successful, inclusive region it is today. Visit a museum to learn more or support some of these women owned businesses during your next trip to Lehigh Valley!

Special thanks to the reference librarians at Allentown Public Library and Muhlenberg Trexler Library for assisting with research.

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