Historical sites getting a women-centric revamp, says Heritage N.L.

The oldest homes across the province are widely associated with men, but Heritage N.L. wants to change that. (Heritage N.L. - image credit)
The oldest homes across the province are widely associated with men, but Heritage N.L. wants to change that. (Heritage N.L. - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador's heritage organization is revamping who's considered important enough to get mentioned on a historical plaque — and it's not always the traditional head of the household.

"A lot of our buildings, they were associated with the history of the men who owned the buildings," said Andrea O'Brien, registrar of Heritage N.L.

"We're trying to bring to light the stories of the women who lived in those buildings."

The heritage society is responsible for the plaques that reveal historical information about some of the province's oldest and most significant sites. There are over 300 of those plaques across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Until now, women haven't been featured prominently on them, O'Brien said.

"And in a lot of cases, the stories of the women associated with these places are actually a lot more interesting than the men," she said with a laugh.

O'Brien says Crocker House in Trout River is one example of the stories the society has uncovered about female inhabitants. The man who actually owned the house died young, she said — but his widow raised a large family, worked in the local tannery and later got a job on the ferry.

"She lived a pretty full life, and we're finding that with a lot of homes we're looking at," O'Brien said.

Heritage N.L. is also turning more to social media to gather community knowledge about the women who lived in the province's oldest buildings, expanding on histories that in some cases were written decades ago.

The new plaques will be delivered as research — and the society's new strategy — evolves, O'Brien said.

"A lot of it is the traditional way of looking at heritage places ... you look at the person who built it, the person who owned it. You don't look at a lot of the lives that were connected to it," she said.

"There's a lot of new untold stories that we want to bring out into the open."

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