Jul 12, 2023 - Things to Do

Des Moines launches pioneer women cemetery tours

A photo of Calista Halsey from the late 1800s.

Calista Halsey Patchin was in the late 1800s one of the founders of the Des Moines Women's Club, a group that still works from Hoyt Sherman Place and started the museum's art gallery. Her tombstone at Woodland Cemetery is a stop on a new historical tour. Photo: Courtesy of the DSM Women's Club

A new walking tour at Woodland Cemetery focuses on the achievements of pioneer women.

Why it matters: Despite being influential in shaping the metro, their contributions are oftentimes forgotten, tour organizer Lorna Truck tells Axios.

Catch up fast: Truck, a retired DSM librarian, teamed up with metro history teacher Kat Rinken to launch the tours this spring.

  • Research took years in part because it's hard to find information about many of the women in local history archives, Truck says.

Zoom in: Tours take about two hours and include stops at around 15 monuments and headstones, including those of multiple suffragists.

  • Many of the women featured in the tour also lobbied for and financed community betterment groups or initiatives that started things like the city's first orphanage, a free public library and preschools.

Of note: In celebration of Woodland's 175th anniversary this fall, Truck is mapping the memorials or tombstones of dozens of other pioneer women for driving tours.

  • The cemetery already has QR codes on dozens of monuments that allow people to take self-guided video tours using their phones.

Details: The next "Notable Women of Early DSM" tour is July 21 at 9:30am.

  • Tickets: $10, with space limited to 35 people.
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