Women in History DowntownDC Callbox Tour

When the DowntownDC BID announced the callbox design competition in 2017, the Charles Bergen team saw an opportunity to right a historic wrong: the exclusion of women from outdoor public art. Although female figures abound in Washington, almost all are allegorical and less than a handful depict people who actually lived. Team historian Mara Cherkasky chose women with ties to Downtown, carefully including individuals from various eras and walks of life. Over two summers, sculptor Charles Bergen and interns from the Marion Barry Summer Jobs Program designed and executed the artwork in time for installation during the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women voting rights.

Callboxes were used throughout the District from the mid-19th century until 1976, when the 911 system arrived. Fire callboxes, distinguished by their harp shape, held a switch people could pull down to report a fire. Police callboxes—there’s only one on this tour, at 13th and G—held a locked compartment containing a telephone receiver or switch that officers used to contact headquarters.

Women in History DowntownDC Callbox Tour: Alice Stokes Paul

Alice Paul was born to wealthy Quaker parents who believed in gender equality, education for girls and women, and working to better society. As a young girl she accompanied her mother to woman suffrage meetings in their hometown of Mount Laurel, New…

Women in History DowntownDC Callbox Tour: Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was a poet, author, composer, abolitionist, suffragist and more—but she is most remembered for writing the lyrics to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Born in New York City in 1819, Howe grew up as the seventh child of a wealthy Wall…

Women in History DowntownDC Callbox Tour: Mary Church Terrell

Born into wealth in Memphis—her father, Robert Church, was the South’s first black millionaire—Mary Church had earned two degrees from Oberlin by 1888. She moved to Washington to teach at the M Street High School, founded after the Civil War as the…

Women in History DowntownDC Callbox Tour: Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler was born in 1920 to parents who were sharecroppers on a tobacco farm in the Brandywine area of Prince George’s County, Maryland. At age 14 she moved to D.C., lied about her age, and got a job in a laundry. A natural activist and…