Story by Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist, Video by Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter
Kate Ross, known as the first lady of Waco, is thought to have been the first to cross the Waco Suspension Bridge at its opening in 1870, according to Texas State Historical Association. Ross, among other female contributors to Waco’s history, will be featured in the Waco’s Women’s History Walk on Thursday.
Lake Forest, Ill., sophomore Sarah Trammell and director of women’s and gender studies Dr. Lisa Shaver conducted research for and will be presenting at the Waco Women’s History Walk.
The mile-long walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Waco Suspension Bridge and pass through different landmarks such as the McCulloch House Museum, McLennan County Jail, Waco City Hall and other places around downtown. Shaver and Trammell will take turns speaking on the women historically tied to each location.
The walk includes themes of pioneers in the Waco tribe, city ladies, making a living and education, according to Trammell. Shaver said they will explore ways women made a living when few occupations were open to them, including early business entrepreneurs.
“Often, they [women] don’t receive as much attention or acknowledgement as men do. We always think of men as founders, but not all these women’s roles,” Shaver said.
Along with bringing attention to significant female figures, Trammell said the objective of the walk is to highlight the breadth of Waco history.
“I think in terms of Waco history, a lot of people just assume it’s just always just been some tiny little college town and nobody cared until Chip and Joanna Gaines showed up. That is not necessarily true. We actually have a lot of really cool information,” Trammell said.
Shaver and Trammell began their research in January after returning from winter break. Trammell admitted that she was initially unsure they would find anything interesting. When telling her friends about her project, Trammell said her friends doubted she would be able to do the project at all because there would not be enough information on the subject.
Trammell said they conducted research through the Waco History App and the Texas Collection, and they contacted the Historic Waco Foundation and prominent leaders in the community. Professor of history and former director of the women’s and general studies program (known as the gender studies program then), Dr. Patricia Ward Wallace, wrote a book published in 1984 titled “A Spirit So Rare: A History of the Women of Waco,” was a great resource as well, Trammell said.
After months of research, Trammell told her friends, “believe it or not, I have too much information.” Trammell said there were several figures that had to be excluded from the walk because of an excess of notable Waco women.
“I think if you’re just in any way interested in history, women, or general trivia facts, it’s a great walk to go on,” Trammell said.
Additional history walks are organized by Ashley Thornton, Informed Engagement director, Act Locally Waco volunteer, and member of Waco Walks, who recommended Shaver to do the walk for Women’s History Month.
Thornton hosts a general history walk that covers a little over a mile of downtown at different times throughout the year. According to the Waco Walking Tours website, the walks do not require registration, but people may RSVP through their Facebook event page. The fee for walks is “pay what you wish,” but Thornton said the recommended donation amount is $20. All proceeds go to Act Locally Waco, a non-profit that works to “encourage people who live in Waco to enjoy our city and get involved in making Waco a great place to live.”