For Women’s History Month, stories of women of Acadia

UPDATED 3/31/2017: Beatrix Farrand and other notable women of Acadia, past and present, added to blog post.

If you know a little of the history of Acadia National Park, you know who the “father of Acadia” is. But less well-known are the women who were also critical in the early days, by donating land and money or otherwise helping to shape the park.

Eliza Homans

Eliza Homans gave the first large parcel of land that would become Acadia National Park, including the Beehive and the Bowl. (NPS photo)

In celebration of Women’s History Month, observed in March, here are some of the stories of the women of Acadia, who perhaps could be called the “mothers of Acadia.”

Eliza Homans – Whether you ask Catherine Schmitt, author of the 2016 book, “Historic Acadia National Park,” or Marie C. Yarborough, Acadia’s curator and cultural resources and interpretation liaison, one of the main women of Acadia to remember and appreciate: Eliza Homans.

“Previous histories of the park made only brief mention of the first land donation, the Bowl and Beehive tract, by a ‘Mrs. Charles Homans’,” said Schmitt in an e-mail. “Her story is important in part because she was the first of many, many property owners, women and men, who donated or sold land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, the predecessor of the park. Their names are memorialized in trails and monuments, but they are often absent from the perspective of popular park histories.”

And as Acadia’s Yarborough e-mailed us last month, in describing her mission to expand the cultural stories and histories of the park beyond George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia”; the Rockefellers; the French explorers; the Civilian Conservation Corps; and the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations:

cathere schmitt

Catherine Schmitt’s “Historic Acadia National Park” includes stories of women who helped shape the park, such as Eliza Homans. (Image courtesy of Lyons Press and Catherine Schmitt; NOTE: See sidebar about links)

“I push to recognize that there are OTHER stories to tell at the same time, and we need to open up our narrative to tell them. Like, women in Acadia? Eliza Homans…first large gift of land to Acadia was from a woman! We never hear about the women who were working to make this place Acadia,” e-mailed Yarborough, in response to our questions for an earlier blog post, about black history in Acadia. “Oh, there are lots of stories to tell. I just need the time and space to find them.”

In May 1908, Eliza Homans gave title to the 140 acres surrounding the Beehive and the Bowl to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, commenting that if she didn’t donate the land for preservation, “my grandchildren may find a ‘Merry-Go-Round’ established there!”, according to Schmitt’s history and Ronald H. Epp’s 2016 biography of Dorr.

Next time you scale the Beehive, or look up at it from Sand Beach, and the next time you hike up to the mountain pond known as the Bowl, give thanks to Eliza Homans. And think of her, too, when you climb Homans Path up Dorr Mountain.

Historic paths funded by or dedicated in memory of women of Acadia

kurt diederich

Kurt Diederich’s daughter Elsa, who was about 6 when her father died, is seen here along some of the many steps along Kurt Diederich’s Climb, funded by her great-aunt Enid Hunt Slater, in a photo taken around 1920. (NPS Archives)

Enid Hunt Slater – She funded Kurt Diederich’s Climb that goes from the Tarn up Dorr Mountain, in loving memory of her nephew who died in his late 20s in 1913 from complications of surgery. Slater owned the Bar Harbor summer estate known as “Bowling Green,” on Schooner Head, according to “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island,” by the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation of the National Park Service. (NOTE: See sidebar about links)

Annie Kane – She funded Kane Path in memory of her husband John Innes Kane, who had been a member of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association Path Committee.  The trail goes along the Tarn to Canon Brook Trail, and was completed in 1915. A memorial plaque is set in a rock near the mouth of the Tarn, and the trail has historically been viewed as an important part of the village connector system linking Bar Harbor to the mountains.

kane path

Annie Kane on the Kane Path, with George B. Dorr in the distance. She funded the path, the first of several memorial paths built between 1913 and 1917 in the Sieur de Monts Spring area, in memory of her husband, John Innes Kane, according to “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island.” (Acadia NP Archives)

Anna Smith – If you’ve ever hiked the lovely garden-like Beachcroft Path to the top of Huguenot Head and beyond, to Champlain Mountain, you can thank Anna Smith. Named after her summer estate, Beachcroft Path was completed in 1915, and originally was better connected to Kane Path and Kurt Diederich’s Climb, until the construction of ME 3. She contributed additional funds in the 1920s to further improve the path, according to “Pathmakers.” A well-known historic photo of Dorr features him posing by a glacial erratic along Beachcroft Path.

