As my family gathered at Christmas and conversation flowed, one of my children made a remark about me “always posting photos of old houses.” Of course, it started me thinking, and when I think who knows where it will lead. The actual reason I have been posting these photos is because I am part of a local group working to preserve the historic buildings and open lands in our town. A simple enough answer to the “WHY” of what I do.
As my thoughts progressed along these lines, I also realized that many of the people I know who are in historical associations or trying to preserve local history are older women. When we started our group last year, it was a simple matter of trying to prevent a developer from building an apartment complex and commercial space in the heart of our historic district. There were many younger men and women involved in this group at the time, but somehow, their participation dwindled as time went on — most likely because they have young families and jobs that don’t allow them the available time we older women have. During the year, we have expanded our efforts to include our entire town, rather than simply our small historic district. Our most important source of workers for our projects is older women.
I believe women tend to be the “keepers” of family and local history. Grandmothers are usually the ones who pass on the family stories and hold in safe-keeping the family treasures and genealogy. We have a tendency to hold the past in trust for our children and grandchildren. Thus, it is natural for women to feel the responsibility to preserve the history of our town. We can remember it as it was, and see the vast changes that have taken place in the name of progress. Change can be healthy, and economic development is essential to a town’s survival, but someone must be protecting the history and character of the town at the same time. There must be a balance, and older women have the time and the knowledge to help maintain this balance.
We are not women who will be easily fooled by developers who come in with great plans and promises. We have seen the results over time — the poorly designed commercial areas and housing developments. We’ve seen historic buildings destroyed in the name of progress. We are the “keepers of the flame”, as women have been through the centuries, and right now, we will work to preserve the interesting history of our community, and if it involves the posting of photos of old houses on social media, so be it. The character of our town is at stake.