Lighting the Way adds 100th historic woman of the SouthCoast on June 25

Massachusetts 19th Amendment anniversary

NEW BEDFORD, Mass.Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast will reach a symbolic milestone on June 25, 2020. The New Bedford Whaling Museum project has been unearthing remarkable stories of inspiring women since 2018. Rosemary S. Tierney (1932-2020), the first woman to be elected mayor of the City of New Bedford, will become the 100th woman profiled by the project. The achievement arrives on the June 25th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the State of Massachusetts in 1919, and two months before the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s certification as part of the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920. Information about Lighting the Way is available at

Whaling Museum Director of Education Christina Turner commented, “During this centennial year marking the recognition of some women’s right to vote, Rosemary Tierney is a fitting choice as Lighting the Way’s 100th woman. She was a trailblazer for women in politics. In her first inaugural address in 1992, Mayor Tierney reflected on women’s suffrage, and throughout her career, she mobilized women to become an efficient political force as grassroots campaigners.”

Rosemary Tierney was the first woman elected mayor of New Bedford, serving from 1992 to 1997. Cynthia Kruger, a former city councilor from Ward 3, was the first woman to act as mayor when she served from Dec. 9, 1982, to Jan. 6, 1983, following the resignation of Mayor John Markey. Kruger was the City Council president at the time of the resignation.

Achieving the 100th profile milestone has been a monumental effort, requiring thousands of hours of research, mostly conducted by volunteers representing a cross-section of communities and organizations from the region. Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Fellow at the Whaling Museum and lead researcher for the project, said, “Lighting the Way is a collaborative project, involving a diverse group of people who care passionately about including women’s contributions in the dialogue of SouthCoast history. Without their help, we simply could not complete the tremendous amount of work involved in bringing these stories to the public.” Some of O’Leary’s research is made possible with support from New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

It took more than 70 years of struggle before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states in 1920. The amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The amendment prevented voting discrimination based on sex, but in practice, many women of color and many poor women could not vote because of other laws and restrictions.

Lighting the Way is marking the 19th Amendment Centennial this year through public art initiatives, special events, tours, and an ongoing expansion of its community resources including an extensive website, historic walking trail in New Bedford, a mobile app, and printed walking trail map. The project recently announced that online public voting has resulted in the selection of educator Marial Harper (1934-2016) and community leader Jennie Horne (1920-1998) as the subjects for large outdoor artwork to be unveiled in August. The artwork will be created by Alyn Carlson. More information about Lighting the Way and the 19th Amendment Centennial is available at


Tina Malott
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 140


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Note: The images in this Google folder are the best images we have for these historic Southcoast women due to various limitations caused by the Corona virus health emergency.


Rosemary Tierney
ABOVE: Rosemary S. Tierney (1932-2020) will be the 100th woman added to the New Bedford Whaling Museum project Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast. Tierney was the first female mayor of the City of New Bedford. Photo credit:


Rosemary Tierney
ABOVE: Rosemary S. Tierney (1932-2020) circa 1991. Hank Seaman, The Standard-Times


Rosemary Tierney with her husband
ABOVE: Rosemary S. Tierney (1932-2020), center, and husband John A. Tierney celebrate Rosemary's victory in the Executive Council race for 1st District in 1984. She became the first woman from the area to win a seat on that panel. Photo credit: The Standard-Times.



Mary Santos Barros
ABOVE: Mary Santos Barros (1923-2018) was a New Bedford City Councilor who represented Ward 4 for two terms. She was a strong advocate for all, most notably Cape Verdeans. Photo credit: Naia Barros


Margaret Xifaras
ABOVE: Hailed as “the first woman of South Coast politics,” Margaret “MarDee” Xifaras (1945-2019), a New Bedford lawyer and stalwart Democrat, was a driving force behind creation of the state’s first public law school, the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth. Photo credit: The Standard-Times


Elizabeth Piper Ensley
ABOVE: Born in New Bedford to parents who had been enslaved, educator Elizabeth Piper Ensley (1847-1919) was an active leader in African American women’s clubs and the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado. Photo credit: Denver Public Library


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum ignites learning through explorations of art, history, science and culture rooted in the stories of people, the region and an international seaport. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. The Museum is currently closed due to the Covid-19 emergency. Regular Museum hours are: April through December, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m; January through March, Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free for Museum members and children ages three and under; adults $19, seniors (65+) $17, students (19+) $12, child and youth $9. For more information visit