Tour hails historic women of Roxbury

Sandra Larson | 4/1/2009, 7:09 a.m.

Guides and participants on the sold-out Roxbury Women’s History tour stand around Fern Cunningham’s “Family Circle” sculpture in Roxbury’s Elm Hill Park

Two of the important contributors to Roxbury’s history recognized on the tour were Mary Eliza Mahoney (left), who in 1879 became the first African American professional nurse, and Melnea Cass (right), a tireless community activist who organized the neighborhood around important social issues of her day. (“Family Circle” image: Sandra Larson photo; Mahoney and Cass images courtesy of Discover Roxbury)
Tour participants Faith Beysolo of Roxbury (back row), Gloria Jolley and her grandson Tonji Hampton of Roxbury (middle row) and Tonji’s mother, Renee Jolley, of Roxbury (front) listen to a discussion of the life of Dr. Jessie Gideon Garnett, the first black woman dentist in Boston and the first black female graduate of Tufts Dental School. (Sandra Larson photo)
The tour group did not go inside the former home of Dr. Jessie Gideon Garnett, located at 80 Munroe Street, but Patricia Carrington, a member of Discover Roxbury’s board and a former patient of Garnett’s, gave a firsthand account of what a visit to the history-making black dentist’s office was like.  (Photo courtesy of Discover Roxbury)

At the tail end of Women’s History Month, a pair of local cultural nonprofits joined forces last Saturday to honor the legacies of prominent women of Roxbury.

On the sold-out Roxbury Women’s History trolley tour, guides from the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail and Discover Roxbury pointed out important neighborhood sites and told tales of some of the activists, artists and medical professionals who changed history.“We’ll just be touching the tip of the iceberg today,” said Sylvia McDowell, president of the board at Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

McDowell and Marcia Butman, Discover Boston’s executive director, encouraged participants to introduce themselves as the trolley rolled along Warren Street.

Renee Jolley, 42, of Roxbury came with her son Tonji Hampton, a 14-year-old student at Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, Mass., and her mother, Gloria Jolley.