March is Women’s History month and an opportunity to celebrate some women who have made notable contributions to Tenleytown’s history.
Rose Greely 1887 – 1969, Landscape Architect
In 1925 at the age of 38, Rose Greely became the first licensed female architect in Washington, D.C. Greely is known as a pioneering landscape architect, who ran her own thriving firm for 40 years, working primarily (though not exclusively) on residential commissions. Among her clients were ambassadors, senators, businessmen, military figures, and socialites – including a few who called Tenleytown home.
Greely designed gardens at Under Oak, and also worked the grounds of 4000 Nebraska Avenue. Greely also designed pathways, plantings, and a playground for the Hillcrest Children’s Home, now the site of the National Presbyterian School.
Greely was a D.C. native, one of six children of Adolphus M. Greely, a General in the U.S. Army and an Arctic explorer. She attended the National Cathedral School and a year of finishing school in New York. As Greely was reaching adulthood, the discipline of landscape architecture (as a profession distinct from architecture) was in its infancy. The American Society of Landscape Architects was founded in 1899 and Harvard’s landscape architecture program was established in 1900. Harvard, however, did not accept women students at that time.
In 1916, Greely joined a handful of young women to train under Harvard architecture professor Henry Atherton Frost at the Cambridge School of Domestic and Landscape Architecture for Women, which later became a part of Smith College. Greely completed her coursework in 1920 and thereafter worked in Boston for several landscape architects and for House Beautiful as a writer. Greely returned to Washington, D.C. in 1923 and worked for architect Horace Peaslee for a few years until she opened her own business.
Bon Secours, Immaculata, and the Washington College of Law
The institutional buildings on Yuma Street, west of Tenley Circle serve as reminders of the progress of women in the early twentieth century.
On the south side of Yuma stands a yellow brick building with a green clay tile roof, which built as the Convent of Bon Secours in 1928.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours was a nursing order founded in France in 1820s to care for the sick and dying in their homes. The Sisters first established a health care ministry in the U.S. in Baltimore in 1881 and expanded to D.C. in 1905, initially occupying the former rectory of St. Ann's Church. The Sisters provided nursing care during annual typhoid outbreaks and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. Several died, victims of the same diseases. The Sisters' services were “available to all, irrespective of color, creed or class.”
The World War II years had a profound effect on the Sisters, many of whom were sent to support activities in Baltimore and to replace Sisters who had joined the military. After the war, nursing evolved from a religious ministry to a professional, medical career for women; at the same time a transition from home health care to institutional nursing was taking place. In the 1950s the building served as housing for sisters studying at Catholic University, Georgetown and other schools. Though the Sisters remain active in Baltimore, among other places, in 1966, the D.C. convent ceased operation. The order sold the building to the French Embassy, which used it for the French International School. From 1975 – 2000, the Oakcrest School occupied the building.
Across the street from the Convent of Bon Secours (now known as the Yuma Center) stands the Washington College of Law. The historic building facing Tenley Circle, renamed Capital Hall by American University, originally was home to the Immaculata Seminary, a Catholic girls school founded in 1905 by the Sister of Providence, an order from Indiana, at the behest of the pastor of St. Ann's Church. Immaculata opened at a time when educational opportunities for girls were expanding: other local independent schools founded during the first decade of the twentieth century include the National Cathedral School (1900), Holton-Arms (1901), and Madeira (1906).
Immaculata Seminary opened with a class of 18 pupils in elementary, secondary and postgraduate programs. (The postgraduate classes later developed into a junior college). The college closed in 1978, and the elementary and high schools closed in 1986, at which point the property was sold to American University.
Immaculata High School Field Hockey Team 1928 (credit Immaculata Alumnae Association Newsletter Spring 2010)
In 2016, American University relocated the Washington College of Law to a newly constructed building that incorporates Capital Hall and the school chapel. Though new to the Tenleytown neighborhood, the Washington College of Law has played a significant role in the education of women. Incorporated in 1898, the Washington College of Law became the first law school in the world founded by women, Ellen Spencer Mussey and Emma Gillett; the first to have a woman dean; and the first to graduate an all-female law school class. The story of its founding and pioneering founders is available at https://www.wcl.american.edu/history/founders.cfm.
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