Lillian Endicott Francklyn – The recently rehabilitated Gorge Path, which goes from the Park Loop Road up the gap between Cadillac and Dorr, features a memorial plaque to Lillian Endicott Francklyn, a descendant of William H. Seward, secretary of state under President Abraham Lincoln, who died in 1928 in her eighth month of pregnancy. The plaque, which has also been recently restored, was funded by her friends. As Jack Russell, co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, mentioned to us on Facebook recently about Francklyn, “Fine woman, sad story.”

gorge path

Throughout Acadia’s history, many women have loved the land. This plaque on Gorge Path is in memory of Lillian Endicott Francklyn, a descendant of William H. Seward, secretary of state under President Abraham Lincoln, who died in her eighth month of pregnancy.

When we told Russell that we were planning on doing a women of Acadia blog post, featuring Francklyn and others important to Acadia’s history, he suggested a post about modern women of Acadia as well, listing such names as Judy Hazen Connery, Becky Cole-Will, Stephanie Clement, Aimee Beal Church, Maureen Fournier, Anne Green, Lili Pew and Cookie Horner.

As we told Russell, “so many stories to tell, so little time….” The women he includes on his list either work for Acadia or the Friends of Acadia. Cookie Horner co-chaired the Acadia Centennial Task Force with Russell.

This post on the history of the women of Acadia doesn’t include all the “mothers of Acadia,” and we would refer you to Schmitt’s and Epp’s histories, as well as “Pathmakers,” for more of those stories.

More notable women of Acadia National Park, past and present

But as with all lists, such as this one of women of Acadia, which isn’t meant to be exhaustive, there are more to be included in the ranks.

One regular reader of this blog, James Linnane, a Friends of Acadia volunteer crew leader, would add these names to the list of notable women of Acadia, past and present:

Waterfall Bridge in Acadia National Park

Waterfall Bridge is one of 17 spans in the carriage road system of Acadia National Park. Might this have been part of Beatrix Farrand’s landscape vision for the carriage roads?

“How could you forget Beatrix Farrand, a woman whose work, not her social connections, contributed so much to Acadia’s beauty. Frankly, I would put her at the top of the list,” said Linnane. Farrand, the landscape architect responsible for so much of the look of Acadia’s carriage roads, also designed the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden; Dumbarton Oaks, an historic estate in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, now owned by Harvard; and other gardens public and private.

The Beatrix Farrand Society, located at Garland Farm in Bar Harbor, Farrand’s last home, was founded as a nonprofit in 2003 to “foster the art and science of horticulture and landscape design, with emphasis on the life and work of Beatrix Farrand.”

For contemporary women who’ve had an impact on Acadia, Linnane would include these names:

Marla O’Byrne, Julia Schloss, Ellen Dohmen, Marianne Edwards and Ann Rockefeller Roberts. He’d also add Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for their efforts in Washington on behalf of the park, and Roxanne Quimby for her donation of land for Acadia, and not just for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Until we have that chance to tell the story of the modern women of Acadia, whether they’re involved through the park, the Friends of Acadia, or some other connection, below are some links to blog posts we’ve written along the way, featuring some of their contributions, and love for Acadia.

And if you have other women of Acadia, past and present, to add to the list, feel free to make a comment below.

Message in the rocks: Acadia’s Bates cairns get new focus

Trump hiring freeze hits Acadia; climate change exhibit OK – for now

Trail magic casts spell on Acadia National Park hiking trails

Waldron’s Warriors: Foot soldiers for Acadia hiking trails

Cookie Horner: A circle of caring, from Acadia to MDI youth


Trail of history, tales of adventures in Acadia run thru Orono

4 thoughts on “For Women’s History Month, stories of women of Acadia

  1. Pingback: A new path is emerging for Acadia National Park hiking

  2. Pingback: For Mother's Day: Gifts of Acadia and the great outdoors

  3. Wendy Knickerbocker

    Betty Thorndike and Janet TenBroeck, because without them there would probably not be a Wild Gardens of Acadia.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Wendy, thanks for the additions! The Wild Gardens of Acadia are indeed an important aspect of the history of Acadia, and as you say, the gardens may never have come into existence without Betty and Janet. Readers may also be interested in this Friends of Acadia article about Betty and Janet’s contributions:

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