THE STATE WE’RE IN: Find women’s history on Heritage Trail

By Michele Byers
   With New Jersey celebrating 350 years, it’s exciting to highlight the women who changed the course of history.
   Some of our state’s most famous include Colonial-era poet Annis Boudinot Stockton, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, suffrage movement leader Alice Paul and pioneering aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
   More than a decade ago, New Jersey became the first state to survey places associated with notable women. The result is the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail, a collection of 94 sites that illustrate women’s contributions to the history of this state we’re in.
   Many sites are buildings like museums and homes. But others are public spaces, perfect for soaking in history and stretching your legs in the great outdoors.
   Here are a few:
   • Women’s Federation Memorial, Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine Borough.
   This monument is dedicated to a group of determined women who fought to preserve the magnificent rocky cliffs, waterfalls and rock pillars of the Hudson River Palisades.
   Quarrying in the Palisades began in the early 1800s and intensified after the Civil War. In 1894, the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs fought for legislation to protect the Palisades. As a result, the cliffs and riverfront lands were acquired for an interstate park.
   The New Jersey section of the park includes more than 30 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, picnic areas and boat basins.
   • Merchiston Farm, Morris County Parks’ Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center, Chester Township.
   Martha Brookes Hutcheson (1871-1959) developed a love of gardening as a young girl and became one of America’s first female landscape architects. She and her husband, William Anderson Hutcheson, bought an historic farm in Chester Township and transformed it into an outstanding example of natural and classic landscape architecture.
   Merchiston Farm is now part of Morris County’s Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center, which includes restored gardens and trails.
   • Thompson Park, Middletown Township.
   Geraldine Livingston Morgan Thompson, a lifelong friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, had a long career of political activism in prison reform, public health and juvenile justice. She also helped establish Island Beach State Park.
   Her estate is now headquarters for the Monmouth County Park System and includes miles of trails, playground and picnic facilities and a lake for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
   • Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Manalapan Township.
   One of the largest battles of the American Revolution took place in the fields and forests of Monmouth Battlefield State Park, and one of its heroines was Mary Hays McCauley, better known as “Molly Pitcher.”
   Her bravery in running ammunition and tending to injured troops became legendary.
   The park includes miles of trails, picnic areas, a restored Revolutionary War-era farmhouse and a visitor center.
   • Whitesbog Village, Pemberton Township.
   In 1916, cultivated blueberries first were developed here by Elizabeth C. White in collaboration with scientist Dr. Frederick Coville.
   This historic village is an early 20th-century company town and part of Brendan Byrne State Forest. It’s an outstanding site for exploration of the Pine Barrens.
   These are just a few sites along the Women’s Heritage Trail. If you’re feeling ambitious, download the full list at and hit the road!
    Michele Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. For more information, contact her at [email protected] or visit NJCF’s website at